The coronavirus pandemic hangs over the 2020 football season as a bit of a dark cloud with the threat of it affecting games and who is available to play. The Big Ten sought to mitigate this by starting later and getting its ducks in a row compared to the rest of the country.
But it might not be that simple.
Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck spoke to the media ahead of Saturday’s game against Michigan and revealed that he knows there are a number of players that will not be available for the contest, but is not revealing it. Of course, gamesmanship can never be ruled out in this ridiculous sport, as well.
News: #Gophers football coach PJ Fleck said Monday he knows current number of players unavailable due to #COVID19 for Saturday's game vs. Michigan, but he's clear he won't be sharing it.— Andy Greder (@andygreder) October 19, 2020
"Not 65," he added.
Yet, there's limits on how much spread the U can have and still play.
“I mean I don’t have an estimate as I know that number, but I’m just not going to tell you the number,” Fleck said.
“There’s a lot of reasons why, but this is how the whole year is going to be, and there are no excuses,” he continued. “We’ve got to be able to find a way. Our team has known that from day one back in March. We said the same thing before anybody was out. Whether by the opt out, injury or COVID, we said the same thing. Whoever finds a way to do this better for longer. We’re going to need the entire football team. So it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are in the depth chart. It doesn’t matter if you’re on scout, you can be the starter tomorrow. And that’s been our message from day one, and we’ve got to find a way to prepare just right.”
As far as the Michigan end of things, head coach Jim Harbaugh also spoke to the media on Monday and revealed that as of now, there are no positive cases within the program, though there have been a few since last he spoke to the media in September. He was hesitant to name starters due to the fact that daily testing could derail any depth chart at the sign of a positive test. However, things right now go on as planned for the Wolverines.
Minnesota opened as a favorite last week when the first Vegas odds were posted for the game, but the odds shifted in Michigan’s favor over the weekend with several books now having them as much as a 2.5-point favorite. It is unclear whether or not this has to do with Minnesota potentially missing players or if money was coming in on the Wolverines after the initial line was posted.
COVID-19 has been a topic of conversation to start the week in the Big Ten with Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm testing positive on Sunday and a confirmed positive for him on Monday after additional testing. We will have to wait and see how this goes, but the Big Ten waiting to start the year has not exempted them from some of the obstacles the rest of the country is facing.
Saturday’s game between Michigan and Minnesota kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC. It seems likely that we will not know of any potential names that are out until we get closer to Saturday.