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CU Buffs to play San Diego State after USC game canceled

COVID-19 cases at USC cause cancellation

BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 07: University of Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell, right, leads the Buffs out onto the field to play UCLA at Folsom Field November 07, 2020. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
CU Athletics
BOULDER, CO – NOVEMBER 07: University of Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell, right, leads the Buffs out onto the field to play UCLA at Folsom Field November 07, 2020. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Colorado won’t be playing for first place in the Pac-12 South this weekend.

The Buffaloes are slated to play, however.

On Thursday night, the Pac-12 Conference announced that Saturday’s game between Colorado and Southern California at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has been canceled because of COVID-19 cases at USC.

Colorado will instead host San Diego State on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Folsom Field. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. Earlier this week, San Diego State had its game against Fresno State canceled.

When COVID-19 issues were announced at USC on Tuesday, CU athletic director Rick George contacted San Diego State athletic director John David Wicker and coordinated a contingency plan.

“It is unfortunate that our game at Southern California had to be canceled, but as we all continue to maintain, the most important concern we all have is the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” George said in a press release Thursday night. “After the Pac-12 CEO’s created some requirements for possible non-conference opponents to fill any vacancies created by cancellations, we moved earlier this week to find a possible opponent to replace the Trojans.  When San Diego State’s game at Fresno State was canceled for similar reasons, I spoke with John and we put an agreement in place if USC could not play.”

CU (2-0) and 19th-ranked USC (3-0) were set to meet Saturday in Los Angeles with first place in the Pac-12 South division on the line. This week, however, USC announced that two players tested positive for COVID-19, one with symptoms, and five other players were in quarantine. On Thursday, USC announced that an additional player was showing symptoms. Shortly thereafter, the game was canceled.

“This decision was made under the Pac-12’s football policy due to USC not having the minimum number of scholarship players available for the game at a specific position group as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols,” the Pac-12 said in a press release. “Under Conference policy, the game will be declared a no contest.”

This is the second consecutive week that CU has had a game canceled. The Buffs were scheduled to host Arizona State last Saturday, but COVID-19 issues at ASU caused the Sun Devils to cancel the game.

On Nov. 19, the Pac-12 announced that it would allow flexibility for its teams to try to find nonconference opponents if games were canceled. CU was unable to find an opponent last week because the Pac-12’s decision came too late in the week.

The Pac-12 criteria for scheduling a nonconference game requires the out-of-conference opponent to follow Pac-12 testing protocols. The Pac-12 administers antigen tests to players and staff six days per week, in addition to at least one PCR test, which is more sensitive.

Mountain West Conference teams conduct three PCR tests per week. A source at a MWC school said last week that on short notice, following Pac-12 testing would be “difficult but not impossible.”

Pac-12 criteria also requires that nonconference games be played in Pac-12 stadiums and broadcast by Pac-12 television partners. Those partners, Fox, ESPN and ABC, apparently passed on the Buffs and Aztecs. Saturday’s game will be the first this season broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

When COVID-19 issues at USC surfaced earlier this week, there were reports that CU and San Diego State could meet up. Asked about that possibility on Wednesday, CU head coach Karl Dorrell said the Buffs had not prepared for San Diego State, as they were focused on USC.

“(If USC can’t play), then we have to move forward with another opponent,” Dorrell said. “We haven’t had a chance to really look at anyone other than (USC). If that does change, we’ll be hitting in overdrive, trying to pick up the pieces that we need to do to get ready to play a different team.”

Now, that team is San Diego State, which was supposed to play at Fresno on Friday. COVID-19 issues at Fresno State caused that came to be canceled.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported that San Diego State has been “prepping for days” for a potential matchup with the Buffs.

CU and San Diego State have played once before. The Buffs defeated the Aztecs, 34-14, on Sept. 7, 2002, at Folsom Field.

Through the first three weeks of the season, the Pac-12 had two of six games canceled each week. This week, three games have been canceled. In addition to CU at USC, Washington at Washington State and ASU at Utah were canceled.

Utah and Washington were able to adjust and schedule a game for Saturday in Seattle.

CU will play the first nonconference game of the season in the Pac-12.

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