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Ohio State Buckeyes will play Michigan State Spartans on Saturday after COVID-19 concerns

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Ohio State on Friday confirmed it will play Saturday's game at Michigan State because COVID-19 issues within the program have improved.

The fourth-ranked Buckeyes (4-0) are set to fly to East Lansing, Michigan, on Friday night.

Ohio State canceled last week's game at Illinois hours before the scheduled kickoff because of a rise in positive COVID-19 cases among players and staff. The team paused activities before resuming in-person practices Tuesday and continuing them throughout the week. Ohio State also implemented enhanced PCR testing to go along with the Big Ten's daily antigen testing.

"We are very confident that we are heading to East Lansing with a team that can safely compete and whose health, safety and well-being has been our utmost concern," team physician Jim Borchers said in a statement. "We've tested, monitored and evaluated our results daily and have advised the student-athletes, coaches and performance staff accordingly. Our population positivity rate, which exceeded the threshold for participation at this time last week, has now returned on the seven-day rolling average to a level that allows us to compete safely this weekend."

Head coach Ryan Day, who tested positive for COVID-19 late last week, will not coach the Michigan State game. Assistant head coach/defensive line coach Larry Johnson will handle the head-coaching responsibilities Saturday, and Day, 41, is expected to return to his full duties Monday.

Ohio State has not revealed specific numbers or names regarding the recent positive COVID-19 tests. Any Big Ten player who tests positive must miss at least 21 days before returning. Day on Thursday said the Buckeyes would be "a little short-handed" for Saturday's game.

The Buckeyes, who also had a game canceled earlier this season against Maryland, must play Saturday and then next week to qualify for the Big Ten championship game. The league requires a minimum of six games, although athletic directors could discuss adjusting the threshold. Michigan, which is set to visit Ohio State on Dec. 12, canceled Saturday's game with Maryland and paused all team activities following a rise in COVID-19 cases this week.

Ohio State said it remained in communication with Michigan State throughout the week about its coronavirus situation.

"We currently have student-athletes and staff in either isolation or quarantine protocols right now," Borchers said, "and everyone is recovering and doing well."