Make no mistake about it: Troy Smith likes the attention.
He is trying to say all the right things, but his machismo shines through.
Smith will likely make his second career start at quarterback this week against Penn State and sounds more than ready for the challenge.
"I'm always excited when we get a chance to play on Saturdays," Smith said. "Even the 2002 season, when I redshirted, I was still excited every game going out there as a Buckeye. I feel pretty happy as a Buckeye to be able to run out there with my guys with that jersey on and represent this great tradition. So, every game I'm excited to play."
Smith had a good game in the 30-7 win over Indiana last week. He was 12 of 24 passing for 161 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed 11 times for 58 yards.
Yes, it was just Indiana, but some people felt the performance was good enough to make Smith the starter for the rest of the season. Smith was asked if he feels the starting job is now his to lose.
"I think the starting job is in Coach (Jim) Tressel's hands and the rest of the staff's hands," he wisely replied. "I'm sort of on call. Anytime I get the call I go out there and try and do the things that are necessary to help my team."
Smith was asked if he enjoys practice more knowing he is the starter.
"No," he said. "Preparation for me is the same week in and week out, whether I start, or whether I back someone up. I'm going to go out there and practice as hard as I can and do anything possible to help my team."
Smith bristles when he hears the "it was just Indiana" line.
"People say a lot of things and it all depends on how you react to what they say," he said. "Indiana is a team just like any other team. I mean, it's not like Indiana goes out there with nine people, as opposed to 11 for everyone else. Indiana is a team just like anybody else."
Smith says that when he was the backup QB earlier this season - and was a little down on himself - he received a lot of good advice from family and friends. They kept telling him that he was the best man for the job and his time would eventually arrive.
"I want you to know that I get a lot of conversations from a lot of people," he said. "So, I talk to a lot of people. Basically, if everyone's saying it, there must be some truth to it. You know, they told me, 'Just keep your head up. Stay positive, stay focused, but above all else, stay humble.' I think humility is the key in any aspect of doing anything in life. As long as you're able to stay humble and well-grounded, you can be a positive."
Smith admits he was frustrated a few weeks ago and says the advice he received helped him through it.
"It was key. It was very key," he said. "Being positive is something that this team really needs. And the fact that we were 0-3 and got a chance to get a win… obviously the win came to me because the guys stayed positive. It was a goal set in mind and the guys on the team all came together and we were positive with the situation and we went out there and performed well."
Smith knows he will be facing a tough Penn State defense Saturday. The Nittany Lions held Iowa to 6 points last week. The same Iowa team that lit up the Buckeyes' defense for 33.
"Penn State is always tough," Smith said. "They're a great team. They have a great tradition, so Penn State football is something that I'm sure that the people of Pennsylvania look forward to seeing smash-mouth football. They're a tough team, so we have to bear down and play again this week with violence and velocity.
"Penn State is a stout defense. They like to line up and go after it.
Coach (Joe) Daniels has let me know that they might have something different in
coverages that they might want to do, but other than that, I know they're going
to be physical."
When Justin Zwick was making turnovers earlier this season and still kept the job, Smith was asked if he was wondering if his chance would ever come.
"I wonder when my chance comes when they let me know that my chance is going to come," he said. "As far as (Zwick's) production, you know, I worry about the things that I do, not the things that other players do. Once I start thinking about someone else I sort of take my mind off the things that I need to do."
Smith says protecting the football is always on his mind as a quarterback. So far this year, he has no picks in 41 attempts.
"I've always thought turnovers were the key, ever since I played in high school," he said. "The less turnovers you have, the more times you have the ball, the better chance you give your team to win the game. So, turnovers has always been the key."
Some feel that Ohio State's offense had a better tempo with Smith at the controls. In other words, perhaps OSU's players respond better to Smith.
"I can't speak for everybody," Smith said. "I think they respond to whoever is guiding them. I really don't know; I can't speak for them. But I know as far as me going out there and being a leader and being in the battle with my teammates, I'm more of an upbeat guy. I try and get as much out of my guys as I can. So, the way I lead might be different than Justin. But I know Justin is a leader just like I am."
Smith was impressed with the 20-carry, 144-yard game out of freshman tailback Antonio Pittman against Indiana, but seemed more impressed with the play of the offensive line.
"Pittman did good. Pittman did real good," Smith said. "Pittman wouldn't have been able to do as good as he did without the offensive line though. Those guys up front really did a great job."
Smith was asked if suspended tailback Lydell Ross has had a chance to speak with the team.
"No, he hasn't talked (with the team), but I talked to him though," Smith said. "I just wanted him to know that he was one of my votes for captain, so he's still my captain. People are people. People make mistakes and I'm not going to hold it against him because of one mistake that he possibly made. Lydell was one of my captains at the beginning of the season and he's my captain now."
Earlier in the season, Smith's former high school teammate - Ted Ginn Jr. - seemed to be running bad routes. Ginn is getting better and better each week, but Smith didn't see any issues in the first place.
"No, I wouldn't say that there were problems (with Ginn's route
running)," Smith said. "What you see on the field is what you see on
the field. Ted does an extremely good job with the thinks that he's asked to do.
Ted works hard, just as much as anybody else does."