In 1887, the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the field for the first football game in school history (they lost to the University of Michigan 8-0). One year later, the University of Southern California Methodists (the name change to “Trojans” wouldn’t occur until 1912) also played collegiate football for the first time.
It’s been 125 years that both illustrious football programs have actively played, and they’ve had their fair share of national championships. There have, of course, been losses for both schools, but never in the history of college football has a team defeated both the Irish and the Trojans in back-to-back weeks. This Saturday in Arlington, Texas, the Arizona State Sun Devils have a chance to do just that.
During his Monday press conference, ASU Head Coach Todd Graham said the historical factor in Saturday’s contest is on his mind and has been stressed to his team.
“This game is a national game for us. It’s an opportunity for us — and I talked to [the team] yesterday about making history — to be the first team in college football history to beat USC and Notre Dame on back-to-back weeks. That’s never happened. I’d say that’s pretty significant,” Graham said.
Interestingly enough, ASU has actually had a chance to do this before. In the 1998 season, the Sun Devils had USC and Notre Dame on their schedule in back-to-back weeks. In their fifth game of that season, they traveled to the LA Coliseum to battle 21st ranked USC. Unfortunately, the Devils fell to the Trojans 35-24 so the next week’s game against the 22nd ranked Irish in Tempe would not be an opportunity to make history (they also fell to Notre Dame, 28-9).
It’s worth mentioning that not many teams have actually had to face USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. One that comes to mind is Stanford, which plays both schools on a regular basis. It might be surprising then to realize the Cardinal have only faced them back-to-back once in their history. During the 1990 season, Stanford traveled to South Bend and stunned the #1 ranked Irish 36-31 before a very disappointing loss to the Trojans back in Palo Alto, 37-22. Stanford has not had a chance at history again since that season.
Since Arizona State University first took the field as the Tempe Normals in 1897 (10 years after the first game for the Irish football program) they have met Notre Dame twice. After falling in Tempe in 1998 in their first ever match-up, the Devils traveled to South Bend the very next year where Bob Davie’s Irish squad once again defeated them, this time 48-17.
If ASU can improve its record to 1-2 against Notre Dame on Saturday, it will make history and be known as the only team in college football to ever beat USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Surely it is no easy feat, for any team.