While the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a long and storied past, Jack Swarbrick and other top decision makers at the school must constantly be looking towards the future in the ever-changing landscape of college football. My colleagues have done a wonderful job looking at Notre Dame’s current and past rivals this week. Thus, I wanted to look ahead into the future at 3 teams that have the potential to develop into a rival in the coming years.
-Ohio State holds a 4-2 series lead
-Last matchup: 2016 Fiesta Bowl
-Next scheduled matchup: September 3, 2022
For two schools that hold such significance in the sport of college football, Notre Dame and Ohio State have rarely played each other. Their first meeting occurred in 1935 and holds the distinction of being named the very first “Game of the Century.” Thanks to the heroics of Andy Pilney, Notre Dame won the 1935 battle and also defeated the Buckeyes in 1936. Following the 1936 game, the 2 programs would not meet again for another 59 years. The teams played in 1995 and 1996 in a home and home series with Ohio State winning both times. Since 1996, the two teams have only met in the Fiesta Bowl (2006 and 2016). Jack Swarbrick and Gene Smith were able to work out a home and home series for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Notre Dame will travel to Ohio Stadium in 2022, and the Buckeyes will make the return trip to Notre Dame Stadium in 2023.
After having made the College Football Playoffs 3 times in 6 seasons, Ohio State is clearly setting the standard in the Midwest. Off the field, the Irish are constantly butting heads with Ryan Day and his staff on the recruiting trail for many of the nation’s top prospects. With their recent history on the field and in the recruiting rankings, it stands to reason that if Notre Dame wants to claim its first national championship since 1988, they will need to get past the Buckeyes at some point. Throw in a couple of tightly contested regular season games and suddenly all the ingredients needed for a rivalry to develop are present.
-Clemson holds a 3-1 series lead
-Last matchup: 2019 Cotton Bowl
-Next scheduled matchup: November 7, 2020
Though these two programs have only met 4 times, each game seemingly has had large implications. The first meeting between Clemson and Notre Dame came on November 12, 1977 with the teams ranked #15 and #5, respectively. Facing a 17-7 deficit in the 4th quarter, Joe Montana helped rally the Irish to a 21-17 victory. The win kept Notre Dame alive in the hunt for a national title. Ultimately, Notre Dame would claim the 1977 National Championship after defeating #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl at the. In 1979, #14 Clemson traveled north to face an unranked Irish team. Notre Dame held a 10-0 lead at halftime. However, Clemson scored on 4 straight possessions in the 2nd half to claim a 16-10 win, handing Notre Dame only their 3rd loss since 1940 on Senior Day. The teams would not meet again until the night of October 3rd, 2015. Amid a hurricane, #12 Clemson welcomed #6 Notre Dame to town for a showdown under the lights in Death Valley. Thanks to 3 Irish turnovers, Clemson held a 21-3 lead entering the 4th quarter. However, Notre Dame furiously rallied and scored a touchdown with 7 seconds left in the game to leave the score at 24-22. Unfortunately, Clemson snuffed out the 2-point conversion. Many point to this game at the turning point for the Clemson program to propel them to what they have become today. These two teams also met in the College Football Playoff in 2018, with Clemson claiming a 30-3 victory.
Clemson’s program is humming along and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. Notre Dame is in the position Clemson was a few years ago, beginning to consistently win 10 games, yet never being able to win the big games on their schedule. The 2 programs are set to play in 2020, 2022, 2027, and 2028 this decade. Both programs should continue to be yearly contenders for the College Football Playoff in the coming years. At a minimum, the teams will have faced each other 5 times in 11 seasons. If the previous 4 games are any indication, these games should be highly entertaining and extremely critical to the success of each team’s season. Sure sounds like a budding rivalry to me.
-Notre Dame holds a 7-5 series lead
-Last matchup: 2017 Citrus Bowl
-Next scheduled matchup: None
LSU and Notre Dame have played each other 12 times, making LSU the most often played opponent from the SEC. These two programs have an underrated history together, often producing some wacky results and major upsets.
Recently, Notre Dame scored last second victories over #22 LSU in the 2014 Music City Bowl and #17 LSU in the 2018 Citrus Bowl. In the 2007 Sugar Bowl #4 LSU rocked the #11 Irish, 41-14. The series began in 1970 with #2 Notre Dame defeating #7 LSU by the score of 3-0. In 1971, #14 LSU defeated #7 Notre Dame 28-8. The 20-point loss was the largest margin of defeat suffered by Ara Parseghian at that time in his career with Notre Dame. During the 1980s, the 2 teams played 4 times, each claiming 2 victories. The 1981 Irish victory came in Gerry Faust’s debut with the Irish and helped vault Notre Dame to the #1 ranking a week into his tenure. In 1984, Notre Dame was 3-4 and riding a 3-game losing streak. Nonetheless, they walked into Death Valley and defeated #6 LSU. In 1997, facing similar circumstances as 1984, the 4-5 Irish went on the road to face #11 LSU and defeated them yet again. Fans were treated to a rematch in the postseason as the Tigers defeated Notre Dame 24-6 in the 1997 Independence Bowl. Finally, in one of the crazier games ever in Notre Dame Stadium, #10 Notre Dame defeated LSU by the score of 39-36 in 1998. Notre Dame rallied from a 34-20 hole to pull out the victory. Additionally, there were 4 blocked kicks and 3 defensive touchdowns in the game. To cap it off, Notre Dame quarterback, Jarious Jackson suffered a knee injury taking a safety as the Irish tried to run out the clock.
With no home and home scheduled thus far in the 2020s, it seems easy to dismiss the chances of them playing for the next 10 years as slim to none. However, the teams have managed to play each other at least 1 time in each of the last 4 decades. Thus, fans should plan on seeing LSU in a bowl game in the coming years, and the easiest way to create a rivalry is to play in high profile bowl games. As Notre Dame continues to schedule more games with the SEC, the school’s histories should help foster a home and home series in the future. Though on the surface it doesn’t appear likely, the history gives this series a chance to continue to develop into a true rivalry.
Now that you have read my list, let me know your thoughts on what programs have the potential to develop a rivalry with the Fighting Irish in the coming years!