No. 3 Buckeyes await word on 'The Game' with plenty at stake

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Ohio State players celebrate with Haskell Garrett (92) after his touchdown on an interception during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – No. 3 Ohio State banked some style points during its rout of Michigan State, but the next step toward any kind of championship for the Buckeyes this season could be out of their control.

They must wait this week for COVID-19 tests to determine whether Michigan can travel to Columbus for the finale of the pandemic-delayed regular season on Saturday.

With two games already canceled, the Buckeyes (5-0) must get in a sixth game under current conference rules to be eligible to play for a fourth consecutive Big Ten championship. But even that might be up in the air.

The Big Ten could decide that Ohio State, even with only five games, will still represent the East Division in the Dec. 19 title game, at least in part because the conference doesn’t want to hurt the Buckeyes' chances of earning a national playoff berth.

Ohio State is holding on to the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff rankings but could use a solid win in “The Game,” and a conference championship, to add to its resume and persuade the selection committee to keep it in front of Texas A&M (7-1) and Florida (8-1) despite playing fewer games.

It promises to be an interesting week.

Ohio State has had its own problems with the coronavirus. An outbreak in its facility led to the cancellation of the Nov. 28 game at Illinois. Among those taken out of action was coach Ryan Day, who had to stay home and watch the Michigan State game on TV.

“I’m hoping the worst part is behind us and we can look forward," Day said Saturday.