The COVID-19 pandemic has presented Canadian Enock Makonzo and upstart Coastal Carolina with their stiffest challenge of the season.
The No. 14-ranked Chanticleers (9-0) were scheduled to face No. 25 Liberty (9-1) on Saturday. But that game was cancelled Thursday due to COVID-19 issues within the Flames program.
So Coastal Carolina will host No. 8 Brigham Young (9-0) instead. The Chanticleers and Cougars are two of only three 9-0 teams in the NCAA this year, with No. 2 Notre Dame being the other.
Coastal Carolina, a 10-point home underdog Saturday, sits atop the Sun Belt Conference and is coming off a 49-14 road win last weekend over Texas State. Earlier this season, BYU defeated Texas State 52-14.
Makonzo, a five-foot-11, 195-pound linebacker/defensive back, is enjoying a stellar season at Coastal Carolina, The redshirt junior from Lachine, Que., has recorded 55 tackles (36 solo, eight for a loss), two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
MORE COVID-19 ISSUES: Michigan (2-4) has cancelled its game Saturday versus Maryland (2-2) due to COVID-19 issues. The Wolverines cancelled practices this week and aren't scheduled to resume on-field sessions until Monday.
Luiji Vilain, a six-foot-four, 253-pound senior defensive lineman from Ottawa, has four tackles (two solo) in five games with Michigan this season.
The Wolverines' game versus Maryland won't be rescheduled. They're slated to visit Ohio State (4-0) next weekend, a contest that's important to the No. 4-ranked Buckeyes, who've already had two games cancelled this year and must play at least six contests to qualify for the Big 10 championship game.
Ohio State was forced to cancel last weekend's game versus Illinois because of the pandemic. It resumed team activities this week and is slated to visit Michigan State on Saturday before finishing up against Michigan on Dec. 12, needing to play both to keep its CFB playoff hopes alive.
This week, the Las Vegas Bowl became the 10th bowl game to be cancelled because of the pandemic. The others include: the Bahamas; Celebration; Fenway; Hawaii; Holiday; Motor City; Pinstripe; Redbox; and Sun bowls.
SABAN SET TO RETURN: John Metchie III and the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0) should have their head coach back this weekend.
Nick Saban missed Alabama's 43-13 win over No. 22 Auburn last weekend following a positive COVID-19 test. Savan said this week he expects to be on the field Saturday when the Crimson Tide face LSU (3-4).
Metchie, a six-foot, 195-pound sophomore from Brampton, Ont., had six catches for 55 yards and two TDs versus Auburn. On the season, Metchie has 31 catches for 590 yards and six touchdowns.
Alabama, which is a 30-point road favourite Saturday, could have redemption on its mind. Last year, then No. 2-ranked LSU improved to 9-0 with a 46-41 win in Tuscaloosa over No. 3 Alabama, which had won eight straight prior to that contest.
QUESTION REMAINS: It's still unclear if Canadian running back Chuba Hubbard will play this weekend when the No. 15 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-2) face TCU (4-4).
Hubbard missed Oklahoma State's 50-44 win last weekend over Texas Tech with an unspecified leg injury. Backup LD Brown also didn't play as Dezmon Jackson ran for 235 yards and three TDs in his first career start.
Hubbard, a six-foot, 208-pound redshirt junior from Sherwood Park, Alta., has run for 625 yards on 133 carries (4.7-yard average) with five TDs. He led the country with over 2,000 yards in 2019.
Calgary's Amen Ogbongbemiga, a six-foot-one, 235-pound redshirt senior linebacker, had 11 tackles (seven solo) against Texas Tech. This season, Ogbongbemiga has recorded a team-high 62 tackles (36 solo, four for a loss) and two sacks,
BACK TO BACK: It's been a solid couple of weeks for defensive lineman Mohamed Diallo.
The six-foot-four, 305-pound Toronto native had six tackles (3.5 for a loss) and two sacks in Central Michigan's 31-23 win last weekend over Eastern Michigan. That came after he recorded six tackles (three solo) and a half-sack in a 53-44 loss Nov. 18 to Western Michigan.
This season, Diallo has 17 tackles (eight solo, nine for a loss), 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Central Michigan (3-1) takes on Ball State (3-1) on Saturday.
BULLS WAIT: The Buffalo Bulls are in a holding pattern.
Buffalo (4-0) was to face Ohio (2-1) this weekend but the game was cancelled Friday and declared a no-contest due to COVID-19 issues for the Bobcats. At first glance, that appeared to clinch the Bulls the MAC East Division title — and a berth in the conference final Dec. 18 in Detroit.
After all, Ohio was the only team in the East with a shot to win the division heading into weekend action. But it's unclear if the MAC will attempt to make up the game or the Bobcats' Nov. 17 contest against Miami University that was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The Associated Press reported Friday night that Buffalo was still awaiting word from Mid-American Conference officials.
Buffalo is scheduled to host Akron next week while Ohio is scheduled to face Kent State.
Redshirt freshman Kurtis Rourke of Oakville, Ont., completed 10-of-11 passes for 63 yards and a TD in Ohio's 52-10 win last weekend over Bowling Green. He also ran for 43 yards on three carries.
Defensive back Jett Elad, a six-foot, 191-pound freshman defensive back from Mississauga, Ont.., had three tackles and an interception for the Bobcats.
Rourke has completed 30-of-44 passes (68.2 per cent) for 386 yards and three TDs this season. He took over starting duties from his older brother, Nathan, who was selected in the second round, No. 15 overall, of the 2020 CFL draft by the B.C. Lions.
Last weekend, Buffalo made national headlines when Jaret Patterson ran for 409 yards and eight TDs in a 70-41 win over Kent State. He has also rushed for 710 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two contests.
Dominic Johnson, a six-foot-five, 220-pound senior receiver from Windsor, Ont., had five receptions for 43 yards against Kent State. He's one of three Canadians on the Bulls' roster, including tight end Cole Burniston of Grimsby, Ont., and offensive lineman Gabe Wallace of Salmon Arm. B.C., both sophomores.
BIG PLAY: Calgary's Deane Leonard came up big for Ole Miss in its 31-24 win last weekend over Mississippi State in the annual Egg Bowl game.
Leonard, a six-foot-two, 195-pound defensive back who transferred from the Vanier Cup-winning Calgary Dinos this off-season, returned a fumble 84 yards in the contest. It was the fourth-longest fumble return in school history.
Leonard, a senior, also had two solo tackles and two pass breakups. The fumble return and pass breakups were his first of the season. Leonard has also registered 10 tackles (six solo).
Former Guelph Gryphon Tavius Robinson, who also transferred to Ole Miss this off-season, had a quarterback hit against Mississippi State. This season, the six-foot-seven, 245-pound junior linebacker from Guelph, Ont., has 16 tackles (eight solo, 1.5 for a loss), one sack and three quarterback hits.
Ole Miss (4-4) is off this weekend. Makeup dates and times of games with LSU and Texas A&M haven't yet been announced.
POINT AFTER: Canadian linebacker D.K. Bonhomme recorded a sack for a safety in Indiana's 27-11 win over Maryland. The six-foot-three, 235-pound sophomore from Ottawa sacked Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa for the safety that put Indiana ahead 9-3. Bonhomme also had four tackles (three solo) in the contest and has recorded 12 tackles (eight solo, two for a loss) and a sack on the season, The No. 11 Hoosiers (5-1) face No. 16 Wisconsin (2-1) on Saturday . . . Jared Wayne, a six-foot-three, sophomore receiver at Pitt, registered five catches for a team-high 62 yards in last weekend's 52-17 loss to Clemson. The Peterborough, Ont., native has 16 receptions for 266 yards (16.6-yard average) and a touchdown this year. The Panthers (5-5) take on Georgia Tech (2-5) on Dec. 10 . . . Penn State (1-5) looks for a second straight win Saturday when it takes on Rutgers (2-4). The Nittany Lions are coming off a 27-17 victory last weekend over Michigan. Junior linebacker Jesse Luketa, a six-foot-three, 242-pound Ottawa native, had four tackles (two solo) and on the season has 35 tackles (20 solo, one for a loss). Junior safety Jonathan Sutherland, also of Ottawa, had an assisted tackle in the contest. This season, the five-foot-11, 202-pound Sutherland has six tackles (three solo, 0.5 for a loss) . . . Sam Emulis, a six-foot-one, 195-pound junior receiver from Montreal, had four catches for 82 yards — both team highs — in the University of Massachusetts' 45-0 loss to Liberty last weekend. Emulis has 17 catches for 168 yards and a TD this season. UMass (0-4) opted to play a limited number of games this season following a review of the program's COVID-19 safety protocols . . . There will be three Canadians in action Saturday when Iowa (4-2) takes on Illinois (2-3). Alaric Jackson, a left tackle from Windsor, Ont., who was on Pro Football Focus's team of the week, suits up for the Hawkeyes while twin brothers Chase and Sydney Brown, of London, Ont., line up at running back and defensive back, respectively, for the Illini.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2000.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press