The Minnesota Golden Gophers were forced to cancel the bloody border rivalry with Wisconsin, which is the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, and now it’s doubtful they’ll be able to play next Saturday at home against Northwestern, all because of Covid-19 infections across the roster.

According to Andy Greder of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the Gophers have more than 40 players and staff infected with the virus over the last ten days. Fifteen additional positives were reportedly added to the list Saturday.

With the Big Ten’s strictest-in-nation protocols for athletes, each infected player would be required to sit out a minimum of 21 days before being considered for a return to play. It could be that Minnesota literally would not have enough players to play a complete game.

If the Wildcats game is cancelled, that would leave only Nebraska on Dec. 12 for the 2-3 Gophers to play, in addition to the Championship Week matchup Dec. 19, giving them seven games for the season. But the game against the Cornhuskers may be in doubt, too. 

From this vantage point it appears Northwestern—a team that was upset Saturday as a rare favorite against Michigan State—would backdoor into the Big Ten West division title and an appearance in the championship game against presumptive East champion Ohio State. Year of our lord 2020 wouldn’t have it any other way.