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Monday, July 11, 2011
Prediction: ACC vs. Notre Dame

By Heather Dinich

During November, it might seem as if Notre Dame suddenly became an honorary member of the ACC. The Irish will face three different ACC teams in a span of three weeks. Last year, the conference wasn’t so fortunate against Notre Dame, as both Boston College and Miami lost. Ugly. Will the ACC fare any better this year against a Notre Dame team facing higher expectations in Year 2 under Brian Kelly?

Notre Dame at Wake Forest, Nov. 5: Why did Wake Forest schedule this game? This is going to be an uphill battle for the Deacs. The good news for Wake Forest is that it's much deeper in the secondary this year, but there’s a reason Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list. Floyd has joined his teammates for voluntary summer workouts and it sounds as if he is expected to return to the team. Regardless of who lines up at quarterback for Notre Dame, Wake's defense will have its hands full.

Maryland vs. Notre Dame, FedEx Field, Nov. 12: Randy Edsall has been there, won that. In 2009, Edsall led Connecticut to a 33-30 double-overtime win against the Irish. The difference this year? It’s Kelly on the sideline, not Charlie Weis. The Terps could have the edge at quarterback with Danny O'Brien, but they're missing a Floyd factor. And when it comes to coaching transitions, the Terps are a year behind Notre Dame.

Boston College at Notre Dame, Nov. 19: This is one of the great traditional rivalries in college football, bringing together the only two Catholic universities that play FBS football. This year’s game will feature two of the best linebackers in the nation in BC’s Luke Kuechly and Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o. Boston College beat Notre Dame six straight times from 2001-2008, but has lost the past two. BC quarterback Chase Rettig will face a veteran secondary, and the Irish have the potential to be better this year at generating pressure up front.

Prediction: Three strikes for the ACC. The league finishes with a 0-3 record this year against the Irish after Boston College struggles to get its offense going, Maryland can’t make enough stops and the Deacs turn it over one too many times. Thanks in part to the ACC, Notre Dame finds itself back in a BCS bowl.