While there is plenty of optimism surrounding Notre Dame football heading into this season, the Irish can't overlook their Week 1 opponent.
Skip Holtz leads his South Florida Bulls into South Bend today with a real chance to start Notre Dame's 2011 season off on a sour note.
The USF defense is athletic enough across the board to give Notre Dame's offense some problems, and B.J. Daniels is exactly the type of player that terrorized the Irish last season.
Against Michigan and Navy, Notre Dame had big issues guarding against the quarterback run. It is absolutely essential that Bob Diaco resolves those issues for this match up.
All that said, the Irish have the advantage today.
Dayne Crist is healthy and leads an offense overflowing with weapons. The quartet of Michael Floyd, Theo Riddick, T.J. Jones and Tyler Eifert gives Notre Dame one of the best groups of pass-catchers in the nation. Once Crist gets a rhythm going, the Irish should have no trouble putting up some points.
Manti Te'o leads a bruising defense that built confidence down the stretch run last season. If Te'o can corral Daniels, Notre Dame will be able to stifle South Florida's attack.
All in all, this will be a good test to start Brian Kelly's second season, but look for the Irish to pull away late and emerge victorious.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38 South Florida 20
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