INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State football will play the Big Ten Championship game — and perhaps longer — without one of its offensive stars.
Junior wide receiver Chris Olave was the most prominent name listed as unavailable on Saturday morning’s status report. Sam linebacker Baron Browning and punter Drue Chrisman are the other starters who are out against Northwestern.
Other names of note include defensive ends Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste, backup running back Steele Chambers and freshman receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He was among the players who might have played more in the absence of Olave.
Starting safety Marcus Hooker was listed as a game-time decision. However, both he and reserve Ronnie Hickman are in street clothes and will not play.
Josh Proctor, who was listed as unavailable for the Dec. 5 game at Michigan State, does not appear on the injury report.
Ohio State does not distinguish between illness — such as positive tests for coronavirus — injury or disciplinary reasons for players listed as unavailable. Players who tested positive for COVID-19 must sit out of competition for a minimum 21 days per current Big Ten rules. That means if the Buckeyes win Saturday and are selected for the College Football Playoff, those players may not be available for the semifinals.
Other contributors not previously listed as unavailable include receiver Chris Booker, backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak and safety Bryson Shaw.
Olave and sophomore Garrett Wilson have formed arguably the nation’s most potent receiver tandem. Olave has totaled 528 yards and five touchdowns on 36 receptions in only five games. His 105.6 yards per game rank 12th nationally.
In Olave’s absence, Wilson may line up less in the slot and more outside. Another freshman, Julian Fleming, could play more snaps outside.
Browning ranks second on the Buckeyes in tackles with 23 after making the transition to Sam linebacker. He moved to Mike linebacker for the Michigan State victory after Tuf Borland was listed as unavailable.
Chrisman was recently voted the second team All-Big Ten punter. Walk-ons Michael O’Shaughnessy and Zach Hoover are the only other punters listed on the roster.
Chrisman confirmed his positive COVID-19 test via Twitter.
Several players who were listed as unavailable for the Michigan State game did not appear on Saturday’s status report. They included offensive line starters Thayer Munford, Josh Myers and Nicholas Petit-Frere, Borland and safety Josh Proctor.
Ohio State first experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases right before Thanksgiving. That eventually led the cancelation of a scheduled Nov. 28 game at Illinois.
The Buckeyes returned to play at Michigan State the following week with 23 players — including 18 scholarship players — listed as unavailable. It is not known how many players would have been eligible to return for the eventually canceled Dec. 12 game against Michigan.
Per Big Ten protocols, players who test positive for COVID-19 must remain out of competition for 21 days. After 14 days and the completion of a cardiac exam, players can return to a one-week acclimatization period.
The College Football Playoff confirmed to cleveland.com that participating teams will go by their conference rules on frequency and method of testing, return-to-play guidelines and decisions on whether teams can field a team.
Under current Big Ten rules, if an Ohio State player tested positive earlier this week, he would miss Saturday’s game and also miss a potential College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1. Those players might be eligible to return if the Buckeyes advanced to the national championship game.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told cleveland.com on Friday that the league’s medical subcommittee continues to consider new medical information related to those policies.
OHIO STATE STATUS REPORT FOR BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
SAF Marcus Hooker
WR Chris Booker
CB Cam Brown
LB Baron Browning
RB Steele Chambers
P Drue Chrisman
DL Jacolbe Cowan
LB Tommy Eichenberg
DE Tyler Friday
DT Zaid Hamdan
WR Jaylen Harris
QB Gunnar Hoak
DE Javontae Jean-Baptiste
LB Cade Kacherski
QB Jagger Laroe
WR Chris Olave
TE Corey Rau
LB Ben Schmiesing
SAF Bryson Shaw
OL Ryan Smith
WR Jaxson Smith Njigba
DB Alec Taylor
SAF Kourt Williams
New Ohio State face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Ohio State-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection. A 3-pack is available on Fanatics for $29.99.
More Buckeyes coverage