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Could Notre Dame Win the ACC If Irish Were Full Member in 2014?

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly talks about recruits during football signing day at Notre Dame Feb. 5, 2014 in South Bend, Ind.  (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Joe Raymond/Associated Press
Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIMarch 10, 2014

Notre Dame's arrival as a partial member will add some intrigue to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season, though the Fighting Irish's presence won't have any bearing on the postseason.

But what if ND was a full ACC member, fighting alongside Florida State, Clemson and others for the league crown?

Brian Kelly's squad would certainly be competitive in the conference race, but challenging the defending national champion Seminoles might prove problematic—though that question will ultimately be answered when the two clubs meet in Tallahassee Oct. 18.

With the return of quarterback Everett Golson and the upcoming young talent across the board, hopes are high for Notre Dame going into the 2014 season.

In a recent interview with the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell, Kelly explained the impact Golson's return has already had on the program:

There’s a lot of energy. You know, when you have a playmaker back there that has an ability to make big plays every time he touches the ball, it’s pretty exciting. It’s like having that point guard who can really distribute the ball and do great things. It’s pretty exciting. I think he brings a lot of energy to what we’re doing on every single play.

Last time Golson was at the helm, Notre Dame went 12-0 and secured a spot in the national title game, only to lose to Alabama. So, in theory, the Irish will be closer to that level than their 9-4 finish from 2013.

While beating FSU could prove to be too much, Notre Dame would certainly be considered among the favorites if it were in the Coastal Division.

The division will be up for grabs yet again in 2014 with no clear-cut leader going into the season. Last year's preseason favorites, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech, will be right there yet again.

Last year, both squads, along with Georgia Tech, had shots at the Coastal crown but weren't able to finish the job. That opened the door for an opportunistic Duke team to win its first divisional championship in history.

The Blue Devils will be among the favorites yet again, but a 6-2 conference record and an ACC title drubbing at the hands of FSU won't have them as the outright favorite by any means.

Notre Dame ACC Football Schedules
Team/YearDateSite
2014
SyracuseSept. 27East Rutherford, N.J. (MetLife Stadium)
North CarolinaOct. 11South Bend, Ind.
Florida StateOct. 18Tallahassee, Fla.
LouisvilleNov. 22South Bend, Ind.
2015
VirginiaSept. 12Charlottesville, Va.
Georgia TechSept. 19South Bend, Ind.
ClemsonOct. 3Clemson, S.C.
PittsburghNov. 7Pittsburgh
Wake ForestNov. 14South Bend, Ind.
Boston CollegeNov. 21Boston, Mass. (Fenway Park)
2016
DukeSept. 24South Bend, Ind.
SyracuseOct. 1East Rutherford, N.J. (MetLife Stadium)
North Carolina StateOct. 8Raleigh, N.C.
Miami (Fla.)Oct. 29South Bend, Ind.
Virginia TechNov. 19South Bend, Ind.
UND.com

If Notre Dame was present, it'd be right in the mix. However, it would be far from a slam-dunk champion. The Irish fell to Pittsburgh last year, while the Panthers finished sixth in the division at 3-5 in league play.

Of course, ND's outlook is a bit more promising this year than it was a season ago.

Even if the Irish did manage to win the Coastal, they'd have to contend with the Seminoles—and even with Golson leading the way, they just aren't on the level of FSU. No team in the ACC is.

Of course, this is all purely hypothetical—one big "what if?" scenario.

But even though Notre Dame can't compete for the ACC title, its presence on the league schedule will bring the conference a bit further into the limelight going forward.

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