Smith Ready To Get Back After It

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith met with reporters via teleconference on Thursday. Smith talked about trying to end his career with a national championship, what he thinks about the USC Trojans, his thoughts on being the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, whether the long layoff will affect the Buckeyes and much more.

Since beating Michigan almost two weeks ago, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith has taken a short break from football. But that will change this weekend when the Buckeyes reconvene on the practice field and begin preparing for the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

"This weekend we have practice Saturday," Smith said. "If we want to include Friday in the weekend, we also practice Friday. Our team banquet is this Sunday. So, I'll be getting back acclimated with football this weekend."

Following OSU's practice on Saturday, Smith says he will try and watch as much college football as humanly possible. There are three games of interest on Saturday – including USC at UCLA, Florida vs. Arkansas for the SEC championship and Oklahoma vs. Nebraska for the Big 12 crown. The Buckeyes will likely play USC if the Trojans win this weekend.

"Oh yeah, if you're a college football player I'm sure you'll find time to plug in to whatever game you can this weekend," Smith said. "I'm a fan of college football, so I'll watch whatever games I can."

Smith was asked if he has done any advanced scouting of USC or any other team that the Buckeyes might play in Glendale.

"Not yet," he said. "Because it's not very certain of who we play yet. I'm sure the staff is breaking down film and getting a head start. I have seen certain things on certain teams, but not much."

Smith talked more about the Trojans and his impressions of the program.

"Well, I have always admired SC, simply because – I don't want to take anything away from their defense – but offensively they bring it. I'm an offensive player and I'm biased, I like to see points scored. When we get a chance to play a team like that I know our defense will show up and we will have to compete with those guys on the biggest stage in college football."

Top-ranked Ohio State (12-0) already accomplished one of its primary goals in winning the outright Big Ten championship for the first time since 1984. The Buckeyes also defeated Michigan for the third year in a row and for the fifth time in six years under the direction of head coach Jim Tressel. But Smith knows the season will have a huge void if OSU is unable to win the national title.

"We're not finished, not by a long shot," he said. "Everyone is still hungry and our goal was not just to get through the regular season, it was to have a shot at the national championship and we have that shot. This is the beginning of the end, but no one is looking at it like that. Every one on team is focused on finishing out the season. We're getting ready to play on the biggest stage and I know we'll be ready."

The Buckeyes have a long stretch between games – nearly seven weeks – but they have proven under Tressel that they respond well after long hiatuses. They might struggle following bye weeks, but Tressel has won four straight bowl games, including the 2002 national championship and two other Fiesta Bowls.

"It's not hard at all," Smith said of the gap between games. "Because once you have the understanding that you are going to play in that game, you prepare like you're going to play in that game.

"You have to finish up the school year. We're on quarters, we finish up and that's totally enough for everybody here. Our staff keeps us busy football-wise and academically and letting us know that even though we play football, there's more to life. We stay busy around here."

No matter who the Buckeyes face in the title game, OSU will likely be favored by at least four points. And one big reason is Smith's track record in big games. He became just the second OSU QB in history to go 3-0 against Michigan (joining Tippy Dye) and also enjoyed huge games against Texas this year and Notre Dame in last season's Fiesta Bowl.

Smith was asked to explain how he is able to rise up and perform his best in big games.

"I don't know, I guess just great preparation," he said. "Game in and game out we prepare pretty much the same way. My teammates step up and I guess I have to be along right there with them."

Smith closed out the regular season with 2,507 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and just five interceptions. The touchdowns broke Bobby Hoying's school record of 29 set in 1995. Smith also set OSU single-season records in completion percentage (67.0) – breaking his own record of 62.9 last year – and passing efficiency (167.8), breaking Hoying's record of 163.4 set in '95.

Therefore, many have pegged him as a lock for the Heisman Trophy. Smith talked about what it would mean to him to win OSU's seventh Heisman.

"I think it's a tremendous honor and I think it's a tremendous reflection of team I play on, the coaching staff I play for, and the program that I run on the field to represent. If I get a chance to hoist that trophy and bring it back to The Ohio State University, it would be great."

Smith has not prepared an acceptance speech in the event that he does win.

"I don't believe in writing stuff down and then reading it," he said. "I might stumble over one of the lines. If I get a chance to talk, my speech will be one of gratitude and letting everyone know how much I appreciate them. My appreciation of just being at the ceremony is enough for me.

"The last one that I got a chance to watch was when Ricky Williams won it (in 1998). I can remember him going up there and I was just thinking I wonder what's really going through his head and what he's going to say. He did a tremendous job with his acceptance speech.

"The things that would be going through my mind would be gratitude and being happy for my teammates because obviously we're in good situation if someone from our team is in that situation representing the team."

Smith was asked if he has recently spoken with two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, or 1995 Heisman winner Eddie George.

"Yeah, but when I talk to both of those guys it's not near about talking about the Heisman. It's about team, team, team and winning each game. It's funny because you would think they would give me advice on it, but it's all about the team and what we can do next."

Smith says he is happy just to be able to take his mother, Tracy Smith, on a free trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony.

"Just taking my mother to a situation where she's never been is great," he said. "And I've never been. Neither of us have been to New York."

Smith is also hoping to bring Cleveland Glenville head coach Ted Ginn Sr. along for the ride. Ginn is like a father-figure to Smith.

"Yeah, we're working on it," he said. "I'm working on it with all my heart, but I don't set the rules. But we're definitely working on him being there."

It's been an amazing road for Smith who was one of the last members of OSU's 2002 recruiting class and was listed as an "athlete" and not a quarterback. He's grown quite a bit during his five years at OSU with his ability to read defenses and spread the ball around with precision. But Smith says his growth as a quarterback goes well beyond the physical skills.

"I guess I would have to say my leadership skills and my ability to accommodate to pretty much every one of my teammates that suits up for us," he said. "You have to get to know everybody and it's definitely worth having the love of every one of your teammates and I strive to do that. I want to be cool with everyone on the team because we are doing this together."


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