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 gang. The title game is set, Notre Dame will be facing defending national champ Florida and I'm looking forward to getting through this next month as quickly as possible. Until then, let's talk.
Charlie (Marlton, NJ)
Regardless of what happens in the title game, things are looking up for next year. Given that Diaco is returning (what it appears to be, anyway) and that we are losing a few key players on O & D, what are the chances we're able to reload and make it back into the title game like Bama did this year?
Matt Fortuna (2:01 PM)
Charlie, things are definitely looking up, though I'm not ready to say this team is national title-game bound again just yet. The Irish should be a legitimate preseason top-10 and BCS-bowl team again, but getting to where they are this year is incredibly difficult. Just look at how Bama managed to drop three games in 2010 while defending its first crown under Saban.
Frank (Myrtle Beach, SC)
If the QB is the offense leader, takes the blame for wins/loses, why isn't Notre Dame's QB in the Heisman race? ND was unranked and not even considered to be in a race for ANY BCS game...and yet they are playing the the National Championship.
Matt Fortuna (2:03 PM)
Frank, the QB always gets too much credit and too much blame. You can't underestimate Tommy Rees' value to this team, either.
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
What's funny -- and my colleagues and I were chatting about this just yesterday -- is seeing how many of the recent powers have gotten so good without a game-changer under center. Bama has had good QBs, yes, but it is a power-running team. Stanford got to the Rose Bowl this year without Luck. LSU hasn't had a really good QB in years. Oregon just plugs a new guy in every year.
Ryan (Portland, OR)
Matt - What do you think is on Gunner Kiel's mind?
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
Ryan, I have not spoken to him since before the season began and I won't speculate. But I don't think he or his family is naive enough to have not considered a redshirt this season a legitimate possibility with three more experienced guys ahead of him.
Sean (Portland, OR)
Big time Domer in Ducks country (ugh)... Do you see either team being able to comeback from a 2+ touchdown deficit? I suppose Alabama would have a better chance at coming back, but you're not going to come from behind kicking field goals...
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
Sean, if either team GETS two touchdowns that could qualify as a surprise.
Jeff (South Bend)
O Fortuna! Anyone else getting tired of hearing SportsCenter calling Johnny Manziel a Freshman? He is Sophomore by university standing (or he better be because otherwise he would have been ineligible to play being on Academic probation) and is the same age and same number of years in the program as Tim Tebow was when he won the Heisman at Florida. I mean, this has gone as far as listing Manziel a Freshman, not Redshirt Freshman, on his player page, while, following the same logic, Cierre Wood should be listed as a Junior, not Senior, because he has a year of eligibility left. He is listed as a Senior. Maybe I am just being picky, but I would like everyone to get their stats straight when talking about the guy who will, unfortunately, be finishing ahead of Manti in the Heisman voting.
Matt Fortuna (2:07 PM)
Jeff, I'm guessing you didn't catch me on UNITE the other night. I said the exact same thing. Not taking anything away from Johnny Football, but there is a BIG difference between a freshman and a redshirt freshman.
Charlie (Marlton, NJ)
I thought the way Weis handled media requests was well done really. It'd be easy for him to want to take some credit considering the senior class was his recruits, but he completely left it alone. What do you think?
Matt Fortuna (2:10 PM)
Charlie, to be clear, I put in a request to speak to Weis about his guys and was given a statement from him through Kansas, as he received many similar requests. Some seemed to take that as Charlie going out of his way to say that he's not going to take credit, which isn't the case. A lot of people have been seeking comment from him about this team, considering HE brought Manti and the senior class to ND, and those guys have been a huge part of this national title-game run. In short, yes, I thought he handled it in a very classy manner. And, despite what some may think or remember, he does deserve sommmme credit.
Jay (Grants Pass, OR)
Hi Matt,Life long Golden Domer fan, love the blog. All season with just about every opponent, all I hear is "Notre Dame has not faced a team like (fill in the blank)" and when they win then it's well that team is having a bad year. Why can't it be that they toed the line and won the game? Stanford, Oklahoma, USC, every time before the game it was they haven't a team like this and then afterwards well they are having a bad year. It just doesn't make sense. I respect Alabama, I don't like them but I respect what they have done historically why can't everyone else show some respect for the line of work the Irish have done?
Matt Fortuna (2:13 PM)
Jay, I'm not taking anything away from what ND did this year, and I have had several convos with SEC fans about this. But MSU's and USC's collapses do diminish the schedule strength based on what we thought it would be. That should not diminish what ND has accomplished, as it is the only eligible team to run the table and has earned the right, more than anyone else, to the No. 1 ranking right now.
Matt, any news on Davaris Daniels injury & will he play in BCSCG?
Matt Fortuna (2:14 PM)
Scott, he is expected to be ready in two weeks, so yes, he should play barring any unforeseen setbacks.
Mark B. (Los Angeles)
Matt, who benefits from the long break more, Alabama or Notre Dame? Why?
Matt Fortuna (2:16 PM)
Mark, it's essentially the same for both, but I'll say Alabama just because Nick Saban has been through this a couple of times before and has had success each time, so he probably has a better feel for this.
If Notre Dame beats The Tide after giving the Heisman to one of the QB's. Do you think the voters will feel like they made a mistake??
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
Not unless Manti Te'o has a Vince Young-like title game performance, which is pretty difficult for a linebacker to do.
Everybody said Notre Dame wouldn't beat OU, Stanford, and some thought they would even lose to USC.Why should I think that ND would lose to Bama. I know everybody (and even Vegas) says they will. All ND has done all year long is outperform expectations in big games. Bama on the other hand was predicted to beat LSU and A&M pretty favorably. Almost lost one and lost the other.
Matt Fortuna (2:19 PM)
If you're looking for betting advice, you've come to the wrong chat, my friend.
Matt Fortuna (2:20 PM)
I'm Ron Burgundy?
Bill R (Los Angeles, CA)
Do you see ND's Defense being able to handle Lacy like the did Bell of Michigan State? If so, does that bode well for the Irish's chances to win?
Matt Fortuna (2:21 PM)
Bill, you have to worry about Yeldon back there, too. Also, AJ McCarron can beat you with the deep ball, something MSU showed little to no threat of doing, so I don't think ND can be as zeroed-in on one aspect against the Tide as it was against MSU.
Bob H. (Elkhart, IN)
I feel like journalists, who love all the buzz sorroundnig "Johnny Football" will lean more towards voting for him and past winners towards Te'o. What do you think? How accurate has the ESPN Heisman watch poll been in the past?
Matt Fortuna (2:23 PM)
Bob, good question, and I'm honestly not sure. You have to remember, though, that more than 900 people vote for the Heisman, meaning past winners make up roughly 10 percent (give or take, I'm not a math major) of the voting pool.
Pat (South Bend)
Hey Matt - I've got the least important Manti question you'll probably get today... He's been wearing a '574L' sign on his belt. I know 574 is the area code for South Bend. Any idea what the L stands for?
Matt Fortuna (2:24 PM)
Pat, I've actually been wondering the same thing. Will try to get an answer.
Love the chats! Alabama might certainly win the game, but those who are flatly dismissing Notre Dame are crazy, right?
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Its obvious that you have given ND no respect all year. Now that they have made the Chip, will you give them a little love or what? Not that it matters but the tone of your chats has changed as the season went on. Has the notoriety and exposure bothered you? To me it seems as if youre a little too young in your career to come off like Francessa. Whats the chances that Wood or Riddick stays?
Matt Fortuna (2:28 PM)
Funny how my alleged "tone" toward ND changes when they are winning. Some coincidence, huh? Riddick is out of eligibility after this year. Wood's mother told the Chicago Tribune a few weeks ago that Wood was leaning 70 percent toward the NFL. I'd be surprised if he stayed, frankly, given his family situation.
Will anyone, currently injured, not be able to play against bama?
Matt Fortuna (2:30 PM)
Brett, outside of the guys who haven't played all year -- Wood, Collinsworth, Carlisle, Hounshell, etc. -- everyone should play.
Carl LaFong (Warsaw In)
Matt, after watching the $EC championship game I think Bama is getting to much love. They barely won that game.
Matt Fortuna (2:33 PM)
Carl, I think that's a testament to Nick Saban and his staff. Outside of the last play, a lot of breaks went against them, from a failed fake on their end after the play clock expired, from the Georgia block and return for a TD, to the overturned call on UGA's final drive. Bama still outgained the Dawgs 512-394 and imposed its will when it needed to, rushing for 350 yards against a good defense. The Tide are beatable, as we have seen, but they are not overrated.
Matt- What changes have you seen in the way that Charlie Weis coached in comparison to the way Brian coaches? It was clear that Weis could recruit some talent, but why has it taken such a firm identity under Brian?
Matt Fortuna (2:36 PM)
Luke, a couple of things that jump out immediately: Program-building, from Paul Longo's behind the scenes work to a training table, something that has helped players maintain weight in the offseason; recruiting top-notch defensive players from SEC country; and a political savviness Kelly has that Weis simply didn't.
Bryan (Louisville, KY)
Good work Matt. How do you see the ND front seven matching up against a very good Alabama offensive line? Is this the key to the National Championship?
Matt Fortuna (2:37 PM)
Thanks Bryan. I think this is the key to the title game. ND's front-seven has been great all year; Bama's line has been nearly invincible. Football at its purest element, something I can't wait to see. AJ McCarron is not all that mobile, so how he reacts if pressured for the first time will be interesting to see.
Travis (My Office)
I thought ND was playing Bama???Matt Fortuna (1:57 PM)Howdy gang. The title game is set, Notre Dame will be facing defending national champ Florida and I'm looking forward to getting through this next month as quickly as possible. Until then, let's talk.
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
Yikes. Good catch. I need some coffee.
Nick A (San Francisco)
Any word on Louis Nix coming back? To me he is the most important "recruit" on the board
Matt Fortuna (2:40 PM)
Nick, a very good -- and, frankly -- underdiscussed question. He is the most underrated player on this team, and the NFL could be tempting to him after a year like this. I do think he has a small body of work, however, and with another year like this under his belt could really emerge as a guy NFL scouts fall in love with. I'm not in Louis' shoes, though, and I know he has a big family back home, so I can't tell you what he's thinking.
Your Heisman pick?
Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM)
I don't have a vote but I wrote earlier this week I would vote for Manti. Have no problem if the other guys win it, though. All are deserving.
Does Manti have a shot at winning the Heisman? I personally think this is a great opportunity for the Heisman to shake of the stigma of being only the best QB / RB award.... Thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Patrick, I give him an outside shot. The fact he has made it into the top three as an inside linebacker is remarkable in and of itself, though.
Did BC make a mistake not hiring Diaco?
Matt Fortuna (2:43 PM)
Can't know for certain since Diaco has no body of work as a head coach. I think they got a gem in Steve Addazio though. A Connecticut guy with loads of energy who is perfect for re-storing some legitimacy into that struggling program.
Does this have an eerie buzz of "Hoosiers" when little Hickory is going up against (ironically) South Bend Central? They're bigger and faster(Bama). Does BK need to do like Gene Hackman and measure out the football field just to let these kids know it's just another game on the same regulation field they've been playing on all year?
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
This is Notre Dame, Aaron, not Kansas State or Boise State, etc. The Irish are possibly the most storied football program there is, and this is the goal every year, it's just taken some time.
Joel (Elysburg, Pa)
How much does character play into the Heisman voting? Knowing the history of Manziel and the off/Qb vote split for Klein/Manziel, isn't Teo' more likely to win, than not. Especially considering the recent "character" issues of Heisman?
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
Joel, have you seen some of the past winners? Character does not play a role, regardless of what the mission statement says. And Collin Klein, based on all I have read, makes Tim Tebow look edgy, so it's not like he can be discounted, either.
Joel (Elysburg, Pa)
More likely: Teo' wins Heisman or ND wins National Championship?
Matt Fortuna (2:48 PM)
Good question. I'll say the latter considering it hinges on a lot more factors than the minds of 900-plus voters.
Joel (Elysburg, Pa)
Do you feel that ND outperformed their expections or their opponents underperformed theirs?
Matt Fortuna (2:49 PM)
The long answer is both, the short answers is the former.
Matt, Besides the national championship game what other bowl games are you looking forward to watching?
Matt Fortuna (2:51 PM)
Krystal, I'm looking forward to seeing NIU on that stage, if only for the simple fact that my man Joe Tessitore is calling it, so something crazy is bound to happen. The Chick-fil-A bowl should be fun, too, as well as Louisville-Florida given Charlie Strong's ties with UF. And of course KSU/Oregon for the No. 3 spot in the final poll will be fun, too.
Joel (Elysburg, Pa)
If ND played Alabama's schedule, what would their record likely be?
Matt Fortuna (2:52 PM)
The LSU, A&M and UGA games jump out at me as three very good games that I would love to see. All are winnable, obviously, but you never know which team will show up on a given day.
Hey Matt, if he has a big game in the BCS Title Game will Everett Golson go from an unknown at the beginning of this year to a Heisman front-runner next year?
Matt Fortuna (2:54 PM)
Sean, it would take a huge performance. You gotta remember, he has a potential FORTY starts remaining in an ND uniform. And many great young QBs are coming back next year who will be ahead of him -- Johnny Football, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota to name a few -- in addition to Jadeveon Clowney.
john striker (Virginia)
All you hear is how given time Saban can beat anyone, isnt that the same for most any coach including BK?
Matt Fortuna (2:55 PM)
Saban has three national titles. No one else currently coaching does.
John (South Bend)
This is a hypothetical question, but do you think Ohio State would have been in the championship game over Alabama if there were no sanctions?
Matt Fortuna (2:56 PM)
Wondering the same thing. I'd guess given the weakness of the B1G this year that Bama would have probably jumped them, but honestly not sure. That's a toughie.
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Just a few more, gang ...
Tony (South Bend)
Where do you see ND being ranked to start next year? both if they win and lose? I see 5 and 10
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
Tony, that sounds about right. Maybe a little higher if they win.
There are 1 or 2 MAC level jobs left out there, do you see Diaco having interest in a Non-BCS job at this point or do you think he would only leave for a BCS conference job?
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
Paul, I'd be surprised if he left for anything other than a BCS-level job. He's young and can probably afford to be a little picky.
cory (Geneva, IL)
I know the season is a "surprise", but is it really? I mean ND still has a ton of 4* and 5* players on the roster + a now two time coach of the year. 12-0 is a surprise, but I'm not really shocked ND did well this year, I thought 10 wins. Look at the roster, it's littered with NFL talent.
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
Cory, all true, though the underperformance of said players for the last two decades left many to wonder when and if ND would ever shake its rut.
Matt, is there anything that can be done to stop calling Manziel 'Johnny Football'? If I have to hear that ridiculous nickname for 3 more years I may shoot myself.
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
I love it.
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
(The nickname, that is.)
Jim (Notre Dame)
I'm about to make tuna salad for lunch, thought of you. Go Irish.
Matt Fortuna (3:02 PM)
And on that note, enjoy the weekend, folks!