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The USC and Notre Dame rivalry is one of the most anticipated events of the season. You would not believe that USC fans would be excited for this match-up given the disastrous resignation of athletic director Lynn Swann or the poor coaching of Clay Helton. However, this is a historic rivalry. A rivalry that has lived on for more than 90 years and that holds value. It is a battle once every season for the ultimate bragging rights. The outside noise that the Trojans or the Irish face quickly diminishes and the only thing that matters is winning. 

The USC and Notre Dame Rivalry

Power To The Wives

How the greatest intersectional football rivalry came to be is still unknown. Many believe that it was a game motivated by money and exposure. Other instances claim it was just an innocent way to fill out the football schedule. However, the “conversation between wives,” version is the most accepted and honestly, the better story to tell.

In 1925, USC’s Gwynn Wilson traveled to middle America for the Nebraska and Notre Dame game. It was Wilson’s job to convince Knute Rockne, Notre Dame’s head coach, into taking part in the rivalry with USC. Rockne wasn’t so convinced and that’s when Wilson’s wife, Marion, stepped in. She persuades Rockne’s wife, Bonnie, that it would be much better to travel to California for a rivalry game. Mrs. Wilson argued that they would fare much better on a trip to warm, sunny, California than a cold trip to Nebraska. A discussion between Bonnie and Knute eventually lead to what we now know as one of the greatest rivalries of college football. 

USC And Notre Dame Rivalry: The Era Of Prosperity

For modern-day Trojan fans, who have witnessed the school’s recent pitiful seasons, the Trojan and Irish rivalry might seem irrelevant. They are quick to forget the 22 national championships between them, the 14 Heisman trophy winners, and the 941 No.1 draft picks they have produced. Which begs the same question season after season: which school is better?

Through 1960-1982 the rivalry peaked, and the Trojans and Irish combined to win eight national titles. USC won five out of the eight national titles. They either played as spoilers for the other team or, they went on to continue a successful season. So many great games came out of this era.

There was the controversial 1964 game where Notre Dame came into the Coliseum ranked #1 and an 11-point favorite. With the help of some questionable calls, USC beat undefeated Notre Dame and squashed their hopes for a national title. 

Another notable game was the 1974 USC comeback game, one of the best comeback stories in sports history. Notre Dame was entering this game as the reigning national champions. The Irish started hot with a 24-0 lead. Yet somehow, in the last 10 seconds before half time, USC was able to score a touchdown, igniting a much-needed spark. In the second half, USC went straight to work with Anthony Davis scoring a 102-yard opening kickoff return. USC would continue to push and eventually cemented their 55-24 victory against the Irish. Not only did USC win, but their defense managed to hold down Notre Dame’s offense for an entire half and, they scored 55 points in 17 minutes. 

There have been numerous games and moments that have defined the USC and Notre Dame rivalry. Each moment bringing out the very best of both teams. It’s brought forth unexpected motivation and competition. It has created a sense of drive for both teams and boosted their creativity. If there was ever a team that needed those unique attributes that come from a rivalry, it would be this year’s Trojans. 

Embrace The Suck

That is USC’s wide receiver, Michael Pittman Jr.‘s, advice to his younger teammates heading into South Bend this Saturday. He was probably referring more to the weather, which is expected to be in the fifties, but at this point, it could mean anything. 

Both teams have struggled within the last 5 years and as a result, the rivalry has reached a balance. No one is currently dominating. Between 2000-2009, USC triumphed over the Irish winning eight out of their 10 match-ups. The Trojan’s 2005 victory was waived by the NCAA, but the Irish still lost so, it technically counts as a win.

Today both teams struggle with inconsistency, but a win by the Trojans can sooth some fans and critics.

Notre Dame currently has the upper hand winning the last two encounters against ‘SC. They are also stepping into Saturday’s battle as the 11-point favorite, similarly like their 1964 contest and we all know how that turned out. Will history repeat itself? The odds are literally against the Trojans, but if there were a time and place to “embrace the suck,” this game would be it. 

Notre Dame vs USC At The Los Angeles Coliseum. Photo Credit: Neon Tommy | Under Creative Commons License

Notre Dame vs USC At The Los Angeles Coliseum. Photo Credit: Neon Tommy | Under Creative Commons License

Leslie Torres-Valadez

Author Leslie Torres-Valadez

West coast sports nerd, with a love for east coast football.

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