Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Notre Dame is one win from playing for the BCS championship for the first time.Saturday will be the 84th meeting between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans and the 21st time that the Fighting Irish will enter the game undefeated, but the first time since 1993.
Which raises the question: How many times has USC ended a Notre Dame unbeaten season?
Six times, with four of those wins coming in Los Angeles, when the game was the finale on Notre Dame's regular-season schedule. Twice the Irish were ranked No. 1 and once No. 2. The last time came in 1980, Dan Devine’s final year as Notre Dame head coach. In 1980, USC was ranked 17th with a roster that included Ronnie Lott and a future Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Allen.
Unranked USC beating No. 1 Notre Dame
Only once has a No. 1-ranked Notre Dame team played USC when it was unranked. The result was an agonizing one for the Fighting Irish.
In 1964, Ara Parseghian’s first year as head coach, the Irish were 9-0 with one game left on the schedule: a game against the 6-3 Trojans, a team with losses at Michigan State and Ohio State and at home to Washington.
USC Wins Against An Unbeaten Notre Dame
Notre Dame was led by the 1964 Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback John Huarte, a Los Angeles native who went to Mater Dei High School. That school will be eagerly watching this week’s game because it's the alma mater of current USC quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Max Wittek, not to mention 2004 Heisman winner and former USC quarterback Matt Leinart.
Notre Dame had a 17-0 halftime lead, but the Trojans mounted a comeback to win 20-17 on a pass from Craig Fertig to Rod Sherman with 1:35 to play. A possible national title in Parseghian’s first season was dashed. Notre Dame fell to No. 3 in the poll, and the Alabama Crimson Tide went on to win the national title.
Top-ranked in this rivalry
Notre Dame has been the country’s top-ranked team heading into this game seven times, going 5-2. In five of those games, USC was also a top-10 team.
The shoe has been on the other foot, too. USC has been ranked No. 1 against Notre Dame five times, and the Trojans are a perfect 5-0 in those meetings. That includes the famous 2005 “Bush Push” game.
Has there ever been a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in this rivalry? Just once. Lou Holtz and his No. 1 Notre Dame team beat No. 2 USC 27-10 in 1988 in Los Angeles. The Irish went on to beat West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to claim the national championship.