It's Christmas come early for college football fans as the opening kickoff quickly approaches.
And for the Irish faithful, after tallying off four straight wins in convincing fashion to conclude the 2010 season, the countdown to September 3 began on New Year's Eve several months ago.
While most college football powerhouses are preoccupied with cupcake squads from the FCS (with a few exceptions the past few seasons), Notre Dame squares off against a tough USF team coming off an 8-5 season, and led by junior quarterback B.J. Daniels, one of the most experienced signal callers in the Big East Conference.
The Irish have several notable playmakers of their own on both offense and defense heading into the 2011 season. Senior quarterback Dayne Crist leads the Irish offense after suffering a season-ending knee injury for the second straight season, and will have one of the best receivers in all of college football as his primary target in senior wideout Michael Floyd. Junior linebacker Manti Te'o also returns to South Bend this fall after recording a team-high 133 tackles last season.
Many football pundits are predicting how the Irish will fare over the course of the season, and these same experts are intrigued by the first game of the season on Notre Dame's schedule.
To add to the already prevalent speculation, here's a breakdown of the Notre Dame matchup against USF, and which team has an advantage at each position...