Cardale Jones shines as Ohio State secures Big Ten title

Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Cardale Jones stepped onto a big stage for his first career start, and he delivered.

Ohio State sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones' first career start certainly was a memorable one Saturday night. It might even have been enough to get the Buckeyes into the playoff.


» Things you need to know from Week 15 in CFB


Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns, including a touchdown pass on the Buckeyes' first possession that kick-started them to a 59-0 evisceration of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

College football: Week 15

The victory bolstered the Buckeyes' chances to get into the playoff; Ohio State was ranked fifth in this week's College Football Playoff selection committee top 25. But each of the teams ranked ahead of the Buckeyes won this weekend, with three of them -- No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 TCU -- winning in routs. And No. 4 Florida State, which edged Georgia Tech 37-35, is the nation's only unbeaten team.

"I don't think there's any doubt we're one of the top four teams," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said during the postgame trophy presentation.

Even if the Buckeyes don't make it into the top four, Saturday night's rout will be long-remembered. Ohio State rolled up 558 yards of total offense -- 301 on the ground and 257 in the air.

Jones was starting because J.T. Barrett, who accounted for a Big Ten-record 45 touchdowns this season, suffered a broken ankle in last week's win over Michigan. But the Buckeyes didn't miss a beat with Jones, who was 3-of-3 for 56 yards and a TD on the opening drive.

He finished 12-of-17 for 257 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions; heck, he might not even have made a mistake, other than the five incompletions. Sophomore tailback Ezekiel Elliott had a huge night, too, rushing for 220 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Senior wide receiver Devin Smith caught two of Jones' TD passes and had four receptions for 137 yards as the Buckeyes moved the ball up and down the field on a defense that came in ranked second nationally in total defense.

Ohio State had 364 yards in the first half, which ended with the Buckeyes leading 38-0. Wisconsin had been allowing just 260.3 yards per game.


» Winners and losers from weekend in college football


Wisconsin junior tailback Melvin Gordon, the nation's leading rusher, was held to 76 yards on 26 carries, and didn't manage a run longer than 13 yards. He had been on a pace that would've seen him set the FBS single-season rushing record. He still has 2,336 yards this season, 4 yards shy of former USC star Marcus Allen, who is third on the single-season list. Former UCF star Kevin Smith is second at 2,567, while former Oklahoma State standout Barry Sanders leads with 2,628.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.