Football-independent Notre Dame in a conference title game? That actually could be a thing in 2020.
Since 2014, Notre Dame football and the ACC have had a scheduling relationship that sees the Fighting Irish face at least five teams from that conference each season. In 2017, the two sides released future schedules through the 2037 season. The university is also an ACC member in other sports as well. So, yes, there is an extensive relationship between the two.
This week, the ACC is expected to finalize its plans — or, at least, its next step — for fall sports, including football. According to Stadium.com‘s Brett McMurphy, the top scheduling model the conference is considering is 10 league games plus one non-conference game. That would open the door for rivalries such as Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia Tech-Georgia to be played.
McMurphy also notes, though, that “[i]n this format if Notre Dame plays 10 ACC teams, results would count in ACC standings.” And, according to David Teel of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Notre Dame would be eligible for a spot in the ACC championship game. According to the former report, it’s unclear if the Fighting Irish could earn the ACC’s Orange Bowl bid as that conference’s champion if they
knock off Clemson win the league title.
All of this is pending the approval of the conference’s presidents and chancellors, of course.
Notre Dame has never played in a conference championship game since it began playing the sport way back in 1887. Why? Because the Fighting Irish have been a football independent for every one of those 133 seasons.
Because of the decisions by the Big Ten and Pac-12 to go to a schedule that consists only of conference games, Notre Dame has already seen three of its 12 regular-season games canceled (Wisconsin, Stanford, USC). Six of their 2020 games, though, are already with teams from the ACC: Wake Forest, Pitt, Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville. They also have a game against an SEC foe in Arkansas.
Notre Dame was scheduled to open the 2020 season against Navy in Ireland Aug. 29. However, that rivalry matchup has been moved to Annapolis and will be played either Sept. 5 or Sept. 6. Under the reported ACC schedule model, that rivalry game would be able to take place.