Who is Notre Dame’s biggest rival?
How many true rivals does Notre Dame have?
What is the definition of a rival?
These are the kind of questions that can be debated for hours on end and will elicit powerful opinions from Notre Dame and college football fans all over the world.
The Notre Dame Rivalry Index is not meant to answer any of these questions, but is merely a tool through which fans can appreciate Notre Dame’s rivalries and opponents while also gaining some understanding about the rich history of Fighting Irish football.
Since Notre Dame has played well over 100 teams throughout its history, not every program will be dealt with in this piece. The minimum requirement will be programs that have faced the Irish at least five times, with more attention, information and data given to the top rivalries.
Due to length, the index will be broken up into three parts as we count our way down to the top rivalries and opponents Notre Dame has played since the school began playing football in 1887.
But first, let us pay homage to a handful of real old-school rivalries that no longer exist.
Carnegie Tech-19 games
Series Lead: 15-4-0 ND
*Now playing D-III football as Carnegie Mellon University. Last game in series played in 1941.
*Defeated Rockne twice in 1926 and 1928. The former, considered one of the game’s greatest upsets, was the lone defeat of the 1926 for Notre Dame, a season in which the team shut out seven of ten opponents. The latter loss in 1928, was Rockne’s only home loss while coach at Notre Dame, occurring on the old Cartier Field.
Series Lead: 10-1-0 ND
*Now playing D-III football, the Little Giants lone victory against Notre Dame came in 1905.
*Last game came in 1924, a shutout loss to Rockne-led Notre Dame.
Chicago Physicians & Surgeons-9 games
Series Lead: 7-2-0 ND
*Now the University of Illinois at Chicago, they no longer have a football team.
*Chicago Physicians two victories came before the 20th Century. The last game in the series was in 1908 when Notre Dame piled up 88 points in a shutout victory, notching the fifth most points scored in school history.
*Series Lead: 8-0-0 ND
*Now playing D-III football, Depauw was shutout in six of eight games against Notre Dame. Last game in series played in 1922.
*Series Lead: 8-0-0 ND
*Now a FCS member of the Pioneer League, Drake was shutout in five of eight games against Notre Dame. Last game in series played in 1937.
*Series Lead: 7-0-0 ND
*No longer field a football team
*Kalamazoo has the distinction of never having scored a point against Notre Dame, being outscored 318-0. Five of those losses came at the hands of Knute Rockne.
*Series Lead: 5-0-1 ND
*Now a FCS member, Penn fielded strong teams well into the middle of the 20th Century.
*In 1952, the No. 12 ranked Penn team tied the No. 10 ranked Irish team 7-7 in the season’s first week.
And now...the Modern Opponents and Rivals Countdown:
32. Texas A&M-5 games
Series Lead: 3-2-0 ND
*The first three meetings in the series were all played in the Cotton Bowl while Lou Holtz was coaching. The Aggies won the first game, but the Irish prevailed in the last two.
*The last meeting in 2001 left Notre Dame battered after 24-3 loss in College Station.
32. Colorado-5 games
Series Lead: 3-2-0 ND
*Notre Dame won the first two meetings in 1983 and 1984 while both teams were not ranked.
*The teams met in back-to-back Orange Bowls in 1990 and 1991. The first game saw Notre Dame topple the No. 1 Buffaloes and prevent a national championship for Colorado.
The second saw the Buffaloes ranked No. 1 and hold off Notre Dame 10-9 to claim the national championship, although a late Rocket Ismail punt return for a touchdown was called back late in the game on a controversial clipping call.
*The unranked Irish met the No. 4 ranked Buffaloes in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl and lost by 17 in one of the most shameful bowl appearances in college history.
28. BYU-6 games
Series Lead: 4-2-0 ND
*BYU has never been ranked coming into a game against Notre Dame, but did pull out victories against the Irish in 1994 and 2004.
*In 2005, the No. 9 ranked Irish defeated BYU 49-23 in the last game of the series
25. Tulane-8 games
Series Lead: 8-0-0 ND
*Irish have outscored Tulane in the series by a combined scored of 275-35.
*The only game in which Tulane was ranked was in 1949 when the No. 4 Green Wave lost to No. 1 Notre Dame 46-7 in South Bend.
*Last game was in 1971, a 21-7 Irish win.
23. LSU-9 games
Series Lead: 5-5-0 Tie
*LSU has been ranked in all but two meetings in the series. Notre Dame has been ranked in only 5 games.
*Notre Dame won the first meeting 3-0 in 1970 but lost the last meeting 41-14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. No team has won more than two straight in the series.
20. SMU-13 games
Series Lead: 10-3-0 ND
*SMU was unranked when they beat No. 5 Notre Dame in 1951 and unranked again when they beat No. 3 Notre Dame in 1956. No. 10 SMU beat No. 17 Notre Dame in the Aloha Bowl in 1984.
*In the series’ last meeting in 1989, No. 1 Notre Dame throttled unranked SMU 59-6.
17. North Carolina-18 games
First Game: 1949 (42-6 ND Win)
Series Lead: 16-2-0 ND
Since 1950: 15-2-0 ND
Since 1975: 2-1-0 ND
Since 2000: 1-1-0 Tie
Home: 11-0-0 ND
Away: 4-2-0 ND
Neutral: 1-0-0 ND
When ND Ranked: 11-0-0 ND
When UNC Ranked: 2-1-0 ND
When Both Ranked: 1-0-0 ND
When ND Top Ten: 8-0-0 ND
When UNC Top Ten: N/A
Most Points Scored: 45 (2006)
Most Points Given Up: 29 (2008)
Biggest Win: 42-6 (1946)
Biggest Defeat: 12-7 (1960) & 29-24 (2008)
*First game was played in Yankee Stadium while the Irish were No. 1 in the country. Notre Dame was also No. 1 in the land in the following year’s victory in South Bend.
*Irish won first 10 meetings before losing 12-7 in Chapel Hill in 1960.
*Parseghian 3-0 against Tar Heels outscoring North Carolina 65-0.
*The 45 points scored in the 2006 victory over North Carolina were the fourth most in the Weis era. The Irish scored 49 on three separate occasions against Purdue, BYU and Hawaii.
14. Miami-23 games
First Game: 1955 (14-0 ND Win)
Series Lead: 15-7-1 ND
Since 1950: 15-7-1 ND
Since 1975: 9-6-0 ND
Since 2000: Last Game in 1990
Home: 8-1-0 ND
Away: 6-6-1 Tie
Neutral: 1-0-0 ND
When ND Ranked: 13-4-1 ND
When UM Ranked: 5-5-0 Tie
When Both Ranked: 5-3-0 ND
When ND Top Ten: 11-2-1 ND
When UM Top Ten: 4-2-0 UM
Most Points Scored: 48 (1977)
Most Points Given Up: 58 (1985)
Biggest Win: 44-0 (1973)
Biggest Defeat: 58-7 (1985)
*Parseghian and Devine combined 11-0-1 against Miami.
*Faust 1-4 against Miami.
*Miami was ranked only once in the series first 13 meetings, but has been ranked in the last six meetings, and also nine out of the past ten meetings.
*Miami’s 58-7 victory over the Irish in 1985 is the worst defeat since 1944, and the fourth worst in school history.
*1988: No. 4 ranked Notre Dame upsets No. 1 ranked Miami in the game that has been dubbed the "Catholics vs. Convicts."
11. Air Force-28 games
First Game: 1964 (34-7 ND Win)
Series Lead: 22-6-0 ND
Since 1950: 22-6-0 ND
Since 1975: 17-6-0 ND
Since 2000: 3-1-0 ND
Home: 10-4-0 ND
Away: 12-2-0 ND
When ND Ranked: 19-2-0 ND
When AF Ranked: 2-1-0 ND
When Both Ranked: 2-0-0 ND
When ND Top Ten: 14-1-0 ND
When AF Top Ten: N/A
Most Points Scored: 57 (1990)
Most Points Given Up: 41 (2007)
Biggest Win: 49-0 (1977)
Biggest Defeat: 41-24 (2007)
*Notre Dame won the first 11 games in the series.
*Gerry Faust beat Air Force in his first season, but would lose four straight to the Falcons from 1982 through 1985, effectively sealing his fate as one of the worst coaches in Irish history.
*The 1996 loss at home to unranked Air Force in Holtz’ last season in South Bend was a crushing defeat that dropped the Irish out of the top ten of the polls.
8. Michigan-37 games
First Game: 1887 (8-0 UM Win)
Series Lead: 21-15-1 UM
Since 1950: 13-12-1 ND
Since 1975: 13-12-1 ND
Since 2000: 4-4-0 Tie
Home: 8-8-1 Tie
Away: 12-7-0 UM
Neutral: 1-0-0 UM
When ND Ranked: 12-10-1 ND
When UM Ranked: 13-10-1 ND
When Both Ranked: 12-8-1 ND
When ND Top Ten: 5-5-1 Tie
When UM Top Ten: 12-8-1 ND
Most Points Scored: 36 (1998)
Most Points Given Up: 47 (2006)
Biggest Win: 35-12 (1943)
Biggest Defeat: 38-0 (2003 & 2007)
*Michigan won first 8 meetings prior to 1909 season.
*26 out of the last 28 games since 1942 have featured at least one team that was ranked, with 21 of those contests featuring both teams ranked. In 2007 and 2008, neither team was ranked.
*1943: First ever No. 1 versus No. 2 match up in polling history as the favored Irish defeat the Wolverines 35-12 in Ann Arbor.
*1981: No. 1 Notre Dame loses to No. 11 Michigan 25-7 in Faust’s first season in South Bend as the Irish stumble to a 5-6 record on the season.
*Holtz defeated Michigan in back-to-back years (1989-90) while a top the polls in each contest, including the series’ second No. 1 versus No. 2 match up in 1989, a 24-19 Irish victory.
*Schools did not play each other from 1910 through 1941 and 1944 through 1977, with Notre Dame leading college football with a .831 winning percentage during the first interruption and fifth best with a .742 mark during the second interruption. Michigan had .725 (10th best) and .702 (9th best) marks respectively.
*The schools have battled in 26 out of the past 32 years.
5. Pitt-65 games
First Game: 1909
Series Lead: 44-20-1 ND
Since 1950: 33-15-0 ND
Since 1975: 15-9-0 ND
Since 2000: 4-3-0 ND
Home: 19-10-0 ND
Away: 25-10-1 ND
When ND Ranked: 24-9-0 ND
When UP Ranked: 10-7-0 ND
When Both Ranked: 6-3-0 ND
When ND Top Ten: 21-4-0 ND
When UP Top Ten: 5-4-0 UP
Most Points Scored: 69 (1965)
Most Points Given Up: 41 (2004)
Biggest Win: 58-0 (1944)
Biggest Defeat: 26-0 (1936)
*Leahy 6-1 against Pittsburgh.
*Irish are 4-0 against Pitt when ranked No. 1 in the nation.
*Notre Dame has won eight straight in the series on three separate occasions.
*Parseghian a perfect 11-0 against Pittsburgh
*1982: Unranked Irish upset No. 1 Pitt 31-16 on the road.
*Last season’s No. 8 ranking was the highest for Pitt against Notre Dame since 1989, when the No. 7 Panthers lost to the No. 1 Irish.
More coming soon in part two!