Butch Dill/Associated Press
The Big Ten has reportedly advocated for the College Football Playoff National Championship, which is scheduled for Monday night, to be postponed for one week because of concerns about the number of players who may be inactive for Ohio State.
Dan Patrick reported Thursday the Buckeyes are “very close to the availability limit” because of COVID-19 protocols as they prepare to face Alabama:
Patrick noted there are particular concerns around the OSU defensive line, the unit that was a critical factor in the team’s upset victory over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl semifinal.
John Talty and Matt Zenitz of AL.com previously reported there were discussions between all parties involved—the CFP, SEC, Big Ten and both schools—about the possibility of moving the game, which is set to take place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, to Jan. 18.
On Tuesday, both CFP executive director Bill Hancock and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told ESPN there were no imminent plans to postpone the game.
“I can tell you there are no changes,” Hancock said. “The game is scheduled for Jan. 11, as planned, and we look forward to it.”
Smith added: “We’re following the same protocols we followed all season long. We intend to play on Jan. 11, and we continue to communicate with the Big Ten and now the CFP; so at this point in time, we see the game being played. But who knows what tomorrow will bring? That’s COVID. We’re on track right now.”
There has been no indication of contingency plans in place should the Buckeyes fall below the availability limit, which could be especially difficult if it happens after both teams have already arrived in Florida.
Alabama, led by recently crowned Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, is coming off a 31-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl semifinal.
“Last night was a great feeling,” Smith told reporters Wednesday after winning the Heisman on Tuesday night. “It was just a blessing to be in that situation with [quarterback Mac Jones and head coach Nick Saban]. But now that’s in the past, and now it’s on to Ohio State.”
If the title game isn’t postponed, Monday’s kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.