Honorable mention: Nevada, if it wasn't Nevada the first game of the season would be on the actual list. I'm having a tough time forgetting the San Diego State game from last year but I'm still trying to quell expectations of a blow out, as you can see in the prediction thread on the message board.
#5: Boston College Oct. 24th. The Mark Herzlich cancer story makes it harder to hate BC, but they somehow beat an evenly matched Irish team last year 17-0. This is a game that could serve as a barometer as to how good the Irish are following what should be a battle with SC (more on that later).
#4: Michigan Sept, 12th. I don't expect much from Wolvey this year, I have a sneaking suspicion that Western is going to beat them. I have a hatred for the team from Ann Arbor that is unmatched for any team in college football and I look forward to this game every year. Without a coach in Ann Arbor I think the Irish romp and the calls for RichRod of Death's head picks up even more. Plus, I'll be on a pseudo camping trip with a bunch of friends with most of them rooting for U of M.
#3: Stanford Nov. 28th. This could be the game that stands between the Irish and a BCS game. Jim Harbaugh the former Wolvey QB who I believe has been disowned by his college for calling out the fact that some athletes have bad degrees (never mind that any degree from U of M is a pretty good degree). I expect an improved Stanford team and an improved Irish team to battle it out much like in Charlie's first year.
#2: Michigan State Sept. 19th. Another home state team, but this is one I root for on occasion. Most of my friends went to State and the first Notre Dame game I went to was at Spartan Stadium. It's about time Notre Dame wins at home against Sparty and Charlie backs up the talk of never losing to MSU again. Without Hoyer and Ringer Sparty has to much to replace this early in the year.
#1: USC Oct. 17th. The game that tells us how good the Irish actually are. A team that has thrashed the Irish for three years in a row and Pete has only lost to the Irish once. This is the year to jump on a freshman QB (if he's still starting at that point) and a mostly new defense. This is the game that Charlie needs to be able to point to from a competitiveness stand point to keep his job. See Lloyd Carr versus Ohio State.
5.Stanford - For me this is political. I despise Stanford. I will not forget the anti-Catholic stuff the band did nor how liberal the school is. I also am sick of the ND administration saying they are an "aspirational peer"!
4.Pittsburgh - We had them beat, 17-0, last season and let it slip away. The Panthers are a quality team on paper. A win on the road would be a big win.
3.Michigan State - They have beaten us in 6 straight at Notre Dame Stadium. A win would be a huge step for this season.
2.Michigan - True, Michigan might still be rebuilding. But, this is a rivalry game. to win on the road at the "Big House" would be a big win.
1.USC - We have been smoked three games in a row by 31 points each. This game, should we win, would announce that the Fighting Irish are back.
1. Nevada (the season begins!)
2. Michigan (the only team I hate more than USC)
3. Mich. State (haven't quite gotten over planting the flag...)
4. USC (no explanation needed)
5. Boston College (it's time to put Little Brother in his place)
I should be live tweeting during most Irish games so feel free to follow me.