Chicago Colleges: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Early odds not in Irish's favor

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
The Golden Nugget opened wagering Friday on 200 college football games for the 2014 season. Notre Dame, which has no shortage of marquee names, was featured prominently on the list.

Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is in the eye of the beholder.

Vegas is apparently not too high on the Irish with the season this far out. The Irish are underdogs in four of the 11 games currently open for betting, and they aren't exactly overwhelming favorites in most of them. (The Aug. 30 opener vs. Rice was not listed.)

The lines that immediately jump out are the double-digit ones — two of which have Notre Dame on the losing end. Defending national champion Florida State is a 24-point favorite over the Irish for their Oct. 18 matchup. Archrival USC, meanwhile, is a 10-point favorite over Notre Dame for the Nov. 29 regular-season finale.

While a line as high as 24 points always stands out, the latter line seems to be a bit more surprising than the former, considering the Trojans have a new coach in Steve Sarkisian, are playing in the daunting Pac-12 and have lost three of their last four to the Irish. Favorites? Maybe. But the Irish being double-digit 'dogs against their nemesis probably will not go unnoticed.

Notre Dame is also the underdog against Stanford (minus-6) and at Arizona State (minus-4.5).

The two lines favoring the Irish that jump off the page? Giving Purdue 21 points in their Week 3 tilt seems a bit much, given how close the Boilermakers have played the Irish in recent years. Conversely, being just a 3-point favorite at Navy is probably a little alarming, despite the fact the Midshipmen almost pulled off the upset last year in South Bend, Ind.

The first line listed is probably the most favorable one for Irish fans, as Notre Dame is a 3-point favorite over Michigan in the last scheduled meeting between the rivals.

If recent history and the odds currently out now are any indication, how the Irish fare against the Wolverines could go a long way toward determining what kind of campaign awaits them in 2014.

Expectations rising for Koyack

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
One of the bigger storylines around Notre Dame this spring was whether Tight End U had a capable successor after the early departure of Troy Niklas. Ben Koyack spoke like a guy who was comfortable in his new No. 1 role, and the Irish's coaching staff talked about him becoming a major player in the passing game.

[+] EnlargeBen Koyack
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesBen Koyack says he's ready to take the reins at tight end.
The expectations continue to rise for Koyack outside South Bend, Ind., as well. Mel Kiper Jr. has placed Koyack as his No. 3 senior tight end for the 2015 NFL Draft , citing his long frame (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) and his ability to run. Koyack is the third different Notre Dame player this week to make one of Kiper's position lists, joining Sheldon Day and KeiVarae Russell. And Koyack is the first senior of that group to be listed.

Ironically enough, the man in front of Koyack at No. 2 is Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman, the older brother of Mike Heuerman, who is expected to be one of Koyack's primary backups this fall at Notre Dame.

We touched on Koyack's stock a little bit last week when Phil Steele named him as a third-team preseason All-American. The Oil City, Pa., native came on strong down the stretch last season, catching nine passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns during the Irish's final six games. (He had only one catch, a 19-yard touchdown grab, in the seven games prior.)

Koyack is well aware of the Notre Dame tight end lineage he is stepping into. It seems now as though more and more are becoming aware of Koyack, which would be a big boost for the Irish passing game in 2014.

Irish lunch links

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
This is Pat Riley's world, and we're just living in it.

Russell's stock continues to rise

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
KeiVarae Russell received the Sheldon Day treatment this week from Mel Kiper Jr., with the ESPN NFL draft guru pegging Russell as his No. "5C" cornerback on his list of the top underclassmen at the position .

Russell had some more love this week from another list that projects big things for him in 2014, as SportsOnEarth's Matt Brown named him to college football breakout team for this fall.

Both writers laud Russell's impact from the get-go with the Irish, as he was thrust into a starting role from Day 1 following Lo Wood's camp Achilles' tear. Russell had arrived at Notre Dame that summer as a running back. Kiper likes Russell's tackling, while Brown sees a bigger spotlight — along with a new defensive coordinator who favors press coverage, as Brian VanGorder does — resulting in an opportunity for Russell to emerge as a star. Brown cites an underrated secondary from last season that returns most of its key bodies, as the Irish ranked 16th in the nation in yards per pass attempt allowed (6.3) last year.

If Notre Dame's defense is going to be strong in VanGorder's first season, the secondary will likely be a big reason why. That could mean more big things for Russell, a player who does not shy away from the spotlight.

Kelly happy to have Daniels back

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A broader-looking DaVaris Daniels walked into the Loftus Sports Center on Tuesday night donning a bucket hat, whatever aches from his first summer workout with the rest of his Notre Dame teammates earlier in the day having given way to some lighthearted activity with the hundreds on hand for "Football 101."

"He’s obviously physically done a lot of work in the time away and he’s in very good shape and now it’s just a matter of getting his legs back," coach Brian Kelly said minutes earlier, before the annual charity event put on by him and his wife, Paqui.

[+] EnlargeDaniels
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsDaVaris Daniels has rejoined the Irish and looks to be in excellent condition.
"I think that’ll happen in very short order."

Kelly is happy to have Daniels back after his spring-semester suspension for what the receiver deemed as academic-related shortcomings. Daniels brings another dimension to an Irish offense looking to take off in Year 5 of the Kelly era, as the redshirt junior is the team's best vertical threat and the only wideout with any extensive game experience playing with quarterback Everett Golson.

Daniels has 80 career catches for 1,235 yards and seven touchdowns. He spent this spring working out at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park, Illinois.

Getting to spend more summer time with Daniels and the rest of the roster as part of relaxed NCAA rules this year, Kelly is eager to reinstall offensive and defensive packages, especially with 20 of his 21 incoming freshmen arriving this weekend and starting classes Monday.

"We'll get a chance to work with them next Wednesday, so they'll come in on Sunday, they'll get their physicals on Monday," Kelly said. "We should be able to clear them all -- except for Tyler Luatua, who will not be here because of graduation, until Wednesday -- so they should all be cleared for our OTA on Wednesday. We'll get our first look at it, and we've got kind of an idea of where we'll move those guys, and then I'll probably have a better sense by next week."

Another one of those newcomers, transfer cornerback Cody Riggs from Florida, is already on campus and working with the team, as are freshmen Justin Brent and Andrew Trumbetti.

Irish lunch links

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
Cespedes. Wow.

Could Day be primed for a breakout?

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
As we all know by now, it is never too early to look ahead when dealing with NFL draft matters, and Mel Kiper Jr. released a list this week that is sure to catch the eyes of many Notre Dame fans.

Kiper ranks 15 overall defensive end prospects for next spring's draft Insider, splitting the group between those who will exhaust their eligibility this fall and those who will have the chance to declare early for the NFL. All the way down at "5D" on the underclassmen list is Irish junior Sheldon Day, a player who has generated plenty of buzz after consecutive strong campaigns in South Bend, Ind.

Kiper admits this is a bit of a sleeper pick so early, but he, like many, projects big things for Day this season, as the Indianapolis native is the best of Notre Dame's returning linemen and won't be overshadowed by recent draft picks Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. Kiper sees the 290-pound Day as an ideal fit for a 3-4 scheme at the pro level.

Brian Kelly has expressed similar optimism about Day, telling's Bruce Feldman last month that Day could be Notre Dame's best pass rusher even while playing inside. That versatility will undoubtedly help Day impress NFL personnel, but the Irish are in no rush to lose him before 2016.
Three Notre Dame players were named preseason All-Americans by college football guru Phil Steele, with linebacker Jaylon Smith leading the Irish pack by making the second team.

In what might come as a slightly bigger surprise, tight end Ben Koyack made the third team and cornerback KeiVarae Russell made the fourth team. Koyack's stock obviously is rising after a strong finish to last season, especially with Troy Niklas having left early for the NFL. Now a senior in the No. 1 tight end role, Koyack will be counted upon to become an integral part of the Irish's passing game, which has featured no shortage of tight end success in recent years. Steele obviously sees a lot in the Oil City, Pennsylvania, native, who caught 10 passes last season for 171 yards and three scores.

Russell, meanwhile, is coming off consecutive strong seasons at corner and, in keeping with his usual unfiltered self, has talked openly about trying to become the best cornerback in the country. Playing more press coverage under new coordinator Brian VanGorder should only help in that effort, and it would not be a huge shock if Russell were to play his way into first-team or second-team All-America status by season's end.

DaVaris Daniels, arguably the Irish's best skill player, did not make any of the 30-man teams, though receiver looks to be a ridiculously stacked position throughout the nation this year. If Daniels can pick up where left off with Everett Golson two years ago, and if his off-site training during his spring exile pays dividends, the redshirt junior figures to be one of the better receivers in the country.

One familiar name at receiver who did garner preseason All-America status was Deontay Greenberry, who was once committed to Notre Dame and enters his junior season at Houston on Steele's fourth team.

Florida State, which hosts Notre Dame Oct. 18 in the Irish's first true road game, led the nation with five first-teamers and 11 total players on Steele's list.

Irish lunch links

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
Enjoy the weekend, gang.

Notre Dame mailblog

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
What's happening, gang?

Mike S. from Chicago writes: Hi again Matt! Lots of people doing season W/L predictions already, and looking at the schedule there seem to be some expected tough games. Is there a team on the schedule that is especially underrated and could be a *surprisingly* tough game for the Irish? Michigan, Stanford, FSU and one or two others we know will be tough. Curious if you think there's an under-the-radar team though. Thanks!

[+] EnlargeVenric Mark
Dave Stephenson/Icon SMIVenric Mark and Northwestern could be a challenge for Notre Dame in November.
Matt Fortuna: Hey Mike, I'm not ready to make a win-loss prediction this early in the game, but I think you can make a case for really any team on the Fighting Irish's schedule this season to be surprisingly good, outside of the obvious ones that you mentioned (plus USC). North Carolina is a popular pick to win the ACC's Coastal Division. Louisville has had a lot of recent success but is stepping up in competition with a new staff and new quarterback. Arizona State is always a tough out. Syracuse will be better in Year 2 of the Scott Shafer era and has a quarterback to build around in Terrel Hunt. But the one opponent that I think is really getting overlooked is Northwestern. The Wildcats have been consistently strong in recent years under Pat Fitzgerald and definitely enter this season with a chip on their shoulder after the way things ended last year. (A year that was riddled by key injuries, too.) I covered Northwestern's game against Ohio State last season and the Cats were a play away from giving the Buckeyes their first loss of the Urban Meyer era. They are good, and they travel to South Bend, Ind., at what could be a vulnerable time for the Irish, given the tough November stretch they finish with (Navy, at ASU, Northwestern, Louisville, at USC). Purdue usually plays the Irish tough, too. (And heck, even Rice is coming off a 10-win season.)

Chris from Canada writes: Outside of the experience, what are the key differences between Zaire and Golson? They seem very similar in what they have to offer. Is it realistic to think that Zaire can beat out Golson this year or is the "QB competition" just for show?

Matt Fortuna: Chris, they are of a similar build and skill-set, though I think Everett Golson probably has the better arm and is more mobile. Whether that translates into a big gap on the field remains to be seen. As you said, Golson has the experience factor, but Malik Zaire is sure to give him a push, enough so that I think the Irish will be comfortable putting him in a game at any point, something that we know Brian Kelly is not afraid to do with his quarterbacks. Zaire certainly carries himself publicly like a guy who is not afraid of a challenge, and like a guy who expects to win the job if he plays the way he thinks he's capable of playing. My guy Adam Kramer thinks the Irish have the best depth at the position in the country. I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far just yet, but the quarterback position is certainly a luxury for Notre Dame at this point, something that has not been said before in the Kelly era.

Chris Kosiak (via Twitter): (Who is) the under-the-radar guy that everyone will love by seasons end?

Matt Fortuna: What, Cam McDaniel last year wasn't enough for you guys? (I kid, I kid.) I'd say Joe Schmidt, but his value has been pretty well-documented this spring. I'll go with Jarron Jones. It took him some time, but he really came around down the stretch last season. After being demoted to the scout team during USC week because of his academic and football shortcomings, Jones stepped up when the defense became decimated by injuries, blocking a kick on Senior Day against BYU and tallying seven tackles before getting the start at Stanford a week later. He spoke openly about how much more comfortable he is in Brian VanGorder's system, and the opportunities will be there for Jones to make a name for himself on a thin defensive line.
Have you heard the one about the SEC coaches being upset at a former comrade because of his latest recruiting technique? Because those same coaches probably aren't too pleased with a certain independent school from South Bend, Ind., either.

Penn State coach James Franklin, formerly of Vanderbilt, will guest coach next week at a Georgia State camp. So long as the visiting coach isn't running the camp, this is permissible by NCAA guidelines, which bars programs from running prep camps more than 50 miles from campus. The SEC, however, does not allow its coaches to work at camps more than 50 miles from their campuses.

As you can imagine, SEC coaches are crying foul. And in doing so, they are hilarious, as my colleague Adam Rittenberg brilliantly described in a column last week.

News surfaced shortly afterward that Notre Dame was planning to do the same thing next summer at Georgia State, with Panthers coach and former Fighting Irish assistant Trent Miles telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the decision was mutual.

“It’s great for us getting the exposure and getting some kids on our campus that Notre Dame will bring because of their name," Miles told the AJC. "I think it will be great for Notre Dame because they have a national presence, and I’m very close to those guys.”

The move makes plenty of sense from Notre Dame's standpoint. The Irish have made no secret about their recruiting desires in the Peach State, having hauled in recent NFL draftees like Stephon Tuitt and TJ Jones from there. Their ACC deal will already give them more exposure in the region and a potential upcoming series with Georgia would only add to that.

Notre Dame's staff also gets the chance to work closely with a bunch of local and regional talent, who won't have to worry about travel and the finances that accompany it.

“I’m hearing that the SEC isn’t really happy but I’m worried about us at Georgia State,” Miles said with a chuckle, according to the AJC. “I’m only concerned about Georgia State, and I have close ties to Notre Dame. If I can do something to help Notre Dame, I will.”

This isn't all entirely new or exclusive to Franklin, Miles and Brian Kelly. Look around the national landscape: Oklahoma State and New Mexico are working camps this summer in Texas. BYU, another independent, is heading West near Los Angeles to guest-coach a camp at the University of Redlands, with coach Bronco Mendenhall tweeting: "Show your skills in front of our coaches in Southern California!"

So long as the rules allow it, satellite camps are no-brainers for programs looking to cast wider nets. Few cast them wider than Notre Dame.

Notre Dame mailblog

May, 23, 2014
May 23
What's up, everybody?

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsThe fact that Charlie Weis received more money from Notre Dame than head coach Brian Kelly during the 2012 season was a cold splash of water in the face for many fans.
Teddy Marks from New Zealand writes: Matt, I am an American living down under. Your article is simply gobsmacking, as they say in Kiwiland. Notre Dame is not just an institution of higher learning, it is supposed to represent higher learning! The numbers you provide should make sane people sit up and ask, "What is going on?" A coach is fired and getting paid what?! Everything about this situation is just so wrong, but what's worse is that there are probably a dozen other comparable scenarios out there. Quite frankly, since the idea of a "student-athlete" is really from a bygone era, and what we have now are really professional wannabes posing as students. Maybe the guys at Northwestern are at least going to make the NCAA drop the charade of financial integrity with regard to the athletes in light of this sort of garbage in the coaching ranks -- garbage that is the norm and put right out there in front of everybody by Matt Fortuna. And let's not forget it's the presidents and boards, intellectual giants that they are, that make these contracts while they wring their hands over the latest tuition hike. At Notre Dame, you'd like to think the prez there would know what the Bible says about greed. Or stewardship. This note is undoubtedly rambling and incoherent. Still gobsmacked.

Matt Fortuna: Teddy, this might be the angriest, profanity-free, printable email or tweet I've ever received. And not entirely without merit, either. Bravo. (Coherent, too.)

Jack from Erie, Pa., writes: Notre Dame can only go to the Orange Bowl twice over the next 12 years. ... So if they go, say 10-2 this season, would one of those slots get used up right away? Also, how many at-large spots will there be in the new format? If the SEC champ is in the playoff, does their spot in the Sugar Bowl then become an at-large? I'm concerned in that there doesn't seem to be a ton of access for ND to the big bowls if they finish outside of the top four.

Matt Fortuna: Jack, if the Orange Bowl wants Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish are eligible for it, I see no reason why they wouldn't jump in. "Saving" a spot for a later year, so to speak, would be foolish on the Irish's end, in my opinion. The Irish have been to just one BCS bowl in the past seven years. The new format's elite games are three contract bowls with league tie-ins (Sugar, Rose, Orange) and three access bowls (Fiesta, Peach, Cotton) with none, with two of the six bowls rotating into the semifinals each year. The Sugar Bowl is a semifinal this upcoming season. But the access bowl spots will be filled by any power conference champion that didn't make the playoff and has no contract with one of the remaining elite bowls. The elite bowls must also take the highest-rated team from the group of non-power conferences. The highest-ranked remaining teams, as determined by the selection committee, would fill in the open top-tier bowl spots. This new format presents Notre Dame with many more bowl options than the BCS did, as the Irish have both the Orange Bowl deal and the ACC deal, which allows them to step over another ACC team for its spot in a non-elite bowl if the Irish's record is better than, equal to or within one of that ACC team, or ranked higher in the final standings.

Kj from Kent, Ohio, writes: Surprised you didn't mention William Fuller in your WR section of the spring wrap-up. He had as many catches as Corey Robinson did last year and would've had at least two more TDs if Tommy [Rees] had a DI arm. Don't sleep on Fuller, Matt!

Matt Fortuna: I'm not sleeping on Fuller, Kj! (Sorry for the yelling back.) I just believed Robinson deserved singling out among the sophomores given how much potential he has with that frame, and the fact that Brian Kelly raved this spring about how much he loved coaching Robinson. That said, it's anybody's guess as to who will emerge from the pack among the young guys. The opportunities are certainly there for the taking at receiver.

NFL dream a balancing act for Kelly

May, 21, 2014
May 21
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Brian Kelly was pleased with Notre Dame's draft showing two weeks ago. His comments before the draft had suggested that he was less-than-pleased with every former Irish player in the draft.

But Kelly says that there is a middle ground, as he is happy to help his players pursue the NFL, so long as the allure of the pro dream doesn't cloud their judgments while in school.

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AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIStephon Tuitt drew some ire from Brian Kelly for his NFL draft decision.
"It was a matter of priorities for me. It was just a matter of making sure that the priorities were placed in the right perspective," Kelly said. "I have no problem talking about the NFL and making sure that it's the dream, if that's your dream, that we keep that dream alive for you, and that we provide you every opportunity to get there. I just felt that maybe that the priority maybe got pushed out of what I believe to be the pecking order."

That pecking order, he said, is a degree, a playing career with the Irish and then, if everything breaks right, the NFL.

The Irish's eight draftees this season featured three underclassmen, with Kelly clearly irked by the decisions of juniors Stephon Tuitt, Troy Niklas and George Atkinson III to turn pro. He mentioned as much on national signing day, saying that he needed to do a better job of educating his players on the NFL, and that he would have a serious problem recruiting someone whose intentions were to spend just three years in school.

Kelly's intent, he explained recently, is the same as others in his position. Notre Dame, after all, made waves this past season by sending top recruiting targets "Pots of Gold" -- 477 pieces of mail to represent what had been the school's number of NFL draft picks.

"If I feel like you're not playing for Notre Dame, and you're playing for your NFL career before you're playing for Notre Dame, that's where the rub is for me," Kelly said. "So if I get a little bit off on comments about a guy, it could be because that NFL is starting to overtake playing for Notre Dame. It's not just me, though. Every college football coach in the BCS has got to deal with the same thing, just have to be very careful with it, you have to be very good with your players about it.

"But it's a fine line, it's a balancing act. You want what's best for your player, right? Because you want his career to continue and have a chance to play in the NFL, but you want what's best for Notre Dame, too. So you have to be very careful with the two. I just don't want that to be NFL, then Notre Dame."

Coming off the Irish's best draft turnout since they had 10 players picked in the 1994 draft, Kelly -- who has now had four first-rounders picked at Notre Dame -- sees the pro results as validation of what he's been building during his five-year run in South Bend, Ind. Only LSU (nine) had more players drafted this year than Notre Dame, which was tied with Alabama for the second-best showing two weeks ago.

"I think more than anything else is that we're developing our players. That the players are developing, and I think the NFL really likes the program and what we're doing within the program," Kelly said. "They like the way that they're being developed from a mental and physical standpoint. They believe that they can take the rigors of being in the NFL, from the year-round conditioning, from the way we practice, from the way they prepare. I think they look at it in totality, they see everything.

"And look, that doesn't mean you're going to have eight guys every year, but when they see a guy that they think can play, they're going to take a shot at a kid from Notre Dame."

Irish lunch links

May, 20, 2014
May 20
The Spurs will win it all this year, won't they?

MSU, Purdue hope to keep ties with ND

May, 20, 2014
May 20
This September's 42nd Notre Dame-Michigan matchup is likely the last between the schools for the foreseeable future. That doesn't, however, mean that the appearances of Big Ten teams on the Irish's schedule are coming to an end.

Michigan State and Purdue have been stalwarts on Notre Dame's slate -- more than Michigan. And athletic directors from both schools are happy to see their respective rivalries with the Irish continue, even if they're on an abbreviated basis.

Among imminent matchups, Notre Dame will "host" the Boilermakers Sept. 14 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for its annual off-site Shamrock Series game. The Irish have a home-and-home scheduled with the Spartans for 2016 (at ND) and 2017 (at MSU).

"[Notre Dame athletic director] Jack [Swarbrick] and I are in constant communication, and it's not adversarial whatsoever. But it's a situation where, both with us going to nine [conference] games and with them having to move into the ACC scheduling model, it's created some significant challenges for both of us," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told "And right now we're kind of in a position of, we know the next two, we know we have two more in the future and we're just kind of taking it one step at a time. We've been in constant communication."

The future, Hollis told local reporters last week, includes an agreement to play a home-and-home in 2026 and 2027, as well as a neutral site game, possibly in Chicago, in 2023.

Notre Dame and Purdue, meanwhile, have five more scheduled games -- Sept. 19, 2020 at Purdue; Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame; Sept. 14, 2024 at Purdue; Sept. 13, 2025 at Notre Dame; and in 2026 on a date and in a neutral site that has yet to be determined.

"I think the relationship between the schools is -- you're not going to take it to San Juan," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told "But we have alums all over the country, too. Strong populations in Texas, in California, in Florida. The likely sites are Chicago and Indianapolis."

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said last week that most of his scheduling conversations with Swarbrick start with Michigan, Michigan State and an SEC team. But Wolverines athletic director David Brandon told's Adam Rittenberg in an email that there had been no discussions with the Irish.

The mood might have soured between the two schools -- Sept. 7 at Notre Dame will be their last matchup following the Irish's 2012 exercising of a three-year opt-out clause in the series -- but that has not been the case between the Irish and the rest of the Big Ten.

"Jack and I have known each other for a long, long time," Burke said. "He had a hard deal because when the Big East went the way it went, he had to find a home for lots of sports. What he had to do then was to negotiate, he had to use some of the football inventory to do that, and that's what created the issue. There's no issues with wanting to play Purdue or Michigan State. The Michigan thing there's a little bit of a tiff, I guess. But I don't think so.

"Our history goes back a long time. So what we tried to do was to make sure that there was at least a path forward. In other words, don't just announce Lucas Oil and it stops, but try to show people that we're going to play more than just once every 10 years. That's the best we could do now. Who knows what the landscape will be down the road? My hope is that someday, I hope we don't look back and say we lost something that started in 1946, because there are Purdue and Notre Dame folks who have been going to those games for years and tailgated. And you've had some great athletic contests with some great family relationships. And as we break some of this stuff apart and get bigger leagues, do you lose some of those relationships, and 10 or 15 years from now, does that hurt you?"

With Purdue having played Notre Dame 85 times, and with Michigan State having played the Irish 77 times, both schools are hoping that the answer to that question is a resounding no.

"There's going to be fewer games with Notre Dame because of the national landscape, and that's one of the unfortunate parts of conference expansion, is those nonconference games take secondary step," Hollis said. "But it's important to Michigan State that we continue to play on a national stage, so we'll have Notre Dame as much as we can have Notre Dame. They want as many games, we want as many games, it just all has to fit."