Since Notre Dame football became a quasi-member of the ACC in 2014 the Irish have gone 7-3 against ACC foes. The only losses were heartbreakers on the road at #2 Florida State in 2014, at home against Louisville in 2014 and at #12 Clemson last season. The Irish were just plays away from being undefeated against the ACC over the last two seasons. 2016 will finally be the year they sweep ACC opponents.
Notre Dame’s 2016 schedule of ACC teams is pretty favorable. They don’t have to face Clemson or Florida State. The Tigers and Seminoles are perennially the top dogs in the ACC and would be Notre Dame’s toughest opponent. They also only have to play one true ACC road game. The ACC slate of teams this season includes Duke, at Syracuse, at North Carolina State, Miami, and Virginia Tech.
Syracuse should be the weakest links of the ACC opponents. The Orange are coming off a 4-8 season and 2016 will be the first season under new head coach Dino Babers. This won’t be a true home game for the ‘Cuse as it will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Irish and ‘Cuse played there in 2014, a game in which Notre Dame won 31-15.
The other four matchups aren’t gimmes, but they all should be winnable games and games where the Irish should be favored.
Duke is coming off an 8-5 season and a bowl win over Indiana. Duke may be without the services quarterback Thomas Sirk as he ruptured his achilles in spring practice, but head coach David Cutcliffe has changed the culture of the program. Duke is not a cupcake anymore and has been quite successful over the last couple of seasons. That being said, Notre Dame’s talent, as well as Notre Dame Stadium, should overwhelm the Dukies and the Irish should come away victorious.
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NC State is losing their star quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but they do return their leading rusher and receiver. I could see this game being like the Virginia game last season, in that its a game where the home team has no business being in the game with ND, but they some how make it close. This NC State game could also be a trap game with Stanford looming the week after.
For the first time in 29 seasons Virginia Tech will have a head coach not named Frank Beamer. Justin Fuente is the new head coach in Blacksburg after enjoying several successful seasons at Memphis. By their standards, the Hokies have been down for the past couple of seasons. I really don’t know what to expect from VT in 2016 with the new head coach, but the Irish will get them on senior day. Brian Kelly is 5-1 on senior days. Again I like the Irish to get a W here.
Miami will be the toughest of the bunch. The Irish will welcome the ‘Canes into South Bend on October 29th. Miami and new head coach Mark Richt have high expectations for 2016. They are coming off an 8-5 year and return starting quarterback Brad Kaaya. Kaaya threw for 3,238 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. As we predicted a few weeks ago this has the potential to be a top 15 matchup. Even though this will be Notre Dame’s toughest ACC opponent, it still is a game they should win. They’ll be at home and they’ll also have an extra week to prepare because of the bye week.
If there was ever year to run the table against the ACC, it would be this year. The matchups are there for Notre Dame. Anything less than a 5-0 mark would be disappointing to say the least.