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Weekend primer: Notes before UW

I’ve got a collection of links I’ve been storing this week, trying to find a place to fit them in or write them up, but they just never came together. Consider this force-feeding:

* A few days ago, Mike Baldwin of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote a post comparing the paths of Jake Locker and Jimmy Clausen. On the surface, this makes some sense, but looking a little bit deeper, I really don’t think the comparisons are all that apt. Here’s a bit from Mike:

Both came in as highly-regarded recruits, choosing once-proud football schools that had recently fallen on hard times. Both were thrown into starting roles as freshman (Locker as a red-shirt, Clausen as a true). And both have been through career ups-and-downs, but have emerged as potential saviors and future NFL-prospects while playing for resurgent programs headlined by high-profile coaches.

Clausen’s path has the added bonus of not being interrupted by injury like Locker’s has. And Clausen has also been able to play on teams that, while underachieving, have not hit rock bottom.

But the biggest similarity the two have is that both were met with instant pressure and have glided through the process with class. The only thing UW fans love more about Locker’s play on the field is the person he appears to be off it. And while Clausen slipped early on, getting charged with transporting alcohol as a freshman, he has emerged as a solid leader and human being.

Let’s start with recruiting. Locker was indeed highly touted, but nowhere near to the extent of Clausen. I’ve never been a huge star-tracker, but while Locker’s offer list and pedigree was impressive, it didn’t match up with Jimmy’s. Another pet peeve is comparing true and redshirt freshman. There is no comparison here, having a year to sit out and watch is a tremendous advantage.

I’d also quibble with Baldwin’s definition of rock bottom. 3-9 is rock bottom for a school like Notre Dame. No offense to the proud Husky program and it’s 0-for-season, but 3-9 at a place like ND puts a lot more spotlights on South Bend than a winless season in Seattle.

Baldwin took a good angle and one that I’m sure will be popular as the weekend commences. It’s just one that I don’t think quite fits.

* Bob Condotta profiles five Huskies to watch on Saturday. Among the usual suspects, Condotta profiles Cort Dennison, a backup weakside linebacker who will start his first game in place of injured linebacker E.J. Savannah.

Dennison, who grew up an Irish fan and attended a Catholic high school, will be a man under fire on Saturday, as he’ll be filling in and expected to stop the Irish running attack. Dennison made 8 tackles last week against Stanford, playing the entire second half after Savannah went out.

* Good friend Bruce Feldman of answered the rantings of an angry Irish fan this morning in his weekly mailbag on his excellent blog. The gist of the question was “Why does the national media love quarterbacks like Tate Forcier (and Tim Tebow) yet barely mention the exemplary play of Irish QB Jimmy Clausen? Here was Bruce’s response:

The short answer? Win a big game. Then I think you’ll see Clausen in the Heisman mix. I wasn’t counting sentences Saturday night when I wrote that. One guy was playing against Indiana. The other against Purdue. Neither opponent is exactly Oklahoma or Florida. Much of my reaction to Forcier stems from the fact that this is a true freshman leading this team.

As far Clausen goes, I’ve pointed out in the blog this month on several occasions how impressed I’ve been with his performance this season -- but to get to the next level, the burden of proof is on this team to get back into the top 15. Not winning at Michigan, against a team relying on a true freshman QB (the same one referenced above), hurts ND’s cause. As it relates to the Heisman, it hurts Clausen. Now, in fairness to Clausen, the Irish D hasn’t helped him much, but I think if he is going to win the Heisman this year, it’s going to require almost a perfect storm scenario: first, he needs to keep his level of play high and the Irish need to win out. Big stats didn’t get Graham Harrell to New York for the awards ceremony and I doubt it would for Clausen either. I suspect he’s also going to need both Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow to slip and lose some games.

If McCoy and UT win the Big 12, I don’t see Clausen being able to overtake him. Clausen’s TD-INT ratio right now is better than McCoy’s: 10-1 vs. 9-5. McCoy’s completion percentage is higher: 71 percent vs. 66 percent. McCoy is also the better runner.

Feldman’s short answer is certainly full of good points and I have a feeling the long answer might include the media infatuation with Clausen during his collegiate infancy. While I would also agree that Clausen isn’t getting his just due, if the Irish keep winning they’ll get plenty of media coverage, with a very large spotlight shining on October 17th. If Clausen keeps up his habit of throwing touchdowns and avoiding interceptions, he’ll be sitting in New York next to Tebow and McCoy, with a new suit and hopefully less hair-product than his introduction to the college football world.

* Finally, in a game that shares the common thread of former head coach Ty Willingham, this interview has been making the rounds the past few days. Ty was back at his alma mater, Michigan State, and spoke about his life after football.

A lot of easy jokes have come to mind, but I’ve got no bone to pick with Willingham. Having talked to a lot of his former players, every one of them had good things to say about the man and the coach. While he didn’t achieve what people wanted him to do, it’s long past time for Notre Dame fans to bury the ax and let the man go.