As we’ve discussed countless times before, the ACC wants Notre Dame to join up (bringing either Rutgers or Connecticut with them). But, what hasn’t been talked of as much is Notre Dame’s own desire to join the league, independent of the standing invite. Sure, the Irish have repeatedly stated they “value their independence in football,” but realistically, how many years do we have until they’re forced to join a conference? Once Pittsburgh and Syracuse join the ACC, the league will move to a nine-game league schedule. All five of the other “BCS conferences” have either discussed making similar moves, or have already done so. Given that, with just three slots available for the types of schools ND prefers scheduling, how are they supposed to fill out that schedule? And even more importantly (for them), how can they maintain their respective AQ status as an independent (and lucrative TV deal) when half their slate consists of lower-rung FBS squads by 2015? Here’s where a full-time membership in a conference comes in, and believe it or not, the Irish may already be well on their way.
Take a look at Notre Dame’s schedules from 2008 to 2012, and how many ACC teams have been included:
2011: Four (Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Maryland, Boston College)
2010: Two (Boston College, Pittsburgh)
2009: Two (Boston College, Piittsburgh)
2008: Four (North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse)
As for future schedules, the Fighting Irish have Pitt locked in on a yearly basis, with typical smatterings of Miami, BC, Syracuse and Wake Forest. With one-third of their schedule already ACC-centric, why not just add four more games? They’re virtually an associate member already. Plus, with Pitt and BC in the conference already, that’s two games they won’t have to worry about protecting. With their three remaining games, give them to USC, Navy and rotate the last game out. Yes, the Irish would be hard-pressed to give up yearly tilts with Stanford, Michigan State, Michigan and Purdue, but they could rotate that last date with the Spartans and Wolverines easily. Think that schedule’s too difficult? Based on preseason rankings, the Irish face off with four top-10 squads, along with another top-25 team in Stanford and fringe squad BYU as it stands in 2012. So is that really all that much different from a nine-game ACC schedule that also tacked on USC and MSU/UM? Probably not.
Of course, this piece isn’t based much in any rumors right now, rather just an interesting take on scheduling, and how it could inherently relate to conference expansion. Don’t agree? Gripe ’till your heart’s content below.
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