The Fighting Irish and Trojans, two of college football's most historic programs, meet for the 90th time on Saturday
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojans are set to meet for the 90th time this Saturday. And while both teams are in entirely different situations headed into the final game of the regular season, there's still plenty on the line.
The Irish are looking to stay undefeated to cement their case for being in the College Football Playoff. The Trojans need a victory to become bowl eligible and could be playing for head coach Clay Helton's job. Even though USC is staring at the prospect of a losing season (and a coaching change) this remains one of the top rivalries in college football.
To get you ready for the Saturday night's game, here are 15 interesting, fun and/or amazing facts about one of college football’s original intersectional rivalries that you may or may not have already known.
1. Officially, Notre Dame leads the series with USC 45-36-5. The Irish vacated wins in 2012 and '13 due to NCAA sanctions, while the Trojans did the same for their victory in 2005.
2. Currently ranked, No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, a win on Saturday would presumably ensure that the Irish become the first independent and team from a non-Power 5 conference to make the playoff.
3. This will be USC’s ninth night game of 2018, one shy of the school record (10 in 2010 and '17).
4. USC and Notre Dame played one common opponent in 2018: Stanford. The Trojans lost at then-No. 10 Stanford, 17-3, on Sept. 8, while the Irish defeated the then-No. 7 Cardinal at home, 38-17, on Sept. 29.
5. USC freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown’s brother, Equanimeous, was a wide receiver at Notre Dame (2015-17) who in his three meetings against the Trojans made several big plays. In 2015, he blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown, and he also had a TD catch in both '16 and '17.
6. Current Notre Dame safety Nicco Fertitta, a senior, is the nephew of Frank and Jill Fertitta, namesakes of Fertitta Hall at USC’s Marshall School of Business.
7. The rivalry was played in late November in both South Bend and Los Angeles until 1959, when USC athletic director Jess Hill negotiated a move to October at Notre Dame, as a way of avoiding frigid conditions.
8. After leading Notre Dame to a national championship in 1924, USC approached Knute Rockne about coaching the Trojans. Rockne declined and instead encouraged USC to consider his friend, Howard Jones, who was coaching at Iowa at the time, instead.
9. After wearing green jerseys as early as the 1920s under Rockne, the Fighting Irish made them iconic against USC in 1977 when they surprised everyone by putting them on after warm-ups. The Irish won 49-19.
10. Anthony Davis’s four-touchdown performance to lead USC to a comeback win over Notre Dame in 1974 forced the Heisman Trust to change their voting procedures, requiring all games to have been played before casting a ballot. Davis finished second to Ohio State’s Archie Griffin in the voting.
11. The Fighting Irish and Trojans have met just once as top two-ranked teams in the country. In 1988, No. 1 Notre Dame defeated No. 2 USC 27-10.
12. During the 2005 game, the famous 4th-and-9 conversion play was Treble Right 61 Sam Y-Option and it was designed to go to Dominique Byrd if the defense didn’t show blitz. When Notre Dame showed blitzed, Leinart checked to their backup play called Sluggo Z Win.
13. Dwayne Jarrett, the USC wide receiver who caught the famous 4th-and-9 pass, had been recruited and offered by Notre Dame during his junior season. The Irish pulled his offer during his senior season, believing he would not qualify
14. The winner of the USC-Notre Dame game gets year-long possession of the Jeweled Shillelagh. The foot-long shillelagh — a Gaelic war club made of oak or blackthorn saplings from Ireland — has ruby-adorned Trojan heads with the year and game score representing USC victories, while emerald-studded shamrocks stand for Notre Dame wins. For tie games, a combined Trojan head/shamrock medallion was used. The first Shillelagh was retired after the 1989 game when it ran out of space for the medallions and a second one is now in use.
15. USC, Notre Dame and UCLA are the only FBS programs to have never played an FCS (formerly Division I-AA) opponent in their entire history.
— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.