Calvin from Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Matt, has anyone talked to Aaron Lynch about how he feels about transferring, sitting out a year waiting to play for a bad team while his former commrades rose to the National Championship without him. I'd be interested to hear what he has to say, and if he thinks he could've been the ND d-lineman everyone is talking about instead of classmate Stephon Tuitt.
Matt Fortuna: Calvin, not that I know of, though I imagine he probably isn't thrilled, especially with the coach he transferred to, Skip Holtz, getting fired before Lynch had a chance to play for him. That said, unless there was a huge leap in maturity from him this year, I have a hard time seeing this move not being addition by subtraction for Notre Dame for all of the reasons everyone has already discussed. This defense has been so great, in part, because it is better than the sum of its parts. That's significantly harder to do when you have a player who might not be fully committed.
Scott from Phoenix writes: Matt have you been part of any press conference where brian kelly was asked, and discussed his red zone play calling vs. USC? It absolutely drove me nuts how Theo R was running out of his mind and it the minute they got in the red zone, theo was pulled or put in the slot and it was EG on draws or mostly fades to WR/TE's in endzone. it was almost as if BK was destined to get Tyler E a touchdown no matter what it cost the team. Any comment on that red zone play calling or just a point me in the direction of a previous press conference/article, I'd appreciate it.
Matt Fortuna: Scott, the best answer I've seen since that game has come from Chuck Martin, who, during media day Monday, said: "We're thinking, we get three trips down there, we better get 21 points if we want to win this game. But the course of the season, there's been difficulty -- crawling before we can walk, walking before we can run. There's been a certain amount of lack of aggressiveness down there just based on, you have a lead, you have one of the best defenses in the country and you're not as opposed to settling for three when you have a lead. It's like the last drive against USC -- we were trying to score, no doubt, and we should've scored. We didn't execute. We had a chance to score down there and we didn't. But on the other hand, we certainly weren't throwing caution to the wind and saying, 'You know, because our defense …' If you're reading the flow of the game with our defense, a lot of times, OK, we can kind of muddle through. Now this is a game that maybe is different, but if we're playing from ahead, you certainly don't want to take points off the board down there, either. I'm thinking the same way. If we get down there we better get seven, because you're not going to get down there eight times against Alabama. If you get down there a couple times you better cash in and get some points."
Yes, that was just part of Martin's answers. And yes, Martin is that longwinded with every single answer, which is why he is awesome to talk to.
Peter Frizzell from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Matt, Has Alabama actually done anything on the field this year to actually earn being favorites (let alone 9.5 point favorites) in this game? The combined regular season record of ND opponents is 83-62 and only played 2 teams that ended the season with losing records. Alabama's regular season opponents combined for a record of 70-73 with 6 teams with a losing record. So I don't buy into the fact that since they won they SEC they should be favored. Their schedule was clearly easier, and against all quality opponents (im not counting miss st) they barely squeaked out wins, or lost. Both teams played 2 really good football teams in the regular season and ND went 2-0 and Bama went 1-1. Also, just to point out that Notre Dame in neutral cites this year played nearly flawless football, and played very well on the road as well. So in my opinion they are only favorites cause they won last year... but i don't find that to be fair, cause they lost many key starters from last year. I also think that Saban factors a little bit into the spread, and although you can't claim Kelly is a better coach, he is no slouch (he won coach of the year after all), and Notre Dame has the best defensive coordinator in college football this year as well. So again, just wondering if you could clear up the spread going into the game for me, cause I don't see anything that supports Bama being favored by 9.5 points. Thanks a lot, and Happy Holidays!Peter Frizzell
Matt Fortuna: You too, Peter. You're probably better off asking people in Vegas for a better answer, but, at least publicly, I'd imagine most of the points you already mentioned are big reasons why: Alabama has won two of the past three national titles, Nick Saban has already won three of his own, the SEC has won six straight. Statistically you obviously make a strong case for Notre Dame, but if more people felt that way, by the law of averages, more people would have bet Notre Dame and the line would have dropped, so the general public has a lot to do with this as well.
Brent from Fort Wayne, Ind., writes: I'm sure you had the chance Matt, to see the hit Dial put on Georgia's Aaron Murray. I thought it was shocking to find that he wasn't suspended or penalized publicly for it. Maybe a quarter or a half? Something right? It seems to me the SEC doesn't want to jeopardize their chance of another trophy as a conference. It was clearly helmet to helmet with the action of play yards away. I'm eager to know your opinion of the conclusion they came up with. Should the NCAA intervene?
Matt Fortuna: Brent, have to agree with you there. As colleague Edward Aschoff over at the SEC blog notes, the inconsistency of the SEC's ruling with such plays has been what's most alarming this season. Did I expect him to be suspended for the entire national title game? Of course not. But at least some kind of penalty, be it a quarter or half, should have been issued.