Last one of the season, folks. Can't hold anything back.
Alan Francis from Naperville, Ill., writes: Matt, It's always a good read when you put together an article. Most sports writers do a "drive by shooting" type piece on ND and don't really know much about the culture of ND and it's athletic department. You as the ND Beat Writer know all of that subtext and nuance and it makes for a very good feature. Should be a great game down in Miami. My impressions are that two key interior linemen for the Tide--B Jones at Center and J Wiliams at NG are hurting still and may be sub-par for the game. This could be a key development that could help ND's overall chances. Happy New Year, Alan Francis Class of '75.
Matt Fortuna: Appreciate the kind words, Alan. Happy Holidays to you and the rest of the readers as well. I agree — if Jones in particular is not close to 100 percent then I think Louis Nix will make that clear pretty fast. Is AJ McCarron mobile enough to take the heat if his line experiences some problems early? The consensus from Bama players seems to be that they have yet to face a defense like Notre Dame's. We'll see.
Ryan Belock from Strongville, Ohio writes: Just thought it worth (re)mentioning: Notre Dame's a triple crown before setting up for the opening kick against Alabama! see blog post.
Matt Fortuna: Ryan, how can anyone overlook that aspect of this? My question, however, is why there hasn't been a 2012 trophy yet. I searched and couldn't find anything. Any reader know how this works?
Cory Hay from Boonville, Ind., writes: With all the NFL coachs getting fired this past weekend why haven't we heard Brian Kelly's name in the mix? Not that I want him to leave!!!
Matt Fortuna: Cory, I've seen his name tossed around very lightly, and I actually do think he could end up in the NFL sometime down the road. He has won at every level, is relatively young (51) and, if he wins a title, he will have to deal with what Lou Holtz has termed "maintaining," as expectations will only get greater from here on out. His public persona and people skills are assets I'm sure NFL GMs would love, too. But Irish fans don't need to worry about him leaving after this season, barring the shocker of all shockers.
Patrick Murphy from Salt Lake City, Utah writes: ESPN's tv commercials show ND with 8 Natl Championships, Tide with 9. Where is this info coming from? Using what poll(s), from what years? Consensus or split? Thank you.
Matt Fortuna: Patrick, this is the direct explanation from ESPN Stats and Info: "Notre Dame and Alabama have the most poll national championships since the Associated Press began its weekly poll in 1936. ESPN has made a policy of recognizing only poll-era national championships (since 1936). Both programs claim other national titles in the pre-AP era, but those are more difficult to legitimize, since there were several groups naming national champions back then, and -- let’s be honest -- hardly anyone watched teams from other regions of the country. The two teams have also met in bowl games that had national championship implications. Notre Dame beat Alabamain the 1973 Sugar Bowl to win the AP National Title. However, Alabama still won the UPI National Title, since it crowned its champion before bowl games were played. The next season, Notre Dame beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl to prevent Alabama from winning another national title. In all, Notre Dame and Alabama have played six times with the Irish holding a 5-1 edge. The two teams haven’t met since 1987."
John form Park City, Utah writes: I've looked on several ND web sites but cannot find which team will be wearing their "home" team jerseys. If you know could you please let me know. Thanks