The seventh of 14 storylines as we approach the 2014 football season...
You may not remember too well but we used to talk about the threat to Notre Dame's independence and conference upheaval all the time. Does it feel that long ago? Seemingly every conversation circled back to this issue.
Today, we're in the middle of a calm period that hopefully lasts for many years. Maryland and Rutgers are joining the Big Ten this fall (no really, this actually is happening) and the conference powers seem content with where they'e sitting. For now at least.
With some major issues up for debate across the country (player unions, cost of education, paying athletes, etc.) it would seem as though conference movement is poised to take a backseat for a while. For Notre Dame that means getting real comfortable with our new ACC brethren.
The ACC was founded as a conference prior to the 1953 season and consisted of Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wake Forest. South Carolina left the conference in 1971, while Georgia Tech was added in 1979 and Florida State in 1992. A raid of the former Big East occurred when Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004 with Boston College switching a year later. Last year, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse joined while Louisville comes on board this season and Maryland says "peace out."
Notre Dame's football arrangement means the Irish will play 5 ACC teams each season but will not be part of the conference's standings nor eligible for the league's championship game. However, the Irish will have access to the ACC bowl games and have their own separate arrangement with the Orange Bowl. For the 2013 season there will only be 4 teams from the ACC and in 2014 there will be 6 before settling into the 5 teams per year.
Now let's take a look at the 14 opponents in the ACC with some historical background on each program.
Boston College Eagles (13-9-0 Notre Dame)
Although the Eagles fall pretty low on the all-time games played against Notre Dame list, the school from Chestnut Hill is currently the only ACC program to have a rivalry trophy with the Irish. In fact, there are two such trophies in the Ireland Trophy and Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl. Notre Dame lost a string of 6 straight to the Eagles from 2001 to 2008 but have since won the last 4 matchups. Last year was the first time the teams didn't play each other since 2006. BC enters their second season under head coach Steve Addazio who went a solid 7-6 last year. Notre Dame will play the Eagles at Fenway Park in 2015 then travel to Memorial Stadium for the 2017 season.
Clemson Tigers (1-1-0 Tied Series)
We've only played the Tigers twice during a home-and-home series back in the late 1970's. Still considered an ACC football power the program is tied for the most league titles out of anyone although they've only won the conference once (2011) since Florida State joined. Clemson has won their division in three out of the last five years and they are 32-8 under head coach Dabo Swinney since 2011. The Irish travel to Clemson for the 2015 season.
Duke Blue Devils (3-1-0 Notre Dame)
Currently experiencing a renaissance under head coach David Cutcliffe, the Devils won 10 games for the first time in program history last season. Their 4 losses were also the fewest in 20 years. The Irish have only met Duke on the gridiron once in the color television era back in the unholy 2007 season. Notre Dame is scheduled to host Duke in South Bend during the 2016 season.
Florida State Seminoles (5-2-0 FSU)
The defending National Champions are on the schedule this year and are poised to make another run at a title in 2014. Since joining the ACC they have won the conference 14 times in 22 seasons. The Seminoles played in 8 major bowl games during the BCS era, as well. Although they lost the "Game of the Century" back in 1993 the Seminoles have done quite well against Notre Dame throughout history as they are the only ACC team with a winning record over the Irish.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (27-6-1 Notre Dame)
Notre Dame has a somewhat rich history with Georgia Tech but it is a series that died out in the early 1980's. Since the 1981 meeting we've only played each other 4 times and one of those games was the 1996 Gator Bowl. Despite not being a major player on the national scene the Yellow Jackets have been sneaky good in the ACC in recent years. They have 4 division titles since 2006 and won the conference outright in 2009. Former Navy head coach Paul Johnson enters his 7th season in Atlanta this year.
Louisville Cardinals (New Series!)
Notre Dame has never played Louisville in football and this year's matchup in South Bend will be the first. Bobby Petrino is back for his second stint with the Cards. During his first four years in Louisville he won a title in the Conference-USA and also in the Big East, winning the Orange Bowl in 2006. Obviously this will be the Cardinals' first season in a major conference but they've won at least 11 games on four separate occasions since 2001. In addition to this year's meeting in South Bend, the Irish are scheduled for a road game at Papa John's Stadium in 2017.
Miami Hurricanes (17-7-1 Notre Dame)
This series was briefly one of the best in the country but since a cooling off period following the 1990 matchup, the teams have only met twice and the magic just isn't there anymore. Although the school has 5 National Titles since 1983, they've yet to win the ACC since joining and have been in a funk for nearly a decade. The Hurricanes haven't won at least 10 games since 2003 and that's also the last time they've been to a major bowl game. The Irish are set to host Miami in South Bend for the 2016 season.
North Carolina (16-2-0 Notre Dame)
The Tar Heels can't quite shake themselves out of their run of average seasons. Since 2008 they've won either 7 or 8 games in every single season. The program hasn't won a conference title since 1980 and never made a major bowl during the BCS era. Although the series heavily favors Notre Dame, we did lose the last game against UNC on the road during the 2008 season. The Irish will host the Tar Heels this season.
North Carolina State Wolfpack (1-0-0 NC State)
We've only played the Pack once, and that was a giant thud of a game to finish the 2002 season in the Gator Bowl. NC State hasn't won the conference since 1979, and like UNC never made a major bowl during the BCS era. That 2002 season remains the high water mark for the school in modern times. Their 11 wins that year is still a school record. Dave Doern is the new head coach and enters his second season in Raleigh. Notre Dame will travel to NC State during the 2016 season.
Pittsburgh Panthers (47-21-1 Notre Dame)
Out of all the ACC opponents, Notre Dame has played Pitt the most by quite a fair margin. As part of the Big East from 1991 to 2012 the Panthers won the conference twice, going to the Fiesta Bowl in 2004. That remains their lone major bowl appearance in 30 years. Head coach Paul Chryst enters his third season with Pitt and upset the Irish last year. Notre Dame will play at Heinz Field in 2015.
Syracuse Orange (3-3-0 Tie)
The Irish play Syracuse this season at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Orange famously won the last meeting in 2008 and also won back in 2003. They were part of a 4-way tie as co-champions of the Big East in 2012 and also won the Big East 4 other times since 1996. Syracuse is entering their second year under head coach Scott Schafer who went 8-5 in 2013. Notre Dame is scheduled to play at the Carrier Dome for the 2016 season.
Virginia Cavaliers (1-0-0 Notre Dame)
The only meeting with UVA was to begin the 1989 season when the Irish defeated the Cavaliers 36-13 inside Giants Stadium. After a promising start (8-5 season in year two of his regime) Mike London fell off the map last year with a 2-10 record. Although recruiting well he's definitely on the hot seat. Virginia has never won the conference title outright and has been co-champions on two occasions. Their last major bowl game was following the 1991 season. The Irish are scheduled to play in Charlottesville in week two of 2015.
Virginia Tech Hokies (New Series!)
Another new football opponent for the Irish! Frank Beamer enters his 24th season as head coach of the program and has made it to 8 major bowl games and won the ACC 7 different times. However, a string of 8 straight double-digit win seasons was snapped a couple seasons ago. The Hokies are 15-11 over the past two years and are hoping not to slip too far from their perch atop the ACC. Notre Dame is scheduled to host Virginia Tech during the 2016 season.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0-0 Notre Dame)
We've played a home-and-home with Wake recently and those are the only matchups in history. The Deacons have won the ACC twice, most recently in 2006 when they made it to the Orange Bowl. Long-time head coach Jim Grobe resigned after last season following 13 years on campus. New head coach Dave Clawson comes from Bowling Green where he was head coach for 5 seasons. The Irish will play Wake in South Bend in 2015.