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5 greatest USC/Notre Dame rivalry games

Although Saturday night’s game between USC and Notre Dame may not have all the superlatives we expect, this rivalry has produced some of college football’s best games over history.

Notre Dame v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The rivalry between USC and Notre Dame is one of the most historic in college football and has produced some entertaining contests for fans throughout the 89 games played between the two schools. Even though this has been a disappointing year for the Trojans, there is never any love lost when the Irish come to town. Whether it was Pete Carroll vs. Charlie Weis, John Robinson vs. Lou Holtz or John McKay against Ara Parseghian, this series carries a lot of pageantry with the team’s traditions and fan bases, which has led to some classics. Here are five of the best games between USC and Notre Dame, since the schools first started playing each other back in 1926.

Lou Holtz
Lou Holtz

5. 1996: USC 27, Notre Dame 20

After going into the fourth quarter with a 20-12 lead, the Irish appeared to be well on its way to a 14th-consecutive victory over USC. However, The Trojans had other plans, scoring 15 unawnswered points to snap its losing streak against Notre Dame. And, to the delight of many Trojans fans, USC spoiled what was Lou Holtz’s final game as Notre Dame’s head coach.

Carson Palmer celebrates

4. 2002: USC 44, Notre Dame 13

Former USC quarterback Carson Palmer finished off a impeccable regular season for the Trojans by throwing for 425 yards and four touchdowns in a blowout victory for the Trojans over their rival Notre Dame. To this day, the 425 yards through the air that Palmer recorded is the most any quarterback has ever thrown for against the Irish. Palmer would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that year and lead USC to an Orange Bowl victory against Iowa, which was the first of many bowl victories for USC during the Carroll era.

3. 1978: USC 27, Notre Dame 25

Notre Dame gunslinger and eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana brought his team back from a 24-6 deficit against the Trojans at the Coliseum, giving the Irish a one-point lead with just 45 seconds left in the game. However, USC foiled what would have been one of Montana’s greatest comeback performances at Notre Dame with a game-winning field goal in the final seconds. The Trojans, who were ranked No. 3 in the nation entering the game, would go on to win the national championship that same year.

2. 1986: Notre Dame 38, USC 37

Similar to Holtz’s final game as the Irish’s coach, this game looked like it was going to end in a lopsided score but it turned out to be one that went right down to the wire. Unfortunately for the Trojans, this one ended in favor of the Irish. Notre Dame quarterback Steve Beuerlein threw three touchdown passes in the second half to lead the Irish back from a large deficit. Then, Irish legend and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown set up the eventual game-winning field goal with a 56-yard punt return. However, this game is probably more infamous for CBS cutting to a commercial when the final play took place. Still, it’s one of the closest and most-entertaining games this rivalry has produced.

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

1. 2005: USC 34, Notre Dame 31

More commonly known as “The Bush Push Game,” this 2005 classic is one of the greatest college football games ever. It was Weis’ first year at Notre Dame, after he helped the New England Patriots start their dynasty as the offensive coordinator, and he initiated the intensity leading in by having the Irish wear its iconic green jerseys. It turned out to be an iconic game that was ultimately decided on USC’s final drive. Facing a fourth and nine deep inside Trojans territory, quarterback Matt Leinart hit receiver Dwayne Jarrett on a streak route. Then, Leinart scrambled for a first down, nearly coming away with a touchdown, but had the ball knocked out. With just seconds remaining, the ball went out of bounds but the clock at Notre Dame Stadium had ran out. However, the game officials went back and reviewed the play, later confirming that the ball went out of bounds, which allowed the clock to stop and left seven seconds left on the clock. On the next play, Leinart attempted to punch it in with his feet and was able to get it across the goal line with the assist of running back Reggie Bush’s push. The Trojans would eventually advance to a second-consecutive national championship game, thanks to that victory, where they lost to Texas. However, the legend of the Bush Push Game lives on and will forever be apart of the USC vs. Notre Dame rivalry.