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Illinois, Northwestern to continue rivalry

Illinois and Northwestern may have been separated in different divisions when the Big Ten unveiled its new alignment on Wednesday, but their rivalry will continue.

Illinois and Northwestern will play each other in a divisional crossover game every season.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was pleased with the overall outcome.

"The Big Ten has done a great job of creating two competitive divisions that will feature entertaining football," Fitzgerald said. "I'm excited that we can maintain our Land of Lincoln trophy game against the Fighting Illini. That's a rivalry that both schools really look forward to, and to be able to have that game as our protected rivalry is something that we'll look forward to each year."

Northwestern junior Dan Persa concurred with his coach.

"This is exciting for all Big Ten fans," Persa said. "The Big Ten did a great job creating balance in both divisions from top to bottom. I think I can speak for everyone in the locker room, but we're excited to maintain our rivalry with Illinois and add a Big Ten conference championship game."

The Big Ten also released its conference schedules for 2011 and 2012. Illinois and Northwestern will meet in Champaign on Oct. 1 in 2011 and in Evanston on Nov. 24 in 2012.

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.