The Notre Dame Fighting Irish announced in 2012 that their football program would begin playing five ACC schools per year, starting in 2014.
The move was made amid the chaos of conference realignment, as Notre Dame sought to retain its independence while providing an avenue to continue to compete for National Championships. Notre Dame secured access to the Orange Bowl and non-New Year’s Six bowl games.
Athletics Director Jack Swarbick made out as well as could have been hoped for with the move. Notre Dame was able to hold onto its independence, as well as found a home for most of its other athletics programs. Notre Dame and the ACC agreed in 2017 to extend their agreement through 2037, thus ensuring stability for the football program for the foreseeable future. As Notre Dame enters year six of the agreement, it’s time to take a look back at the Irish track record against ACC opponents.
Since 2014, Notre Dame holds an 18-7 record against ACC foes. The past two seasons have been especially kind to the Irish as Notre Dame went 9-1 against the ACC, excluding the College Football Playoff semifinal against Clemson.
Breaking down the 25 games against the ACC reveals several trends.
Notre Dame is a force at home, possessing an 8-3 record against ACC opponents since 2014. Notre Dame has performed well in its neutral site games on the East Coast, holding a 4-0 record in these contests. Of note, is that three of the games were played against the Syracuse Orange — two at MetLife Stadium and one at Yankee Stadium. Notre Dame has been an average team on the road, going 6-4 against the ACC since 2014. Notre Dame does own a 4-3 record against ranked ACC teams since 2014.
Brian Kelly has led the Irish to a 3-3 record in night games against the ACC. Unfortunately, Notre Dame is 1-3 against ranked opponents during night contests.
All three losses should still send the blood pressure of Irish fans through the roof.
In 2014, the #2 ranked Florida State Seminoles hosted the fifth ranked Irish. Notre Dame held a 17-10 lead at halftime as the Irish looked to halt Florida State’s 22-game winning streak. Unfortunately, Jameis Winston drove the Seminoles 75 yards in 10 plays to put them up 31-27 in the middle of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame fans will remember the game for the controversial offensive pass interference call at the end of the game. Everett Golson found Corey Robinson for a 2 yard pass for what would have been the game winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. However, Notre Dame was flagged for pass interference, negating the touchdown. The game ended on a 17 yard desperation heave to the end zone by Golson that resulted in a Florida State interception as time expired.
The spotlight was again on Notre Dame in 2015 as they traveled to Death Valley for the first time since 1977 to take on the Clemson Tigers.
Notre Dame came into the game ranked #6 in the country and unbeaten, while Clemson also carried in an unblemished record and the #12 ranking in the country.
The game took place during a driving rainstorm in October. Clemson jumped out to a 21-3 lead through three quarters. Notre Dame mounted a furious rally in the final frame by scoring 19 points. After a 1-yard touchdown reception by Torii Hunter Jr. with seven seconds remaining, the Irish pulled to within two at 24-22. The rally fell short when DeShone Kizer’s 2-point conversion attempt was stuffed by Carlos Watkins.
Not much needs to be written about the 2017 debacle against the Miami-Florida Hurricanes. To sum it up, Brandon Wimbush and company all looked like deer in headlights and acted as though they had never set foot on a college football field before.
Last season, the Fighting Irish scored their first road victory at night against an ACC opponent by defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies in hostile Lane Stadium. This was Notre Dame’s first trip to Blacksburg, and the Hokies pulled out all the stops for the Irish. ABC spent the first 6 minutes of the broadcast showing viewers the famed “Enter Sandman” entrance for Virginia Tech. I am sure many Notre Dame fans began having flashbacks to the previous season’s game against Miami after hearing the electric atmosphere at kickoff. Notre Dame withstood the initial blast of energy within the stadium and rolled to a 45-23 victory on their way to a College Football Playoff berth.
This season, Notre Dame is set to face the Louisville Cardinals, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech, Duke Blue Devils, and Boston College Eagles. At least on paper, all of these games appear very winnable. If Notre Dame wants to have another special season in 2019, they must continue the recent trend of dominance against the ACC.