Joining the Big Ten makes too much sense for Notre Dame to join any other conference. With traditional rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue already in place, plus marquee conference partners in Ohio State, Penn St, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, it just seems to be the best for ND to join at some point soon. They could easily schedule out of conference games with USC and Navy to maintain those traditional rivalries.
According to wikipedia...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre_Dame ... _rivalries
ND has 6 rivals in the Big Ten (Mich, MSU, Purdue, Neb, PSU, and Northwestern), 4 in the ACC (Pitt, BC, Miami, and GA Tech), 2 in the PAC12 (USC and Stanford), and the three academies.
ND joining the PAC is dumb on so many levels, the Big East will only have Navy in 2015 (possibly the others academies eventually) so they have little incentive to join them either, and if the conference are going to 16 and having only conference champs in the Plus One playoff then staying independent will be very hard.
So the only options are the Big Ten and the ACC.
I believe that the ACC would be the best solution for multiple reasons.
1st they are the weaker conference between the two, which sounds bad until you really think about it. ND prides itself on rivalries and would probably keep at least one of their major ones or rotate two of them every two years or so. By joining the ACC they can keep USC/Michigan rotating every two years and be praised for playing such a hard SOS while they are really playing an easy ACC North schedule (UConn, BC, Cuse, Pitt, Maryland, VA Tech, UVA) and occasionally a good team from the South (Miami, FSU, Clemson, GA Tech, UNC). In the Big Ten, they could keep the USC game every year but they'd have to play a schedule with the Legends Division (Neb, Mich, MSU, Iowa, Minn, Northwestern) plus at least one good team from the Leaders Division every year (tOSU, PSU, Wisconsin). Stack those SOS against each other and you can see that the Big Ten would obviously be harder. If you rank them the elites are Nebraska/Michigan and VA Tech, goods are MSU/Iowa and Pitt, and the rest rotate between average and bad. Notre Dame would absolutely secure the ACC in with the football elites and secure their membership for years to come and even they lose their biggest 2 fb schools (Clemson and Florida St) to the SEC they could easily add Rutgers and Temple/Nova and still be considered an elite football conference. This would allow ND to get back to what it wants to do most of all...win. Winning a conference title would feel good, and if it also provides easier access to the 4 team playoff then that's even better. If we use the Big Ten's model of top 4 conference champs, all ND would really have to do is win the ACC and be better than the SEC/B1G/B12/PAC champs which is conceivable. ND getting some special rule this time around seems unlikely since pretty much every conference wants them to quit their independence for one reason or another.
2nd reason is that ND has the Midwest locked down. If you grew up in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, or Ohio you know ND. They are absolutely huge in Chicago (the Big Ten's largest media market) so what more do they Irish gain from joining the B1G? Not much in the form of a recruiting foothold or increased viewership. But in the ACC they'd be gaining/keeping their foothold in NYC and NE now that the ACC has expanded (Syracuse, BC, ND, UConn will own that market over Rutgers, Seton Hall, St John's, Providence, Temple, Nova, Gtown) plus adding DC/Maryland/Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida (both North and South) to their viewership.
They only reasons to join the Big Ten over the ACC is money, academics, and geography; and while those all sound like great reasons think about it for a minute.
Money- while the Big Ten has a big TV contract and the Big Ten network, the ACC has secured a huge contract too and hasn't started a network yet either, so they can't use the Big Ten's and new PAC12's models and get huge bang for their buck with ND on board. The ACC has a huge growing population in its footprints especially when compared to the dying rust belt, and with the exception of Indiana, Purdue, Penn St, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida they basically monopolize the current regions they are in not including the Big East's weak slate. I could very easily see ND and the ACC working together on a big TV and network deal before the Irish join (including telling them whether to take Rutgers or UConn for the 16th member) so that they are assured that joining the ACC will be profitable for all.
Academics- OK so every member of the Big Ten is in the AAU (but Nebraska who just got kicked out), and only AAC members GA Tech, UNC, Pitt, Maryland, and Virginia are in the AAU (plus Syracuse just resigned), still BC, Wake, Duke and Miami are high quality schools just like ND that don't do the right kind of research to get into the AAU, so the worst schools ND would be associating with are Clemson, FSU, VA Tech, and NCSt. I give the Big Ten the advantage in academics but come on its not like that big of a drop off, even Stanford associates with AZ St, WA St, and OR St (and possibly Texas Tech and Okie St in the future).
Geography- ND has been playing New York, New Jersey, New England, DC, Pitt and others in the North East regularly for years plus annual bouts with Standford/USC, this would be a non move for them. People like to talk about how geographically ND should be in the Big Ten but historically they've played in the areas of the ACC division they would be in for a long time now, and like I wrote above they are no stranger to playing Miami or GA Tech, plus bowls Florida. If they were in the division with the NC and Southern schools then fine the Big Ten would win but they won't be. The ACC fits ND just as well as the Big Ten does and I think from ND's perspective it may even be better.
Fan of the Big 12 Conference, the Mountain West Conference and...