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We are one week away from Jimmy-palooza

For all those people who are worried that Jimmy Clausen isn’t getting the national respect that he deserves, fear not: It’s coming.

Clausen’s weekly heroics during this Saturday’s game against Washington earned Jimmy the Davey O’Brien Foundation’s Quarterback of the Week award. His 422 yards passing and almost 75 percent accuracy pushed Clausen’s passer rating to an NCAA best 179.3

It also got many members of the media looking at Clausen, a habit that will no doubt only escalate with next weekend’s high-profile match-up with USC on the horizon.

Here are just a few of the things written about JC this week:

Stewart Mandel
at SI.com:

And then there’s the increasingly intriguing case of Jimmy Clausen, whose make-or-break date with stiff-arm destiny comes that same day against No. 7 USC.

The Notre Dame junior put on yet another spectacular and dramatic performance Saturday against Washington, throwing for 422 yards and two touchdowns, including a go-ahead score to Kyle Rudolph with 1:20 remaining. After Washington came back to tie, Clausen threw a 22-yard completion to Golden Tate (who himself had a staggering 244 yards on nine catches) on the first play of overtime to set up the Irish’s eventual game-winning TD. He constantly avoided pressure to make long throws downfield.

Clausen now leads the nation in pass efficiency, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 1,544 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. However, it’s been hard to take the Irish too seriously what with their weekly habit of needing a furious last-second rally to fend off an inferior foe. AP voters clearly have little respect for Notre Dame’s competition; the 4-1 Irish received just nine poll votes this week.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to find fault with Clausen, who is posting all those big numbers despite getting almost no help. He lost his most dangerous receiver, Michael Floyd, early in the Michigan State game. Running back Armando Allen has been hobbled by an ankle injury, contributing to the Irish’s red-zone woes (settling for four field goals from inside the 20) against Washington. And with the notable exception of those three goal-line stands Saturday, the Irish defense has been porous.

But gone are the days when a Notre Dame player could win the Heisman without beating anyone of merit, which is why Clausen’s next game (the Irish have a bye this week) will serve as his defining opportunity. Thus far the Irish have offered little sign they can play with a team that’s throttled them seven of the past eight years. The Trojans’ defense suffocated Cal on Saturday and is sitting in their customary spot among the nation’s top-five teams in total defense (238.6 yards per game).

“We don’t have to underestimate that we have a top opponent on deck,” said Weis. “But the way this quarterback is playing and the way he’s acting and the way he’s leading the team, the confidence the team has in him, you’ve got a chance to win every time you play.”

The one time this rivalry was competitive any time recently was 2005, the famous “Bush Push” game. Even in defeat, Brady Quinn emerged from that game as a Heisman contender (he finished fourth). Clausen will need to do something similar -- but he’s going to need a whole lot more help than he’s currently getting.

ESPN’s
Bruce Feldman:

I realize some people will try to dismiss Notre Dame because they’ve only played one team with a winning record (and lost to that team, Michigan), but Jimmy Clausen has been superb all year. And you can’t fault him for the Irish D. On Saturday, in a downpour, without the team’s best player, Mike Floyd, Clausen completed almost 75 percent of his throws for 422 yards to outdo Washington’s Jake Locker in OT. As soon as Washington couldn’t punch it in for a TD to go up nine points and had to settle for a field goal, I became convinced the Irish would go on a go-ahead TD drive.

Clausen’s going to be in my Heisman top five this week on our ESPN ballot.

Draft Guru Todd McShay:

Clausen has shown a great deal of resolve and toughness recently. Despite a turf toe injury that severely limits his ability to drive off his back leg and the absence of top target Michael Floyd, the junior quarterback has led the team on game-winning scoring drives in its past two outings. Most recently it took overtime in South Bend for the Fighting Irish to dispose of a pesky Washington club, but a win is a win. Clausen threw for 422 yards and two scores in the 37-30 victory, which improves Notre Dame’s record to 4-1 on the season.

The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton even got some comments from former Irish offensive coordinator Mike Haywood:

“Charlie and I met before the season started -- I went over to spring practice and we talked,” Haywood said.

“It’s really not surprising because we knew that once the quarterback studied the game a little bit more and became a better player -- which he’s doing a tremendous job of this year -- and understood where to go with the ball in various coverages, that with Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Armando Allen and Robert Hughes and all those guys, he would consistently get better.”

“The best thing he did this summer was inviting those guys out to California to work out,” Haywood said. “They developed a better relationship.”

A common thread among most things you’ll read about Clausen in the upcoming days was highlighted by Mandel, a writer who is usually one of the last to buy into Notre Dame’s potential.

Clausen’s performance against USC next Saturday will largely dictate his inclusion in Heisman debates. Play well and upset the Trojans and Clausen deservedly moves to the center of conversation.

And as Charlie Weis has said many times, any talk of Clausen in the postseason awards gossip is a good thing, as it’ll mean that Notre Dame is winning games.