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Big Ten announces updated 2021 football schedule

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Things have changed a bit.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Auburn vs Northwestern Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats will open and close their season as expected but face some notable changes in the middle, as the Big Ten announced its updated 2021 football schedule on Friday morning.

The conference originally released a schedule back in 2017, but with the impact of COVID-19 on college football, the Big Ten made some adjustments to its upcoming schedule. There were no changes in terms of opponents, but for some teams, the location and dates of games were altered. For Northwestern, no locations changed but many dates did.

The Wildcats will still open their season at home on September 4 against Michigan State in hopes of avenging last season’s loss. They will then play the same non-conference slate against Indiana State, Duke and Ohio before continuing conference matchups.

While Northwestern was originally supposed to play its crossover games later in the season, the updated schedule bumped divisional games against Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota to the later half of its schedule.

After facing Nebraska on the road on October 2, NU will have a bye week before its two East Division games against Rutgers and Michigan. Then, the Wildcats will close the season with their five remaining divisional opponents.

Additionally, the November 20 matchup against Purdue will now be played at Wrigley Field, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.

Ultimately, the schedule change indicates that the ‘Cats are finally gaining some respect as a top competitor in the Big Ten West. Rather than facing Wisconsin and Iowa early in the season, the Big Ten shifted those matchups to November, as they could likely determine who earns the trip to Indy.