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Notre Dame vs. USC: History of rivalry between Fighting Irish and Trojans

We take a look back at the history cross-country rivalry as the teams prepare for a top-15 matchup this weekend.

Football - NCAA - Notre Dame vs. USC Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

The No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel west to face the No. 5 USC Trojans on Saturday, Nov. 26 with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET. As one of the fiercest non-conference rivalries in football, this game raises the stakes for both teams. The Trojans hope to qualify for a coveted College Football Playoff spot, while ND looks to keep their five-game win streak alive after a shaky start to the season.

We take a look back at the history of this storied rivalry.

History of Notre Dame vs. USC

Total games played: 92
Record: Notre Dame is 48–36–5
Last game: Notre Dame won 31-16 in South Bend

Back when Notre Dame was being frozen out of the Big Ten by Michigan’s Fielding Yost, they had to travel to find opponents willing to play, and in 1926, the University of Southern California invited the Irish out to Los Angeles. The following year saw a highly-attended matchup at Soldier Field in Chicago, and the rest is history.

Notre Dame dominated the series throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, while USC basically saw a guaranteed win on the schedule throughout the 2000s. The Irish have won the last four matchups, but the 2010s saw a true, evenly-matched rivalry. The two legacy programs combine for 24 national championships and 14 Heisman Trophy winners.

The teams have met 92 times and have played every consecutive year since they first met with the exceptions of the World War II years and the COVID season. They’ve seen the move from cross-country trains to private planes, but still have to travel 2,000 miles every fall to keep the series alive.

Biggest game in series history: 1988

Both teams came into the 1988 matchup undefeated, with the Irish ranked No. 1 and the Trojans at No. 2. Notre Dame’s Tony Rice led the team to a huge 27-10 victory and went on to win the national championship that year.

Most important player in series history: Reggie Bush

The Bush Push is one of the most notorious game endings in college football history. It was 2005, and the Irish home crowd believed that they had won the game. As they started to storm the field, the referees put time back on the clock, allowing USC to go not for a field goal to tie and head to OT, but a touchdown to end the game. Reggie Bush illegally pushed Trojans QB Matt Leinart into the end zone for a score. USC went on to lose in the national championship that year and later vacated the win.

Odds for 2022

Spread: USC -5.5
Total: Over/Under 64.5
Moneyline: USC -210, ND +180

USC enters this game with a single loss, staring down the Pac-12 Championship game and a CFP bid. If all goes well over the next two weeks, they’re looking at a guaranteed College Football Playoff berth. The Irish are determined to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Notre Dame has held the Jeweled Shillelagh for the past four seasons and have already taken care of a top four team this season. The Irish bring one of the best defenses that Caleb Williams and his powerful USC offense have seen all season, and this matchup and the stakes attached to it should make for a thriller in Los Angeles.