On Fridays, Ryan McGee will be previewing one of the weekend's top matchups by digging deep into the teams' rivalry and determining which one is set up for a brighter future going forward. From fan bases to coaching stability to recruiting success, he'll cover the rivalries from every angle.
Of all the rivalries we've looked at this season, this showdown between the Trojans and Fighting Irish may have the most moving parts. While USC has simply dominated this series recently, the program is dealing with NCAA sanctions as a result of the Reggie Bush saga, and last season lost to a Notre Dame team that appears to be on the rise under new coach Brian Kelly.
What does this mean for the state of this rivalry going forward? And which team will be more successful in the coming years? Read on to find out.
1. Recent performance
First things first, all you need to know about this rivalry is that when they first met in 1926 it was the first time a Midwestern team had ever traveled to the West Coast for a regular-season game, and the Irish were led onto the train by Knute Rockne. That's just cool. The teams exchanged medallions that day and today the winner is awarded a bejeweled shillelagh. That is also cool.
When one opens up this week's pregame notes provided by the sports information departments of both USC and Notre Dame, two thoughts immediately jump out.
Observation No. 1: When you look over the last decade and a half of this series there sure are a lot of L's on the Irish side of the paper. Before that, it's the other way around for nearly another decade and a half. "Yes," USC QB-turned-AD Pat Haden acknowledges with a laugh. "The series has been a bit streaky over the last few decades."
He's right. From 1970-82, USC won 11 of 13. Notre Dame answered by winning 11 in a row and 12 out of 13, the only blemish being a 17-17 tie in 1994. Then the Troy began a run of domination that lasted right up until last year.
Observation No. 2: Aside from the surprisingly cordial cooperation of both teams to not make much of the 2005 USC win stripped away by the NCAA as part of Troy's post-Bush punishment, the Trojans and Fighting Irish agree on little else, especially on the topic of each school's ranking on the historical totem pole of college football. Troy boasts 11 national titles, six Heisman winners (though Bush's was vacated), 78 consensus All-Americans and an all-time winning percentage of .706. South Bend also claims 11 national titles, but seven Heisman winners, 96 consensus All-Americans and an all-time winning percentage of .732.
But when it comes to recent performance, there is no contest. USC has won four of the last five, eight of 10 and 11 of 15. Since 2001, USC has made seven BCS bowl appearances and won at least a share of two national titles. Notre Dame has earned three BCS berths, all losses, and its last national title came in 1988.
To see which rival, USC or Notre Dame, has the chance to be more successful over the next few seasons, become an ESPN Insider today.