Notre Dame football vs USC: 3 Biggest Irish wins in rivalry history
1947: Notre Dame 38 USC 7
1947 was in the middle of Frank Leahy’s dominant run as head coach at Notre Dame. His 1947 squad was loaded with legends, including Heisman winners Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart, as well as Red Sitko, George Connor, Zygmont Czarobski, Bill Fisher, and Jim Martin, all of whom would go on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
As for USC, they were coached by Jeff Cravath, while Paul Cleary and John Ferraro would be College Football Hall of Famers from the USC roster.
USC entered the game unbeaten, but with a tie to Rice. Five of their previous eight games, they shut out their opponents, and they were ranked third in the nation. The Irish were the countries top-ranked team, having won the National Championship the year before and not lost to this point in the season. This made it one of the most highly anticipated games of the 1947 season, and one of the most anticipated games of the Notre Dame-USC rivalry.
The game itself was a blowout, in front of 104,953 people in Los Angeles. In particular, four second-half touchdowns helped the Irish secure a 38-7 win. It was a great win for The Irish, but the real history here has to do with the off-field debate.
Rules were rapidly changing around college athletics in the 1940s. The Irish, at the time, was regarded as bending the rules if not outright cheating. This had made it a bit more challenging to recruit, as the Irish lost games against teams like Army and several Big Ten schools. One of those Big Ten schools, naturally, was Michigan.
Notre Dame and Michigan were both unbeaten in 1947, trading spots back and forth. This is also when the National Championship was awarded before bowl games, meaning the big win over USC earned Notre Dame a National Championship.
Michigan would go to the Rose Bowl and play USC, who they beat 49-0, trying to prove a point. Clearly, Michigan and Notre Dame were the top two teams, but because Michigan refused to play The Irish the game couldn’t be decided on the field. Michigan now claims a National Title from 1947, though the NCAA officially recognizes Notre Dame.
In this way, the 1947 Notre Dame game was one of the greatest Irish wins over USC all time, propelling them to a National Championship. It was also another spark in the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry.