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 3 p.m. ET!
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
Greetings from sunny South Florida. What's on everyone's mind?
Shane (Clarkston, MI)
Do the results of the other SEC teams' bowl games affect your opinion on this game? With Florida, LSU, Miss St. losing to "inferior" opponents, and Georgia and South Carolina struggling against B1G teams, the SEC doesn't seem quite as dominant anymore.
Matt Fortuna (3:03 PM)
Shane, that has slowly become the theme of the day here on the first real day of media access. Is the SEC the best conference? Yes, and the numbers speak for themselves. But seeing a team like Florida -- which should have had plenty of motivation -- fall the way it did to a good but not great Louisville team was pretty surprising to see. Does it give ND more confidence? Maaaybe, but it still comes down to one shot for the Irish and Bama.
John (Chicago, IL)
Make a score prediction, you have played both sides of the fence all year long in our big game predictions. Are you with us, or are you against us?
Matt Fortuna (3:05 PM)
Um, neither. Predictions will come the day of the game, as they have throughout our bowl coverage this season.
With Bama staying in a hotel that has one of the best night life scenes, what are the chances you can drag some of the guys there past curfew and get them sent home?
Matt Fortuna (3:06 PM)
I'd be more afraid of Nick Saban than they are ...
Geoff Smith (Cincinnati)
Tuna, with the SEC big boys both falling (UF being slammed) the SEC appears to be a bit overrated (I'm predicting an OU victory tomorrow), are you expecting the betting line for this game to come down as a result and are you liking ND's chances even better?
Matt Fortuna (3:07 PM)
Betting line depends on the fans, so I can't really answer that. And no, it does not change my opinion on this game one way or the other.
Tuna - in your lunch links, you said you said it would've been awesome to see Irish Chocolate at last night's Heat game. You're welcome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8NuZUyYr3E&feature=youtu.be
Matt Fortuna (3:07 PM)
Thank you John. Will give that a look in a bit. (Readers, do the same in an hour ... for now, stick with me in this chat.)
Brad (Benton, ky)
Hey Matt! Te time has finally come! What do you think are significant personnel advantages for the Irish? I would think Eifert and the receiving corps should have a decent advantage against the Bama secondary.
Matt Fortuna (3:09 PM)
Hey Brad, definitely Eifert. I like him in any 1-on-1 matchup and no one in the SEC poses that kind of threat at tight end. I know not everyone agrees, but I like Golson too, given the way he has played lately and on big stages away from home.
Charlie (Marlton, NJ)
Hey big Tuna, hope you had a great holiday. Some talk recently of B Kelly being looked at by NFL teams. He doesnt strike me as an NFL coach. He's said over and over that he wants to develop 18-22 year olds. Win or Lose, thoughts on him going to the NFL?
Matt Fortuna (3:10 PM)
Non-educated guess: He is an NFL coach in 5 years. Not anytime too soon though.
Matt Fortuna (3:11 PM)
You have to look at the challenges that would be left for him, especially at a relatively early age (51). Not to mention the viability of someone handling the ND job for so long, as it's a task far more difficult and burdensome than that of most regular FBS head-coaching jobs.
Bazz (St. Paul)
A lot has been writte about Notre Dame's front 7. But Alabama's got one of the country's best defenses, too. With no big back, how will ND run the ball against the Tide? We don't want to see a Northern Ill. attack
Matt Fortuna (3:14 PM)
Bazz, ND is going to have to get creative, and it's going to have to utilize some speed on the edge. Brian Kelly said as much last week, that basically this is a game you cannot win by simply running between the tackles. As mentioned earlier, I like the versatility they have under center and at TE, and I think Monday is the night you really see the whole RB/slot WR dynamic take hold with their skill guys.
Jared (South Carolina)
Any new news on Bama's center? He says he'll be ready, but do you think he'll be rusty? Will he be comming back 100%?
Matt Fortuna (3:16 PM)
Jared, he reiterated again today that he is fine. We'll see, but if he's anything less than 100 percent I think Louis Nix will make sure we find out fast.
Dylan (Ebensburg PA)
Any chance of Kiel transferring shortly with Zaire coming in who is supposedly the next Mike Vick?
Matt Fortuna (3:16 PM)
Since when is being labeled the next Mike Vick a good thing?
Matt Fortuna (3:16 PM)
(As for the Kiel part, he should be available during bowl media day Saturday, so we'll talk to him then.)
Jared (South Carolina)
Are there any redshirts that may come off for Notre Dame in this game? If so who?
Matt Fortuna (3:17 PM)
In a word, no. This is still a college game with college kids, and you need to think long-term, big-picture with these guys.
With the last 2 recruiting classes is BK setting the Irish up to reload annually and not rebuild like some former coaches
Matt Fortuna (3:18 PM)
Ross, I touched on that a bit earlier this week in a piece on Kelly: http://espn.go.com/college-football/bowls12/story/_/id/8802247/notre-dame-fighting-irish-borrow-sec-playbook-reach-bcs-title-game-college-football
Who does the long layoff benefit more?
Matt Fortuna (3:20 PM)
They both deal with it (though ND's has been a week longer), but if I have to choose then I'm going with Alabama based on Nick Saban's history dealing with this. Does that mean Brian Kelly's team won't be ready, or cannot be more ready? Of course not, but he has no track record to go off right now and Saban has a really good one.
Agustin (Rockford, IL)
Hey Matt, do you see either one of the teams having an edge, as far as motivation/wanting it more, going into Mondays game?
Matt Fortuna (3:21 PM)
It's the national title game. If you don't want it more than anything, you don't belong here.
Why hasn't ESPiN came out and posted an article about how overrated the SEC is . If it was anyone else it would already be posted .
Matt Fortuna (3:22 PM)
The SEC IS playing for its seventh straight national title.
Do you get any sense being around the players as to well there see this as a "business trip" or a "vacation"?
Matt Fortuna (3:24 PM)
Matt, it's a business trip, but I do think they are embracing it a little bit more. I was talking to Tony Rice earlier in the day and one of the things that struck me was him saying most of those '88 players wish they had enjoyed it all more at the time, because you never know when or if you can reach this level again. It's definitely not a vacation, but it's a great experience. The team went to the Heat game last night.
After watching the Rose Bowl I can't help but feel like Shaw has something special going on at Stanford. Do you see that becoming the "big game" on ND's schedule for the upcoming years over the likes of USC and Michigan?
Matt Fortuna (3:26 PM)
Matt, they've been pretty close to it the last couple of years. In an indirect way, I see that game almost as ND's truest rivalry game, given the similarities between both schools and programs, not to mention the way they play. If Shaw stays, that will be a fun one to watch year in and year out.
Jared (South Carolina)
Matt, thanks for your work this year! Monday can't come soon enough, any last min injuries we don't know about?
Matt Fortuna (3:27 PM)
Thanks Jared. I went to the 15 minutes of practice viewing today (the first we've had since camp) pretty much solely to see just that ... and there is nothing new to report on the injury front.
Any potential problems with the condition of the field, especially since it will be less than a week since the orange bowl was played on it?
Matt Fortuna (3:29 PM)
John, if I'm reading the Orange Bowl's tweet from yesterday correctly, then it's a new surface for Monday: https://twitter.com/OrangeBowl/status/286404058573570048
All the talk about ND's Defense is great and all but lets not forget Alabama is pretty good too. I feel like we as ND fans are overlooking that?
Matt Fortuna (3:31 PM)
Everyone is because this is the worst Tide defense of Saban's three Tide teams to make the BCS title game ... and it ranks in the top-10 in six different categories.
Matt - Do you think there has been a more beloved player at Notre Dame than Manti over the past 2 decades?
Matt Fortuna (3:32 PM)
Not even close, and you can probably go back further than that.
Manti love is similar to Tim Brown's. Tehy marked the begining of the rebirth of the Irish!!!
Matt Fortuna (3:36 PM)
I can see the similarities, but I feel like Manti has been on another level this year.
Which is more critical, the play of ND's offense or the play of ND's deffense? Same question for Alabama, which is more critical the pay of the O or D?
Matt Fortuna (3:41 PM)
Brian, you can make an argument either way for either team, since a lot of it depends on the play of the other. Looking at the way Notre Dame has been able to win this year, I'm going with their defense, since it has never really faded and that has gotten the Irish here so far. They need to get some pressure and need to have success against the run. For Bama I'll say the same, since they'll have their hands full monitoring Golson and keeping him from breaking off the big play.
Happy New Year, Tuna. After listening to Kelly, care to guess which skill players will make their season-debut on special teams come Monday?
Matt Fortuna (3:42 PM)
Colin, just a hunch, but I'll say Cierre Wood. I do think there will be something different there, one way or the other.
do you think notre dame got a chance?
Matt Fortuna (3:43 PM)
Sean (Portland, ME)
Matt, how has the team prepared for the heat / humidity of Miami. Weather.com has the humidity for Monday night in Miami at 91%. Is there a danger well will be gassed in the 2nd half and Alabama (used to the southern weather) will run over us?
Matt Fortuna (3:44 PM)
Brian Kelly joked last week that he wishes more teams travel north for bowl games, but no, I doubt it will play much of a factor. It's not dangerously hot, and the team will get acclimated with that in these couple of sessions here.
Will BK have any former players speak before the game or on the sideline during the game or is he going to keep things tight with the coaches getting the team prepared for the game?
Matt Fortuna (3:49 PM)
Willow, not that I know of. My guess would be no, given his penchant for saying that history has no effect on this year's team. But I'd expect a big alumni turnout for this game regardless.
paul (pgh pa)
you think field position will be critical? if ND has to start offensive series inside their 20, could be problem
Matt Fortuna (3:52 PM)
Paul, I think probably a little more in this game, yes. Both defenses are simply phenomenal, and it will be a great test for either to go 80-plus yards for scores repeatedly.
ND Grad here and loyal fan, but I have a feeling that Bama dominates the second half on the power of the O line, I just dont think ND has faced a team like this including OU and Stanford. Thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (3:54 PM)
Tim, I agree that ND hasn't faced anything like this before. I thought it was interesting to hear Eddie Lacy today say that ND is the best defense he will have faced, given all the SEC superiority talk. I don't think Bama dominates, though.
What club has been your favorite in South Beach so far?
Matt Fortuna (3:55 PM)
Ha. Went to Miami for the first time ever last night for dinner. Yardbird Southern Table and Bar. De-licious. Duck breast with pork meatballs and maybe the best fried chicken I've ever had. No clubs for me.
Brian (Notre Dame)
Tuna, are you surprised by the SEC's showing so far this bowl season (3-3 with an average of nearly 400 yards for opposing offenses)?
Matt Fortuna (3:58 PM)
Brian, the LSU game surprised me the most by far. I'm not too surprised that Louisville beat Florida, but I am surprised by the way the Cardinals dominated. And Miss St is, well, Miss St. Northwestern probably should've run the table this year, and the Cats finally finished off an opponent it had beaten.
Matt Fortuna (3:58 PM)
Interestingly enough, if Pitt beats Ole Miss, that's a 5-0 Big East record this year against the SEC. How about that, huh?
How has the better celebs/former players on the sidelines for the game?
Matt Fortuna (3:59 PM)
Older players ND, younger ones Bama. You'll have to give me some celeb names (Real ones: not Forrest Gump and Rudy) and then I'll decide the winner of that battle. (Non-alums like Vince Vaughn don't count, either.)
I take it that unlike around 99% of other bowl games that this game is a sellout and we should have a capacity crowd in attendance, is that true?
Matt Fortuna (4:00 PM)
If it isn't then most people I know who spent more than $2k for tickets are, well, fools.
I think McCarron not being mobile will be a big difference in the game. I think Tuitt and co. will get to him and will help the irish win
Matt Fortuna (4:01 PM)
Chris, I think that dynamic is huge. The question is if Bama's O-line can protect McCarron long enough, since he's smart enough to get rid of it when he needs to.
Matt Fortuna (4:02 PM)
That's all from me today folks. More writing on the way. Keep it at the blog for the latest from South Florida, and safe travels to those of you making the trip. Should be a blast.