USC Football: A History Of The USC – Notre Dame Rivalry


Nov 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; A view down the line of scrimmage during the game between Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Southern California Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Notre Dame defeated USC 22-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports


PLACE:  Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN

DATE & TIME:  Saturday, October 19, 4:30 p.m. PT

TV:  KNBC Channel 4

ALL-TIME SERIES:  Notre Dame leads, 44-35-5

FIRST GAME:  December 4, 1926, in the Coliseum. Notre Dame won, 13-12

LONGEST WINNING STREAKS:  11 for Notre Dame (1983-93) and eight for USC (2002-09)

LAST MEETING:  Notre Dame won, 22-13

“Fight On!” vs. “Wake Up The Echoes!”

Big city Los Angeles vs. small-town South Bend.

Very few institutions of higher learning in America with a football program have a resume as good as the ones at the University of Southern California and the University of Notre Dame:

22 combined national championships, 11 for each side.

14  combined Heisman Trophy winners, 7 for each side.

21 combined NFL Hall of Famers, 11 for USC – the most of any school – and ten for Notre Dame.

* 480 players taken in the NFL Draft for the Trojans (again, the most in the nation) and 479 for the Irish.

Quite impressive, isn’t it?

Nov 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) tries to escape from Southern California Trojans linebacker Dion Bailey (18) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Notre Dame defeated USC 22-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Putting it another way, how many college football teams have had two movies made about them: Knute Rockne, All American – the one where future President Ronald Reagan told Rockne on his death bed to “Win One For The Gipper” – and Rudy, the biggest underdog film since Rocky, focusing on a undersized and marginally talented steelworker who fulfills his dream of playing for the Irish.

Alabama has more national titles than the Trojans and Fighting Irish with 15, including three crowns in the past four seasons.

Michigan matches USC’s and Notre Dame’s 11 championships, and the Wolverines have won more games than any college football team in history with 913 as of this writing.

However, outside of those two teams, no one can really surpass the football legacies of the private school located south of downtown Los Angeles and the Catholic school located in South Bend, IN, as they prepare to meet for the 85th time this Saturday.

And to think that it all started with a conversation between two women…

On Thanksgiving Day in 1926, the wives of legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne and USC athletic director Glynn Wilson were in Lincoln, NE, where the Irish were playing Nebraska, due to Wilson looking for a big name rival to broaden the Trojans’ appeal nationally.

Mrs. Wilson convinced Mrs. Rockne that playing in L.A., in proximity of star-laden Hollywood every two years, would be so much better than going to cold, dreary Nebraska.

After Mrs. Rockne had a chat with her husband about it, and Rockne realized that it would earn a big payday and please the alumni, the game was on.

A week or so later, Notre Dame arrived in the then state-of-the-art Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to face the Trojans.

‘SC’s first win over the Irish came two years later in 1928, which was the year that the Trojans won their first national title.

And so began college football’s biggest rivalry in which the teams don’t share a state or a city (besides Army-Navy).

There have been many classic games and memorable moments in this series, which includes:

1964:  USC 20, #1 Notre Dame 17 – Trojans came back from a 17-0 deficit, Craig Fertig throwing the winning touchdown pass to Rod Sherman with 1:35 left in the Coliseum.

1966:  Notre Dame 51, USC 0 – The Irish’s largest margin of victory in the series.

1974:  USC 55, Notre Dame 24 – Arguably the most memorable game in the rivalry’s history, and certainly the most memorable for Trojan fans as ‘SC used a 102-yard kickoff run for a touchdown by Anthony Davis to score 55 points in a 17 minute period, including 35 in the third quarter alone as they obliterated a 24-0 lead in the Coliseum.

1977:  Notre Dame 49, USC 19 – Irish coach Dan Devine needed something to motivate his team and found it when, after the Irish warmed up in their regular navy blue jerseys, they returned to their locker room to find green jerseys in their cubicles.

The crowd went nuts upon seeing them when they came out of the tunnel, and Notre Dame went on to blowout the Trojans.

1988:  Notre Dame 27, USC 10 – An epic matchup as both teams were undefeated and ranked #1 (Notre Dame) and #2 (USC), the first and still the only time that has happened, going in at the Coliseum where the largest crowd in the rivalry since 1955 – 93,829 – saw the game.

Unfortunately for ‘SC, it was a pretty one-sided affair as the Irish beat them on their way to an eventual national championship.

2005:  USC 34, Notre Dame 31 – Infamously known for “The Bush Push”, as this epic pitted the top-ranked Trojans and the ninth-ranked Irish.

Nov 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Former USC Trojans receiver Robert Woods (2) is pursued by Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Chris Salvi (24) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Notre Dame defeated USC 22-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the greatest pass in ‘SC history happened in this game with less than two minutes left when on 4th-and nine, Matt Leinart‘s completion to Dwayne Jarrett put the ball on the Notre Dame 15 and set up what technically should have been a five-yard penalty by Reggie Bush.

USC would go on to lose an equally epic matchup to Texas in the BCS Championship Game.

2007:  USC 38, Notre Dame 0 – As they did 30 years before, the Irish broke out the green jerseys for this one, but it didn’t work as this was the Trojans’ largest margin of victory in the series, and their first shutout of Notre Dame, who was 1-6 going into the game, since 1998.

As for this year’s battle, the Trojans and the Irish both come in with 4-2 records.

Notre Dame is coming off a bye after their win over Arizona State in Dallas, which is part of their “Shamrock Series” where they play one game a year at a neutral site, while ‘SC is on a high after their first win under interim coach Ed Orgeron.

I usually hate cliches, but this is a rivalry where the sayings “You throw the records out” and “Anything can happen in a rivalry game” totally ring true.

I’m sure that the millions of students, alumni and fans from both of these schools will be eagerly anticipating this renewal.