Notre Dame second-half preview

Notre Dame's first half has gone as well as anyone around the program could have hoped. What awaits?

Bold prediction: Manti Te'o gets invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation but does not win the award. It is just too difficult for a defense-only player to pull this off, given history and voters' natural inclinations. But Te'o's work with the Irish will not go unnoticed, and by leading the team to a BCS-bowl bid, he will stay in the spotlight and earn enough votes to keep it close.

Looking forward to: Aside from seeing whether this team can run the table? How about the quarterbacks? It's a story that has not gone away since the beginning of last season, really, and I don't expect it to anytime soon, not with an inconsistent young starter and an absolute gamer behind him who is ready to go at any minute.

Top three games:

At Oklahoma, Oct. 27: This one could decide it all. The Sooners have looked outstanding in their past two games, and if the Irish can get past them, it is hard to envision anything but an 11-0 squad going to USC for the regular-season finale.

Versus Pitt, Nov. 3: This one can't be any uglier than last year's, right? The Panthers might be the nation's most enigmatic team. And while the Irish will be heavily favored, they will be coming off the high or low of their Oklahoma trip, with Pitt looking to take advantage and make things interesting.

At USC, Nov. 24: Need I say more? If Notre Dame is 11-0 ... heck, if USC is 10-1 ... bottom line: This is a game between archrivals with a lot on the line -- the Irish likely playing for a BCS-bowl berth or possible national title game spot; the Trojans likely for a berth in the following week's Pac-12 title game, if not more.