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Another week, another slate of games impacted by COVID-19 in college football. The Mountain West and Big Ten conferences both returned to action last week and already have had to deal with COVID-19 cancellations. Nearly 40 games have been postponed or canceled already this season.
Week 9 Impact
So far, for this week, there have been three games canceled or postponed. The biggest of these is No. 9 Wisconsin at Nebraska in the Big Ten. More on this in a bit.
The UTEP vs. North Texas game has been postponed along with Florida International vs. Marshall. Also, the New Mexico vs. San Jose State game was moved to San Jose, Calif., because of the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico.
The Lobos had their planned season opener against Colorado State postponed last week.
Wisconsin Pauses Team Activities
Because of multiple positive tests, the Wisconsin Badgers had to pause all team activities on Wednesday and canceled their road game against Nebraska this weekend. The Big Ten ruled the game a "No-Contest" as none of the figures reached by the Badgers were high enough to trigger an automatic forfeit.
The league threshold for that is at least a 5% positive rate and a population positive rate of at least 7.5% in the neighboring area.
Head coach Paul Chryst and starting quarterback Graham Mertz were among the six players and six coaches announced by the school as positive. Mertz had a breakout game in the Badgers' opener with 248 yards passing and five touchdowns in a 45-7 win over Illinois.
He jumped into Heisman talk after that performance, but as of Wednesday, he was not listed among the top 20 players receiving Heisman odds.
Big Ten protocol says that Mertz will have to be out of action at least 21 days, which means he would also miss games against Purdue and Michigan with a possible return on Nov. 21 at Northwestern.
The Big Ten's late start means it can't postpone games to later in the season like the Big 12, SEC and ACC were able to do. The Wisconsin-Nebraska game won't be made up and won't count in the standings, but both teams can still win the Big Ten West.
The Big Ten's rules for winning a division are that teams can play one less game than other teams as long as they play six of the eight scheduled games. If Nebraska or Wisconsin finish 6-1 and Purdue is 7-1, then head-to-head will be the first tiebreaker.
Wisconsin was favored by 10.5 points on the road against a Nebraska team that was blown out at Ohio State last week. The Big Ten West is pretty wide open if Mertz isn't able to play the next couple of games.
In addition to Wisconsin winning last week, Purdue and Northwestern also started 1-0, while Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois are 0-1 in the division. Purdue is the only team to already have a win inside the division, as it beat Iowa at home in the opener.
Wisconsin has fallen from +550 to +800 to win the Big Ten, which would not only include winning the West but then beating the East champ (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan) in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 19.
Minnesota is +2000 after losing at home to Michigan, while Purdue is +3300, with Iowa +10000, Northwestern +15000 and Illinois +30000. Purdue may be in the best position, as it is scheduled to play Wisconsin Nov. 7, while the other teams in the division won't play the Badgers until later in the season.