For the second straight week, the Wisconsin Badgers will not be playing football with the rest of the Big Ten. After a dominant opening week showing against Illinois, Wisconsin has found itself dealing with a major COVID-19 outbreak within the program and continues to see more and more positive cases.
Young star quarterback Graham Mertz was the first to test positive, and by the middle of last week they canceled their game with Nebraska as their case count jumped to 12, including head coach Paul Chryst. Now, a week later, they have 27 active cases, with 15 players and 12 staffers and the program announced on Tuesday they would be canceling Saturday’s game with Purdue amid the rising case count.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 3, 2020
Having canceled two games already and with cases not coming down, Wisconsin’s ability to play much of the rest of the season has to be in serious doubt. The Big Ten didn’t build in any bye weeks to allow for games to be pushed back for positive tests as they rushed their way back into playing this season late, and as such Wisconsin won’t have any opportunity to make up these games. On top of that, the league’s 21-day protocol for getting players back on the field means they’re still more than a game away from getting Mertz and others that tested positive last week potentially back on the field.
After two early losses by Minnesota, along with a loss by Iowa last week, Wisconsin seemed the strong favorite to win the Big Ten West, but if they don’t play six games they won’t be eligible for the Big Ten title game — meaning they have to play the next five games. Whether that’s possible or not remains to be seen, but Wisconsin and the Big Ten are learning the hard way the difficulties of putting on a season with no wiggle room as case counts continue spiking across the country.