Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Third-string quarterback Cardale Jones excelled in his first career start, throwing for three touchdowns to lead No. 6 Ohio State to a 59-0 rout of 11th-ranked Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Jones, who attempted just 19 career passes prior to the game, amassed 257 yards on 12-of-17 passing for the Buckeyes (12-1), who have won 11 straight games.
The sophomore signal-caller was thrust into action after Big Ten Freshman of the Year J.T. Barrett suffered a broken ankle last week in a 42-28 win over Michigan. Senior Braxton Miller entered camp as the starter, but underwent surgery on his right throwing shoulder prior to the start of the season.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 220 yards -- a Big Ten Championship Game record -- and two scores on 20 carries and Devin Smith hauled in a career-high three touchdown passes on four catches for 137 yards.
Ohio State, which finished undefeated in conference play for the third straight season, entered the game at No. 5 in the latest College Playoff Rankings. The four teams that will compete for the championship will be announced on Sunday.
"I don't think there is any doubt that we are one of the top four teams in America," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said.
Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon carried the ball 26 times for 76 yards for Wisconsin. His longest rush was just 13 yards.
"I don't think they brought anything surprising, we just didn't play Wisconsin football," said Gordon. "Just one of those days."
Joel Stave completed just 17 of his 43 passes for 187 yards and three interceptions for the Badgers (10-3), who entered the game with seven straight wins. Alex Erickson had seven grabs for 83 yards.
Ohio State's opening drive set the tone as Jones completed all three passes and closed out the 6-play, 77-yard endeavor by airing out a 39-yard bomb to Smith for a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.
After going three-and-out on its second possession, the Buckeyes just needed two snaps to double their lead. Elliott ran for 12 yards and on the very next play, exploded through a hole up the middle for an 81-yard score with just over four minutes to play in the first quarter.
Gordon ran for 10 and 13 yards and Erickson caught an 11-yard catch to pick up three straight first downs for the Badgers, but Vonn Bell jumped in front of a receiver to pick off Stave and give the Buckeyes the ball at their own 41.
Jones quickly moved Ohio State deep into Wisconsin territory. His passes of 23 and 32 yards to Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall, respectively, moved the Buckeyes down to their opponents' 8. A false start on 3rd-and-Goal and a dropped pass by Elliott resulted in a 23-yard Sean Nuernberger field goal for a 17-0 game early in the second.
Wisconsin punted again and Ohio State continued to add to its lead. On 2nd- and-1, Jones' 44-yard strike was perfectly placed as Smith made an over-the- shoulder catch in the end zone for a commanding 24-0 lead.
Elliott ran the ball into the end zone from 14 yards out with 6:36 remaining in the first half.
After Cameron Johnston's 58-yard punt pinned Wisconsin at its 5, Stave hit Sam Arneson for a 13-yard gain. Rashad Frazier sacked Stave and Joey Bosa recovered a Gordon fumble on the next play and returned it four yards for a score with 36 seconds left in the half.
The Buckeyes continued to dominate in the second half. Smith made a leaping catch to haul in Jones' 42-yard pass and cap Ohio State's 5-play, 77-yard drive for a 45-0 advantage early in the third.
Stave's pass over the middle was intercepted by Doran Grant and returned 23 yards to the Badgers' 31 prior to the end of the third quarter. Nuernberger, however, had his attempt blocked and Wisconsin recovered at its own 16.
After another stagnant Wisconsin possession, Elliott raced 60 yards down the field, losing a cleat in the process, and Curtis Samuel made it a 52-0 game on a 12-yard TD scamper with 11:39 remaining.
Grant intercepted Stave for the second time and Samuel plunged into the end zone from a yard out with 2:25 left to account for the final score.
Wisconsin suffered its worst loss since a similar 59-0 loss to the Buckeyes on Oct. 20, 1979 ... Ohio State improved to 21-0 when Smith has a TD catch ... Wisconsin, which entered the game allowing 260.3 yards per game, allowed 364 in the first half ... The Buckeyes honored deceased defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge by wearing 53 helmet stickers for the game ... It was the first time that Wisconsin was shut out since a 34-0 loss to Syracuse on Aug. 24, 1997 ... The Buckeyes outgained the Badgers 558-258 and limited Wisconsin to just 71 yards rushing.