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Problem Solved: Recommending Notre Dame Football's ACC Schedule Rotation

Notre Dame's going to start playing five ACC football games a year. Great! But how do you divide 14 opponents by five games? Here's a theoretical look at the future of Irish scheduling. For more on Irish football, visit Notre Dame blog One Foot Down.

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Let's fix some scheduling.

For the ACC as a whole, I can't imagine teams being asked to play nine conference games plus Notre Dame (especially with several of them maintaining tough out-of-conference rivalries) once the Irish come aboard as a ... whatever they are now. More likely: regular games against the Irish count as out-of-division conference games, both for scheduling and for the standings. There, that was easy.

But as for Notre Dame itself ...

As far as I can tell (based on the excellent and elsewhere), here's the schedule Notre Dame has lined up at the moment, with ACC teams conveniently bolded:

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

Michigan Texas at Texas Temple Purdue at Texas

Purdue at Michigan Michigan Arizona St. BC at Purdue

Syracuse (N.J.) at Purdue Stanford Syracuse at Mich. St. at BC

at Temple UMass at Mich. St. at Miami at Navy Mich. St.

at Arizona St. Navy Purdue at Michigan at Northwestern Navy

at Navy USC Miami Mich. St. Stanford at Stanford

Pitt Wake Forest at Navy Navy at USC USC

Northwestern Pitt at Pitt at Purdue

at USC Syracuse UConn at Stanford

Rice at Stanford at USC USC

Stanford at BC Syracuse (N.J.)


Army (Orl.)

2014 looks like a full schedule and then some (there's still some moving around to do), meaning we have three good reasons this won't happen until 2015 (Notre Dame's deal with NBC lasts through then, and the Big East insists upon a 27-month notice of exit -- okay, so two good reasons). Could still happen in 2014, though.

Notre Dame to the ACC, explained by Dan Rubenstein in two minutes flat.

There really is a whole lot of ACC on there from 2015 onward, though. It could all stay as it is, or it could be rearranged to create a cycling format, but there's a lot of ACC already.

If you're the conspiracy sort, you can't help but wonder whether this has been in the works for a long time now (and camouflaged by scheduling Syracuse and Pittsburgh, teams that weren't even in the ACC yet). Such a grand design would mean Notre Dame and the ACC had Wednesday's announcement in mind for literally years, then sprang it days before the 2-0 Irish were already set to co-star on College GameDay. Now the conference move will be talked about all day Saturday. You don't become one of the biggest brands in the sport by accident, and John Swofford is still a ninja. If you're the conspiracy sort.

But let's get down to the business at hand: creating a schedule rotation that crams 14 teams into five annual slots. I stared at this for at least an hour before finding the solution.

There's no way to do it without one team playing the Irish twice every three years. This means there are two ways to handle that single game left over, assuming the ACC doesn't add any more schools:

  • Rotate the extra game every three years, so that each team plays the Irish once every three years and twice every 14th triennial. The schedule rotation would take 42 years to fully complete.
  • Assign one team semi-protected rivalry status with the Irish, meaning one team gets a home-and-home with Notre Dame every three years while everybody else just gets one game. The schedule rotation would take six years.

As Bud Elliott suggested, Boston College has a case to continue its regular rivalry with Notre Dame. Others like Miami and Georgia Tech have history with Notre Dame, but not quite as recent and frequent as that of the Eagles. The two have played nearly every year since 1992, share similar school mission statements and usually wear pretty much the same helmets, Adidas be shunned.

So BC is our solution. For the ACC, this also means giving one of its schools a spot in the second tier of Notre Dame's rivalry games. Since the Irish have about 11 tiers worth of rivals, that's worth something.

Related: One Foot Down on seven reasons this is great for Notre Dame

From there, deciding how to arrange the rotation itself is the easy part. It could be based on anything. I chose to use Five-Year F/+ Rankings to rank the ACC's teams in each division, then stagger Notre Dame's opponents so that they get a good mix of traditionally tough and traditionally weak teams. They'll also get a mix of Coastal and Atlantic opponents, plus alternate between three road games and three home games. That also means alternating between playing three ACC TV games and three Notre Dame TV games. Everybody's happy?

Here's the rotation grid, repeating every six years:


Florida State Home Road

Clemson Home Road

Boston College Road Home Home Road

N.C. State Road Home

Wake Forest Home Road

Maryland Road Home

Syracuse Road Home


Virginia Tech Road Home

Pitt Road Home

Miami Home Road

Georgia Tech Home Road

North Carolina Road Home

Virginia Road Home

Duke Home Road

That's Nos. 1 and 3 from one division and Nos. 3, 5 and 7 from the other for Year 1. Then something like the opposite for Year 2, but accounting for Boston College already being on there. Then everybody left over for Year 3. Then repeat, with hosting status flipped. Seems simple to me, but that's because I was staring down the barrel of mapping out "twice every 14th triennial."

And since the whole thing ends every six years, the formula used to rank the ACC's teams could be refreshed, ensuring the Irish don't end up with unbalanced schedules as programs improve or sink.

Related: Bill Connelly on the ACC winnin' || Spencer Hall on Notre Dame winnin'

Based on what we know about the future of Notre Dame's schedules*, here's something like how that could shake out (12 games a year, split almost evenly between home and road):

2015 2016 2017

Texas at Texas at Pitt

at Michigan Michigan Arizona State

at Purdue Stanford at Maryland

UMass at Michigan State Georgia Tech

Navy Purdue at Michigan

USC Florida State Michigan State

at Syracuse (N.J.) at Navy Navy

Miami at North Carolina at Purdue

at Boston College Duke Clemson

at Virginia Tech at N.C. State USC

Wake Forest Boston College at Virginia

at Stanford at USC at Stanford

2018 2019 2020

Purdue Texas at Texas

Boston College N.C. State Maryland

at Michigan State at Boston College at Navy

Syracuse Michigan State Stanford

at Navy Navy Purdue

Stanford at Florida State at Clemson

at Miami at Duke at Georgia Tech

at Northwestern USC Michigan

Virginia Tech at BYU? BYU?

BYU? at Purdue Pitt

at Wake Forest North Carolina Virginia

at USC at Stanford at USC

* USC and Navy are staying, no matter what. Stanford is also a priority even though few care about that game, as it guarantees a recruiting trip to California every year (the Irish tend to pick up two or three California players every year) and it's academics-y. Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue have deals with Notre Dame that will last for a while now, but the two Michigan schools have built-in years off, and Michigan-Notre Dame might not be mission-critical anyway.

What do we think?

Any obvious problems here? What would you suggest?

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