For now, the Big Ten Champions Week is still scheduled to take place.
The Big Ten announced its Champions Week schedule on Sunday afternoon, setting up the final conference games for the season. Saturday’s games are highlighted by the conference championship between No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) and No. 15 Northwestern (6-1) at noon.
The two teams in Michigan will wrap up their seasons in primetime.
Michigan (2-4) will travel to No. 18 Iowa (6-2) for a 7 p.m. game on Saturday, while Michigan State (2-5) goes to Maryland (2-3) for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Wolverines and Spartans opened as sports betting underdogs, with Michigan a 13-point underdog and Michigan State opening at +5.
Michigan’s previous two games against Maryland and Ohio State were canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the program. A week ago, Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel said positive tests continued to come in over the weekend, forcing the cancellation of the Ohio State matchup.
But in Monday’s weekly news conference, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh remained optimistic about his team’s chances of playing on Saturday. He noted his team returned to practice on Sunday after having strength and conditioning sessions on the Thursday and Friday before the team’s first practice back.
“That’s our plan,” Harbaugh said during Monday’s news conference when asked if he expects the team to play on Saturday. “We were able to practice yesterday. Good, spirited practice, was really impressed with our players, lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy for the practice session.
“Practicing today. Scheduled the rest of the week. Tomorrow, we won’t practice; it’s a heavy day for finals, so we’re going to let the guys focus on taking those finals tomorrow. Plan to be back on the field practicing Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. Fly to Iowa City Friday afternoon.”
Michigan’s latest spread isn’t the only movement the program has seen from oddsmakers. Harbaugh was recently listed as one of the favorites to become the next head coach of the Detroit Lions. It’s also been reported that he’s currently working on contract extension talks with Manuel, and despite the rumors of him leaving for the NFL, he reiterated during Monday’s news conference that he plans to stay at Michigan.
“My plan is committed to Michigan,” he said. “Have been and will remain. Warde and I will sit down and talk at the end of the season about the current contract. That’s the truth. That’s where I stand.”
Michigan State might have found a quarterback. Payton Thorne, starting for the injured Rocky Lombardi, ignited the Spartans’ offense in the 39-24 loss to Penn State, completing 22 of 39 passes for 325 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The passing yards are a school record for a first-time starter and freshman quarterback.
Before MSU blew a 21-10 halftime lead, Thorne gave the offense a vertical passing attack it sorely needed this season. He completed 11 straight passes in the first half, including a 45-yard touchdown to Jalen Nailor, a 26-yard touchdown to Tre’Von Morgan and a 7-yard score to Nailor for the halftime advantage.
Sports bettors are also backing Thorne, with the Spartans line moving from +5 down to +1.5.