There might not be tailgating or a jam-packed Alerus Center, and it's not even the fall, but the UND football season is here anyway.
The Fighting Hawks open the strange coronavirus-impacted season -- the program's first in the Missouri Valley Football Conference -- on Saturday at noon against No. 24 Southern Illinois.
Officials have allowed for a capacity of 4,000 fans at the Alerus, with fans required to wear masks and social distance. Tailgating isn't allowed in the parking lot.
Some gameday tickets may be available at the Alerus Center box office. The box office will open three hours prior to kickoff. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance online or in person to avoid congregation at the box office.
Student tickets can be redeemed through a student's Green and White Account the Monday prior to each home game starting at 9 p.m. All student seating will be reserved.
There will be no recreational vehicles, buses or trailers allowed in the parking lots.
"It'll be fun to be at home in front of our home crowd," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "Our guys wanted to play last summer when we told them in August (about the delayed season). You work so hard and put in so much time to get ready for the season, and they wanted to play this spring. I know our guys have worked hard, and we've seen really good effort in workouts, the practice field and meeting rooms."
SIU was picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley preseason poll, while UND was selected seventh.
The Hawks haven't played the Salukis since 2008, when Dale Lennon-coached SIU won 40-21 despite 310 passing yards from now-UND offensive coordinator Danny Freund.
Both staffs are familiar with one another, as UND head coach Bubba Schweigert spent six seasons under Lennon at SIU as defensive coordinator. New UND defensive line coach Austin Flyger (seven seasons) and cornerbacks coach Travis Stepps (12 seasons) spent time at SIU.
Southern Illinois cornerbacks coach Marty Rodgers spent two seasons at UND under Schweigert after playing for him in Carbondale.
UND vs. No. 24 Southern Illinois
Where: Alerus Center.
TV: MidcoSN (Alex Heinert on play-by-play, Ryan Kasowski analyst)
Radio: 96.1 FM (Jack Michaels on play-by-play, Tom Dosch analyst)
Streaming: The game will available on ESPN-Plus.
Betting line: Southern Illinois -3.0, over-under 48.0, per Bovada.
The Fighting Hawks will win if: UND's beefed up offensive and defensive lines control the line of scrimmage and the Alerus Center continues to be a charmed place for the Fighting Hawks. The Salukis' run-heavy, wildcat offense plays into the hands of UND's 3-4 defense, which has excelled against that type of look (think Montana State in 2019). The Hawks' revamped offensive weapons step right into new roles, led by a newly eligible Otis Weah at running back and now-in-the-spotlight Garett Maag at wide receiver. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Schuster plays much like the one-game preview UND fans saw last year of Schuster in a win over Sam Houston State. After a couple of years on shaky ground, the team's kicking game has been ironed out with the addition of St. Cloud State transfer Adam Stage.
The Salukis will win if: UND still looks like the team that gave up 316 rushing yards and ran for just 44 in the first round of the FCS playoffs last year against Nicholls State. Javon Williams Jr., a 6-foot-2, 245-pound running back, picks up right where he left off in a win over No. 25 SEMO in the fall, where he ran 23 times for 145 yards. Southern Illinois plays like a team with a chip on its shoulder after feeling like UND stole its spot in the 2019 FCS playoffs. UND's lack of depth at nose guard is glaring against a team imposing its will, while UND's offense looks like a unit with a brand new starting quarterback, running back and top two wide receivers. The kicking game is still a mystery, as Stage is shaky in Division I debut.