Ohio State has been particularly impacted by the pandemic. It has missed three games — two of which were canceled by an opponent — because of the virus. Ohio State also played two late-season games, including the Big Ten championship game, with more than 20 players sidelined, almost all of them presumably because of the virus.
In fact, the virus nearly waylaid the Buckeyes’ championship hopes. They had to petition the Big Ten to waive the six-game minimum requirement to be eligible for the conference title. After beating Northwestern, Ohio State successfully lobbied the conference to reduce from 21 to 17 the number of days players were required to sit out after a positive test, which ensured that players who tested positive three days before the Northwestern game could return for the semifinal victory over Clemson barring further setbacks.
Alabama has also known its share of disruptions. Its game against Louisiana State had to be rescheduled because of virus troubles at L.S.U., and the Rose Bowl, in which it defeated Notre Dame in a playoff semifinal, was relocated from its usual home in Pasadena, Calif., to Arlington, Texas, less than two weeks before the game.
The playoff has not used uniform testing protocols for the four schools in the field. They are left to adhere to their conference rules, which vary among leagues.
The Southeastern Conference requires its schools to test three times per week, though Alabama has said it tests more often. Ohio State is required under Big Ten protocols to conduct daily antigen tests, which must be recorded before each practice or game. Players who test positive are then given polymerase chain reaction tests, which are considered more reliable, to confirm the rapid test.