The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has made their decision about college football this fall. On Wednesday it was announced that if the season does begin, games will start the week of September 7th. ACC teams plus Notre Dame will play 11 games, consisting of 10 conference opponents and one nonconference game against an opponent that resides in the home state of league members. There will also only be one division.
No, you did not read that incorrectly, it said ACC teams plus Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish will be considered part of the conference for the 2020 season and will be eligible to compete in the ACC Championship Game as a temporary 15th member of the conference. That title game will be held in the second week of December in Charlotte, NC.
Here is everything you need to know about the new ACC plan.
A Better Season
I have been saying for a month now on the weekly ‘College Football Impact’ show that the 2020 season could be the most interesting one we have seen in the CFP era. Teams will have to get through 10 conference opponents to get to the championship game, as opposed to the traditional 8 games. Take Clemson for example, instead of filling out their schedule with 8 ACC opponents and adding Akron, Citadel and South Carolina, they will now play Miami, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. The schedule gets much harder for every team and while they have traditionally added these non-conference opponents to boost their chances to be bowl-eligible, that is not the case anymore. Every week is important and every game counts. There will only be one division, so the two teams that finish with the best record will make the title game. It is possible that you could have a 2 or 3 loss team playing for the ACC crown.
A Fighting Irish Chance
What does this mean for Notre Dame? As my College Football Impact co-host Adam Palazio likes to say, “It’s time to sh*t, or get off the pot!” What I mean by this, is Notre Dame has never had to worry about conference standings, and because of that, have never been second place to anyone. Sure, there are the CFP standings, but this is different. If Notre Dame finishes 8th in the playoff race, that is still a very good season, but if they finish 3rd in the ACC, that would be a very disappointing one. Previously, Notre Dame was only able to make the CFP as a 12-0 undefeated team. Now, they might be able to lose a game or two and still make it if they win the conference championship. They have a chance to come into the ACC, win the title and represent in the playoffs, however they could also lose a few games, miss the conference title game and then go back to be an Independent. It is Notre Dame’s biggest opportunity to prove they are an elite college football University.
ACC Wins with Notre Dame
One of the reasons why Notre Dame has continued on as an Independent in college football is because of their NBC television deal for home games, one of the richest in all of sports netting an annual revenue of $15 million. The school has not seen the need to join a conference when they make more money than any other University off of their television rights. Now, they will share that revenue, along with any other ACC generated television revenue, with the other 14 teams. Easy math, every University gets $1 million just from NBC. Depending on where you live in the country, it is not easy to find an ACC game on television. Now, it gets a lot easier. Also, Notre Dame replaces televised home games with Arkansas, Western Michigan and Stanford with Louisville, Syracuse and Florida State.
Marquee Games Added
Yes, we are going to miss out on Auburn vs North Carolina. We won’t be able to see Notre Dame vs USC. The Florida State and Boise State rematch is no more. But what we are getting may just be better. New games to the 2020 slate now include Clemson vs Miami, Florida State vs Virginia, UNC vs Notre Dame and Virginia Tech vs Clemson.
Out of Conference Dance Partners
One very interesting announcement lost in all of this is the addition of one nonconference game against an opponent that resides in the home state of league members. For some Universities, this means the opportunity to keep some rivalries alive. The SEC has not yet announced their decision on the 2020 schedule and rumor has it they may only want to play conference games, which would put Florida State vs Florida, Clemson vs South Carolina and Georgia Tech vs Georgia in jeopardy. For some schools that have their rivalries out of state, and no other big D-1 school in their footprint, things could get really interesting. Take Boston College for example, their options are limited to UMass and Holy Cross. Seeing that they have to go through the ACC gauntlet already, they may just have a smile on their face at Chestnut Hill knowing they get an easier opponent. For Notre Dame, this means their options are limited to Indiana University, Ball State and Purdue.
Where this gets tricky is in a state like North Carolina. They have 4 teams in the ACC and only Appalachian State University would pique the interest as a legitimate opponent. Here are what some out of conference games would look like, and aside from the traditional rivalry games we might be able to keep if the SEC allows, these games seem more like what we are used to with out of conference games being one sided.
Clemson vs. South Carolina (otherwise it would be Citadel or Wofford)
Florida State vs Florida (otherwise it would be Florida A&M or FAU)
Louisville vs Kentucky (otherwise it would be Western Kentucky)
North Carolina State vs Charlotte
Wake Forest vs. East Carolina
Boston College vs UMass
Syracuse vs Army
North Carolina vs. Appalachian State
Miami vs FIU (Miami lost to FIU last season)
Virginia Tech vs James Madison
Pittsburgh vs Penn State
Virginia vs Liberty
Duke vs North Carolina AT&T
Georgia Tech vs Georgia (otherwise it would be Georgia Southern)
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