Chat with Matt Fortuna
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna stops by to chat about the Fightin' Irish's football season.
Fortuna joined ESPN.com in 2011 after working for MLB.com and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he covered college sports. He grew up in New York and is a Penn State graduate.
Send your questions now and join Fortuna Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Matt Fortuna (1:57 PM)
Howdy! Back at it after the holiday. What's up everyone?
love reading the chat each week. what are the chances of Notre Dame facing the Bulldogs in Miami on Jan 7th?
Matt Fortuna (1:59 PM)
Thanks Glenn. I would say not too good, but from my distant view, this is Tide team is worse than the two that won it all. (And boy does that say something about Saban, eh? Imagine three in four years, in this era?)
Charlie (Marlton, NJ)
What's it like reporting on a team that at the beginning of the season you didn't think would make it to the title game?
Matt Fortuna (2:02 PM)
Pretty remarkable, Charlie. If you think back to all of the questions this team was facing in the offseason -- from QB to recruiting to secondary and so forth -- I could never have imagined they would run the table, especially with this schedule. I thought I was being optimistic in picking an 8-4 record. Hell, AD Jack Swarbrick himself said after Saturday's game that this program is a year ahead of schedule. Amazing run.
Ryan (Portland, Oregon)
Do you think Cierre Wood is 'leaning' towards the NFL because he doesn't fit in the offense the same way Theo does? Is there another RB on the roster that can catch like Theo?
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
Ryan, I think it's because he has a kid at home and he needs money to support her, frankly. If he's good enough to get drafted and already has a degree (and possibly national title) in hand, no one can fault him if he goes to the NFL after this season.
Fred (Atlanta, GA)
Living in Atlanta, I can't explain how annoying it is that fans here cheer for not only their team, but also an entire conference. I have many friends that are UGA fans, and they were rooting for ND to lose Saturday so that Florida could sneak into the national championship and make it another all SEC championship. This is their MOST HATED rival that they are rooting for to make it the national championship just so their conference can be guaranteed another win in the championship. The Southern Superiority Complex that has arisen since 2006 is unbelievable and hard to put up with every day. I have heard the argument multiple times now that ND would be 6-6 if they were in the SEC this year. While I don't think ND would have gone undefeated in the SEC, they certainly wouldn't be 6-6. My question is in your years of growing up as a sports fan, have you ever seen fans root for their most hated rivals to win the championship just so they can at least talk about how someone from their conference won, even if their own team didn't? Seems a bit ridiculous to me.
Matt Fortuna (2:07 PM)
First off, no, ND would not go 6-6 in the SEC. The Irish might run the table, they might not, depending on the schedule they're dealt. But they'd be at or near the top of the conference, without question. As for your general question, I think that's actually unique, especially in college athletics. You'll never see a Redskins or Cowboys fan cheer the Giants on for division supremacy, but the commonality in college still matters (even if geography seemingly doesn't), and to see fans go from hating to rooting for one team from one week to the next is fun and neat. One of the few downsides to independence for ND, not that it matters all that much in the big picture.
Love your work this season, Matt. Any news on whether Davaris Daniels is on-schedule injury-wise to play in the national championship game? Thanks
Matt Fortuna (2:10 PM)
Thanks Tony. I actually ran into his dad at the airport after my flight back from LA on Sunday. He said he's feeling much better and should be good to go in a few weeks. Killed him to not be out there Saturday, as I'm sure you could imagine.
JAKE (ANNANDALE VA)
Matt, I noticed you have Manti second in your Heisman list. Do you have a vote? If so, how can you have Manziel ahead of him? Over half of JM's lofty TDs came against 4 opponents, 2 of them FCS. Johnny was a bust in the second half of the LSU and FL games and didnt exactly burn it up in the second half of the Bama game. And, he was arrested over the summer. C'mon man. Get real.
Matt Fortuna (2:14 PM)
Hey Jake. No, I do not have a vote. And I will not argue against either candidate, as both are very deserving. But overall, big picture, I've been more impressed by Manziel's body of work, simply. If you want to push for Manti, I won't argue otherwise.
Mark (Lexington, KY)
Matt- UK just hired Mark Stoops away from Florida State. What are your thoughts on the Irish losing Diaco, Alford or any other staff. There are a lot of tempting jobs out there.
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
My thoughts are that this is a good problem to have for a now-elite program. I think Bob Diaco is young and can afford to be picky, so I don't think he'd leave just to be a head coach somewhere unless he thought the fit was right.
is your biggest surprise that this SC team isnt even ranked? I felt they had loads of talent, with a lot more coming in next year...Will Kiffin make it?
Matt Fortuna (2:19 PM)
Steve, I'd say my surprise level at USC's collapse is on par with my surprise level at ND's perfect record, based on what I knew in the summer.
woms (Englewood, co)
With the Irish set to face the SEC champion, who does Notre Dame match up with better? Also do you have any extra tickets?
Matt Fortuna (2:21 PM)
Knowing what we know about Nick Saban with time to prepare and the Tide's massive O-line, Bama would, in theory, be the toughest opponent. As a college football fan in general I'd rather see that since it's a historical matchup for the ages. And if I want tix I've got to pay the same $1900 reported price tag as everyone else does. Apologies in advance to family members who planned on asking me.
Brad (Benton, KY)
We Did It! Last time we were here I was 4! Now on to my question. Is it safe to say that we are going to be underdogs no matter who we play in the 'Natty' (as Kap calls it)? Do you think this is an unfair judgement seeing as though we have not lost a game all year, something the 'better than thou' SEC teams have not done?
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Brad, by my math you're five years older than me. First ND national title game in my lifetime. Anyhow, I think Bama will be favored if it gets in, which, given the fact it has won two of these things in the past three years, is difficult to argue. I've seen a number of different predictions as it relates to a possible UGA/ND matchup, so I'm not sure. Regardless, it will shift to whichever way the general public is putting money, so blame the bettors, not the pundits.
Rob (Scranton, PA)
I have been having this argument all week with Notre Dame haters, but please let me know what your opinion is. I say that if Texas A&M can beat Alabama, so can Notre Dame. Bama struggled against a mobile QB that can throw, which is what Notre Dame has in Everett Golson. Notre Dame has proven they can run against the best of defenses. I think this season transcends sports logic, and its Notre Dame's year to win. Look, they were DEAD against Pitt. Yet, fate intervened and kept them undefeated. I wish there was more respect for what this team can do, and caution everyone that the magic has one more game left this season. GO IRISH!!!!
Matt Fortuna (2:28 PM)
CAN ND win? Of course it can. But don't put Golson and Johnny Football in the same sentence. And who cares about respect when your team is the only eligible undefeated team in the country and ranked No. 1? Win one more game and that's that.
Krystal (Raleigh, NC)
Matt, what can Coach Kelly, the coaching staff and the team improve on to get better prepared for the national championship game? Will a long lay off before the national championship game help or hurt?
Matt Fortuna (2:29 PM)
RED ZONE OFFENSE. ... Sorry for the loud noises. And it's the same as whoever they will face, so it shouldn't be a disadvantage.
Jason Z (Chicago)
Matt - does Manziel's arrest last summer impact him winning the Heisman? Seems to be a forgotten story.
Matt Fortuna (2:29 PM)
No impact. Look at some of the past winners.
DeAndre Williams (Gary, IN)
Do you think Notre Dame was just a team of destiny this year or is this a Notre Dame program thats here to stay on top of college football for years to come?
Matt Fortuna (2:31 PM)
I feel like the "team of destiny" saying takes a bit away from what they accomplished. Did they get some big breaks? Yeah, but which title team hasn't? Barring any unforeseen missteps, this should be a BCS-bowl team most years moving forward under Kelly.
Mark B. (Los Angeles)
Who surprised you the most this season (coach or player) from Notre Dame Football?
Mark B. (Los Angeles)
Matt, what will the ESPN homepage read when I open it on the morning of January 8th?
Matt Fortuna (2:35 PM)
Brian Kelly and Everett Golson for the first question. "Lin, Rockets stop Kobe, Lakers" for second.
Nate Geary (Columbus, OH)
Hey Matt,Quick question about Bob Diaco: Do you think he will be back next season? He has done so well with coaching and recruiting for our defense that I could not imagine him not getting a lucrative offer. Also, with the country catching on to this SEC-style of college football (i.e. bruising defenses and capable offenses -- capable of scoring enough points to win), he would seem to be a great hire.Second, if Bob Diaco is to leave for another program, what replacement could we get at D-Coordinator, and what effect would this loss have on our defense?Thanks!
Matt Fortuna (2:37 PM)
Nate, Kerry Cooks is the co-defensive coordinator, which often gets overlooked in all of this. I'd imagine he'd get lose the "co" part of that title should Diaco leave.
The claim that either SEC Champion will undoubtedly blowout ND has to be mostly based on previous SEC dominance. Because I don't believe anyone can make the case if you analyze this season and the numbers. What do you think?
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
Juan, when you win six straight national titles, you get the benefit of the doubt. Right now, the SEC is getting the benefit of the doubt.
Do you see a long layoff from the last game at USC being an advantage or disadvantage for ND in the BCS Title game? I would love it if ND played the SEC champ next week, what's your take?
Matt Fortuna (2:39 PM)
Hey Brian. It's only one week longer than the SEC champ will get, so I don't see much of a difference. And yes, I think all of us are going to be kicking ourselves at some point during this month-long wait for some more football.
Brandon Smith (Richmond, VA)
How do you believe Johnny Football should win the Heisman over Te'o? You cover this team and know his impact on them, and I am sure you are aware of Manziel's poor outings vs Florida and LSU. Other than the upset of Bama, all I see is a system QB that gets force-fed the ball every game. What is your argument in response to my outlook?
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
I agree that Manziel's two poor outings have gotten overlooked. I'm not one to rule out a guy based on one or two games, though, and I have overall been more impressed with his body of work than anyone else's. I have no problem with Manti Te'o getting it, either, but where is all the love for Jarvis Jones? He has better numbers in two fewer games and may carry his team to the title game, too. You can argue that Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are as valuable to ND's defense as Te'o, too, if you watch closely enough. Again, I don't have a vote, and would have no problem voting for Te'o. But if I have to choose one, I'm going Johnny Football.
scott (philadelphia, pa)
What do you think the odds are of Teo winning the Heisman?
Matt Fortuna (2:48 PM)
Independent of my thoughts on who SHOULD win: Not good. He's got too much working against him as a defensive player. But he will likely be in NY, which is remarkable for a linebacker.
rose (los alamitos, ca)
Matt, the Heisman "recognizes the outstanding football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work." This statement seems to embody on the field play, but also character. While Johnny Maizel is in the Heisman discussion, he hasn't been around long enough to know about his integrity and work ethic. On the other hand, Manti Teo has proven out 4 years of nothing but what was quoted above. If I could choose the way the voting plays out, Manti would win handily as I believe he is truly deserving. What are your thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:49 PM)
Agree, based on that quote. Not sure when it was written though, based on previous winners (including one two years ago.)
Hi Matt - Other than the overall record, looking back, were there any real big surprises from this team? Good defense, solid running game, spread the ball around on offense, QB inconsistencies.....I guess maybe the lack of turnovers?
Matt Fortuna (2:51 PM)
Brian, the way the QB situation did not blow up with so many delicate situations within the situation, if that makes sense. Golson still has a long ways to go, but he is night and day from the kid who couldn't get past Purdue on his own in Week 2. The turnovers are obviously a big turnaround, too, but the overall play of the defense has been striking to me. I expected the front-7 to be very good, but not all-world, the way it has been. That secondary continues to step up, too.
Matt Fortuna (2:52 PM)
Also, re: Manti ... sounds like he's about to win the ARA Sportsmanship Award today.
Nick (Stow, Ohio)
How do you think Golson will be able to handle the big stage being only a redshirt freshman? It will be tough for him if ND doesn't get the run game working early.
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Nick, I doubt he'll have any trouble. He's been great on the road all season long, and he's played in some hostile venues.
So being that your the beat reporter for ND from ESPN, does their trip to the title game earn you a trip to Miami that you otherwise wouldn't have had? Or would you have been going to the title game as a member of the press anyway?
Matt Fortuna (2:54 PM)
I wasn't going if ND or a Big East team (cue laughs) weren't in it.
Kevin (College Statio, Tx)
Why is an average defender nominated for the Heisman vs Clowney, Damontre Moore, Jarvis Jones, etc. Te'o jsut isn't that special.
Matt Fortuna (2:56 PM)
Strongly disagree with the average statement. Strong agree with the rest -- more defenders need more love.
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Speaking of which, my guy Scott Engler does a great job of measuring defenders' impact on his website here: http://disruptionindex.com/ ... Manti has steadily risen throughout the season.
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
Have time for a few more ...
DK (Peoria, IL)
Matt Looking back on the season, what game did you really start to believe in this team? Personally I thought the wins over Mich St and Michigan were nice but Stanford really made me believe. Thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
DK, probably the MSU game, just for the fact that ti was, at the time, a big-time road night test that they passed with flying colors. (And I thought at the time that MSU would be good.) The way they won the Stanford game will always stand out, but I didn't think ND was national-title good until the OU game.
Gary (Grand Rapids, MI)
Notre Dame wouldnt beat any other team in the top ten in the BCS poll. My question is this: Who have they beaten to deserve this title shot? Pitt in OT? An overrated Michigan? Navy, BC, Wake? WHO? Florida is getting the shaft here
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
UF got a bit of a raw deal, but it lost the one game it couldn't afford to lose. And ND has not lost a game. Period. (And Stanford is a top-10 team right now, for the record.)
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
That's all from me folks. Great catching up. Talk soon.