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!
Ok, so this is one of those big games to swing a programs momentum, like FSU Oklahoma last year. MSU is obviously a tough team, taking care of business in their first 2 games. But i believe that this game, being a rivalry game, is extremely winnable for ND. What is your gut feeling on this game, and if ND wins what is your outlook on that schedule now?
Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM)
Nathan, agree with you. This game can set the tone for the season. It is definitely winnable. Last year's game, though made up of mostly different personnel, should be a bit of a confidence boost, but Andrew Maxwell is unproven. ND needs to make him throw on third-and-long. Then again, MSU can say the same, and their D is better than ND's. I like MSU in a close one, but nothing would surprise me, and an ND win could go a long way as they enter this stretch of 5 ranked opponents in 6 games.
Ray Stinger Jr (Pittsburgh)
Hey Matt!! When Notre Dame joins the ACC the Irish will play 5 ACC games. Will Notre Dame select the teams or will the ACC,also will those games be home & home?
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
Ray, ND will present the ACC with its open spots on the schedule and the ACC will go from there. Obviously there will be some back-and-forth, so as to avoid a slate of FSU, VT, Clemson, etc., in one year.
Who can we expect to get the majority of snaps at QB this week?
Matt Fortuna (2:07 PM)
Don, Golson gets the majority of the snaps. The question is if he gets all of them. Just a strange situation, where your best QB is not your best guy for the 2-minute drill.
Aaron (Bloomington, IL)
Hey Matt, Was there a point last week when seeing Tommy come into the game where you thought, I'm not sure a win really overrides the importance of Everett being in that situation as a young QB. Of course you want to win, especially in the all important 3rd year for Kelly, but that was a very important experience that Everett needed to be a part of, with the result of the game being second priority. Or maybe I'm crazy, I don't know...
Matt Fortuna (2:09 PM)
Aaron, to echo the "strange" theme, I was certainly surprised to see Rees there, and it seemed like the general reaction from fans was that was the saddest they'd ever been after a win. Given some time to think about it, though, I think it was the right call. A win's a win, so that justifies it. And, remember, Purdue is among the easiest opponents on ND's schedule. The Irish simply could not afford to lose that game. That being said, can you imagine the reaction had Rees lost the game? Wow ...
Tyler (NY) [via mobile]
If the game is close down the stretch, who is the quarterback, Tommy or Everett?
Matt Fortuna (2:10 PM)
I'd have to think Tommy, but that's the million dollar question.
CW (Long Beach, California)
Matt, Is this as lopsided as all the prognosticators are making it out to be? I have not heard one person say that N.D. has much of a chance, and I think it is more that realistic to think that M.S.U. may be a little overrated. Boise State is probably more comparable to N.D. then CMU and M.S.U.' incredible defens only had one sack against both teams. What gives?
Matt Fortuna (2:13 PM)
CW, everyone I've seen has called it a close game. But if ND could not move the ball well against Purdue, how in the world will they do it against MSU? On the road, at night? Could they? Sure, but they didn't inspire much confidence last week.
OK, football game question, Matt. I agree with your prediction on the outcome of the game, but I can't quite figure out why. It figures that both teams will try to stop the run and make first year QBs win by throwing. NDs QB can also run and has better playmakers around him (Tyler Eifert, the RBs) than Maxwell. But MSU's secondary is better than NDs. Unless the turnover bug bites one team, or special teams decide the game (possible), it looks awfully even to me. So can ND win on special teams (a Davonte Neal return for example, or Turk continuing his solid punting)?
Matt Fortuna (2:15 PM)
Brian, MSU's D is better than ND's right now, especially in the secondary. Like you said, though, a big turnover or special teams play could completely change everything. I love games like these, when every single play matters (not to sound too cliche).
With the move to the ACC and the agreement to place 5 ACC opponents on the schedule yearly, what teams will ND keep as yearly OOC oppenents, if you will? I'm thinking USC and Navy would be two we would keep, especially with our committment to Navy during WWII. Your thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
Matt, Navy, USC and Stanford aren't going anywhere. It wouldn't surprise me if the Big Ten rivalries would go on a rotating basis, though that remains to be seen.
Jeff (South Bend)
Hey Matt! Any idea why GAIII was not used on offense last week vs Purdue? ND struggles when their ground game struggles. Do you think we'll see a 2 or 3 back rotation this week to spark the run offense?
Matt Fortuna (2:20 PM)
Jeff, BK said after the game that Riddick is much further along in the slot receiving role that goes with that position, and he's right. ND needed a more dynamic threat against that Purdue rush D, one GA 3 probably isn't completely ready for just yet. I'd expect to see all three get carries this week, though Riddick will still get the most.
Tim (Syracuse, NY)
Matt, this is a BIG week for ND football. Two things, how well do you think ND's defense will be able to stop Michigan State's rushing attack? And what impact do you think Kelly's decision to pull Golson with the game on the line has on the young Quarterback going into this weekend?
Matt Fortuna (2:22 PM)
Tim, good questions. I think ND can keep MSU in check numbers-wise, but will MSU ride Bell like they did in Week 1? Is that healthy? The guy is capable of carrying it 40 times a game, and regardless of how much he gains, that just wears down a D. And you have to wonder about the confidence of a young QB getting yanked in that situation. I think he will bounce back, but this environment won't make it easy for him.
Steve (Buffalo, NY)
ND fans and the press have focused much on Golson's inability to manage the Purdue game well. ND took all of its timeouts before there was 10 minutes left in the game. But for Tommy Rees late entry into the game, I would think the story should be Golson throwing for over 300 yards and single handedly keeping ND's offense moving when the run game was non-existent. To me, his ability to manage the game, while important, takes a backseat to what he can do to help the offense move the ball against State's stingy offense. Your thoughts?
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Steve, valid points. But, frankly, the coaching staff not trusting Golson more than anyone else in that moment speaks louder than any comments media or fans will have. I think his ability to manage the game becomes heightened when you take into account the variables of this weekend's contest -- night, first road game, etc. But yes, he did many good things for just his second start and has a lot to build off going into Week 3.
Ryan (Portland, OR)
Matt, is there a particular individual match-up vs. MSU that think will be especially troubling for the Irish? GO IRISH, from PDX!
Matt Fortuna (2:26 PM)
Ryan, running the football, plain and simple.
The Irish showed once again their inability to close out an opponent, and by that I mean not being able to score or answer scores in the 4th quarter. Sure they technically closed it out by winning the game, obviously, but they had numerous chances to put Purdue away. Is this just conservative play calling on BK's part or do we just have to hand it to Purdue for making plays when they had to? Because I feel like I saw it a lot last year.
Matt Fortuna (2:30 PM)
Frankie, a little bit of both. Purdue played good enough to win, and probably does win if it punches it in from the goal line in the third quarter and plays its best QB the whole game. That being said, yes, ND's talent is too much for PU and that game should've been over sooner, but you can only ask so much from a new QB who loses his best weapon for much of the second half.
josh h. (kankakee il)
When do you think we'll be able to see what Carlisle can do in the backfield? I believe he was available last week, though I can see why we didn't use him as we were forced to throw a lot, but would he provide more of a downhill running ability than we have now?
Matt Fortuna (2:35 PM)
Josh, there is just too much talent in the backfield ahead of him now. They won't decided on it anytime soon, but a redshirt would not surprise me, which is too bad since he got a transfer exemption this year.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What were the reasons that led Notre Dame to join the ACC instead of the Big Ten, which is geographically closer, and has two established traditonal rivals already? I know remaining independent in football was probably the main reason, but what other factors came into play? And what sports will benefit the most (Lacrosse, WBB)?
Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM)
Tony, almost all of ND's sports will benefit. And yes, football independence is always the deciding factor. What's more? In the B1G ND could be relegated to just another Midwest power in a conference with plenty of them -- UM, OSU, Nebraska, etc. -- and will now play games from Florida up to Boston along the East Coast. Can't ask for a better deal than what ND got yesterday.
Andy G (Roswell, GA)
I was not booing Rees when he came in against Purdue, but I have to admit I was disappointed. I was disappointed not because of Rees' playcalling abilities or chances to get them the win (as he's 12-4 as a starter), but because I had to think this would be a big blow to Golson's confidence. It seems Kelly has committed to him being the qb of the future, so why pull Golson out on the most important drive when you know he's going to eventually have to do this sooner rather than later anyways?
Matt Fortuna (2:43 PM)
Andy, that's understandable. I think BK saw a game that ND couldn't afford to lose, not with this schedule, and went with what was closer to a sure thing. Are there possible long-term consequences? Certainly. We'll wait and see ...
Joe (Greenwich, CT)
Do you think ND's shift towards the ACC was already being contemplated when the Michigan-ND series was "temporarily" put on hiatus for the 2018 season?
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
Joe, let me put it this way: It wasn't an overnight decision.
Brian (Grand Rapids, MI)
What are the realistic chances Notre Dame can go undefeated? With USC, Stanford and Michigan not looking as strong as they did before the season began.
Matt Fortuna (2:45 PM)
Brian, greater than 0 and less than 5. ND is 2-0, against two far inferior opponents, talent-wise and has underachieved for years. We know nothing yet.
Matt Fortuna (2:45 PM)
that was percent*
MaryAnn (Jasper, FL)
Matty Ice! :) Any advantage for BK over Dantonio? BK did better at Cincy than Dantonio, and should have beat MSU two years ago. Then ND handled MSU last season. Seems like an edge there for the Irish? Thanks!
Matt Fortuna (2:49 PM)
MattyIce, that's a new one. But Dantonio has won 11 games two straight seasons with less talented players, worse facilities and at a school with less tradition. He has completely changed the culture of a program in a short period of time. Not taking anything away from BK and not saying ND doesn't present its own unique set of challenges, but there's no denying what Dantonio has accomplished.
Bell with only 70 yards on Central Michigan, and 250 on Boise, but thats with 50 touches (you're eventually going have big plays) Is Bell really a big factor? And CM's yrds per rush on spartys D was decent too.
Matt Fortuna (2:52 PM)
Chris, it's not the yards as much as the durability. That will wear a defense down and keep the ball away. ND needs to win first and second down here.
Tom (Mason, MI)
Hello Matt. So the Lansing State Journal did a focus piece on Tyler Eifert. Is he the biggest threat to my Spartans Saturday?
Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM)
Yes Tom. He is.
Tim (Ocala, Fl)
Hey Tuna, Are you still going to be covering the ND blog or are we going to have to turn else where for answers? After all the praise for our wide receivers during the fall camp, mainly for Goodman and others, where is it shoeing up on the field? Yes Golson had a good week last week But a third of the yards went to Eifert. Who in your opinion is going to step up and lead the charge for our receiving group?
Matt Fortuna (2:54 PM)
Tim, the unintended consequences of realignment -- my job security! Kidding. As for your question, Goodman's been banged up but did come up with the biggest catch of the day Saturday. Daniels got hurt too, but, depending on his health, I think will eventually emerge into the WR corps' biggest playmaker.
Matt Fortuna (2:54 PM)
Time for a few more ..
We beat them 31-13 last year, and I'd say we improved at QB while they declined at QB. What am I missing? Because for some reason I feel like we're going to lose...
Matt Fortuna (2:56 PM)
ND beat Purdue by 28 last year on the road and with that improved QB play eked out a 3-point win at home this year. MSU's D, home atmosphere, new QBs first real road test, uncertainties at the QB position ... just a lot of questions in this game, though MSU's offense certainly faces some as well. I expect a tight, low-scoring game that will hinge on a few plays.
Brad (Benton, KY)
Hey Matt-I understand that MSU has taken off a little since the middle of last season, but why would it be incorrect to assume that we would not win this game after what we did last year to them? They've lost Cousins and some receivers. I understand their D is good, but it's the same personnel as last year. What makes this year so much different?
Matt Fortuna (2:57 PM)
Brad, see my last answer. You have to also remember the state of mind of ND going into that -- 0-2 when they felt like they should've been 2-0. Frustrated beyond belief. They just unleashed it all that day. They also got a big play at the end from Blanton and MSU shot itself in the foot with some stupid calls, particularly that failed fake FG.
Brian (Cincinnati, OH)
It seems to me this game is much closer than the pundits are anticipating. MSU is much more reliant upon their running game than we are, and our defense is built to stop the run. If we succeed, will MSU ever get a touchdown?
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
MSU's the school that hasn't given up an offensive TD yet. And I have yet to see one pick that hasn't called for a close game. Also, as a Cincinnati guy who do you root for in this game?
Matt Fortuna (2:59 PM)
That's all from me today folks. Thanks for stopping by. Pumped for this weekend's game. Should be a good one. Enjoy.