Michigan, Ohio State won’t play football for first time since 1917

Pandemic places century-old rivalry on hold

Formal opening of the new Michigan Stadium, with the game Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines -- Oct. 22, 1927. (Library of Congress)

“The Game” between two of college football’s most storied programs has been canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

That means 2020 is the first year in more than 100 years since the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University haven’t met for a football game. You have to go way back in the record books to 1917 where you won’t find a meeting between the rivals.

We know how important this rivalry has been to the two schools and the Big Ten, even despite its lopsidedness the past 20 years (Ohio State is 16-2 against Michigan since 2001 -- 17-2 if you include the 2010 vacated win). It’s a must-see game each year, no matter what, and it has been that way for more than a century. The Buckeyes helped Michigan open up the “Big House” in 1927, and the place has rocked every odd year since when that team from Columbus visits.

Not this year. The University of Michigan Athletic Department said Tuesday that an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases and student-athletes in quarantine over the past week will result in the cancellation of Saturday’s scheduled game at Ohio State. The University of Michigan said the decision was made after conversations with medical experts, health department officials and university administration.

This is the second straight football game Michigan has had to cancel due to the pandemic. They were scheduled to host Maryland this past Saturday in Ann Arbor. But on Dec. 2, it was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns within the Wolverines’ program.

The Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0) just enjoyed a nice demolition of that other Michigan team in East Lansing. The Buckeyes handled Michigan State on Saturday, 52-12. This was after Ohio State was forced to cancel its game the week before against Illinois due to positive virus tests. Wisconsin and Maryland have also dealt with outbreaks that forced cancellations. The issue has affected college football around the country.

Per Big Ten rules, any player who tests positive for COVID-19 cannot return to game action for 21 days -- 14 for the virus and an additional week for cardiac testing.

Meanwhile, amid all of this, Jim Harbaugh’s team has lost four of five games since opening the season with a win at Minnesota, most recently falling to the 0-5 Nittany Lions.

The Ohio State meeting was a chance for Harbaugh’s team to put themselves to an even tougher test, giving them an opportunity to leave it all on the field in the season finale against their top rival. The virus had other plans.

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.