Illinois, Nebraska to kick off 2021 season in Ireland

The Illinois Fighting Illini and Nebraska Cornhuskers will open their 2021 football seasons against each other in Dublin.

The game, part of the Aer Lingus College Football Series, will take place on Aug. 28, 2021, in Aviva Stadium, which seats 51,700.

Athletic directors Bill Moos of Nebraska and Josh Whitman of Illinois announced the game Monday

"The University of Illinois, our football program, our alumni and fans, and the entire Fighting Illini family are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience on the Emerald Isle," Whitman said in a statement. "When first approached about this game almost two years ago, we had immediate interest.

"This game will provide an incredible educational opportunity for our football student-athletes who, because of their schedule, generally do not receive the same international experiences as many of our other student-athletes. For our fans, I hope they will journey with us across the Atlantic for a wonderful trip and a major football game, all set against the beauty of Ireland."

This will be the second game in a five-game series that will start in 2020 when Notre Dame and Navy play on Aug. 29, 2020. ESPN's College GameDay has announced that it will travel to Dublin for that game.

"This is the first time in history that there will be consecutive years of American college football games in Ireland," said John Anthony of Irish American Events Limited. "We are honored that these universities recognize that the Aer Lingus College Football Classic is much more than a game."

The game in Dublin will be Nebraska's first outside the United States since the Huskers beat Kansas State in the 1992 Coca-Cola Bowl in Tokyo.

"Playing a game in Ireland provides another way to spread the Nebraska brand, and in this case on an international stage," Moos said. "We are always looking for new scheduling opportunities and when this was presented, coach [Scott] Frost and I decided this would be an experience of a lifetime for the student-athletes in our program. This will also be a great trip for our fans, and knowing how Husker fans travel it will be great to see Dublin, Ireland, turned red."

The teams will travel to Dublin the week of the game to practice, tour the city and acclimate to the time difference.

"Illinois and Nebraska players and fans can look forward to the best of Irish hospitality," Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in a statement. "The series will showcase Ireland as a location for international events and tournaments and put our world-leading tourism sector front and centre. The 2020 game between Notre Dame and Navy is fast approaching and now sports fans have another great occasion to plan for in 2021."

Nebraska also announced the completion of its 2021 nonconference schedule. The Huskers will play Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 13, which was the original date for the Nebraska-Illinois game.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.