Clausen one step closer to Heisman, bring on USC

    Jimmy Clausen did it again. Drive downfield, throw the go-ahead touchdown pass in the final minute. Kyle Rudolph, in the end zone, looking like a man against boys.

    This week, it was against Washington, the conquerors of USC. Last week, Purdue. The only loss was to Michigan, and Clausen brought them back in the final quarter only to be beaten by the mercurial freshman wiz Tate Fourcier. (An aside, please. Fourcier is so clever, it is mind-boggling, Against Michigan State Saturday, he was exhausted as the clock ticked down. Fourcier was tackled near the 10-yard line and the game would have ended because Michigan had no timeouts left, but he somehow creatively fumbled the ball out of bounds, shades of Matt Leinart. If he didn't mean to fumble, then he sure is lucky.)

    So the nation was mesmerized once again by Fourcier. But it was just an appetizer. Cue Clausen and the QB collision with Washington's Jake Locker (second aside, Brent Musberger fawned all over Locker Saturday night while doing the Miami-Oklahoma game.  He couldn't have been looking live at the South Bend game because no matter how good Locker was, it was Clausen's magic that won the game for Notre Dame.

    The NFL scouts have to be drooling. The ESPN Heisman calculator must be chomping on its slide rule to come up with a way of keeping Clausen down. Amazingly, using previous Heisman predictors, Clausen was No. 5 last week. (Jevan, we heardly knew ye). But using previous Heisman variables? What, like Eric Crouch of Nebraska? Show me those numbers in an equation. Charlie Ward? I forgot, Notre Dame 31, National Champions 24. 

    You have to go back to John Huarte in 1964 to get an ND QB with a Heisman. Yes, Huarte to Snow. Jack Snow, J.T.'s father. Brady Quinn didn't deserve it, neither did Rick Mirer, Ron Powlus or even Joe Montana. Joe Theismann was in the running and deservedly so. Terry Hanratty never got a whiff.

    But Clausen does. If he were quarterbacking Boston College, he would have been the main topic on ESPN's Sports Reporters Sunday morning. But alas, those BC alums would probably bring up Glenn Foley and I'd remember Bercich dropping the interception and it would all be counterproductive (or is it counterintuitive, Jeffrey Lurie?).

    Clausen doesn't have Michael Floyd, he of the end-zone jump balls and 80-yard bombs. But Golden Tate has emerged as a superstar. (BTW, NBC-HD in Philadelphia missed the first play of overtime. First came a minute of tiny peacock logos -- for a second I thought Comcast had officially bought the company. Fade to black became, voila,  Access Hollywood. And I thought Heidi was still in Ann Arbor. 7:22 p.m. Luckily, it returned just as the replay of Tate's whirly-bird catch and run had ended.)  

    Robert Hughes and the Hughes Corporation that dragged him into the end zone on the two-point conversion was another major factor. So was the goal line stand. And the goal line stand. AND THE GOAL LINE STAND.

    (OK, here is where I summoned my old man and every spirit in heaven and purgatory when the Pac-10 referee called ROUGHING THE SNAPPER ...

    Roughing the snapper. This was the phantom end-zone holding penalty against USC in 1964 plus the Phantom Clip during Rocket's game-winning punt return against Colorado on the game's final play that cost them a national championship.

   Roughing the snapper. (Dear Athletic Administration. Hire neutral conference refs.Not Big Ten for Big Ten opponents and Pac 10 for Pac 10 opponents. Wake up -- and I don't mean echoes. How many touchdowns have to be called back? Keep tempting fate, please. 4-1 could have been 2-3 in a New York Subway Alumni minute.)

   Charlie Weis has been granted a reprieve. I haven't heard the words "buyout clause" or "Urban Meyer" in at least two weeks. 

    Clausen had over 400 yards passing and his quarterback efficiency rating will go through the roof again. Heck, half of his incompletions have been thrown out of bounds on purpose.

    Clausen has learned how to manage the pocket, evade the rush and create space as he roams toward the sideline or threatens the line of scrimmage. The receivers know to create separation and Clausen knows exactly where everyone is. That sounds like a first-round pick to me, if not top 3 if not top1.

    Of course, this magical mystery ride to the Heisman will depend on the USC game.  Matt Barkley should be healthy and the USC defense will be the toughest Clausen will face all year. Plus it has two weeks to prepare. But so does Charlie Weis and Clausen's turf toe no doubt could use the rest.

    So, it's back to Square One, same as it ever was. O.J. Simpson, Mike Garrett and Anthony Davis week.

   USC vs. ND.

    Jimmy Clausen vs. the ND golden boy Heisman jinx. Only this time, it will be different. Even some ESPN pundits, including Kordell Stewart, believe that another miraculous performance puts him at the head of the list.

    See you at the Downtown Athletic Club.