CEDAR FALLS - The Northern Iowa football team begins their season Friday night here inside the UNI-Dome against South Dakota State.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will stream live on ESPN+.
The Panthers enter the season ranked third with the Jackrabbits coming in at No. 5. Both are contenders for the playoffs and the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
UNI features a pair of former Iowa Central standouts locked into the two-deeps on the defensive side in Tim Butcher and Spencer Cuvelier.
Butcher, a native of Palmer, is a started at defensive tackle. The redshirt senior recorded 37 tackles with 10 for loss and a forced fumble last season.
As a member of the Triton defensive line, Butcher had 74 tackles and a sack.
Cuvelier, from Cresco, starts at middle linebacker. The junior recorded 88 tackles, 4.5 for loss with a sack and forced fumble last year. That included a 21-tackle performance against James Madison in the FCS playoffs. He also had three games with double-digit tackle totals.
With Iowa Central, Cuvelier earned all-ICCAC honors after recording 96 tackles including 22 for loss with four sacks and three forced fumbles.
Brandan Tillman is a sophomore wide receiver for the Panthers from Bettendorf.
Northern Iowa topped South Dakota State in the second round of playoffs, 13-10.
Just like the Tritons, the FCS season was shifted from the fall to the spring. Teams will play eight regular season games leading into the playoffs.
-By Dana Becker