Michigan may not be in a position to sniff the college football playoff standings, but that hasn’t stopped a commentator from mentioning Jim Harbaugh’s team.
Analyst Kirk Herbstreit suggested Tuesday night that the Wolverines could “wave the white flag” on the season and help keep Ohio State out of the Big Ten championship game.
Herbstreit’s comments came during the CFP rankings broadcast on ESPN, after the Buckeyes held on to fourth place despite not playing over the weekend due to COVID-19 issues .
“A lot of people wanted to see where the state of Ohio would be after the (COVID) concerns,” Herbstreit said. “Are they going to miss the Big Ten Championship? The fact that they have played four games and are still in the top four.
It was at this point that Herbstreit brought up the recent COVID-19 issues in Michigan, which halted all of the team’s in-person activities on Monday and Tuesday after an increased number of suspected positive cases returned.
The Wolverines have two more games on their schedule: a home game this Saturday against Maryland (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) and the annual showdown with Ohio State on Dec. 12 in Columbus.
While OSU remains on the hunt for a playoff spot, Big Ten rules state that a team must play six regular season games to qualify for the Conference Championship game on Dec. 19 in Indianapolis. . The Buckeyes have already had two games called off due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and a third would prevent them from playing for a league title.
“I still think Michigan will wave the white flag and not play this week,” said Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback from 1989 to 1993. “Is that fair? Michigan could pull out and keep Ohio State out of the Big Ten Championship. It doesn’t make sense to me.
In a self-produced video posted to Twitter Tuesday night, Herbstreit apologized for his comments, saying he had “no reason to say that” and “no evidence of that.”
“It was completely unfair to the University of Michigan, to Jim Harbaugh, to his players and his coaches,” Herbstreit said. “I think if anything, we’re all going through ups and downs – a lot of lows, for a lot of people – during this COVID crisis that we’re all in.
“And for me and college football, it’s really hard for me to know where we are: players are retiring, teams are canceling games. It just looks like a downward spiral.
Michigan said it had gone virtual “out of caution,” but did not disclose the number of active and positive cases in the program. The Wolverines are off to a 2-4 start to the season, their worst under Harbaugh, after a 27-17 loss to Penn State this weekend.
Asked for clarification by host Rece Davis, Herbstreit backed down by saying he “didn’t know all the (COVID) numbers” in Michigan
“We live in a strange world, and I have spoken to many coaches across the country who have said that they really think teams are stepping down to avoid playing games,” Herbstreit said. “Because they don’t want to be humiliated. They don’t want to lose with the team they have.
Herbstreit continued, “I have no idea what the situation is in Michigan – but I’m saying they have the power to potentially say, ‘Hey, we can’t play next week,’ and the State of ‘Ohio can’t do anything about it.