Michigan State football's Mel Tucker focused on Ohio State, not cancellation scenarios

Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

It is not a scenario Mel Tucker wants to think about, not with Michigan State football’s schedule reading No. 4 Ohio State coming Saturday to Spartan Stadium (noon, ABC).

A team spokesman announced midday Tuesday the Buckeyes planned to resume organized team activities later that afternoon, but there is no official word if they will be medically cleared to play according to Big Ten protocols after their game last week was canceled due to increased COVID-19 numbers.

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And with the Northwestern-Minnesota game already called off Monday due to the Gophers’ ongoing outbreak and Michigan now assessing a potential increase in cases, it begs the question: Could the Spartans play someone else if OSU can’t?

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker watches warmups before the game against Northwestern at Spartan Stadium Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020.
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker watches warmups before the game against Northwestern at Spartan Stadium Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020.

“I don't want to get into the weeds with that, just for the sake of time. It's a very fluid deal,” Tucker said Tuesday. “What I can say is that we are focused on preparing for Ohio State, because that's what we can control. And we don't have any information that would tell us not to do that. So that's where my focus is, and that's where our focus has gotta stay. …

“I really would rather not even get into that, because that's not where we are.”

MSU (2-3) is set to host the Buckeyes (4-0), even though Ohio State already is planning to be without head coach Ryan Day, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The Buckeyes’ game at Illinois was one of two canceled last week along with Minnesota-Wisconsin. The Gophers announced their inability to play last Tuesday, while the Buckeyes called off their trip Friday after more positive tests were discovered. That did not allow enough time for a reshuffling to allow the Badgers and Illini to play.

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ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported on Nov. 13 that the Big Ten presidents on Nov. 5 approved a process to allow two teams without COVID issues who had their games canceled in the same week to play each other, regardless if they had played before or had were scheduled to in the future. That decision would need to be made by 1 p.m. ET on a Wednesday, Dinich reported.

The Big Ten has yet to reschedule any games since it started the season Oct. 23. A message with the Big Ten for clarification on the rescheduling rules and protocols for potentially having an odd number of games called off was not immediately returned.

“For me, that's not part of a discussion or a question that I have. That's not where I am. And whatever those rules are for the league in terms of rescheduling games and all that type of stuff, really for me, that's all hypotheticals. And for me, that's not the best use of my time and my energy,” Tucker said. “All those scenarios and the what ifs and, 'Well maybe this can happen, maybe that can happen,' right now, I mean how does that help me? How does that help my football team today on a Tuesday when we're getting ready for a Tuesday practice. It doesn't factor in, so it's just not in my focus.”

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day before the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 30, 2019.
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day before the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 30, 2019.

Day told reporters Friday the Buckeyes could have a practice Thursday and walk-through Friday and be prepared to play the Spartans. The Columbus Dispatch reported that small group workouts resumed Monday, though all meetings were still being held virtually.

Ohio State revealed Tuesday that associate head coach and defensive line assistant Larry Johnson would run the Buckeyes on Saturday in East Lansing with Day not allowed on the sideline due to Big Ten COVID-19 medical protocols. Ohio State needs to play six games to be eligible for the conference championship game, with the Buckeyes’ rivalry game with the Wolverines scheduled for Dec. 12 should both teams be able to play.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State: Mel Tucker focused on Ohio State, not cancel scenarios