The sweeping changes in conference affiliation over the last few seasons has had the unfortunate side effect of ending some of college football’s greatest traditional rivalries. Fortunately for college football purists, the long-running USC vs. Notre Dame series has always been a nonconference matchup, and no one’s messing with that tradition any time soon.
Not that it was in doubt, but the Trojans and Fighting Irish made it official this week, when they announced that the rivalry game had been renewed through 2023.
USC will host Notre Dame in Los Angeles on Thanksgiving weekend in even-numbered years, and the Trojans will play the Irish in South Bend in mid-October in odd-numbered years, as they have since the 1950s. The series itself dates back even further, to 1926. The Irish won that first meeting in Los Angeles, 13-12.
The game between two of college football’s most storied programs — combined, they have 22 national championships and 13 Heisman winners (excluding USC’s Reggie Bush) — is often called “the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football.”
Some of the most memorable plays and games in each team’s history, and in college football history, have occurred during USC-Notre Dame games. There have been Heisman-worthy performances (Joe Theismann‘s 526 passing yards in 1970), shocking upsets (USC over undefeated No. 2 Notre Dame in 1970), unlikely comebacks (USC’s win in 1974 after spotting the Irish a 24-0 lead), and of course, some controversy (2005’s “Bush Push” game).
In fact, the series has run the gamut, from No. 1 vs. No. 2 match-ups (1988 — the No. 1 Irish won to remain undefeated) to ugly blowouts (Notre Dame 51, USC 0 in 1966), with five ties along the way.
There’s always something to see when these two face off on the football field, and since both typically draw large crowds and television audiences on their own, continuing the annual match-up benefits all involved, as well as their television partners.
In an era when the college football landscape is shifting rapidly, there are some traditions that still stand the test of time. For at least the next decade, the annual USC-Notre Dame game is one of them.