Being in a conference, for some, does not negate some measure or opportunities of broad-based geographic scheduling. Some schools as a result of their conference placement resort to it more than they otherwise would seek.
Boise State has plans to open at Ole Miss and Virginia within the next two seasons.
Scheduling would be one of the keys for ND to join a conference in fb. ND apparently figures, for now, they can still schedule late season games with desirable opponents, with most fitting to maximize their preferred number for home games. The other scheduling issue would be for non-fb sports should the BE become split do to the B10 expansion.
As long as ND has their special BCS avenue and a NBC-type contract, there would have to be other incentives to join a fb included conference, scheduling foremost among them.
Will conference expansion remove any of the regulars on the ND schedule? If so, they may be confident they can replace as needed.
Card, you've put your finger on a key issue. Just look at ND's upcoming schedules:
2010 - They still have an open date on Nov 6. Utah is booked on Nov 13. Will they still be available in the future if they're playing a 9-game Pac Ten schedule? Oct/Nov schedule includes the likes of W. Michigan, Tulsa, Army, & Navy.
2011 - Still have an open date on Oct 8. Two BE opponents (UConn, USF) in Nov. Will these teams still be available if BE expands to 12 teams or if these teams join another league?
2012 - Still have open dates on Sep 29 & Oct 20. Stanford on Oct 13 is a question mark. Pitt, another BE team fills a Nov date.
2013 - Oct/Nov again heavily dependent on BE opponents (UConn, Pitt, Cincinnati) + Army & Navy. If BE expansion grabs the service academies, dates with them might become more scarce as well.
Well, you get the picture. They're already having trouble filling their dates. Things will only get worse.
The best scenario for them in a conference would be the Big Ten in a division that gives them a combination of Midwest & Northeastern opponents. They would then still have room in the schedule for Navy, USC, & another Western school. However, if they were to join the Big Ten with Rutgers as the only Eastern member, their ability to maintain a national schedule would be cooked.
Their next best conference option would be for them to hold the Big East together with a max of 7 or 8 games including Navy, still leaving them room for games in the West & Midwest.