COLUMBUS – It quickly became clear that Ohio State was better than Wisconsin. The only question was how much better.

No. 3 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) dominated the Badgers 52-21 in the Big Ten football opener in what was supposed to be its biggest test of the season.

It turned out not to be too different from OSU’s 77-21 win over Toledo a week earlier.

To say that Ohio State was strong early in the game would be a huge understatement of the damage the Buckeyes did early in the game.

OSU led 21-0 after one quarter and 31-7 at halftime. He had 12 plays of 10 yards or more — eight passing and four rushing — in the first quarter alone. It had eight first downs that required just one play in the first quarter.

Stroud hit the first eight passes of the game. Mian Williams had 101 yards rushing by halftime.

The Buckeyes did what Wisconsin (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) can only dream of. And they were doing what Wisconsin thinks is good.

Ohio State looks like the best team in the Big Ten right now. Wisconsin appears to be in contention to win the Big Ten West Division.

CJ Stroud threw for 281 yards and five touchdowns. Emeka Egbuka caught 6 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Julian Fleming caught a touchdown pass for the second straight week and tight end Cade Stover had two touchdown catches.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz, a three-year starter, threw for just 94 yards against a Buckeye defense that was missing two starting cornerbacks to injuries.

Wisconsin has long been known for its physicality and running game. But OSU was the team that dictated the action and had two 100-yard rushers in TreVeyon Henderson (21 carries for 121 yards) and Williams (11 carries for 101 yards).

“I think we have shown what we are capable of. Whether we do it every week is up to us. We showed in the first four games what we can do. The big challenge in college football is you have to bring it every week,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

“As good as it feels, as much as we want to celebrate it, we can’t spend too much time patting ourselves on the back after that, which is tough because it was a heck of a win for us. There were a lot of good things in this game,” he said.

Receiver Jackson Smith-Njigba, who returned from an injury sustained in Notre Dame’s season opener last week against Toledo, did not play Saturday night.

“We decided to kind of shut it down for this game,” Day said. “We’ll kind of push him to work on Tuesday and hopefully make some progress and see him play next week.”

Starting cornerbacks Cam Brown and Denzel Burke are also gone, replaced by freshman Jayer Brown and redshirt freshman Jakailyn Johnson.

“We don’t expect these things to be long-term. But not having those guys and the experience in the game was a problem,” Day said of his veteran quarterbacks. “We told them (Brown and Johnson) before the game that everyone on the team believes in them. They had no fear. They went out there, played and did a really good job.”

Ohio State had 539 yards. Wisconsin had 296 total yards and 75 of those yards came on a touchdown run by Bralon Allen with seven minutes left to put OSU up 52-14.

Stroud completed his first eight passes, but made 9 of his last 19. Day dismissed the idea that his quarterback had an off night, and so did Stroud.

Day said: “I thought he was really good in a lot of places. The touchdown pass to Emeka was off the charts. I thought some of the other swords were really good. I thought he played well and throwing five touchdown passes against Wisconsin is fine.”

Stroud said: “I’m never going to play perfectly. If people think I play well, cool. If not, cool.”

Ohio State scored on its first drive of the game as it drove 88 yards in six plays, with the touchdown coming on a two-yard run by Henderson.

The lead grew to 14-0 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Stover, then to 21-0 when Stroud rolled out and connected with Stover again, this time on a 2-yard pass.

A 23-yard field goal by Wisconsin’s Andy Vujinovich late in the first quarter put OSU on the Badgers’ 33-yard line.

A minute and a half into the second quarter, Williams capped off that possession with a 3-yard touchdown run to give Ohio State a 28-0 lead.

After a quarter and a half of futility, Wisconsin’s offense went on a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to 28-7 on a 1-yard run by Mertz.

Noah Ruggles’ 25-yard field goal made it 31-7 at halftime. Ohio State had 328 yards of total offense in the first half, while Wisconsin had 96.

In the third quarter, Stroud connected with Fleming for a 12-yard touchdown pass and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Egbuk to put OSU up 45-7.

In the fourth quarter, Stroud connected with Egbuka again for a 32-yard touchdown pass to set up OSU’s final score.