Chat with Matt Fortuna
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (2:13 PM)
Matt is running a few minutes late but will be starting shortly! Keep your questions coming!
Matt Fortuna (2:16 PM)
Greetings, everyone. Apologies for the late start. Let's get right to it.
Joshua Sweeney (columbus, ohio)
I see this game playing out a bit like the MSU game, with the Irish shutting down SCs running game and forcing them to throw a lot. i also see ND being able to move the ball very well against this defense. If ND doesnt shoot themselves in the foot, does SC make this a game?
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
Joshua, I see it similarly, but USC has better skill players than MSU, especially at WR. I wouldn't worry about USC's run too much, even if Marc Tyler does play, but I do think getting to Barkley early and rattling him a bit will be important. And no, I wouldn't worry about USC's D either.
What do you think of the new helmets Matt?
Matt Fortuna (2:18 PM)
Aaron, I like them. I'm lying if I say I don't get a kick out of the reaction everyone has had to something that would be so small at most other schools, but I suppose that's what makes Notre Dame unique. I'm looking forward to seeing them under the lights.
muzaffar (kuala lumpur, malaysia)
3-4 years ago when the current seniors joined and played as freshman, the defense deteriorated. on the contrary, current freshmen defensive players are regular contributors; some even perform at such high levels that the defense in general improves immensely. Are current seniors such as Harrison Smith, Gary Gray, Robert Blanton, Ethan Johnson etc the cause of the problems defensively for the Irish at critical 3rd and 4th down situations this year? Will replacements of these personnel next year strengthen the defense?
Matt Fortuna (2:21 PM)
Muzaffar, I wouldn't necessarily say that. Smith and Blanton, in particular, have been very good this year. The freshmen are great, sure, but I don't look at the other current starters as weaknesses.
John Anderson (Rochester, Michigan)
ND is arguably the best all around athletic program in the Big East with four national championships, two final fours and two final twos in 2011. (1) What do you think about Gina, I mean Geno, Auriemma's comments this week about Notre Dame being the reason the BigEast is falling apart? (2) Do you believe the ACC or Big12 would give ND the same deal as the BigEast if the conference does collapse, or if the BigEast makes the worst decision of 2012 by giving ND an ultimatum of joining in football or finding a new conference home?Come on Geno, the BigEast new the deal upfront.
Matt Fortuna (2:24 PM)
John, I found Geno's comments pretty amusing, considering the alleged flirtations between UConn and the ACC. Everyone has to look out for themselves at this point, so I don't think he should have said that. I have a hard time imagining another conference giving Notre Dame a similar deal at the moment, but I do think the Big East would be shooting itself in the foot some more if it gave ND an ultimatum.
I have a question and a general comment to my fellow Irish fans. First off, who do you take in this game and what score? I know its not my platform but i'm expecting a score more to the tune of the Michigan St. game as I have the Irish taking it 38-17. Second, my general comment to all Irish fans who will be in attendance (and maybe you can give this some traction too) is everyone needs to come out and help recruit! Show these you kids coming in how much they are wanted and spill the love all over the place! signage, chants, the works! Don't hold back, they know they're good but lets make them feel GREAT! GO IRISH!
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Shane, I took ND, 35-24. I think ultimately the Irish defense will make a few more stops when it needs to. And judging from the buzz these past two weeks, you're not alone in your thoughts about the crowd.
LAIrish (Los Angeles CA)
I am so sorry we have to be subjected to people like that. Notre Dame is the only program in america witha national fan base. Rich in tradition, they have kept there intergrity intact, and have done more for college football then almost any program out there. I am from LA and hope ND lights up the University of Suspended Championships. You obviously havent watched much football this year cause ND is damn good! Haters beware ..Here come the Irish...
Matt Fortuna (2:27 PM)
LAIrish, where did I say Notre Dame wasn't good. In case you missed it, I picked them to win this weekend. Also, no idea who you're referring to with "people like that."
nathaniel sims (portland, tennessee)
hey matt in the game tomorrow we all know its critical for the irish to come out with a win but will it legitimize the irish as a team to watch for among the college football world in the future? im a lifelong notre dame fan and cant wait to see the game.
Matt Fortuna (2:29 PM)
Nathaniel, Notre Dame will always be watched. I think a win would be huge for the rivalry with USC, as it would even things out and possibly signal a turn in it considering USC's future is murky with all of those lost scholarships.
SHouck (Youngstown, Ohio)
I'm an avid Notre Dame fan, I bleed gold from the veins. My question to you Matt is whether or not Notre Dame is ready for the BCS. I enjoy how we're doing this season, and hope for a 10-2 season, but honestly, I would rather see them win a game and have a bit of momentum coming back next season, than to lose a BCS bowl game because the team is not ready and have to come back next year and prove a point. I personally think that teams do better coming off of last years momentum.
Matt Fortuna (2:31 PM)
I see where you're coming from, but from a program standpoint -- and especially in the mark of a coach in his second year -- a BCS bid is a milestone, or checkmark if you will. Sure, if ND lost big some would say they didn't belong there, but the only way to find out is by playing the game, right? Also, ND won four in a row to end last year and responded by dropping its first two this year.
Matt, Im convinced Notre Dame wins this game. If they defeat USC, who do they lose to before Stanford? I would say no one. I'm going off a post last week where you predicted the Irish would lose one more time between now and November's matchup against Stanford. So if its not USC, who and why?
Matt Fortuna (2:34 PM)
Shane, I know I was going out on a limb there, but I'd say watch out for Navy and Wake Forest. Navy certainly has ND's number the past few years, and ND could be on an emotional high coming off Saturday. The Irish are sure to get everyone's best shot from here on out.
Musick_man (Columbus, Ohio)
Hi matt, I have been a notre dame fan since I was a child, even when notre dame is doing bad I still feel very proud for being a notre dame fan. I was wondering why people hate notre dame so bad? Even when they start to do good it seems like everyone hates on them. Also what do you think notre dames chances are for beating Stanford? It seems like everyone I know keeps saying it will be a blowout, though i would like to think otherwise. Finally if notre dame was to beat USC by lets say a comfertable score, how would this impact notre dame's recruiting, and the way people view notre dame's football program?
Matt Fortuna (2:36 PM)
Musick man, I grew up a Yankee fan. It's the same with the Cowboys, Lakers, Duke hoops, etc. The marquee teams in each sport are going to have a large number of people rooting against them every time. I think ND gets on people's nerves more because of its independence, its own TV contract and the fact it hasn't won a national title in 23 years. People get tired of hearing about them, plain and simple. And though a big win certainly wouldn't hurt, you'd be surprised to see the correlation, or lackthereof, of wins/losses and an ND kid actually committing.
Anthony (Ann Arbor)
Matt, although we have already been given our "Saturday Surprise" of new helmets, do you think ND has new jerseys up their sleeve for Saturday night?
Matt Fortuna (2:37 PM)
Anthony, I highly doubt it. Equipment manager Ryan Grooms tweeted that they will wear navy jerseys with gold pants, so unless there's a tweak to either of those I think the helmets are all you'll get.
Hey Matt,How much of a leash does Tommy have in this game if he reverts back to being the turnover prone young QB he was earlier in the season? There is no doubt that this is just as important a game as any other this season and with the performance of Hendrix last week coupled with Dayne Crist still competing, do you see any situation other than injury where a different signal caller takes over permanently?
Matt Fortuna (2:39 PM)
Zampieri, I have a hard time seeing Rees losing the job. This game will be interesting, however, as it is the first team he will be facing a second time. I wouldn't think Hendrix affects anyone's job status, by the way, as he is just another option to throw in from time to time.
Matt, As an Irish fan, I have terrific respect for Penn State, the manner in which the university operates its football program and the fact it has never been hit with any NCAA violation. I'm interested in your opinion; in this day and age, and after this summer of NCAA discontent (so manny scandals) can clean programs still win it all?
Matt Fortuna (2:40 PM)
Michael, good question. Seeing how much PSU has struggled lately certainly doesn't bode well for that theory. Then again, ND is on the upswing toward national contention without a hint of bad behavior. Wisconsin and especially Stanford are in the title hunt right now without any known wrongdoing, so I wouldn't say it's impossible.
Patrick (Albany, New York)
If Notre Dame beats USC, do they crack the top 25 in the BCS poll?
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Patrick, I would think so. I'm a little surprised they're not in the AP or coaches yet, to be honest.
Matt--keep up the good coverage! What are Ethan Johnson's chances of seeing significant playing time tomorrow? If he can't go, how much of an effect does that have on the D's success against USC?
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
Troy, thanks for the kind words. It seemed as if each time we asked Kelly about Johnson this week the status was less and less certain. He is cleared to play but it now sounds like he may only see a few snaps here and there, and nowhere near the 50-60 he would typically get. I don't mean this as a knock on Johnson, but I don't think it would hurt too much with so many talented players on the line this year. The freshmen have really stepped up and I think this is a great opportunity for them to play in a game against a more traditional offense.
Matt (Columbia, sc)
Do you USC fans realize that their schedule thus far is week. Opponents of USC are a whopping 18-19!!!!
Matt Fortuna (2:45 PM)
Matt, I do. That's why they aren't ranked at 5-1. Beat ND and Stanford, and things change quickly.
Mike (Fort Lauderdale)
Let's hope the Irish start faster than this chat. C'mon Matt, you can't do this to us on SC week!
Matt Fortuna (2:46 PM)
Sorry Mike! Had to do a phone interview for a story. I'll make it up to you guys with a mailbag after this, so be sure to send more questions in that way as well.
Nick (penn state dorm room)
ND vs USC prediction? And where will floyd go in next year's NFL draft.
Matt Fortuna (2:49 PM)
Nick, I said 35-24 Notre Dame. Todd McShay has him at 15 overall, while Mel Kiper doesn't have him in the first round. There will be plenty of grilling about his off-field issues come Combine time, so I think how he handles those will go a long way. The talent is certainly there.
Matt, is it fair to say that both top 25 polls are a bit off when schools like Penn State and Michigan State are ranked so far ahead of ND, despite the fact that ND has a string of quality victories with pretty impressive showings?
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Darius, human polls are subject to error, among many other things. Obviously ND beat MSU, and would beat PSU as well. But the other two have better records and have not, for lack of a better term, really screwed up yet. Throw in the fact that ND had a bye and really couldn't do anything while those two won, and you have the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately factor of the poll. I will say this, however: I don't think ND obliterates MSU that way again, though the Irish would still win. There's a psychological factor that can't be discounted when you go into a game 0-2, and you just can't replicate that. ND took out all of its frustrations on Sparty that day.
watch for me in the stands tomorrow with a sign that reads "T'eo eats Fortunas for breakfast!"
Matt Fortuna (2:55 PM)
Good for you, Goose, good for you. I'd be more worried about him eating Barkleys, though, considering he'll be playing the game and I won't.
given the heatedness of this rivalry, if given the chance do you think BK would put on the breaks or would he give the go ahead to run up the score?
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
James, if they got a comfortable enough lead I think they'd simply leave Hendrix and the backups in more.
Patrick (Wilmington, NC)
Sorry if you already answered this, I want to get this in before you leave. Did ND practice under the lights this week? Did they wear the new helmets to get used to any new glare they might cause?
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
Patrick, they practiced indoors mostly because of the rain. I believe they wore the helmets for the first time yesterday but I'm not entirely sure.
Do you think Manti will play with any extra aggression going against USC, the team he grew up loving? What are the odds of him staying around for a senior season?
Matt Fortuna (3:00 PM)
Matt, maybe, but is there really another level he can take it to at this point? He wants to win this game because it's the team he's playing. Maybe the lights, atmosphere and opponent will add extra juice, but I think that goes for every player, subconsciously or not. And I'd say the odds are getting slimmer with each great game he has, but he's anything but a conventional guy.
Matt Fortuna (3:01 PM)
That'll do it for me today, everyone. Thanks for stopping by and hanging in there after a brief delay. Be safe tomorrow.