As part of Notre Dame’s “welcome wagon” introduction into its multi-sport agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference a few years back, the Irish had to travel to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. to take on undefeated defending national champ Florida State in 2014.
A year later, as Clemson was ascending to the No. 1 spot in the country with 14 straight victories to open the 2015 season, Notre Dame made the trek to Memorial Stadium the first weekend of October amidst historic-level rain.
Notre Dame lost in dramatic fashion in both instances -- by four points to the Seminoles and two points to the Tigers.
No “beast of the ACC” awaits the Irish in 2016, at least on paper. Duke (8-5) and Miami (8-5) posted the best records in ’15 among the Notre Dame’s five ACC opponents in ’16, and both of those games – Duke on Sept. 24 and Miami on Oct. 29 – are in Notre Dame Stadium.
The Blue Devils have, however, established themselves as a tough out with 27 victories in the last three seasons under head coach David Cutcliffe, although they return just 12 starters.
Meanwhile, optimism abounds in Miami where long-time Georgia head coach Mark Richt takes over a Hurricane program that returns 15 starters, including quarterback Brad Kaaya, but couldn’t run or stop the run in ’15.
Notre Dame’s most challenging (and only) road ACC game in ’16 is at Carter-Finley Stadium on Oct. 8 when the Irish travel to Raleigh to take on N.C. State, which finished 7-6 last season.
Other games against ACC schools include Syracuse (4-8 last year) in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and Virginia Tech, which turned in a 7-6 campaign in Frank Beamer’s 29th and final season as head coach. The Irish play the Hokies in Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 19 under former Memphis head coach Justin Fuente.
The Irish are 7-3 against ACC schools since joining the conference as a full member in all sports but football and hockey.
Notre Dame went 2-2 against the ACC in 2014, defeating Syracuse in MetLife and North Carolina at home before falling at Florida State, 31-27, in one of the classic games of the regular season. The Irish dropped a three-point decision at home to Louisville in November.
Notre Dame’s ACC slate expanded to half of its regular-season games in ’15. The Irish were 2-0 at home against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, 1-0 against Boston College on a neutral field (Fenway Park), and 2-1 at true road venues Virginia (a 34-27 win), Clemson (a 24-22 loss) and Pittsburgh (a 42-30 win).
Future ACC opponents include:
• 2017 (at Boston College, at North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, at Miami);
• 2018 (Syracuse, at Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Florida State, at Wake Forest);
• 2019 (at Louisville, Virginia, at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, at Duke, Boston College);
• 2020 (at Wake Forest, at Pittsburgh, Duke, Clemson, Louisville).