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Posted: Wednesday September 30, 2009 12:00PM; Updated: Wednesday September 30, 2009 12:56PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Boise's title-game worth, more mailbag (cont.)

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Jevan Snead and Ole Miss were the eighth ranked team to lose to an unranked team on Thursday night since the start of last season.
Jevan Snead and Ole Miss were the eighth ranked team to lose to an unranked team on Thursday night since the start of last season.
Jeremy Brevard/Icon SMI

Why is Jimmy Clausen getting no hype given that he set Notre Dame records for consecutive games over 300 yards and is No. 2 in passing efficiency?
-- Nick, Michigan City, Ind.

Why is Jimmy Clausen not being given serious consideration for the Heisman? If, instead of Clausen, Tim Tebow had come off the bench with an injury and thrown the winning TD against Purdue (or bum-rushed it in himself), the media would be gushing with praise and he would be polishing the trophy.
-- John Kairis, Wilmington, Del.

Yes, these are actual e-mails from actual Notre Dame fans. Do they really think Clausen sits around his dorm room thinking, "Man, if only I got half as much media attention as Tony Pike?"

There's no question Clausen is having a phenomenal year. I'm sure there are plenty of ND "haters" who will refuse to admit this, but trust me, this is not the same erratic quarterback we saw as a freshman and sophomore, and his gutty game-winning drive while visibly hobbled against Purdue finally gave him a "defining moment." The problem: It came against Purdue. If Florida needed a last-second touchdown to beat the 1-3 Boilermakers, believe me, the story afterward would not be about Tebow, it would be about the Gators' impending demise.

For me to take Clausen seriously as a Heisman candidate, he needs to beat a legitimately formidable opponent, and 28 games into his career, that still has not happened. He and the Irish came awfully close against Michigan, but it didn't happen, leaving them with a trio of victories against a trio of three-loss teams (0-3 Nevada, 1-3 Michigan State and 1-3 Purdue). His next opportunity comes Oct. 17 against USC.

But Nick and John can sleep easier knowing others have already jumped full board on the Clausen bandwagon. SI.com's Gene Menez lists him second only to Tebow in his latest Heisman Watch, and other prominent polls have him in the top five.

It seems like Thursday night games have sort of become trap nights for ranked teams. Do you have any thoughts on this or stats about it?
-- Sam Willis, Summit, N.J.

I do. Unless you're a program that's desperate for publicity, you'd be absolutely nuts to agree to play a Thursday night road game on ESPN. The network sent out a press release after the Ole Miss-South Carolina game noting it was their eighth Thursday night game since the start of last season in which an unranked team beat a ranked team. Not surprisingly, on all but one occasion, the victorious "underdog" was playing at home (most notably Oregon State against USC).

I have no such data for past seasons, but just off the top of my head I can remember any number of notable Thursday night upsets -- Arizona over No. 2 Oregon and Rutgers over No. 2 USF in 2007, No. 15 Rutgers over No. 3 Louisville in 2006, West Virginia over No. 3 Virginia Tech on a Wednesday night in 2003, Louisville over No. 4 Florida State in 2002 and, most famously, No. 24 Virginia over No. 2 FSU in 1995.

Again, in every game listed above, the home team was the underdog. Let's face it: Over the years, Thursday night has been synonymous with Seinfeld, Friends and jubilant college kids storming the field. (And, of course, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.) Why would any visiting coach in his right mind walk willingly into that death trap?

It appears that rumors of Virginia Tech's death have been greatly exaggerated, ditto for the Yellow Jackets. The much-ballyhooed resurgence of the ACC's Florida contingent (Miami and FSU) also appears to have received a reality check. Your thoughts on the state of the ACC?
-- Mark Gribbin, Richmond, Va.

Contrary to what I espoused all offseason, the conference has not taken that next step toward respectability. As of today, the league doesn't look a whole lot different than it did a year ago. The Hokies are on top. Georgia Tech will continue to be a factor. Florida State and Miami are getting better but still inconsistent. Ditto for Clemson and North Carolina. I still believe, though, N.C. State will be a sleeper. On the flip side, Maryland, Boston College and Wake Forest aren't what they were. I won't bother tying to figure out Virginia.

Meanwhile, the ACC has done nothing so far to improve its stock nationally. Its one signature non-conference victory was Florida State over BYU. The next-best was probably N.C. State's comeback win over Pittsburgh last weekend. Overall, however, the league is just 10-11 against I-A foes, 4-7 against BCS-conference foes and could really use a Miami win over Oklahoma this week.

What's interesting to me is how Virginia Tech fits into all of this. After last week's Miami game, the Hokies shot back up to No. 6 in the polls and are viewed once again as a national-title contender. But it seems to me the Hokies have a little bit of an Ohio State thing going on -- yes, they dominate their conference, but when was the last time they posted a marquee out-of-conference win? They did win the Orange Bowl last year, but Cincinnati was hardly viewed as an elite foe at the time, and they'd lost their three previous BCS appearances. They lost to Alabama this year and got hammered by LSU in 2007 (and still came within one spot of playing for the national title). Their last nonconference win over a top 10 team came against West Virginia in 2004.

I'm not trying to belittle Virginia Tech, which has unquestionably owned the ACC since its 2004 arrival. I'm just puzzled as to why the Hokies continue to be viewed as nationally elite when neither they, nor anyone in their conference, have done anything recently to prove it.

I don't have a question, just a comment. I'm a diehard Husker, but I'm pretty disappointed for Baylor losing Robert Griffin. I was really looking forward to seeing NU go against Baylor this year, and long-term, Baylor getting that program back on track. I'm sure they must be devastated.
-- Andy Morrison, San Diego

This is why Nebraska fans are widely regarded as the classiest in the country.

Hi Stewart: I was wondering what your thoughts were on why Eric Decker doesn't get more national pub? Please don't tell me "because he plays for Minnesota." There has to be more to it than that. The guy is easily one of the top two or three receivers in the country -- some could argue he is the top receiver -- yet no one ever mentions his name.
-- D.J., Richfield, Minn.

I wish I could offer you a more complex explanation, but it really, truly is because he plays for Minnesota. Anyone who's ever watched Decker play comes away raving about the guy -- but with all due respect, who outside of Big Ten country watches Minnesota games? His best exposure to date came in the Cal game, both because the Gophers were facing (at the time) a top 10 team, and because Decker's remarkable face-bleed catch got so much replay run. But I'm not sure people realize Decker makes catches like that (minus the bleeding) every ... single ... game.

Right now he's sixth in the country in receiving yards (124.8 per game) after posting nearly 2,000 combined yards the past two seasons. You can't ask for more consistency than that. Not to mention the guy batted .319 for the Gophers' baseball team last year and will basically have his choice next spring over which sport to pursue professionally. There are only two receivers in the country right now I'd take over Decker: Dez Bryant and A.J. Green. Those guys may be more dangerous, but Decker is more consistent.

Your Weekend Pickoff records the past three weeks: 3-7, 8-2 and 4-6. You are more up-and-down than Florida State!
-- Jeff, Austin, Texas

It appears I am. And much like Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher, I'm afraid you guys are stuck with me.

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