No. 10 Notre Dame will play its first game as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday when it takes on Duke at home, and that’s a big deal.
The Fighting Irish are usually among the handful of independent FBS teams and usually have several ACC games on their schedule. But they lost multiple opponents this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so for the 2020 season only, they’ll be the 15th team in the division-less ACC. They’ll be eligible for the conference championship game, and, should they win the conference title, they could go to the Orange Bowl, if not the College Football Playoff.
Dabo Swinney’s Clemson team — named No. 1 in the preseason poll and currently favored to win the national championship — has won the last five ACC championship games, and Notre Dame could challenge the Tigers and possibly snap that streak. But their head coach welcomes the Fighting Irish and actually wishes they’d be a “permanent member” in the conference.
During Swinney’s press conference Tuesday, he was asked if he’ll keep an eye on Notre Dame and check its scores each week (about the 12:15 mark). He explained:
“I sneak a look at everybody’s scores in our league, I really do. I’m happy that they’re in the league. Heck, I wish they were a permanent member in the league, to be honest with you. I think it’d be great. But Notre Dame is, obviously, one of the best programs in the history of college football.
“So I think, it’s, again, it’s a unique year. It’s a unique situation, and this year, we have no divisions. We have 15 teams. But every week, I always keep up with the ACC and what’s going on. So yeah, Typically I may not be checking on Notre Dame every week, but this year, certainly be paying a little closer attention because not only do we play them, but they’re in our league.”
Clemson opens the season against Wake Forest on Saturday and is scheduled to play Notre Dame on November 7 for a rematch of their 2018 College Football Playoff game.
The Fighting Irish already had six ACC games on their schedule, and they added Florida State, Syracuse, Boston College and North Carolina. The ACC is playing an 11-game schedule with 10 conference matchups and a single nonconference one, which has to be in the home state of the ACC school. Notre Dame’s nonconference game is against South Florida on September 19.