Some spring football games are more important than others.

This one matters.

With almost all of the final links to the 2014 national championship team gone and several starters still to be decided, including quarterback, Saturday’s scrimmage will be more than a casual affair.

That’s why Ohio State was so intent, despite a weather forecast that calls for rain, on not canceling its spring game. The start time has been moved up to 11:45 a.m. from 1:45 p.m.

At Ohio State’s coaches clinic Friday, coach Urban Meyer cited a couple of reasons for not canceling.

“No. 1 is the opportunity for the young players to play in front of the big crowd,” Meyer said. “That’s what we’ve been asking (of fans) for years and they’ve delivered. … You can simulate so much. You can’t simulate that. I don’t want to find out who is going to tighten up or who is going to be distracted on Sept. 18. I’d rather find out now.

“A big No. 2 is the recruiting element. That’s why we’re pushing it. We need that crowd.”

Due to an NCAA rules change, the Buckeyes are hosting at least two prospects for official visits. Dozens more are expected to attend on unofficial visits.

“We’re always looking for separators, difference-makers, and there are a lot of things we believe separate Ohio State from other schools,” Meyer said. “The fact you can have every seat filled for a spring game, that’s a separator.”

Because of stadium renovations, the capacity for this year’s game will be limited to about 78,000, and Ohio State announced it was sold out earlier this week.

The No. 1 story line for the spring game centers on the quarterback competition among Dwayne Haskins Jr., Joe Burrow and Tate Martell. Meyer has repeatedly said that no one has separated himself from the others.

“It’s that close,” Meyer said.

Haskins was perceived to be the front-runner because of his sterling play in lifting the Buckeyes to a comeback victory at Michigan last year after J.T. Barrett was injured.

Burrow was the backup in 2016 and was competing with Haskins for that job last year when he suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand during preseason camp.

A fourth-year junior, Burrow is on track to graduate in June. If he does, he could transfer and be eligible immediately at his new school, though he has maintained his preference is to stay if he has a legitimate shot at the starting job.

Martell might be the wild card. He impressed on the scout team as a true freshman and has clearly held his own in competition this spring. If the playmaking ability Martell showed during an undefeated high school career carries over Saturday, he could stake a claim to the job — or at least prompt coaches to give him a package of plays to run in the fall.

It might not be so simple for any of the quarterbacks to separate themselves. The rain, which is expected to arrive around 9 a.m., likely will complicate the passing game. Another factor is that some of the established receivers probably won’t see much action.

K.J. Hill is out rehabbing a shoulder injury and it’s likely that playing time will be limited for veterans such as Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon.

The quarterbacks will get most of the attention, but several other positions have battles that could be shaped by players’ performances on Saturday. Here are some to watch:

• Middle linebacker: With Tuf Borland out because of an Achilles injury — the Buckeyes hope to get him back in September — former five-star recruits Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning have a chance to leave a lasting impression. Hilliard has impressed this spring after missing most of two years with biceps injuries. Browning has all the tools but needs to show consistency, linebackers coach Bill Davis said.

• Right guard: On the offensive line, Isaiah Prince and Thayer Munford have solidified the tackle spots and Brady Taylor looks set at center. Michael Jordan, out this spring while rehabilitating a shoulder, is secure at left guard. But the other guard spot is up in the air with 2017 starter Branden Bowen and Demetrius Knox, who played well after Bowen’s season ended with a broken leg, the front-runners. Meyer said Tuesday that Malcolm Pridgeon has worked his way into the conversation.

• Safety: At the spot opposite Jordan Fuller, Isaiah Pryor was thought to have the edge entering the spring, and he still might. But Jahsen Wint and Brendon White have made a push, and the Buckeyes have talented freshmen waiting in the wings.

• Tight end: Rashod Berry figured to be the leader to replace Marcus Baugh, but Meyer said earlier this week that Luke Farrell might have the edge after a strong spring.

Dispatch reporter Tim May contributed to this story.