Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 51 of 55

52 OCT. 12, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI S eldom during a college football regular season will two of the 10 winningest programs in history face a third such school in consecu- tive games. In 2019, Notre Dame will achieve that rare distinction when it hosts USC Oct. 12 prior to its next contest, at Michigan Oct. 26. Stra- tegically placed in be- tween is a bye Oct. 19, but facing such oppo- sition in back-to-back regular-season contests still remains unique. This will mark the 34th time that Notre Dame will confront the Trojans and Wolverines in the same year during the regular season — and it might be a while before it occurs again. While Notre Dame's se- ries with archrival USC is likely to continue un- til the end of time, there reportedly has been no discussion about con- tinuing with Michigan. O r i g i n a l l y t h e r e was a tentative agree- ment between the two schools to meet 25 con- secutive years from 2002-26, but conference realignments, including Notre Dame joining the ACC as a par- tial football member (and full time in most other sports), led it to opt out of the deal following the 31-0 conquest of the Wolverines in 2014. There was a three-year hiatus from 2015-17 before the two agreed to a two- game home-and-home series in 2018- 19. Whether any such matchup will occur again in the 2020s is uncertain. The first time Notre Dame played both Michigan and USC in the same season was 1942, head coach Frank Leahy's second season with the Fight- ing Irish. Notre Dame was upset 32-20 at home by the No. 6-ranked Wolver- ines, but two weeks later won 13-0 at No. 14 USC. The next season, Leahy's troops handily won the return match at Michigan (35-12) in college football's first-ever No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup since the start of the Associated Press poll in 1936. It helped trigger Notre Dame's run to the national title — but the series with USC was cancelled from 1943-45 because of restrictions placed on cross-country travel during the height of World War II. Consequently, it was not until 1978 that both Michigan and USC were on the schedule again together, and that has been the case for most of the past 40 years. In the 33 regular seasons the Fighting Irish have played both programs, they have swept the duo only seven times: 1987-90, 1993, 2012 and 2018. Not co- incidentally, in six of those seven years Notre Dame was legitimately vying for the national title right until its final game. In the seven sea- sons when the Irish vanquished both blue bloods, they finished the regular season 73-7, a .913 winning percent- age. Some of the glamour of this year 's games may have faded be- cause of recent setbacks for the Trojans and Wol- verines. Coming off a 5-7 campaign in 2018, USC head coach Clay Helton is deemed to be on the hottest seat in the Foot- ball Bowl Subdivision. A 3-2 start this season continues to stoke that fire, and a loss at Notre Dame to drop to .500 likely would add more fuel to it. Meanwhile, head coach Jim Harbaugh's tenure at Michigan has fallen well short of expectations, notably with an 0-4 record ver- sus Ohio State. He con- cluded last season with 62-39 and 41-15 demo- litions to the Buckeyes and Florida, and falling behind 35-0 at Wiscon- sin this season during a 35-14 loss is continuing to leave the Wolverines natives restless. Regardless, a sweep of this duo could trigger another ex- ceptional finish for Notre Dame, and maybe even a second straight College Football Playoff berth. Here are the seven previous sweeps: 1987-90: THE WONDER YEARS Of the numerous extraordinary achievements under head coach Lou Holtz from 1986-96, perhaps only the school-record 23-game winning streak in 1988-89 surpasses the 8-0 record against the Wolverines and Trojans for the class of '91. • In 1987, Notre Dame finished in the Associated Press poll for the first time in seven years (a record drought at the school) on the strength of stunning Michigan on the road in the opener (26- 7), and later defeating eventual Pac-10 The Fighting Irish went 8-0 against the Wolverines and Trojans from 1987-90, including a 24-19 victory in Ann Arbor on the strength of 88- and 92-yard kickoff returns by Raghib "Rocket" Ismail. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS BACK-TO-BACK Notre Dame will face USC and Michigan in consecutive games for the first time ever

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct. 12, 2019