After Notre Dame was upset by Pittsburgh, one of the newest ACC members, many were left jumping for joy. Many of these same people, will often comment that Notre Dame dodges a challenging schedule by refusing to join a conference. Below, I quickly dispel that myth.
De Facto Conference Schedule
For the indefinite future, five ACC teams will be included on every Notre Dame schedule. They will play each ACC team once every three years so they will not be able to avoid the top teams in the conference. For the sake of illustration, I which have included the ACC teams that they face next season:
- North Carolina
- Wake Forest
Add to those five games the three games Notre Dame has committed to playing every season:
- Southern California
These eight games compromise what is essentially their conference schedule. If we’re being objective, we come to the conclusion that such a de facto conference slate is tougher than the normal ACC conference schedule. Certainly the trios of Stanford, USC, and Navy are more often than not going to be tougher than three additional random ACC schools. So with those eight games, we have an amped up ACC-schedule, but there are still four de facto non-conference games. What could those look like?
De Facto Non-Conference Schedule
With their other four games, they’ll likely schedule one road game as is customary among other major programs (e.g., Clemson plays one non-conference road game this season–at SCar– and one non-conference road game next season–at UGA). With the remaining three games, they are likely to play two at home and one in a neutral site. Next season, they are playing Arizona State in Dallas. That means they will have six home games, five road games, and a neutral site game. Here are the type of teams they will be facing in their de facto non-conference slate.
- They’ll be sure to schedule one marquee matchup. Next year that’s Michigan, the following it is Texas: Michigan/Michigan State/Texas
- They work in one cupcake, though they’ll be much better than the cupcakes Clemson and FSU regularly schedule: Rice/Temple
- They’ll work in another team that they have historically played which may be just a level up from “Cupcake” or may be a decent squad like Northwestern: Purdue/Indiana/Air Force/Northwestern
- And finally, they will continue their Shamrock Series with one neutral site game: Arizona State/Washington State/Army
That’s not an insanely loaded non-conference schedule, but it’s more than most schools sign up for. You have no FCS schools and at least one, if not two major tests presented.
With a conference schedule that is tougher than the ACC (I’d say as tough as the SEC when Southern Cal is where they should be), plus a balanced and respectable out of conference schedule, nobody can claim that Notre Dame’s schedule is a breeze.