When 90,000 people file into Memorial Stadium on Saturday, they will be watching what typically amounts to a glorified practice.
In this case, though, the format is going to look suspiciously like a fall Saturday.
Head coach Scott Frost said Tuesday that the Red-White Spring Game will feature a normal game format aside from kicking.
The clock will operate normally in the first half, while the second half will feature a running clock until the final five minutes.
A virus that has been causing high fevers across the roster has left numbers “kind of dangerously low,” Frost said, meaning the staff has not finalized how it’s going to split up the rosters. For the most part, though, Frost said the rosters will reflect something of a depth chart.
"We're going to put, honestly, the majority of the guys that are doing well on one side," he explained. "I want to get some guys some experience and having success on both sides of the ball. Of course, we've done that that way before and the other side would win, so I expect great competition. There will be some guys that get some reps and then we get out of there for health's sake, and I expect a pretty even ballgame after that."
Kicking and some special teams work will be conducted against air.
Frost said the coaching staff will be split up into two units to coach each side. Frost himself won’t call plays like he usually does, handing that duty to assistants for the day.
Most of the playbook will be available, though. Some secrets may be withheld, but there's plenty of footage to be found from previous stops if any Big Ten counterparts are curious.
“We’re not that worried about that," Frost said. "If I was going to scout us, I’d probably go back and look at things that we did in Florida and maybe Oregon more than what we did in the spring game. We’re going to run a lot of our stuff. Anything new that we’ve put in we’re not going to show, but for the most part we’re just going to be us.”
One thing is for sure: Saturday’s action will not determine who NU’s starting quarterback is going to be on Sept. 1.
“The quarterback decision won't come for a long time,” Frost said. "I don't think it's fair to evaluate those guys until people are really familiar with the system so you're not having mistakes that are going to get fixed as they get more reps. We want to evaluate the guys all through spring and all through fall camp."
Frost has expressed confidence in the quarterback group through the spring and has said he's pleased with the progress the group has made on the whole, but he reiterated that Saturday will not be a fully drawn picture.
"This whole thing is a work in progress," he said. "There's a lot of things we needed to change, fix, develop to get the team where we want it. I see improvement every day -- sometimes it's two steps forward and one step back -- but I'm seeing guys embrace what we ask them to do. I'm seeing guys improve, but we have a long way to go. The spring game won't look as good as I want it to look, no practice looks as good as the coaches want them to look right now, but we are getting better every time we go out.
"We're not going to get it all the way there in one spring ball ... We need another summer conditioning, we need another fall camp and even then, we're going to be better but not all the way there."