No. 3 Ohio State cancels game at Illinois after virus spike

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day talks to his players during an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day talks to his players during an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – No. 3 Ohio State’s game at Illinois on Saturday has been canceled because the Buckeyes have had a spike of COVID-19 cases this week, leaving the the Big Ten's best team precariously close to being ineligible to play for the conference title.

The cancelation Friday night came about seven hours after Ohio State announced coach Ryan Day tested positive and wouldn't travel with the team to Champaign, Illinois.

The team did not fly to Illinois as scheduled Friday night so additional COVID-19 testing could be conducted in Columbus, Ohio. The revised plan was to fly up Saturday morning for a noon ET kickoff.

After returning additional positive tests, Ohio State announced the game was called. The school did not reveal how many members of the program had tested positive as has been its policy all year.

Ohio State paused all activities for the football team.

“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”

This is the second game of the Big Ten season Ohio State has had canceled. The first came after an outbreak at Maryland forced a postponement earlier this month. Despite playing only four games so far, the Buckeyes (4-0) were fourth in the first College Football Playoff rankings released earlier this week.

Big Ten rules require teams to play at least six game in this abbreviated season to be eligible to play in the conference championship game. The minimum could drop if the average number of games played by all Big Ten teams falls below six (an average above 5.0 will be rounded up to six).