You may have missed it, but No. 10 Notre Dame is a member of the ACC. Well, at least the Irish are a member of the conference for the time being. With COVID-19 turning the college football season on its head, Notre Dame agreed to join the ACC for the 2020 season in an effort to ensure it was able to play a full season. Notre Dame has played five ACC opponents as a partial member of the conference for a few years now, but that number has doubled this season.
Notre Dame is even eligible to play for the ACC championship. How incredible would that story be? Notre Dame joins the ACC for a season, wins the conference — beating its top team for the better part of a decade — and then returns to life as an independent program. Can you imagine?
Of course, there’s a long way to go for that potential scenario to play out, and the first step is on Saturday afternoon in South Bend when the Irish will start the season against the Duke Blue Devils. The teams do have some familiarity with one another. They met in Durham last season with the Irish winning 38-7. Duke has had success in South Bend, Indiana, however, winning the last time it made the trek north in 2016. The Blue Devils won that game 38-35.
Notre Dame: I don’t want to harp on the potential of Notre Dame winning the ACC too much, but it is somewhat funny to me that the Irish joined a Power Five conference this year and you can make a strong argument their schedule got easier in the process. While the Irish aren’t a team that’s on Clemson’s level — very few are — it enters the ACC as the second-best team in the conference. That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns, though. This is a team that lost a lot of production from its 2019 squad, though that is offset quite a bit by having Ian Book back at quarterback. Having an experienced QB might be more important than ever before during the 2020 season due to a lack of preparation time for all. Of course, Notre Dame also has a new play-caller on offense in former QB Tommy Rees.
Duke: While Duke doesn’t get a whole lot of attention as a football powerhouse, you can be sure that plenty of NFL scouts will have their eyes on the Duke defensive line this season. That’s where you’ll find Chris Rumph, one of the best defensive linemen in the country. This will be an outstanding test for him against what should be a strong Notre Dame offensive line. Elsewhere, eyes will be on transfer QB Chase Brice. Brice transferred in from Clemson, and the team is hoping he can give the offense more from the QB spot in 2020 than it got last year. Duke finished 12th in the ACC in both passing yards per game and passing efficiency, and has to improve on that if it’s hoping to put together a winning season in 2020.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 12 | Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium — South Bend, Indiana
TV: NBC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
Picking games will be harder than ever before this year because we might not find out players are missing until just before kickoff. Still, given what we know about both of these teams heading into Saturday, I have a hard time not taking the Irish. As mentioned above, the Irish beat Duke 38-7 last season in Durham, North Carolina, and I don’t think enough has changed for either team to expect this year’s contest to go much differently. I feel comfortable taking the Irish at anything better than three touchdowns. Pick: Notre Dame (-20.5)