No Power Five Conference has more to gain with the new College Football Playoff format than the ACC.
Why is that the case?
Because this might be the decision that finally forces Notre Dame to join a conference.
In its recommendation to the CFP management committee on Thursday, the sub-committee did not give Notre Dame or any Independent an opportunity at a first-round bye in the new playoff. Only conference champions will be eligible for a first-round bye.
“That is a big incentive for Notre Dame to join the conference. That is a huge thing that we are tracking,” a source inside the ACC told The Clemson Insider.
What makes it even more compelling for the league is the fact Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick was on the sub-committee that made Thursday’s recommendation.
“With him being involved in it and understanding it, that is a really, really important thing,” a source said. “We feel that is really compelling for us.”
Swarbrick did not go into the sub-committee meetings thinking about a 12-team playoff, and he certainly was not thinking about the implications of a 12-team playoff when it came to the Irish.
“But you needed to keep the broader interest of the game in mind, and we all understood that,” he said Thursday during a joint media teleconference that TCI was a part of. “From my perspective, it was an appropriate trade-off to get a model that I thought was the right one for college football. Even though we don’t play in a conference, I recognize the importance of strong conferences and providing opportunity to the G5.
“We wanted to do that. And then finally, as I said somewhat sarcastically earlier in this, I do think it’s helpful to us to be able to say, look, Alabama put its position at risk in its title game, or Oklahoma put its position at risk in its conference title game. We’re doing the same thing in the first round. We are on par in that regard, other than not enjoying a potential one through four seed.”
What could Notre Dame benefit from the new CFP format if it does not join the ACC and remains an independent.
“They get a break from not playing a conference championship game and they also, when that playoff starts, you are playing at home,” ESPN reporter Heather Dinich said on Get Up Friday morning.
Paul Finebaum, who joined Dinich on Friday’s show, said he never thought he would say the following statement.
“This is really not fair to Notre Dame. If you go back into the history of college sports, Notre Dame has literally stolen national championships because they are Notre Dame. But no more,” the SEC Network star said. “They do have some advantages, as Heather said, but I think it is time for Jack Swarbrick and the people that run Notre Dame to get with the program. The program is they need to be in a conference.
“Last year, they had the one-off. They joined the ACC on a temporary basis. Remember, they belong to the ACC in everything but hockey and football. I think it is better for Notre Dame to be in a conference because playing at home is great, but there is still a lot of risk involved.”
One of those risk is playing four consecutive playoff caliber games in a five-week stretch, while also risk playing one of the top two seeds, depending on where the Irish might be seeded.
Finebaum also points out another risk the Irish will make by not playing in a conference and this is the biggest one of them all.
“Two seasons from now, and think about this, Notre Dame plays Clemson and Ohio State. They can be undefeated having beaten two of the top four teams in the country and they still have to play a game to get into the playoff,” he said.
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