Making Sense of 2020 Michigan Football

‘The Game’ will happen in October — and other quirks of the Big Ten’s revamped schedule
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Michigan Stadium photo: IStock

It’s on between Michigan and Michigan State! Maybe. But the two in-state rivals won’t be playing each other Oct. 10 in East Lansing; instead, it’ll be Oct. 3 in Ann Arbor. We hope.


Oh, and forget about the “The Game” falling around Thanksgiving. Instead, U-M’s annual hatefest with Ohio State was moved for Oct. 24, so you can hold on to your gameday facemask for Halloween.


Those are just two of many quirks revealed as part of a coronavirus-converted Big Ten Conference football schedule released Wednesday, which pares down each school’s original 12-game slate containing nine conference foes to a 10-game season entirely within the Big Ten.


It’s a plan so shaky that within Big Ten offices it was nicknamed “Jenga 41,” as it’s the 41st schedule iteration that’s been done and redone in recent weeks, according to the Chicago Tribune. But hold on to your receipts and write nothing down in permanent marker, because the Big Ten Conference is making no promises.


“In making this announcement, the Conference acknowledges that there is much work to be done on our campuses, in our communities, and across the country to gain control of a virus that continues to spread at an alarming rate,” the Big Ten said in a prepared statement. “While the Conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur.”


The examples trickling out of the worlds of sports and academia have provided ample reason to hedge bets. Major League Baseball has had multiple teams abandon games and enter quarantine after being hit by coronavirus outbreaks since its July restart.


And in East Lansing, a coronavirus outbreak this summer linked to Harper’s — a popular watering hole near MSU — that infected nearly 200 people has college administrators wondering what will happen when students resume full-time partying this fall.


Still unclear this week is who will be allowed to attend games, and how many people will be let in. Both U-M and MSU have indicated stadium capacities are likely to be severely restricted if stadiums are open at all. 


Regardless of who’s there to watch, both U-M and MSU aim to start their seasons at their respective home stadiums on Sept. 5, with the Wolverines hosting Purdue and the Spartans welcoming Minnesota. Check with an epidemiologist for updates.