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Big News From the Big Ten: Week 0 of College Football

The Wildcats take on Spartans in one of five opening weekend conference matchups.

On August 23rd, the Big Ten Conference sent out the first press release of the 2021 NCAA College Football Season. Here are the top storylines from the release.

Opening Weekend

The season will begin Aug. 28 when The University of Nebraska travels to Champaign to face the University of Illinois. This game was supposed to be played in Dublin, Ireland, but the Covid-19 pandemic led to this contest being moved back to the United States. This is something to keep an eye on as Northwestern is scheduled to play in Dublin in 2022.

The previous game is the only Big 10 contest being played during that weekend, and the rest of the teams will open the season the following weekend. Rutgers University open up its season Sept. 2nd when they host Temple University and the University of Minnesota and Ohio State University also open up on the second. The other teams in the conference, including the Wildcats, begin their season on either Friday the 3rd or Saturday the 4th. The Wildcats host Michigan State University Friday night in a conference matchup, and the other Big Ten exclusive matchups include Penn State University versus the University of Wisconsin and Indiana University versus the University of Iowa, with both contests taking place on Saturday.

Preseason Honors

The conference announced its football preseason honors list for the 11th consecutive year. All 10 players on the list are returning after being selected All-Big Ten for the 2020 season, and five players were selected from each division. Wildcat safety Brandon Joseph was selected to the West Division side.

Returning Stars

120 players who were named an All-Big Ten honoree from the 2020 season are returning to the gridiron in 2021. This includes players named to either the first, second, third or honorable mention groups. Iowa and Ohio State are the leaders for the amount of returning players with distinction in the West and East divisions respectively, and the 120 are split evenly between the two divisions. The Wildcats are returning two, Joseph and offensive lineman Peter Skoronski.

Award Watch Lists

The National College Football Awards Association named 77 Big Ten athletes to the various watch lists for major awards. Penn State, Indiana and Ohio State had the most players on the watch lists, and the Wildcats had nine players featured, including Joseph being on three different watch lists.

New Head Coaches

There will be only one new head coach in the Big Ten, Illinois coach Bret Bielema. Bielema was previously the coach of Wisconsin and the University of Arkansas. The Wildcats will face Bielema for the first time November 27th.

Top 25 Polls 

The conference had four teams finish in the Top 25 in 2020, including the Wildcats who finished at No. 10. In 2021, five teams are in the Top 25 to start the season. The Wildcats were not featured but did receive votes in the preseason poll. No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 18 Iowa are both on the Wildcats slate in 2021.

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