Through five games, Smith is 84-for-128 passing (65.6 percent) for 1,070 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passing efficiency rating of 163.66 – good for 11th in the country – and he's the early front-runner for the Heisman.
And guess what? This is exactly what Ohio State quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels expected out of the senior star.
"When you go through timeframe-wise what we've gone through with Troy and all the practices, he spoils you because when he throws the football it's where it's supposed to be," Daniels said. "Not only to the individual as far as making the right decision, but I'm talking about he completes them. He really throws them. And when he doesn't complete a pass, that's surprises me. So, I've gone to the point now where I totally expect him to not only know who he's throwing to, or the right guy to throw to, but throw a catchable pass and hit the receivers. That's something that he's, through practices and everything else, he's spoiled me at least and I'm sure the other coaches feel the same way."
As well as Smith is playing, it's hard to imagine he could play better. But that is Daniels' goal.
"Well, you always strive to get better as far as little things," he said. "Each week when we look back on the previous week's game and grade it and show it to the players there's always going to be mistakes and there's always going to be little ways to improve. That's the goal of every football player is to try and play a perfect game, which I think is probably not possible, but that's what you shoot for. So, we're constantly working on every little aspect, even if it's a matter of continuing his fake after he hands off, even something as simple as that, we really look at that and really try to work at that. And again, all striving for the same thing: being perfect on every play that we're in the ballgame. Throw every pass completed."
Against Iowa, Smith racked up four touchdown passes. His final TD of the night was a strike to sophomore wide receiver Brian Robiskie who appeared to be well covered. "Well, I was very, very calm," Daniels said. "I was up in the press box screaming, ‘No, no, no!' Does that tell you anything?"
Daniels was asked if Smith should not have made the throw.
"Well, after I looked at it on tape, he knew exactly what he was doing in that the inside defender really did start to widen a little bit, and the outside defender got a little bit wider also," Daniels said. "So, Troy knew exactly what he was doing as far as what window was going to open up into. And he waited and my first reaction was that the inside defender did not widen enough to take the swing route and that's why I was yelling, ‘No, no' because I was worried that he would throw it right in. Sometimes we talk about a blind linebacker or a blind defender where you're not aware of them, but he was totally aware of him and just waited for that window and man it wasn't a big window, but he waited and he got it. It was great."
Smith doesn't have ideal height at 6-0 (listed at 6-1) but he is likely to be a late first or early second-round pick in the NFL draft. Daniels was asked if he thinks NFL scouts believe that Smith can make every throw.
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "Most of the guys I've talked to, which haven't been many – I don't get an opportunity to talk to too many of the pro scouts – but the few that I have, I don't think his ability to throw or that aspect of his game, I don't think they worry about that at all. I think they've realized that he has that kind of ability. I know early on, meaning early in last year, I tried to tell people that – that it has nothing to do with Troy's ability to throw because he can throw as well as most guys I've ever coached. The physical act of throwing the football and the arm strength and have some touch on the ball when he needs to, all those things, he has all that. So, what the NFL guys are saying now is that he has proven that. They sort of realize that this kid has a major league arm and that's the one part of it that we don't have to worry about."
But Smith isn't doing it alone. He has one of the best WR corps in the nation at his disposal, including All-American candidates Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. Daniels was asked specifically about OSU's depth at the position. With Robiskie, Roy Hall, Brian Hartline, Ray Small and Albert Dukes, the Buckeyes have seven solid receivers.
"I'm a little bit surprised (at the depth) but not really because I thought some of these young guys a year ago really showed some ability and it was just a matter of them maturing a little bit and that's exactly what has happened," Daniels said. "The biggest thing it does for us is provide depth for you. When we do go into three receivers, or four receivers, or sometimes in fact five receivers, you don't think about it sometimes, but there is an awful lot of practice time that goes into that. And if you don't have a number of receivers that are capable of doing that then it becomes very difficult to practice it. And that's actually how these young guys get a chance to develop. So, it's worked out really well for us and it's allowed us to continue to experiment with the three and four and five receiver sets and it's worked really well."
With so many capable receivers, the Buckeyes feel they always have a mismatch somewhere. Gonzalez's 30-yard TD on a stop-and-go route against Iowa is a perfect example.
"Yeah, and that's what you try to do," Daniels said of creating mismatches. "The one thing that you try and do a little chess game is the people that do go to nickel or dime personnel is again try and get the match-ups against people that aren't quite the athlete that those nickel and dime people are. Even in that situation the bottom line is usually they are going to be their fifth or sixth best defensive backs and that's the match-up we're willing to take. And it's a matter now of devising ways where we can do that so we can get some of our better guys or quicker guys on a true linebacker for example and we try and do that as often as we can. That mismatch is something we look for."