After the ACC locked up an Orange Bowl berth for the next 12 years (minus the years the Orange Bowl is a playoff site), the camera then shifted to who would match up against the ACC. The suspects were the usual ones - the Big East champion (no thanks), the best at-large team (possibility), or Notre Dame.
Sounds like the ACC has decided on the Irish.
A spokesperson for Notre Dame said in a statement that Irish AD Jack Swarbrick had been in discussions with the ACC over a possible Orange Bowl berth should the Irish meet certain qualifiers. And it's easy to see why Notre Dame would be interested. The Orange Bowl has the prestige, tradition, and a good time slot (New Year's Day at 1 p.m.) against what should be a quality opponent in the ACC champion. The Irish also are essentially guaranteed a BCS berth under the current BCS rules should they finish with nine or more wins. With a playoff on the horizon, though, that kind of access to the top tier bowl games could eventually slip away. They could instead have to, dare I say, join a conference? Lou Holtz is frothing at the mouth over that thought.
There are a few ways to view an Irish-ACC bowl game.
The good: It's Notre Dame. They're going to bring their extremely large and national fan base (which is made up of 85% of people who never actually went to South Bend), sell out their allotment of tickets and the Orange Bowl, and drive up TV ratings. That will, in turn, help the ACC land the best deal possible as they prepare to take the Orange Bowl rights to the open market. Brian Kelly has the Irish back almost to the level of respectability and with the latest recruiting efforts, Notre Dame has the chance to take that next step towards become a title contender
This also could help with potentially getting Notre Dame into the ACC. The ACC and the B1G are the only two conferences that fit Notre Dame, with their academic standards, geographic location, and rivalries. While the ACC doesn't fit as well geographically, Notre Dame has played at least two future ACC teams for the past five seasons, playing annual games against Pitt and Boston College. They've also played Syracuse, Miami, Maryland, Wake Forest, and Florida State, so there's some history in playing ACC opponents.
The bad: It's Notre Dame. In the past two decades, has any team been more overrated in the preseason and then more celebrated when they fall massively short of expectations by season's end than the Irish? And despite Notre Dame's recruiting efforts under Brian Kelly, they've shown the same recruiting prowess under, well, every other coach since Lou Holtz was speaking incoherently on the sidelines and what do they have to show for it?
A Notre Dame-ACC matchup also has the potential to get old very quickly, especially if teams have trouble breaking into the top tier of ACC teams (Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech). If the ACC champion isn't highly ranked and Notre Dame continues to be the Notre Dame of the past 20 years, the bowl game won't be very good.
The ugly: It's Notre Dame. If the Irish ever manage a halfway decent season and then win the Orange Bowl, every sports analyst alive is going to endlessly talk about how Notre Dame is back. Let the drinking commence in 3...2...1