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Homecoming kick times, UW-Illinois move games

Several Big Ten teams today announced kickoff times for their Homecoming games this season.You'll notice a common theme (high noon, people!).

Without further ado ...

Oct. 2: Northwestern at Minnesota, noon ET

Oct. 9: Illinois at Penn State, noon ET; Minnesota at Wisconsin, noon ET

Oct. 16: Minnesota at Purdue, noon ET; Illinois at Michigan State, noon ET

Oct. 23: Michigan State at Northwestern, noon ET; Purdue at Ohio State, noon ET; Indiana at Illinois, noon ET

Iowa's Homecoming game against Penn State already was announced for 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 2. ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 will televise the game.

I'll post the other Homecoming kickoff times when I get them. TV plans will be determined later.

In a more interesting move, Illinois and Wisconsin also announced today that their 2011 and 2012 matchups have been moved to the first weekend of December. The Illini and Badgers will meet on Dec. 3, 2011, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, before reuniting Dec. 1, 2012, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. Both games originally were scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend in both 2011 and 2012.

Why move the games to December? It shortens the gap between the end of the regular season and bowl games. It also keeps teams in the media spotlight.

Both Illinois and Wisconsin ended the 2009 regular season in December.

"We had a chance to play a later game this past season and I thought there were several advantages to the extended season," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said in a statement. "We place a high priority on hosting the Illinois state championship games at Memorial Stadium, and this helps us with a bye week later in the season. It also provides a nice opportunity for our players and fans to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with their families."

“I like that we are playing later in the season with the exposure it affords us,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said in a statement. “I also think it gave us an advantage last year in our bowl preparation. Another benefit is that it moves the game off of Thanksgiving weekend which gives our players and fans an opportunity to spend that holiday with family.”

I like moving games to December, which evens the playing field for Big Ten teams and also opens up the Thanksgiving weekend for a mini break. It will be interesting to see if any other schools follow suit. It also will be interesting to see how cold it gets in Madison in 2012.

The big unknown in all this is expansion and whether a Big Ten championship game in football would prevent moving games to the first weekend of December.