Sean Romeo from Cedar Grove, N.J., writes: Matt, the Irish struggled with Pitt and other mid to low level tier teams last year. Which, if any, teams of the sort do you see them possibly struggling with this year?
Matt Fortuna: Sean, I wouldn't sleep on Pitt for the simple fact that the Irish beat the Panthers by just three points in each of the last two seasons. BYU took Notre Dame to the wire last year, too, so that's one you can't exactly take lightly either. I don't think Arizona State qualifies as a mid-to-low level team, but it is a new opponent on the schedule, and I think that has the chance to be a really good game.
Steely Phil from Dover, Ohio, writes: Matt, awesome work as always. I appreciate all of your hard work and dedication to covering Notre Dame football. I was watching Coach Kelly's media session from Aug. 12 and a someone asked him about DaVaris Daniels' comments on the pistol offense (Kelly's response was hilarious by the way). I'm sure you heard it, so my question is, is Notre Dame going to throw in some pistol formations to their offense? And is Kelly planning on going up-tempo like his Cincinnati days?
Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Phil. Good question. We've only seen one practice so far. We've heard the players talk about the pistol here and there. And, when asked about it, as you mentioned, Kelly had a pretty funny answer — "Daniels doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about." So, all I can gather right now is that Kelly does not want to talk about the pistol offense, though we do get to see all of Saturday's practice, so I should have a better answer for you by then.
Mike S. from Chicago writes: For those of us who cringed at seeing Rees entering games last year, and who are nervous/anxious about him being the starter, give us a few reasons - outside of "experience" which is overused and overrated, let's be honest (ask Johnny Football) - why we should be optimistic? No more Eifert. No one to throw the ball up to knowing they'll catch it. Don't we have to have a great running game? I don't see Tommy becoming "Tommy Football." Thoughts?
Matt Fortuna: Mike, Tommy Rees is stronger and, for what it's worth, both he and his coach say he is more athletic. I think the playmakers question is a valid concern, as the Irish have said goodbye to first-round picks in the passing game each of the last two years. I think T.J. Jones and DaVaris Daniels are both very good receivers who are capable of making plays, though others around them need to step up. I also think the running game will eventually sort itself out, if only for the simple fact that there are six talented running backs and someone will emerge. Ultimately, though — and I don't know if this counts as "experience" — Rees will be a smarter football player. He doesn't have much of a choice, as we all know Brian Kelly does not hesitate to switch signal callers. A huge cutdown in turnovers from 2011, along with a defense that is much, much better and deeper than the unit from two years ago, gives this team more than enough chance to win every game. Does that mean another perfect regular season? Of course not. But I can easily see the Irish going BCS bowling again this year if they limit sloppy plays.
Jacob from Georgia writes: Was bored and decided to look at the recap of the NCG from a Notre Dame perspective. I especially loved how you said the game was over when the referees blew the call on the muffed punt in the first quarter...to say nothing of superior offense or defense by Alabama. The game was actually over after The Tide's effortless first drive. Also, it wasn't a blown call. Just because no contact was made with the return man, doesn't mean there shouldn't have been a flag. The officials on the field made a JUDGEMENT call that the return man was not given sufficient room to field the punt. Its not a bad call just because you don't like it. What gutless writing! Finally, did you ever think about wearing a hat?
Matt Fortuna: Jacob, you didn't tell me you were this bored. I disagreed with the call and wrote that it killed any chance the Irish had of establishing any kind of momentum … because, you know, "superior offense or defense by Alabama" is not a exactly a moment in the game. As for the hat, I wouldn't want a "gutless" look to go with my "gutless" writing.