Over the past couple of weeks, the Power Five conferences of College Football have released their intended schedules and adapted structures for this upcoming season amid COVID-19. Arguably the most intriguing out of the batch is the Atlantic Coast Conference’s plan of having 10 in-conference games plus one non-conference that must be played in the home state of the given program.
Given that the other Power Five conferences will not allow for any non-conference games in 2020, this decision provides both the ACC and other conferences not in the Power Five a competitive advantage for television rights and school exposure. There will also be the elimination of in-conference divisions which allows for almost all ACC teams to face one another this season. This plan adds to the growing competitiveness for teams placed in a conference that frankly lacked in that department in recent years.
Through the elimination of divisions, many marquee matchups are now made. For example, the Miami Hurricanes will now travel to Death Valley to face Clemson, and the Tigers will face a tough game on the road in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech.
Another important aspect of this new schedule to note is the addition of Notre Dame football into the ACC. As one may know, Notre Dame is already part of the ACC in every sport with the exception of football. Being independent allowed it to schedule its own games every year and provided access to an exclusive TV deal with NBC Sports to air all of their games, in addition to directly receiving all revenue made from viewership. This year will be very different.
In its joining the ACC, Notre Dame brings greater competitiveness in the conference and will bring its thousands of fans across the globe with them. Since divisions within the conference will be eliminated this season, Notre Dame will have an opportunity to play every major program in the ACC (notably excluding Miami), as well as having a shot for the conference title should they win a lot of games.
As controversial as they may be, by adding a program like Notre Dame to the conference, the ACC is bound to garner much needed exposure as a whole, hence allowing them to continue growing as a league. Also, given that the Fighting Irish were just in the College Football Playoff two seasons ago, this year may not be a cakewalk for perennial ACC champions, Clemson.
In short, the 2020/21 College Football season is bound to be a very unique one in these telling times. Sure, the other Power Five conferences, especially the SEC and Big 10, are bound to have strong teams this year, but due to the ACC’s more daring scheduling, I argue that they might be the most interesting conference to watch this upcoming season.
Adding Notre Dame to the ACC allows fans to see if their program truly is “back” to competitive, title-contending form, or if they were just a by-product of favorable scheduling and being a household brand in recent years. By discarding divisions and allowing the powerhouses of the ACC Coastal and Atlantic clash, the conference is bound to be more competitive compared to prior seasons.