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Hawkeye Football: Iowa’s Matchup With Michigan Cancelled

Iowa’s hopes at a 7th win are dashed by COVID-19.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana
The Wolverines’ COVID issues persist.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few short days after learning the Iowa Hawkeyes would be playing host to the Michigan Wolverines for a night game in Kinnick Stadium as part of the Big Ten’s Championship Week, Iowa fans now are having the rug pulled out from under them.

Michigan, which has missed its last two games against Maryland and Ohio State due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team and staff, continues to battle the pandemic. On Tuesday, the Wolverines cancelled their third straight game of the season citing the ongoing outbreak.

The reasoning for the cancellation goes deeper than just COVID, as explained by Michigan athletics director Warde Manual. It is in fact a combination of the ongoing outbreak and general injuries, which has caused Michigan to be without enough players at multiple positions to field a team according to the school’s press release.

“In accordance with the Big Ten COVID-19 medical policies and health guidelines, we are without a significant number of players for this week’s game. Couple that with the normal attrition due to injury, and we do not have enough available players at multiple position groups to field a team at Iowa. We have more student-athletes out this week compared to last week and the week prior.

“The number of positive tests over the past three weeks, which require a 21-day unavailability period, and the contact tracing requirements associated with those numbers has pushed our current list of unavailable student-athletes to over 50. This is a very unfortunate situation, and we are disappointed that our program will not be able to finish the season against the Hawkeyes.

“I am very proud of the way that our players worked to try and get back onto the field, but the numbers simply don’t support us taking the field on Saturday. This has been a very challenging and difficult 2020 for everyone, and we want to make sure we are doing what is right for our student-athletes at every step along the way, and that ultimately is ensuring their health, safety and welfare.”

Head coach Kirk Ferentz was obvious disappointed by the news. He fielded questions on Tuesday afternoon as part of his regularly scheduled media availability ahead of the planned game.

As disappointing and frustrating as it may be for Iowa players, coaches and fans alike, the Hawkeyes have been fortunate throughout the season. Entering the final week of conference play, Iowa was one of only three Big Ten teams to not miss a game due to COVID-19. Penn State and Rutgers are still slated to play this weekend, making them to only two teams to make it through unscathed.

However, there is a small possibility the Hawkeyes could still get a game in this weekend. It’s unlikely, but the matchup between Indiana and Purdue has also been cancelled. That opens up the slim possibility of Iowa matching up with the Hoosiers as many football fans had originally hoped.

The Hoosiers are currently ranked 12th nationally at 6-1 with just a loss to Ohio State on their resume. Iowa, at 6-2, is ranked 16th nationally and the two teams each finished second in their respective divisions. In the Big Ten’s original planning for the revised schedule, the games for this upcoming Championship Weekend were to feature matchups based on final divisional standings. Could we see a return to that?

It’s not likely given the short turnaround for players and staff to prepare a gameplan and practice. Complicating matters, both Iowa and Indiana are in the midst of finals week on campus, meaning there is little flexibility to adjust schedules.

In all likelihood then, Iowa is in wait and see mode preparing for bowl season. That picture should begin to take shape this weekend as conferences around the country play their final games of the year.