Smith, Ginn not rivals for Heisman
The Ohio State standouts say they have the same team goals, not trophy-itis.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- It's one thing to compete for the Heisman Trophy with someone a couple of time zones away. It's quite another when that other person is in the same locker room.
USC's Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart know what that's all about. Leinart won the Heisman two years ago, Bush last season.
Now, Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. take their turn. And Bush has some advice for the two Ohio State stars, who could put their candidacies into overdrive with big games when the No. 1 Buckeyes play at No. 2 Texas on Saturday night.
"Matt and I weren't competing against each other," said Bush, now with the New Orleans Saints. "There was no animosity or anything like that. We were just two guys trying to win a championship."
Smith and Ginn -- good friends and high school teammates in Cleveland -- say all the Heisman talk is secondary to team goals and victories.
"It's cool," said Ginn, a lightning-quick junior wide receiver and kick returner. "But I'm not going to base my season on the Heisman. I'm going to base my season on playing hard for my seniors and trying to win the national championship."
Smith, the Buckeyes' big-play quarterback, denied there was a competition between the two.
"The funny thing about that is, I feel that if Ted wins it, then I'll feel that I also won it. You know what I mean? And I hope, vice versa. Because you can't have one without the other," the fifth-year senior said. "He's my vote to win it because I really, really think he's the most exciting player in college football. He's the best college football player there is."
The two remain close and spend an inordinate amount of time together. They insist there's no jealousy. Still, coach Jim Tressel is keenly aware of how outside factors can divide a team. He's keeping an eye on how Smith and Ginn handle the pressure.
"You have to, for their sakes," Tressel said. "They've got to handle that hype. They have to make sure that it doesn't take over any of their thinking."
Teammates haven't noticed any changes in either player. Then again, neither seems to have a need to command the spotlight.
Smith is always careful to credit his offensive line, his coaching staff, the fans -- just about everyone and anyone but himself. Possessed with a shifty running style and a powerful right arm, he ran for 11 touchdowns and passed for 16 more (with just four interceptions) last season.
He said he's humbled by the preliminary Heisman talk.
"Anytime your name is mentioned in the same breath as such a prestigious award, you sort of get blown away," the senior said.
Ginn has six kick returns for touchdowns in his two seasons at Ohio State. A year ago he showed he had hands to go with those legs, catching 51 passes for 803 yards and four touchdowns. With Santonio Holmes gone to the NFL, Ginn's role in the offense will undoubtedly grow even larger.
Not surprisingly, the two are linked by opposing teams. Just as they could split the Heisman vote, they also divide the attention of defenses.
"We really can't go out there and focus on just Troy Smith or focus on Ted Ginn," Texas safety Michael Griffin said.
Ginn said the two must play together just as they did years ago when they played catch at Glenville High School.
"We both have to go out and play for each other," Ginn said. "Whoever wins, wins. Because we're both going to get credit for it if we win."
All is normal
So far, Smith and Ginn have proceeded as if this is just a typical season.
"People are saying they have the potential to produce. That should encourage you and fuel your fires to work," Tressel said. "It shouldn't make you relax and start daydreaming about what you might say at the Downtown Athletic Club."
Bush has some final advice for the Ohio State teammates.
"Just don't think about it," he said. "Don't even let it bother you. Don't even let it pop into your head. Just think about winning games, winning championships and being there for your team. That's it."