Smith Puts Heisman Talk Aside, Looks At UM

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith remains the front runner to win the 2006 Heisman Trophy. He can probably lock up that honor with a win when the top-ranked Buckeyes host No. 2 Michigan on Saturday. But Smith said he isn't getting bogged down in awards hype. Click here for a ton of comments from OSU's starting quarterback.

Of all the things on Troy Smith's mind this week, the Heisman Trophy is not one of them.

Smith, Ohio State's senior quarterback, can probably lock up college football's highest individual honor if he succeeds in leading the top-ranked Buckeyes to their third straight win over arch-rival and No. 2-ranked Michigan in The Game Saturday at Ohio Stadium (3:30 p.m., ABC).

"I really don't think about that," Smith said. "That's probably the last thing in my world right now. Everything else is so much more important than that. I think that's a team award anyway, regardless of what anybody says."

A win on Saturday would propel Ohio State into the BCS national championship game. Prior to the season, Smith joined his teammates in filling out a goal sheet.

"One of my goals was to be the best leader I could possibly be," he said. "That might seem cliché, but the decisions you make day in and day out help you to be the kind of leader that you are."

Smith was asked if he had the national championship or the Heisman Trophy on that sheet.

"I wrote national championship because it's a team goal," Smith said. "But the other one? No."

Smith, the unquestioned leader of OSU's 11-0 team, was asked what it's like in his world right now.

"I like it. It's pretty cool," Smith said as he smiled and rocked through practically his entire press conference on Monday. "Through all the success, I still try to keep everything in perspective. I understand that without my team I wouldn't be in this situation. Without everybody -- the administration and the educational people – we wouldn't be as good as we are.

"When I talk about myself, I try to put the emphasis on everybody else around me because without them I wouldn't be in this situation."

On the year, Smith has now thrown for 2,191 yards with 26 touchdowns against four interceptions. In his career, Smith has now thrown for 5,369 yards with 50 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

His single-season touchdown mark is second in OSU annals to the 29 thrown by Bobby Hoying in 1995. He now stands tied with Art Schlichter – who also wore No. 10 – in third place on the school's career TD list at 50, trailing just Hoying (57) and Joe Germaine (56).

But even as he seems on the verge of immortal status, Smith said he must stay humble and keep working.

"There's always room for improvement," Smith said. "In the course of everything you do, there are going to be naysayers. You aren't going to make everybody happy.

"I stay wrapped up in my two best friends," Smith said. "One is Anthony Pitts and the other one is Nicole Baker. I love them with all my heart. They keep me well grounded. Of course, there is my mother. I talk to her often. She keeps me grounded. Sometimes, she wants to talk about football too much. But it's cool."

With two wins over Michigan to his credit, Smith discussed the thrill of leading OSU against Michigan.

"It's like no other feeling," Smith said. "You wouldn't understand it unless you had a chance to play in this game. I'm very humble because I have a chance to play in it. It blows me away every chance I have to run on the football field."

Tressel's Take

OSU coach Jim Tressel fielded several questions on Smith during his press conference on Monday. He related how Smith reported for duty at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning to get a jump on Michigan preparation.

"Troy Smith is highly competitive," Tressel said. "(Quarterbacks coach) Joe Daniels and I were sitting in the office watching film early this morning and he came in with whatever breakfast food he had there and came in. He said, ‘What are we looking at?' and almost grabbed the clicker to take over.

"He just loves competition. He's got great respect for the guys he's playing against because he's played against them before and he has great respect for what they've accomplished and I think he just gets excited about competitive situations."

Tressel described some of Smith's best qualities.

"When you think of Troy, the first thing that comes to my mind is leadership," the coach said. "Probably the second thing is competitiveness, and maybe the third thing that jumps up to me about Troy is his hunger to be in command of what's going on. He wants to know, we might have been sitting there this morning talking about a coverage and he'd say, ‘You know, that was nickel, that wasn't just cover whatever, that was nickel cover whatever.' And he's just got a hunger for knowledge."

Tressel talked about Smith's demeanor in his two wins over Michigan.

"He was kind of like, ‘Hey, get a play called so that I can go out there,' " Tressel said. "He wants to have the ball in his hands. He wants to make a difference. He cares and maybe the first word that should have popped into my mind because I think it's so true is that he cares so deeply for his teammates and he wants something good to happen for them. And I guess that's the leadership part, but he wants the ball in his hands and he wants to get going."

Smith has a chance to make some history. No Big Ten quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy since OSU's Les Horvath in 1944.

"The Big Ten has had a lot of good quarterbacks," Tressel said. "There are some good ones playing in the NFL and I didn't know that."

Much has been made about Smith's injury to his throwing hand. But he was able to throw for 185 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday's 54-10 win at Northwestern. Tressel said the injury has not caused Smith to miss any practice time.

"No, he hasn't missed a rep at all," Tressel said. "To him, it never bothers him. He gets it wrapped, it's obvious, but I think there will be so much adrenaline and so much flowing through his thumb down to his big toe that he's not going to feel anything."

In one of the humorous moments of Tuesday's session Smith was asked this question: "What is the deal with your thumb?"

"It's still on my hand," Smith said as he and everybody around him started laughing. "I'm good."

More From Smith

Here are more comments from Smith on the Michigan game and other pertinent topics:

* On the atmosphere he expects to see at the game -- "I expect it to be pretty much all 11 games in one. When I say that, I think it's going to be complete pandemonium everywhere around the stadium. Two teams with this kind of tradition and things at stake like this, it's going to be a mile high thing all around the stadium.

"I know the atmosphere will be crazy. It will be fitting for our seniors to go out and play our last game on our field. We definitely have to take advantage of that."

* On how he stays insulated from the hype -- "One way I do that is to stay wrapped up in my teammates. We have such a love and a passion for each other because of the situation this season. We've been through a lot. We've been through the ups and downs. That's just added pressure. If you let it take you down, it will. One way I stay out of it is just to wrap myself up in my teammates and having as much fun as I can."

* On OSU's senior class -- "I think everything happens for a reason. We had this group of 17 seniors come out and be together as a reason. Any time you've been in a situation for five years and grown together as a team and as men, good things happen to good people.

"I am definitely biased when I say it, but these are my guys. These are the guys I went into battle with my senior year. Last year's seniors were great and the year before they were great. But I am biased toward these guys because these are the guys I am going into battle with for my senior year."

* On the success he has had against Michigan -- "My success is credited to everybody else around me. It's not just that I'm 2-0 against Michigan. Everybody who has played on the field against them is 2-0. I try to give everything to my offensive line. Without them, there are no great plays that can be made. They do everything up front for me."

* On whether this year's Michigan team is the best he's seen -- "Today was the first day we started breaking down film … but they are a good team. They really are. I don't want to take anything away from their teams in the past because they were good also."

* On having his teammates count on him -- "I hope they can count on me in every game. I think every game is a big game. I try not to put too much emphasis on every game. I try not to put too many eggs in one basket. This is the last game of the season so, in essence, we have to do that. Big players rise up in the big games. I try to stay the course and be humble and continue to give praise to everybody else. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue to do my job."

* On the significance of game -- "It's not the national championship game. It's the last game of the regular season. You just have to finish out the regular season on a positive note."

* On going wire to wire -- "That would be tremendous. That would mean so much to everyone in this program, simply because there haven't been that many teams that have ever done it. I can't think of one that has. That would be legendary. Oftentimes, teams come through here and they have a chance to be just another great team. But we have a chance to possibly be that team."

* On his last game at the Horseshoe -- "For me and the things I've been through so far, I won't be able to express it in words. I know I won't. That's simply because what the university means to me right now. It takes my breath away. I think you go through things, negative and positive, it makes you a better person. This university is a credit to that."

* On throwing interceptions -- "I hate throwing interceptions. That's my pet peeve. The person who intercepts it, I want to hit them so hard because I want the ball back. Then, once you watch it on film, you see something you could have done better. You know when the play is coming and you rewind it. Every time you watch it, you hope it turns out different. I hate throwing interceptions on video games. I am a quarterback through and through."

* On singing Carmen Ohio after the game -- "That will be a tradition I will really miss. A lot of times, males who can't sing when they do get the chance to sing, they don't really care. But the more and more you get wrapped up into that, the more and more you start to understand what that song really means to you."

* On which unsung Buckeyes could step up in this game -- "Just like the last game, (Brian) Hartline had made some key plays for us through the season. But the last game helped him out. You never know which guy will step up and make a play. That's why every guy has to be ready."

* On how hollow it would be to lose this game and still win the Heisman -- "I know it will be a very tough thing for me to lose a game. But even though I am a realist and I understand we could lose, what we have going on here is too much of a strong feeling. The aura around every senior here and every person that plays here is something you couldn't feel unless you put that jersey on and understand what we go through day in and day out."

* On the Rose Bowl as a consolation prize for the loser -- "I haven't thought about the Rose Bowl."

* On whether a loss would ruin this season -- "I don't think it ruins the season, but I know it would leave a bitter taste in everyone's mouth simply because we didn't finish what we started. But around here, we're not thinking about losing. That's not in our thought process. It's about controlling what we can control because this is our destiny right now."

* On whether the pressure is on one team or the other -- "I don't know what's on Michigan's plate, not at all. I know we don't have any pressure. I think and I understand that everybody here is going to attack the situation the same way we do every week. It's hard getting up every morning and doing things the right way."

* On the new grass field at Ohio Stadium -- "I am excited about the new turf. I have all the faith in the world in the guys who put the turf down for us. I think they'll do a good job."


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