Dan Maine from Camp LeJeune, N.C., writes: Hey Matt, longtime reader and big time ND fan. Quick question, this year being the last ND vs. Michigan game is there anything special Notre Dame has planned for the game like Michigan did last year?
Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Dan. Are you referring to Devin Gardner being given the No. 98 legends jersey in honor of Tom Harmon? I'd imagine Notre Dame isn't doing anything like that, neat as that was. But I'm sure the atmosphere and intensity will be charged up just a bit for the last scheduled meeting between these two rivals -- under the lights, no less. (Maybe the Irish will have a retort to the "Chicken Dance" if they win? Or perhaps Troy Niklas can return for the pep rally, rip his shirt off and declare his love of pain, as he did the night before the Michigan game two years ago?)
Mike S. from Chicago writes: Hi Matt, great work as always! My question -- the 2014 schedule. Always a hot topic. One could make an argument that the Irish have only 3 "true" road games upcoming. But wouldn't they be just about the 3 toughest road games imaginable in the country? If not, certainly the toughest 3 road games in a 6-game stretch in the country I'd say. But, as a fan, I'm glad these games are happening in the second half of the season as opposed to the first. From both a ranking opportunity standpoint and from a "giving the team time to gel" standpoint. Agree?
Matt Fortuna: Forget about you, Mike; I'm just glad they're all in good weather! But yes, it's difficult to imagine a tougher game than a visit to Florida State, the likely preseason No. 1 team who may very well be undefeated come Oct. 27. Trips to USC and Arizona State won't be easy, either, though the potential difficulty of both of those games remains to be seen. More to your point, though, yes -- it is not impossible to imagine the Irish taking advantage of the timing and getting off to a 6-0 start. And if a young team can clear the first half of its schedule unscathed, well, it can start to believe anything, which would add a whole 'nother level of intrigue to that date in Tallahassee.
Matt from Pittsburgh writes: Hey Matt love your work covering ND, so I'm visiting ND for the first time for the blue/gold spring game on 4-12. What things would you recommend seeing doing while there? Thanks!
Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Matt. First and foremost I'd recommend checking out The Grotto, especially if you're with family. I took my mother there on her first visit and she nearly shed a tear. I'd also do a lot of walking around outside the stadium for tailgates and other extra curriculars before and even during the game, as it's the spring game and the game-like atmosphere is much more of the event than the actual game itself (though still considerably toned-down from the fall). Any other suggestions for Matt from Pittsburgh, gang? Drop 'em here and I'll pass them along.
Kurt Weidmann from Sacramento, Calif., writes: Matt, Thanks for your coverage of ND football! Nice work. Yes, as you mention in one of your recent articles, ND has been Tight End U., as of late, Niklas, Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Anthony Fasano. But, you really REALLY need to give some love out to the ten year period at Tight End U., from 1974-1984, that included Ken MacAfee (College Football HOF, All-American, 3rd in Heisman voting), Dave Casper (All-American, All-Pro, both College and Pro HOF, Super Bowl Champion) and Mark Bavarro (All-American, All-Pro and Super Bowl Champ). Not bad eh! Thanks in advance!
Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Kurt. No kidding, though that was way before my time. Tough to find a way to include all of those guys in a short article, but something tells me that Ben Koyack does not need to extend his research all that far back to understand just how big the shoes he is filling are.