Notre Dame has embraced the common notion that you learn more from losing than from winning. They finally figured out that yards mean little. For the first time this season, Notre Dame was outgained by their opponent. And for the first time this season, the Irish won.
After the game was settled, the Irish still look like a team with few positives. They beat a good Spartans team. Yet, there were still turnovers. And a late drive by Michigan State that could have turned the game. This time, the Notre Dame secondary held tight and forced an interception at the goal line to seal the win.
A day later, all the attention turned from their first victory to their future.
The Big East conference is on the verge of collapse, and Notre Dame is under pressure from national media to join the ACC. While the recruiting is stronger in the south right now, there have been trends that shift from region to region. The national media is pushing Notre Dame to bet on the south having better recruiting for the long-term. Meanwhile, the Big Ten continues to be a better fit regionally, and with regards to all sports.
The Irish already have long-standing rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue. The Big Ten also provides more options for the university as a whole, not just for football (though it's likely the Irish will attempt to remain independent). The ACC does not have any ice hockey programs. Plus, geographically, Notre Dame does not fit. Teams in the southern states can play a more speed-based football game because the weather is nice year-round. While in the north, teams must play more smash-mouth football.
If ACC teams come north in the late fall they would find an inability to perform as well as they are used to. It also means that the advantage teams in the south hold in bowl games would be negated on their mid to late season games at Notre Dame.
It also means Notre Dame would be at a decided disadvantage going on the road late in the season, as well. Unless the Irish would make a switch to match the ACC, at which point their offense would become stagnant and fans would become frustrated as the season moves into late October.
The best option for Notre Dame through the NCAA's conference reallignment is to join the Big Ten in all sports except football, where it should remain independent. It would also provide Notre Dame their best chance in utilizing their brand new ice rink, as the Big Ten already has hockey powerhouse programs Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Minnesota. If Notre Dame joined the Big Ten would have its sixth team, the minimum requirement for holding a hockey conference, which would make it the premiere college hockey conference, and making the best use of the million dollar facilities Notre Dame just built.
If the national media want to ignore the bigger picture and focus strictly on football, let them. But Notre Dame's best bet for the university as a whole and all of its sports programs is to join the Big Ten, and maintain football independence.