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December 27, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Matt Fortuna

Matt Fortuna
  (1:58 PM)

What's up, everyone? Hope the holidays have been treating you well and that you Midwesterners are enjoying the snow. Ready to talk some pigskin?

Zincman (New London)

Notre Dame has a rather long list of players who can apply for an additional year of eligibility. Who do you expect to return under those circumstances?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:03 PM)

Zack Martin already announced that he is coming back, and I think we can pencil in Chris Watt, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese among the fourth-year juniors returning, too, barring anything unforeseen (and assuming that they want to return). Tyler Eifert technically has a year left, but he's all but gone. Cierre Wood has yet to decide, but I'd be surprised if he returned, too. And I don't know if Jamoris Slaughter will be applying for a sixth year, or if he has much of a case for one, so we'll have to see how that plays out.

Matt-Pittsburgh Pa [via mobile]

Matt, who do you see starting at rb next yr if wood does indeed leave?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:05 PM)

Matt, I'd expect George Atkinson III to enter the spring as the main No. 1 guy, but I have a hard time envisioning him or anyone else on Notre Dame's roster getting 20-25 carries a game next season, given the Irish's depth and versatility at that position. Cam McDaniel is a returning back with experience, Amir Carlisle will be eligible and likely healthy, Will Mahone will have his redshirt come off and, of course, Greg Bryant will be stepping into the fold as a true freshman. Should be some good competition there.

Jim (Medicine Hat, Canada)

Was wondering about Jordan Prestwood. Is he still in School ? and/or does he stll plan on playing football?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:17 PM)

Sorry about that, will stay a few extra minutes to get in more questions. BK announced in fall camp that Prestwood had left the team for personal reasons. Not sure of his whereabouts right now, to be honest with you.

William Batson (Mishawaka, IN)

Hope you enjoyed your Christmas, Matt. I keep hearing how Alabama will rush all over us because they did it to Georgia, but they fail to realize that Georgia gave up 300+ rushing yards the two games previous to Alabama. I don't see Alabama rushing more than 100 yards on us. What are your thoughts on this, and do you agree or disagree?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:19 PM)

Thanks William. ND's rush defense is better than Georgia's, and it will not give up anywhere near 350 yards (or it will lose ... by a lot.) I do think Alabama breaks the century mark, though. The Tide's O-line and big backs are too good not to. I think the 150-200 range will be a good indicator of which direction this game goes for each side.

Ryan (Alabama)

In your video about which qb you would rather have, you incorrectly chose Golson. Other than potential, what has Golson did on the football field to warrant that? I mean, yes ND is undefeated but ND's defense, rb's, and schedule seem to have more to do with it than he does.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:21 PM)

Did not know an opinion could be incorrect, but thanks for helping me out there. And I said I'll take Golson's long-term potential over McCarron's, and that I'd rather have a mobile quarterback against either of these two defenses.

Miguel Guerra (Dominican Republic)

In the hollywood version of the MANTI T'EO Story, who do you think would play the principal characters? Kelly : Gandolfini. etc

Matt Fortuna
  (2:23 PM)

This question is too good for me to answer in one setting. Keep suggestions coming throughout the chat and in my mailbag, fans, and I'll try to run a list of suggestions in a later post. But I can't see Gandolfini as Kelly. Plenty of good Irish Boston actors out there. Help me out ...

Dom (NY)

To me Everett Golson is the X factor in this game. He has the ability to escape the pass rush and wear out Alabama with his legs. He has a cannon for an arm and I would think rolling him out and play action would be featured heavily in the ND playbook. On the flip side he is a freshman, playing in the biggest game of his life against a team that's been a juggernaut the last 4 years. Your thoughts?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:26 PM)

Dom, I'd say he's a little more than an X-factor. I don't think he'll be mentally rattled though, seeing as he has performed well on big stages away from home this season. I do think he has to be careful with picking his spots against this defense, though, as he can't take too many big hits.

Trey (Dallas, Tx)

How do people seriously think Bama will be able to explode offensively when a)ND hasnt really allowed ANY team to do that, B)ND has a habit of holding teams to severely less than their scoring averages and C)Both teams run grind-it-out offenses? IMHO, this is shaping up to be a 17-13 game at best.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:27 PM)

Agree, but I can't say I've seen anyone predict Bama (or either team) to explode offensively.

Hank (West Point, GA)

Is Bama really vulnerable to the pass, or was A&M loss just a fluke?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:30 PM)

Hank, I wouldn't say they are vulnerable against the pass, and I wouldn't say that loss was a fluke. The Tide are No. 5 nationally in pass defense and No. 8 in pass efficiency D, so we're talking about VERY relative points here, as opposed to their front-7, which is No. 1 nationally against the run. As for the loss to the Aggies, I think Johnny Football and Co. just did an excellent job of pouncing early on a team that was emotionally and physically taxed from its biggest win of the season a week before against LSU.

David (Scranton, PA)

Hi Matt ? With almost all national sports pundits predicting Alabama to beat ND, and with ND as a 9 point underdog in Vegas, what reaction have you seen from the coaches or players to these predictions? Is the team using the ?disrespect card? as extra motivation? I also heard comments that Alabama is ?preparing to win? in Miami, while ND is ?just happy to be there?. Do you see any evidence of that from ND?s perspective? Thanks.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:32 PM)

It's been the same story all year with ND. I suppose if someone tells you every single day that you're not good enough, that can have some kind of effect on you. But this is the national title game. None of that noise matters. It's not like either team is going to prepare more or less based on Vegas odds or bettors. It makes for fun talk but it doesn't really matter when the ball is kicked off.

Andy C (Jeffersonville, IN)

When does/did ND arrive in South Florida?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:32 PM)

Late afternoon January 2nd ... a couple hours after yours truly.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:33 PM)

And yes, I realize I just set myself up for a massive flight delay. Apologies in advance to anyone else on my scheduled flight.

steve (ks)

do you remember in august when U thought this team would be lucky to win 9 games? Just an honest question

Matt Fortuna
  (2:34 PM)

Yes, I do. Do you go into the chat of every single writer who said the same thing? Just an honest question.

Greg (Herndon, VA)

I'm sure people like KeiVarae Russell and Benett Jackson are thrilled to have played such a significant part for ND this year, but do you think they are happy to stay on Defense for 3 more years or do you think that they will eventually press to get back on Offense?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:36 PM)

I doubt it, Greg. Both are having fantastic first years starting back there, and things will only get better for them. Part of what makes this team great this year is that it is better than the sum of its part, which means guys like them who are willing to move around and work extra to master new tasks. That being said, a couple injuries could always change everything.

Sergio Zelaya (Waukegan, IL)

Hey Matt, I'm a big fan of Notre Dame. Also, I was wondering, why is it that Notre Dame will play Alabama January 7? Why could it not be earlier?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:36 PM)

Because my birthday is Jan. 7, obviously.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:37 PM)

To get to your question, though, it is tough to wait around for 5-6 weeks for the biggest game of the year. I think most people can agree with that. It's the way it's always been, though it will change slightly following the 2014 regular season, when the four-team playoff kicks into effect.

Brad (Stilson, GA)

Do you think the Irish could possibly fall into the same trap Oregon did against Auburn ain the BCS title game by trying to fool Bama by opening up with the pass instead of going with their strength i.e. the run?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:40 PM)

Eh, don't think I'd call it much of a trap, seeing as though Alabama ran that formula to perfection last year with AJ McCarron against LSU. McCarron notched MVP honors that game, which says a lot when you have Trent Richardson running behind you. I wouldn't be surprised by anything the Irish do this game, as the offense has continued to grow throughout the season.

Colin (Michigan)

Hey Tuna, thanks again for the chat. What are your thoughts on the "unofficial" t-shirts that ND has come out with regarding Alabama? I personally think people are overreacting, but I'd like to hear your thoughts

Matt Fortuna
  (2:42 PM)

I'd ask which ones ... but I'd probably get a dozen different answers. Just college football fans being college football fans, I guess, though ND fans generally like to think of themselves as a higher class of fan. (And shouldn't let the actions of a few define them as whole.)

Joe (Cleveland, OH)

Manti has to be played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, no? BK = Alec Baldwin? The sure lock has to be the Cedric the Entertainer as our favorite Santa, the big man in the middle, the lovable Irish Chocolate. Question: Should Irish fans lament a loss or should they just be happy with the progress and future of this program?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:43 PM)

If it's a winnable game and they lose it, then yes, fans should be upset, though they should also be able to look back at the big picture years from now. As for your suggestions, not bad, though I'm thinking we can still do better on BK. Manti said earlier this year that the Rock was one of his favorite wrestlers growing up.

Ted (Where Holtz and Rudy dare to tread)

Matt - this team was lucky to win many of their games - I agree. Stanford comes to mind immediately. Not sure if it was luck or location, but this team, as Ted Miller said, "Dodged quite a few rain drops". Who holds the most water when it comes to getting the breaks? Bama in Tuscaloosa or the Irish in South Bend?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:46 PM)

If you ask each side you'll get a different answer. I will say that ND built up a good amount of favors with the football gods over the last year or 24 given the bad breaks it had endured, particularly last year's comedy of errors. Alabama? Let's not forget that this is a team that lost midseason games this year and last year, only to see other teams fall in front of it and THEN be picked for the title game ahead of other one-loss teams. Last year especially was a big break, considering the Tide didn't even win their conference. (None of this is meant to overlook the bounces that have fallen ND's way this year, either, but to point out how these things work out everywhere, all the time.)

steve (ks)

No, Just the ones who seem to always be wrong,(weren't you in the big 10 once) open your eyes my friend, and please think b4 you speak IRISH FOOTBALL, like I said it's not the big 10!

Matt Fortuna
  (2:49 PM)

Always wrong? Go back and look at my preseason predictions, since four out of five were on the money: http://espn.go.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/64132/preseason-predictionsAnd considering the Notre Dame athletic director himself said this team succeeded a year ahead of schedule, I'd say a lot of us are "always wrong."

Dave (Nashville)

For BK: Kevin James, Sean Astin (Rudy), Ben Affleck

Matt Fortuna
  (2:51 PM)

Sean Astin's probably the best of that bunch, but it just wouldn't work given how everyone already associates him with another ND movie. I actually think Ben Affleck could work. Or Matt Damon if he aged a little.

Colin (Michigan)

Will there be any issues regarding certain players being unable to make the trip to Miami?(I.E. Gunner Kiel not making the trip to Norman for the OU game)

Matt Fortuna
  (2:52 PM)

It's my understanding that everyone gets to go. Whether anything changes between now and the trip (academics, discipline, etc.) remains to be seen, though I haven't heard anything.

Ted (Hollywood)

Matty, baby, this script is gold. Let's get the right pieces in place and do lunch, I can get us into The Ivy. Manti - The Rock, BK - Dustin Hoffman (plastic surgery required), Golston - Jamie Foxx. Here's my question: ND Fans have a unique ability to get under my skin, says a lot since I can tolerate Eagles fans. How are they so good at it? Elitist mentality? Delusions of granduer? Rudy?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:55 PM)

Not sure I see eye to eye with any of those characters other than the Rock. And ND fans think their school is the best thing in the world -- which makes them like every college football fan ever. Though I will say ND fans are MUCH friendlier than any other fanbase I have come across. (And, of course, much more educated.) As for the Eagles ... I'm a Giants fan, so you touched a nerve there.

Joe (Cleveland, OH)

I got it! (A younger looking) Martin Sheen!!!

Matt Fortuna
  (2:56 PM)

Perfect.

Grant (South Bend, IN)

Matt, do you always have to deal with haters and know-it-alls on chats like these, or are people particularly bitten with the humbug spirit today? For the BK movie: What about Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Matt Fortuna
  (2:57 PM)

Would take one good acting job -- and I mean better than his Academy Award winning effort in Capote. (That voice still hurts to hear.)

zak (mishawaka)

Considering 8 starters are coming back on defense next year, do you see them being about as effective as a unit as this year.

Matt Fortuna
  (2:59 PM)

Zak, I think they have the potential to be, given the talent and depth that will be back. But I'm not sure you can really quantify the value of a leader and presence like Te'o until you see the difference when he's gone. All it takes for a unit to collapse is one bad apple. There were none this year. And I'm not saying there will be next year, but you never know. And having a guy like Manti to keep everyone in line ensures that problems get dealt with early.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:00 PM)

Have time for a few more, gang.

Tom (Chicago)

Great predictions, Tuna! Any word on what Aaron Lynch will be doing on January 7? Rumors out there that he regrets his decision to leave.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:01 PM)

No idea, though the fact he transferred from a school that went to the national title game without him ... and saw his new HC get fired before he even played a down there, well ... I doubt he's the happiest camper in the world.

Tom (Chicago)

For Bob Diaco, you have to go with Ray Liotta.

Matt Fortuna
  (3:03 PM)

Definitely in his younger days. Could see a young Joe Pesci if he didn't have that voice, or a shorter Jon Hamm if he played a more energetic Don Draper.

paul (pgh pa)

do you think ga3 would be a better receiver than running back?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:05 PM)

Paul, tough to say since I haven't really seen much of his hands. I do think if he can master that part of the slot role down that he could become the perfect fit for this offense, given the dual-threat role they expect most of those guys to have.

Justin (San Diego)

If the Irish win the title should they immediately fire Kelly so that we will be ready to win the title in 2016 in the new head coaches 3rd year?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:06 PM)

Do you give him a statue before firing him. Or does that come after?

Matt Fortuna
  (3:06 PM)

With that, folks, I'm out of here. Safe travels to those of you making the trip next week. I'm sure looking forward to that weather. Have a good one. And keep the actor suggestions coming.