Five months ago, Notre Dame’s 2020 football schedule looked similar to every other schedule since then-Division-I-A expanded to 12 regular-season games in 2006: It featured 12 non-conference opponents, most of whom came from Power Five conferences. Now, as the United States continues pissing all over itself in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish’s schedule is still filled with Power Five teams but it looks nothing like their schedules from the last 14 years (or the 119 years before then).
If the 2020 college football season is played, Notre Dame will be a full ACC member and eligible to compete in the ACC Championship, the ACC announced on Wednesday in rolling out an 11-game plan for each its 14 members plus the Irish, a part-time member since 2013. With the decision, Notre Dame (probably) wiped out the remaining nine games of a schedule that already lost three games–vs. Wisconsin (at Lambeau Field), vs. Stanford, at USC–when the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled all non-conference games.
Per the ACC’s announcement, teams will play 10 conference games and one non-conference game, the latter of which must be played in the ACC team’s home state. That eliminates the Irish’s Week 1 trip to Navy, a game originally scheduled for Week 0 in Ireland.
The 11 games will be played over 13 weeks beginning the week of Sept. 7-12, during which Notre Dame is (or was?) scheduled to host Arkansas. The SEC, however, is moving toward a conference-only schedule, Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported on Wednesday, saying the conference, after a “majority” of its athletics directors approved the 10-game conference-only schedule during a virtual meeting on Wednesday, is awaiting a schedule ratification from university presidents.
Notre Dame’s lone remaining non-ACC game on their original 2020 schedule, Week 3 game vs. Western Michigan, also hasn’t been officially canceled and the MAC hasn’t announced non-conference cancellations. For what it’s worth, their commissioner was “shocked” by the Big Ten’s non-conference decision earlier this month.
Who will Notre Dame play in their plus-one non-conference game?
They can still play Navy in South Bend or fit Western Michigan into one of the three available weeks in which they’re not playing an ACC opponent. Because the ACC didn’t release game dates, we don’t know if Notre Dame’s three available weeks will fit into Western Michigan’s schedule, which sits at 10 games after losing Syracuse to the ACC’s road game ban and Stony Brook to cancellation.
They could also add an 11th Power Five game if the Big 12 plays at least one non-conference game (which is one of three options on the table) and one of their 10 teams is in need of a 10th game and willing to visit South Bend.
If they can’t host Navy or Western Michigan, the SEC cancels all non-conference games, and the Big 12 cancels all non-conference games or doesn’t have a suitor, Notre Dame will be forced to look at Group of Five or FCS opponents. If there’s mutual interest to play a team that wouldn’t require air travel to reach South Bend, if the respective schedules align, they could schedule a team like Northern Illinois, Ball State, Miami (OH), Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Southern Illinois, or Indiana State.