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ACC Championship Scenarios

Is Clemson vs Notre Dame part 2 a lock?

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Cotton Bowl-Notre Dame vs Clemson
Will Clemson play Notre Dame for the ACC Football Championship?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday, the ACC announced that both the Clemson Tigers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish would drop their final ACC make-up games, and the conference would choose its two champion game participants based on the results of the first nine ACC games. From the official ACC press release:

Following a recommendation from the conference Athletic Director football subcommittee, the league’s Athletic Directors have voted to preserve the integrity of the ACC Football Championship Game by evaluating each of the three teams in contention (Clemson, Miami and Notre Dame) based on a nine-game conference schedule. As a result, Clemson and Notre Dame will conclude the regular season this weekend.

One consequence of that decision is that Notre Dame has already clinched a spot in the ACC Football Conference Championship Game - even in the unlikely event of an upset loss to the Syracuse Orange this weekend, the Irish would still finish 8-1, with the tiebreakers in their advantage.

However, is Clemson fixed as Notre Dame’s opponent? The short answer is no; the long answer: probably, though. Let’s consider the two possibilities...

Scenario #1

If the Tigers win their final regular-season game at the home of the Virginia Tech Hokies, Clemson is in the championship game, end of story. That would give the Tigers a conference record of 8-1, which the Miami Hurricanes could only equal at best - and the Tigers hold a head-to-head win over the Canes, so the tiebreaker would go to Clemson in this case.

Scenario #2

If we can suspend our disbelief for just a moment and imagine a parallel universe in which the Hokies somehow rally the troops and find a way to beat the out-of-town Tigers in Blacksburg this Saturday before a national ABC television audience... that would drop Clemson to 7-2 in the ACC and, almost certainly, right out of the playoff picture as well.

Now suppose Miami also defeats the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC Network game which kicks off just half an hour after the Clemson-Virginia Tech contest. That win would elevate the Hurricanes to an ACC record of 7-1. Just like that, the second ACC Championship Game berth would come down to the December 12th match-up between the #17 North Carolina Tar Heels and the #10 Miami Hurricanes - such drama!


Yeah, the Hokies aren’t going to beat the Tigers - especially with so much riding on the game! If they played that game 100 times, the 2020 Virginia Tech Hokies football team would be doing good to win it once.

Still, there is that one percent chance... which is why we’re all going to be watching the first quarter, at least!