Notre Dame looks to take advantage of 2016 football schedule


While Notre Dame may not technically be a member of the ACC in football, the Fighting Irish are playing five league members this coming season, per their agreement with the conference. For the most part, it’s a fairly favorable schedule that the Irish will play this coming fall against ACC foes.

Brian Kelly’s squad avoids trap games at places like Florida State and Clemson, which derailed early College Football Playoff aspirations for the Irish in each of the last two seasons.

All in all, Notre Dame’s ACC slate in 2016 isn’t terribly challenging, as it’ll play three programs with first-year head coaches in Syracuse, Miami and Virginia Tech, and it will also take on Duke and NC State in October.

The Irish are playing an early-season showdown at Texas to open their season on Sept. 3, and then they’ll play in Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 17 against CFP participant Michigan State. Notre Dame takes on both Navy and Army this year, as the Irish will play the Midshipmen on Nov. 5 in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Black Knights at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Nov. 12.

Along with maintaining traditional rivalry games with Stanford (hosting in South Bend Oct. 15) and Southern Cal (traveling to Los Angeles for the regular-season finale on Nov. 26), the Irish play one additional non-ACC opponent, as they’ll host Nevada in the home opener Sept. 10.

Out of the five ACC contests Notre Dame will play in 2016, just one is on the road, as the Fighting Irish will travel to Raleigh on Oct. 8 to play NC State at Carter-Finley Stadium. Naturally, the crowd dynamic at NCSU could pose some major problems for the Irish, but it won’t be anything they’re not used to, as they will have played in Austin’s massive Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium a little over a month before they come to Raleigh.

It’s a pretty favorable road slate for Kelly and company this autumn, as Texas, NC State and Southern Cal are Notre Dame’s only three true road contests out of 12 regular-season games. The Irish have three neutral-site contests, as well as six true home games in South Bend.

Though Notre Dame will be listed as the road team in its matchup with Syracuse Oct. 1, the game is being played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. There are naturally lots of Syracuse fans in that part of the country, but there are also a lot of Notre Dame fans, and they’ll probably easily out-draw their counterparts in Orange for this one.

Notre Dame’s three home contests against ACC schools are Duke (Sept. 24), Miami (Oct. 29) and Virginia Tech (Nov. 19). That’s not too awfully scary. The Irish avoid a potential trap in North Carolina, which came to South Bend in 2014 and came very close to pulling off an upset.

All three Coastal Division programs have numerous question marks in 2016, as Duke attempts to get back in the conversation near the top of the division while the Canes and Hokies attempt to get back to glory under Mark Richt and Justin Fuente. That’s not to say that one of these ACC schools can’t upset the Fighting Irish. But they won’t be favored to do so.