Clemson’s road to another College Football Playoff got a little more difficult on Wednesday while, at least on paper, it looks like Notre Dame’s got much easier.
The ACC announced its new 10+1 schedule for the 2020 football season, a revised edition from the original 2020 schedule due the results of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Big Ten’s and Pac-12’s announcements earlier this month to go to a conference-only schedule.
Notre Dame appears to be the big winner in the new ACC schedule.
While Clemson could likely play top 25 teams in Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Virginia Tech in its revised ACC schedule, which also includes a road game at a possible top 5 or top 10 Notre Dame team, the Irish got what seems like a pretty favorable schedule in its first year playing as a football member in the ACC.
Notre Dame was already scheduled to host Clemson, Duke and Louisville and play neutral site games against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech and a true road game at Pitt. Though where the Wake Forest and Georgia Tech games will be played have not been announced, Pittsburgh plays all of their home games at Heinz Field, which in the past, when Notre Dame has come to town, those games were almost like road games for the Panthers.
Notre Dame picked up road games at Boston College and North Carolina, which likely replaced their neutral site game against Wisconsin and a road trip to Southern Cal. Those games were canceled after the Big Ten’s and Pac-12’s announcements.
Though UNC will be a challenge for this Irish, perhaps their most difficult road challenge of the year, BC will be a whole lot easier than going to Southern Cal.
As for home games, Notre Dame picked up games against Florida State and Syracuse. Though the Seminoles will be a little better this year, they are not considered a contender for the ACC Championship heading into the season. The Orange might be a little better as well, but not a team Notre Dame fans should have to worry about, especially playing them in South Bend.
Florida State and Syracuse were a combined 11-14 last year.
Because all non-conference game opponents, selected by the respective school, must be played in the home state of the ACC institution, and all non-conference opponents must meet the medical protocol requirements as agreed upon by the ACC.
Notre Dame cannot play Navy. The Irish had already dropped their home game against Stanford from the schedule due to the Pac-12’s ruling. Arkansas or Western Michigan might still be a possibility considering they were both scheduled for home games.
Based on Athlon Magazine’s preseason rankings, Clemson will play three of the top 5 rated teams in the ACC this coming season (at No. 9 Notre Dame, at No. 24 Virginia Tech and vs. No. 29 Miami).
Though the Irish have to play the No. 1 and No. 3 rated ACC teams this year (vs. No. 1 Clemson and at No. 18 North Carolina). However, they avoid playing either Virginia Tech or Miami, who are rated No. 4 and No. 5 by Athlon.
Though Notre Dame has to play Louisville, who is rated No. 6, it also gets to play the four bottom dwellers in Duke (No. 12), Syracuse (No. 13), Boston College (No. 14) and Georgia Tech (No. 15).
Why is Clemson’s path to the CFP a little more difficult now and Notre Dame’s isn’t? Clemson lost non-conference games to Akron and The Citadel and picked up conference games against Virginia Tech, Miami and Pitt, all three teams are ranked inside Athlon’s top 40.
Clemson also had NC State (ranked 57th in the country and 11th in the ACC) dropped from the schedule.
Notre Dame lost non-conference games against Navy, Wisconsin, Stanford and Southern Cal, while picking up North Carolina, FSU, Syracuse and Boston College. UNC and the Seminoles (No. 35) are the only two ranked in the top 40. Wisconsin (No. 12) and USC (No.19) were both ranked in the top 20.
However, if it all plays out the way we think it will, the Tigers and Irish will see each other again in the ACC Championship Game in December. And by that time, if we get to that point, I don’t think anyone is going to care about who played whom during the season.
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