This is the second successive year the two sides will open their Six Nations campaigns against one another - Ireland winning 29-11 last time out.
But O'Driscoll admits he is wary of the Italians threat and hopes Declan Kidney's troops can delay the inevitable for at least one more year.
"At some stage they're likely to beat Ireland in a Six Nations game - I just don't want it to be this year," said the Ireland captain. "They've definitely improved from my earliest memories.
"Teams give them the same respect as back then but it's a different type of respect, it's a realisation that genuinely if you don't play properly for 80 minutes against them they can turn you over.
"In the past definitely you felt as though you might have the upper hand in the last quarter of the game and if you keep ahead of them you could pull away in that section of the game but it definitely hasn't been the case in the last couple of years.
"They've managed to stay with teams an awful lot longer and they've been hugely impressive.
"I think the physical aspect they have to their game and they're also able to throw it around a bit and looking at some of the clips from their games from the November series they played some rugby too and put teams like Australia under pressure at times."