This weekend is a big one for spring games in the Big Ten, as five teams will hold their fan-friendly events (Northwestern will stage a regular practice instead of a traditional spring game).
Illinois will get things started off on Friday night in Champaign. We're previewing them all, so let's see what's in store for coach Tim Beckman's second spring game.
When: Friday, 9 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium
Admission: Free. Gates open at 7 p.m. Only the east side of Memorial Stadium will be open for the public. Fans are asked to enter through Gates 17, 19 and 21. Parking around the stadium is free.
TV: Live on Big Ten Network
Weather forecast: The temperature is expected to be about 62 degrees at kickoff, and there's a chance for some storms later in the evening.
What to watch for: The Illini lost the last nine times they took the field in 2012, but fans are guaranteed to see an Illinois win on Friday night. So that's something.
The faithful will be seeking any reason for optimism from this team. The new offense, spearheaded by former Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit, could provide just that, although it likely will have a very vanilla aroma in the spring game. There are also some junior college additions who promise to bring some immediate help, like receiver Martize Barr and linebacker/safety Eric Finney, both of whom have had good springs.
Overall, Beckman's team just needs to look like it knows what it's doing in all three phases and not show off the big mistakes that cost it repeatedly during last year's 2-10 campaign. It would be nice if quarterbacks Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O'Toole can get something going in the passing game, and if the offensive line can give them time to do so. This program needs all the positivity and momentum it can get, even from a spring game setting.
The game will feature a normal clock for the first three quarters and a running clock in the fourth quarter aside from the final two minutes. There will be no kickoffs or returns, and no rush will be allowed on field goals and extra points. Several players could play on both teams because of depth problems.