Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:47PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 4:31PM
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Mandel: OK, what about the defense? You told me they were going to be good, but c'mon -- you've got to be surprised by just how good they've been.
Smith: I can't say that I thought they were going to be to be that good -- I'd be telling a lie.
Mandel: It became pretty obvious as far back as the Iowa game that you guys were going to be heavily favored in every game leading up to Michigan. How do you maintain your focus?
Smith: One way I maintain the focus is knowing that every team we play is going to give us 110 percent. I watch some teams on film and then, when we play them in the game, they look like the same team, but they don't play like the same team. We have an understanding that we have an X on our backs.
Mandel: You were a freshman on the 2002 team that won the national title. It seemed like they were in one close game after another. This team hasn't had that. How do you compare the two seasons?
Smith: Being a young guy on that team, I took a lot of things for granted. Those games were very suspenseful for me, but I was just having fun. I've said it time and again: Whether you do extremely great, moderate or not that well and win, everyone's going to have something to say. I am a realist. You can't make everybody happy. That 2002 team was a great team in the clutch, they made things happen. This team is totally different -- literally. We have different faces at every position. But we have the same goals as that team.
Mandel: When you talk about people always having something to say, can I assume you're referring to the Illinois game [a 17-10 Ohio State win]?
Smith: That game, the Penn State game, the Texas game.
Mandel: The Texas game?
Smith: That was supposedly the biggest game of the season, but after that game was over, it was, "That Texas team wasn't as good as we thought." You can never make everyone happy.
Mandel: When did the possibility of a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 Ohio State-Michigan game first start coming up in the locker room?
Smith: It came up from a lot of people who write columns in newspapers and magazines first. Whether it's cliché or not, we try to stay focused on the task at hand, give our opponent that much respect.
Mandel: You're telling me Michigan never comes up during the week?
Smith: Michigan will come up when Michigan comes up.