Notre Dame (Saturday, vs. Purdue). Preseason talk about the Irish has dripped with optimism. Charismatic Brian Kelly has replaced Charlie Weis, quarterback Dayne Crist debuts as a starter in Kelly’s spread scheme, and a better-conditioned defense with a new scheme should slow opponents. “We’re stronger, and we’re going to play faster,” linebacker Manti Te’o. “There’s a completely different attitude this year.” Like Connecticut, Purdue’s talent matches up with ND. And the Boilers easily could spoil the momentum Kelly has built since December.
South Carolina (Thursday, vs. Southern Miss). Again this year, Steve Spurrier seems on the brink of lifting the Gamecocks to its first SEC East crown. But Southern Miss’ All-American-caliber playmaker DeAndre Brown will test the Gamecocks defense. And some quarterback — incumbent Stephen Garcia or freshman Connor Shaw — must stay consistent all fall.