For a game this important, why limit ourselves to one Q&A? The excellent Notre Dame blog Subway Domer reached out to us for another round of questions and answers, and I was happy to answer the call. Here are my questions and his answers -- and here are his questions and my typically long-winded answers.
VOODOO: For our readers who aren't aware of what it means, what exactly is a "Subway Domer" and why do some people use it as a derogatory term?
SD: Notre Dame has a storied past, there is no question about that. However, it would seem unlikely that small, sectarian school in northern Indiana would ever rise to be the greatest program in the history of college football. There is one reason that is scarcely talked about: The Subway Alumni. Notre Dame was the underdog in the beginning of the 20th century, and even more to their detriment; they were Catholic. Those kind of undertones appealed to immigrants and Catholics throughout the country and in New York City in particular. In New York, they could listen to Notre Dame games on the radio, and the Notre Dame / Army series was a legendary series that was played in both the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium. The term, "Subway Alumni" came from the fanbase that Notre Dame developed in New York that represented a lot of different minority groups (mostly Irish and Italian Catholics). Since then, Subway Alumni is the phrase used to describe all Irish fans that have never attended the University. (And if you couldn't tell, "Subway" has a distinct NY feel to it.)
I'm not sure how derogatory any term has ever been used towards me or any other Subway Alum, but I can see why someone would be inclined to do so. However, these types of fanbases (Subway Alums) are present for every major program in the country. Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, and others have thousands of fans across the country.
(Note from Voodoo: That's pretty much all I had ever heard -- that "Subway Domer" was just another term for "bandwagoner." And we know all about those... just look for any UF fan around town who still wears jorts.)
VOODOO: Brian Kelly didn't have the smoothest first year, but the Irish started gelling in November and obviously dominated their bowl game. How are Irish fans feeling about him right now?
SD: Besides a few blowhards that will never be happy unless Notre Dame rushes the ball for 460 yards a game and is on a 7 year National Title streak; Brian Kelly can really do no wrong right now. Last year was not smooth, as you mentioned. The 1-3 start, getting beatdown by Stanford, losing to Navy, the tragic death of Declan Sullivan, losing to Tulsa, accusations from the Chicago Tribune about a player that allegedly sexually assaulted a girl, injuries to starters on both sides of the ball... yes, last season was more than a little rocky. However, it was the way the team played in November. The way they closed out the season and the bowl victory that cemented our trust in Kelly. Kelly has a plan, and until proven disastrous, WE TRUST IN KELLY.
VOODOO: That late-season push was powered by a power running game that Notre Dame hasn't had in eons. Do you expect that to continue into this season? Or with Dayne Crist back, will Kelly look to throw the ball more often like he seems to prefer?
SD: It really depends on how our personnel develops. Kelly has already stated that he knows to win at Notre Dame, we need to be able to run the ball effectively and play great defense. The running game wasn't setting the world on fire at the end of the season, but it was effective. I expect to see more of the same in 2011, but there will be times and games where Kelly may just open this thing up completely.
VOODOO: Something else that you all (or really anyone for that matter) haven't seen much in college football lately was Notre Dame's 3-4 defense. Where are the Irish strongest on defense, and where are their possible vulnerabilities?
SD:There does seem to be a small trend of teams moving towards the 3-4. I have my theories as to why, but I'll save you the social economic lecture for another date. Notre Dame's strength is at linebacker. Besides Manti Te'o, Notre Dame has a large stable of good linebackers. Joining Te'o on the starting unit is Darius Fleming (Cat / weakside OLB), Prince Shembo ( Dog / strongside OLB), and a combination of Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese at the spot opposite Te'o. This unit is big, fast, and dirty.
Unlike most years, there isn't a glaring weakness on the defense. In fact, it should be pretty damn good. However, I am still not sold at with the depth in the secondary . Harrison Smith is an All-American candidate but I'm not talking about him. Both Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta saw plenty of action last year- but neither could ever stay healthy. With the departure of CB Darrin Walls to the NFL, Robert Blanton (a former starter himself) slides into that CB spot opposite Gary Gray (also known as: G2 The Magnificent). The third corner is a big question. Lo Wood, Bennett Jackson, and a couple of freshmen in Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson could see time there, with Wood or Jackson (who made the switch to CB from WR this spring) being the front runners. We just don't know who will step up on the depth chart- and that is the scariest part.
VOODOO: Any newcomers we should keep our eyes open for?
SD: With this being the first game of the season, there isn't as big of a chance to see a freshman make a bunch of plays as there would be later down the road. However, Island Coast Florida native, Aaron Lynch (defensive end) is an exception. Lynch will play on obvious passing downs and could make a big impact as a natural pass rusher. Another name is Jacksonville Florida legend, Louis Nix (nose tackle). Nix won't start, but he play quite a bit in a rotation. BIG, BIG boy.
VOODOO: Finally, since this game involves Notre Dame, a Holtz, and a team from Florida, what was your favorite Irish win over a Florida team during the Lou Holtz era?
SD: It would be very easy for me to take the 1988 win over Miami that sprung us to a national title, or even the 1993 Game of the Century victory over Florida State that sprung Bobby Bowden and his entire group of crybabies to their National Title. Both of those games were in South Bend and saw ND as the #2 team and beating the #1 team.
However, the 1992 Sugar Bowl victory over Florida sticks out in my mind. ND was ranked #18 while Florida was ranked #3 and was supposed to straight up murder the Irish. They did not.
#18 Notre Dame vs. #3 Florida 1992 - Green Jerseys IV (via RocketShark)
Ah, the Cheerios Bowl. I've watched this video at least a dozen times because it's fun to watch the Gators lose. Every time Lou stalks the sideline high-fiving and tapping his head because someone made a smart play, I crack up laughing. That and backup kicker Kevin Pendergast, who couldn't weigh more than 140 and has to be wearing the smallest set of shoulder pads Notre Dame owned.
Thanks again to Subway Domer for helping us getting ready for the game.