Buckeyes football is back! Sort of.

In the barren desert of the football offseason, the Ohio State Spring Game is an oasis. The thirsty scarlet-and-gray masses have finally reached this brief respite, which kicks off at noon on Saturday, April 13, in Ohio Stadium.

The football is admittedly more like a fine mist than a gusher. There isn’t any real tackling, because major college programs realize the insanity of risking injury to stars for a glorified practice, and the game of touch football that ensues is more like cosplay than actual sport. Buttressed on either end with months of nothing—or worse, baseball—it will have to suffice. Most of the on-field intrigue will be similar to last year—a battle for the starting quarterback job, this time between redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin and sophomore Justin Fields, who transferred to OSU from the University of Georgia in January.

Even the offseason coaching change doesn’t provide much drama because fans already got a three-game preview of how new head coach Ryan Day operates with former coach Urban Meyer’s players (verdict: very well). The game does provide a platform for Day’s first real recruiting efforts, as several top high school prospects will be in attendance. That may be the spring game’s greatest purpose at this point: to welcome a 17-year-old, five-star athlete from Florida, point to the massive crowds in the stands and say, “This is April. Imagine what September is like.”

No other school can boast OSU’s crowds. The Buckeyes own the top three spots in attendance in spring game history among every college in the country. Last year’s turnout was down significantly, due to rainy weather and renovations to B and C decks, and though Saturday is expected to be sunnier, ongoing construction on C Deck will keep attendance numbers below their peak. The high point came in 2016, when 100,189 fans swarmed the stadium, including Columbus Monthly contributor Jeff Long, who wrote about the experience.

***

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine, as well as our weekly newsletter so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.