The ACC has a problem, but it's a good problem to have, whether the league deserves to have good problems or not. It now owns half of a bowl guaranteed to be included in the new six-bowl playoff thing, but it runs the risks of either sending out its champion against a team nobody wants to watch or sending out its champion to get beaten by a better team in its own bowl. (It's also soured its fan bases on Miami by winning so few games there, but that can change.)
Notre Dame's in a similar spot. Its independence is valuable, as is its brand itself. But without a conference tie, it might face a tougher road to the new postseason.
So, of course, the two are looking to conduct business. There's nothing official, but still.
But here's the thing: Notre Dame isn't always going to be good enough to merit a bowl bid, let alone a bowl with playoff ties. Twice in the past decade, the Irish weren't even bowl-eligible, and it would take a serious lack of shame for the ACC to invite a six-win team to its New Year's bowl while some 10-win mid-major has to play on like Dec. 28.
What if the ACC gives Notre Dame first dibs at the bowl, but insists the Irish meet a benchmark? It could be a top-eight finish, just as it was under the BCS, but that would mean Notre Dame would've made its own Orange Bowl just once since 1995. What's the point in a partnership if one side never even gets to participate? The ACC's virtually in charge of the game now, and it's going to want Notre Dame in it as often as reasonably possible.
Just to be gentle, we'll say Notre Dame would have to win eight games in order to make the Orange. With its typical schedule, eight wins is as good as anybody's eight wins. That would still give them a better game than they deserve, whatever it is "deserve" means, but if you're not used to that happening by now, I cannot help you.
How about those years when not even the Orange would dare try to sneak Notre Dame into January? What if the ACC also gives the Big East a potential landing spot? We could hypothesize the other way around here -- maybe the ACC makes the Big East kiss the ring for the chance to send its champ to Miami, but also has the right to take Notre Dame instead if they're ranked in the top 12? That might sound offensive to Big East fans, who've cheered for a league that's been slightly better over the past decade than the ACC has at a national level, but it's about as good a deal as the Big East can hope for, as far as we know. Nobody's reported a meeting between the two conferences, while we know ACC and Notre Dame have met. So Notre Dame is our starting point here.
Over the past 25 years, here's what the Orange Bowl could've looked like if Notre Dame had to hit an eight-win minimum, the Big East's best non-playoff team was used as an alternate, and any playoff teams got removed from the thing entirely (even though the Orange will sometimes host playoff games in the new plan, we're skipping that part here):
It's rarely a truly elite matchup, and in fact would produce a typical matchup between the No. 12 team on the ACC side and No. 13 on the Notre Dame/Big East side, but keep in mind that's after 14 playoff teams have been removed. Still, it's hard to make the case that a game with a very good chance of pairing teams outside the top 12 is a game worthy of inclusion in a series of the six best bowls.
Luckily for the ACC and potentially everyone else involved here, they don't have to make that case.
Your turn. What are some other ways to make this work?
For more on Irish football, visit Notre Dame blog One Foot Down.
While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s Youtube channel: