LINCOLN, Neb. _ In football-mad Nebraska, it's the biggest state secret.
Four days from the opener, the eighth-ranked Cornhuskers still haven't named a starting quarterback.
Will it be Zac Lee, last year's starter, Cody Green, Lee's backup, or spring sensation Taylor Martinez?
Coach Bo Pelini and his staff aren't letting on. Pelini said Tuesday the answer might not be revealed to fans until Nebraska's offense takes the field against Western Kentucky on Saturday night.
Not even receiver Brandon Kinnie has an inkling.
"You'd think as a receiver I would have a pretty good idea who's going to be throwing me the ball," Kinnie said. "They're all taking the same number of reps. I can't tell. Those guys (coaches) are good at keeping it hush-hush."
Lee and Green have been off-limits to the media since the first day of practice, and Pelini doesn't let players who haven't appeared in a game, like Martinez, to speak with reporters.
Pelini said he hasn't given any of the quarterbacks an indication of who will take the first snap.
"I have a decent idea," Pelini said, when asked if he knew, "but a lot can happen between now and Saturday."
"I want the competition to continue, and I also don't want it to become a circus," Pelini said.
Pelini, who has been fractious with the media throughout preseason practice, has bristled at almost daily questions about the quarterback situation.
He also has made clear his disdain for social media, such as Twitter and fan message boards where coaches and players are sliced and diced.
"I don't want them to have to deal with the scrutiny and all the other things that go on if and when the announcement is made," Pelini said. "We'll handle that so we do the right thing by the kid _ not only the kid who's going to be the starter but also the kids who aren't going to walk out there the first time."
For Nebraska's ardent fans, the hardest part is not knowing. The veil of secrecy has prompted all kinds of theories.
Maybe no one has stood out enough to grab the job. Maybe Pelini is delaying an announcement to keep Green or Martinez from transferring if Lee, a senior, is the starter. Maybe Pelini fears a letdown by the backups if he names a starter now.
Lee started 12 games last season for an offense that ranked 99th in the nation. Lee was at his best in the 33-0 Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona, but earlier in the season Nebraska went through a four-game stretch in which it produced four touchdowns.
Before the bowl, in which Nebraska scored on seven of eight possessions and rolled up 396 yards, the Huskers were on track to have their least productive offense since 1968.
Lee missed spring practice to recover from surgery on his right (throwing) elbow, allowing Green and Martinez to get all the snaps with the No. 1 offense.
Martinez received glowing reports in the spring, and all indications are that the redshirt freshman has continued to make a strong push through preseason practices.
"He's a very dynamic athlete," Pelini said. "He can run, he's explosive. He has great poise. He can make all the throws."
Green started two games as a freshman last season, going the distance against Baylor but getting pulled in a 10-3 win over Oklahoma after the Huskers generated 19 total yards and no first downs on their first five possessions.
Pelini has praised all three quarterbacks and insists the Huskers will be in good hands no matter who gets the job.
"It's a good problem to have," Pelini said.
Or a potentially devastating one for a team with championship expectations if a quarterback doesn't emerge as a consistent and reliable player.
The coach isn't worried about the uncertainty hurting the offense's ability to develop chemistry.
"The team is going to rally around whoever is out there," Pelini said. "Everyone wants to focus on the quarterback position. There are other positions where that starting job is up in the air. That makes your guys come with an edge and understand the importance of performing in practice."