ND's 2012 opponents, Week 7: BYU

Week 7: Oct. 20 vs. BYU (at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.)

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Series: Notre Dame leads all-time, 4-2

2011 record: 10-3

Head coach: Bronco Mendenhall (66-24, seven years)

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Riley Nelson, RB Zed Mendenhall, WR Cody Hoffman, TE Austin Holt, LG Braden Hansen, C Houston Reynolds, RT Braden Brown, DE Eathyn Manumaleuna, NT Romney Fuga, LB Uona Kaveinga, LB Brandon Ogletree, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Preston Hadley, S Daniel Sorensen

Key losses

QB Jake Heaps, RB J.J. Di Luigi, WR McKay Jacobson, LT Matt Reynolds, OL Terence Brown, DT Hebron Fangupo, LB Jordan Pendelton, CB Corby Eason, S Travis Uale

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: J.J. Di Luigi (584 yards)

Passing: Riley Nelson* (1,717 yards)

Receiving: Cody Hoffman* (943 yards)

Tackles: Brandon Ogletree* (76)

Sacks: Kyle Van Noy* (7)

Interceptions: Kyle Van Noy* and Travis Uale (3)

Three questions for ... College football nation blogger Andrea Adelson:

Simply, how good is Riley Nelson?

Andrea Adelson: Truthfully, I think everybody is waiting to find out. Nelson has had a really strange ride at BYU. He was a co-starter in 2010 and then hurt his shoulder, sending him to the sideline for the rest of the year. He was not given a chance to win the starting quarterback job in 2011. But when Jake Heaps struggled, BYU turned to Nelson to spark its season. Now he goes into the year as the unquestioned starter and leader of this team. He does not fit your typical BYU quarterback mold, because he can run with the football. He is not going to sit in the pocket and chuck it. But BYU wants him to try to limit some of his scrambling out of the pocket to focus more on the passing game, especially so he avoids taking so many hits. BYU traditionally does very well with a senior starting quarterback, so I think expectations are high for Nelson to have an outstanding season.

Bronco Mendenhall has been vocal about how good this year's defense can be. What potential holes are there, if any, that Notre Dame will be able to exploit?

AA: I think BYU has a terrific set of linebackers, and I think they are all really underrated. Watch out for Kyle Van Noy, who always seems to make big plays around the ball. He finished second on the team in tackles, right behind another linebacker, Brandon Ogletree. If there is one area of concern, it could be in the secondary, where the team loses Travis Uale and Corby Eason. Both were really solid players for the Cougars. I know Notre Dame likes to throw and spread the ball around, so the Irish may have the chance to exploit this area of the defense.

What's the significance to BYU of the renewed rivalry with Notre Dame, especially now that the Cougars are independent?

AA: It is huge for BYU, which fashions itself as the Notre Dame of the West. I think having Notre Dame on the schedule lends credibility to BYU as it forges its way into independence. Make no mistake, BYU has paid close attention to how Notre Dame has built its brand and gone it alone. Notre Dame was heavily consulted before BYU made the decision to leave the Mountain West. With so few teams willing to put a tough team like the Cougars on the schedule, I think it is huge for the Irish to agree to play them.