The ACC will eliminate divisions and allow Notre Dame to compete for the conference title as part of its plan for the fall college football season in 2020.

Notre Dame ACC football
Notre Dame will play Clemson as part of its ACC conference schedule for the 2020 college football season. (Image: Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The ACC board of directors voted on Wednesday to approve the plan, which will allow all ACC teams – including Notre Dame – to play an 11-game football schedule, provided public health regulations allow.

Flexibility Required for Fall Football

Each team will play 10 conference games during the season. In addition, each ACC team will schedule one non-conference game. Teams must play their non-conference game in their home state, and the opponents must meet ACC COVID-19 protocol requirements.

Conference officials have anticipated the potential for disruptions and cancellations. The schedule includes two bye weeks, and the rules say that the ACC Championship will feature the two teams with the best conference winning percentages – a tacit admission that some schools may fail to play all 10 conference games.

The ACC released its schedule model on Twitter on Wednesday. The schedule lists games without dates, and features regional play, where possible, to reduce travel.

“Today’s decision was made after months of thoughtful planning by numerous individuals throughout the conference,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “The Board’s decision presents a path, if public health guidance allows, to move forward with competition.”

The statement acknowledged that the upcoming season requires a flexible approach.

“We recognize that we may need to be nimble and make adjustments in the future,” Swofford said. “We will be as prepared as possible should that need arise.”

Notre Dame Joins Clemson as ACC Favorite

Notre Dame slots into the ACC as the second choice to win the conference behind Clemson. William Hill lists Clemson – also the National Championship favorite – as the -550 pick to win the ACC title, but Notre Dame is next at +700, ahead of Miami (+1000) and North Carolina (+1400).

That doesn’t mean that Clemson and Notre Dame are a lock to play in the conference championship game, however. The two will meet up at Clemson, according to the proposed ACC schedule. The loser of that game might well have to run the table, and would have to hope that another team doesn’t go undefeated.

ACC Championship Odds

  • Clemson: -550
  • Notre Dame: +700
  • Miami: +1000
  • North Carolina: +1400
  • Florida State: +2000
  • Virginia Tech: +2000
  • Louisville: +3000
  • Pittsburgh: +4000
  • Virginia: +4000
  • NC State: +4000
  • Wake Forest: +7500
  • Duke: +10000
  • Syracuse: +10000
  • Boston College: +12500
  • Georgia Tech: +15000

Odds via William Hill

One scheduling quirk worth noting: North Carolina State (+4000) plays neither Clemson nor Notre Dame. NCSU is the only school that avoids both powerhouses, meaning the Wolfpack could have an advantage in the race for the conference championship game if they prove to be a solid second-tier contender.

Notre Dame already plays most sports as a member of the ACC, but has maintained its independence as a football program. The COVID-19 pandemic made a one-year deal for football likely, especially as Notre Dame had already scheduled six games against ACC opponents. That led Notre Dame to see a conference schedule as the path of least resistance.

“This is just an unprecedented and extraordinary year,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN on Thursday. “Could we have constructed a schedule without this? Yes, but given the uncertainties that everybody faces, you couldn’t exactly be sure what you have. There was a greater level of control and certainty if we could do this with the ACC than if we had just constructed the schedule ourselves.”

Notre Dame scheduled three non-conference games against Arkansas, Navy, and Western Michigan. Under ACC rules, it will only be able to keep one. Notre Dame planned to host both Arkansas and Western Michigan, making those the more likely candidates.

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