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Early Big Ten reaction: Close games, and then there’s Penn State

NCAA Football: Indiana at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Whether right off the bat or late in the fourth quarter, the first Saturday that consisted of only Big Ten conference matchups was shaped by pivotal plays in mostly close ball games.

For those who remembered that the Big Ten decided to battle with high school teams for Friday night football attention, you may have tuned in to see Nebraska take on the Fighting Illini. Based on how the early season have unfolded thus far for those two teams, we learned…very little from this one. Nebraska won by a few touchdowns, and that was really the tale of the game.

Nebraska 28, Illinois 6

In the early games on Saturday, there was plenty to watch all the way to the end.

Let’s start with Maryland and Minnesota. Both teams had their moments in this one as the score went back and forth, but Ty Johnson, Maryland’s running back, is a serious athlete who will do some damage in this conference. That’s what I take away from this one. In the end, it was the Terrapins who made one — literally one — more play to seal the win, when Johnson darted 34 yards up the middle with a minute left to give Maryland the victory.

Maryland 31, Minnesota 24

In Wisconsin, it wasn’t the offense that saved the day, but a few timely plays on defense — and the Badgers’ defense is fierce. With a 21-10 lead in the second half, Wisconsin picked off a pass and ran it back for a touchdown, and then in a one-score game late, sacked Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson for a safety. Oh, and Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor is a beast.

Wisconsin 33, Northwestern 24

Up the road, I think many people thought the Hawkeyes would bounce back from their deflating defeat against Penn State last week, but instead they went into East Lansing and faced a defensive battle. At the end of the day, Michigan State made a few more plays and Iowa did stuff like this, which handed them a seven-point loss on the road:

Michigan State 17, Iowa 10

And then there’s Penn State and Saquon Barkley, who did Saquon Barkley things on Saturday — returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, tossing a touchdown pass and totaling 221 all-purpose yards. That was the story of the game as the Nittany Lions routed the Hoosiers.

Penn State 45, Indiana 14