10 Greatest Notre Dame Football Teams of All Time

All the teams on this list have one thing in common: they didn't lose a game

Notre Dame has the opportunity to win its 12th claimed national championship and go down in history as one of the best teams the program ever fielded. The Irish survived a few close scrapes on its always tough-as-nails schedule to make this year’s College Football Playoff.

 

If this squad wins their final two games, they will likely be considered one of the 10 best in school history. None of the teams on that list lost a game either.

 

10. 1924

Record: 10-0

Finished: Beat Stanford 27-10 in the Rose Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 1

This team, which featured the legendary "Four Horsemen" backfield of Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden, put Notre Dame football on the map. The Irish beat all but two of their opponents by 12 points or more to earn Knute Rockne’s third national championship.

NOTE: These titles were awarded retroactively since the AP did not begin polling sportswriters until 1936. The Rose Bowl win would be Notre Dame’s last postseason victory until 1970 since the Irish did not accept bowl bids from 1926-69.

 

T-8. 1929, '30

Record: 9-0 (1929), 10-0 (1930)

Final Ranking: No. 1 (1929), No. 1 (1930)

Knute Rockne was suffering from phlebitis during the 1929 season so assistant Tom Lieb took over and led the Irish to an undefeated season and a consensus national championship. The next season, Rockne was fully healthy and guided the team to another undefeated season and national title. Sadly, it would be Rockne’s last season as head coach because he died in a plane crash on March 31, 1931.

 

7. 1973

Record: 11-0

Finished: Beat Alabama 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 1

Ara Parseghian’s second national title came through a rushing attack that averaged 350 yards a game and a defense that held its opposition to eight points per contest. Then in the Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame beat Alabama in one of the greatest games in college football history. The Coaches Poll named its national champion before bowl season and had already awarded it to the Crimson Tide (it ended that practice after this game), but the Irish won the AP national title.

 

6. 1966

Record: 9-0-1

Finished: Beat USC 51-0 in the final regular season game.

Final Ranking: No. 1

The Irish outscored its opponents 362-38 in 1966. Their only blemish was a 10-10 tie in its legendary contest with No. 2 Michigan State. Notre Dame battled back from 10-0 deficit to tie the game, but Ara Parseghian was widely criticized for running out the clock in the final seconds. It didn’t matter. The next week Notre Dame blew out USC and was crowned national champion.

 

5. 1988

Record: 12-0

Finished: Beat West Virginia 34-21 in the Fiesta Bowl

Final Ranking: No. 1

With a roster that included 30 players who would go on to the NFL, Lou Hotlz' Irish beat the teams that would finish No. 2 (Miami), No. 4 (Michigan), No. 5 (West Virginia), and No. 7 (USC) en route to the national championship. The wins against the Hurricanes and the Wolverines were by razor-thin margins, but the other 10 victories were by double digits.

 

T-1. 1946, '47, '48, '49

Record:8-0-1 (1946), 9-0 (1947), 9-0-1 (1948), 10-0 (1949)

Final Ranking: No. 1 (1946), No. 1 (1947), No. 2 (1948), No. 1 (1949)

Notre Dame’s football history is rich, but its finest hour came in these four seasons when it went 46-0-2. Along the way, the Irish won three national titles and two Heisman Trophies with Johnny Lujack in 1947 and Leon Hart in '49. Only Oklahoma’s 47-game winning streak in the 1950s eclipses this dynasty.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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