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No. 11 Wisconsin's off night allows No. 6 Ohio State to make playoff statement with 59-0 rout

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INDIANAPOLIS — Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen blamed himself for Saturday night's debacle.

His players stood right up to next to him and blamed themselves, too.

On a night No. 11 Wisconsin was off its game, No. 6 Ohio State took full advantage by scoring on five of their first possessions, holding Melvin Gordon to his second-fewest yards rushing of the season and handing the Badgers an embarrassing 59-0 defeat in the Big Ten championship game.

"When it came down to it, we just weren't playing Wisconsin football," Gordon said after running 26 times for 76 yards. "Just one of those days. We just got to get back together and get to work and get ready for this bowl game."

Nothing went right for the Badgers (10-3, 7-1, No. 13 CFP), who usually count on a dominant defense and a powerful ground game to survive bad days.

They were shut out for the first time since August 1997, endured their worst loss since the Buckeyes beat them 59-0 in 1979 and had a seven-game winning streak snapped in their second home. Wisconsin had won 11 in a row when playing in Indiana and averaged 438.5 yards rushing in their previous five games in the Hoosier State.

Ohio State (12-1, 8-0, No. 5) didn't allow it to happen again.

"I feel like the defense today, in some parts, was playing a little timid and that's not who we are," linebacker Marcus Trotter said. "We just didn't have that attitude, and I put that on myself."

Some expected the Buckeyes to drop out of the conversation with the tough game against the Badgers. Instead, the Buckeyes made an emphatic statement.

Cardale Jones, who started this season as the Buckeyes' No. 3 quarterback, looked every bit as good as Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. Jones even did something his all-conference predecessors could not — leading the Buckeyes to the conference title.

The first-time starter threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns and earned MVP honors. Afterward, he slid a rose into the side of his hat, hopeful of a playoff bid.

Before the title game, it looked as if the Buckeyes would be the first team out. They still might.

But Ohio State believes the rout should keep it in the conversation.

PHOTO: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of the Big Ten Conference championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of the Big Ten Conference championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The Buckeyes have won 11 straight since losing at home to Virginia Tech. They have defeated nine bowl-eligible teams, all but two by double digits.

And Jones' play may have tamped down the argument that the Buckeyes shouldn't make it after losing Barrett to a broken right ankle in the regular-season finale.

Jones was efficient and effective, going 12 of 17. Ezekiel Elliott had 20 carries for a career-high 220 yards, and Devin Smith caught four passes for 137 yards and three scores.

All of this came after an emotional week for the Buckeyes, who learned of the death of defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge one day after Barrett's season-ending injury.

Ohio State honored Karageorge by wearing a decal with his jersey number, 53, on the back of its helmets. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett changed his jersey number from 63 to 53.

There was a pregame moment of silence to honor Karageorge, who was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"A lot of things happened this past week and there's a family grieving that was a part of our family," Meyer said. "We'll never forget our teammate."

Against a determined quarterback and the motivated Buckeyes, Wisconsin never had a chance.

The Buckeyes made it look easy.

Just six plays into the game, Jones hooked up with Smith on a pretty 39-yard floater for a 7-0 lead. Elliott then found a hole in the middle and sprinted 81 yards for a score.

After Wisconsin finally held the Buckeyes to a field goal, Jones hooked up again with Smith on a 44-yard TD pass to make it 24-0 with 11:09 left in the second quarter, and Ohio State capped the half with Elliott's 14-yard TD run and Joey Bosa's 4-yard fumble return for a score to make it 38-0.

Not much changed in the second half.

Smith made a nifty two-handed, off-balance catch as he was going backward into the end zone for a 42-yard score early in the third quarter, and the Buckeyes, last year's Big Ten runner-up, closed it out with Curtis Samuel's two touchdown runs in the fourth.

"I played with confidence because of the confidence my teammates had in me, because of the confidence my coaches had in me," Jones said.

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