ESPN’s College Gameday makes its long awaited return to South Bend on Saturday morning, as No. 7 Notre Dame hosts No. 17 Stanford. Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit will be back at Notre Dame for the first time since the epic 2005 loss to USC, while the show’s new blood—Desmond Howard, David Pollack and Samantha Steele—will be on the picturesque campus for the first time as contributors to the show.
It will be the eighth visit to South Bend for the program that has built up a cult following over its 25-plus years on television. College Gameday's first on-campus show came at Notre Dame’s Joyce Center, 19 years ago, before the “Game of the Century” between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame.
In homage to some memorable games of the past, let’s look back at College Gameday’s seven prior visits to Notre Dame.
The hype machine was in full force late in the 1993 season, as the top two teams in the country were set to collide in the sport’s most famous stadium. The Seminoles were led by Heisman Trophy candidate Charlie Ward, while the surprising Irish had won their first nine games to climb to No. 2 in the polls.
Florida State jumped to a quick 7-0 lead on the team’s first possession, capped by a 12-yard pass from Ward to Kevin Knox. The final 21 points of the first half, however, would belong to the Irish, as running back Lee Becton gashed the Seminoles on the ground.
A 31-17 Irish lead in the fourth quarter was cut in half when Ward found Kez McCorvey on a deflected pass with less than three minutes remaining. A quick Notre Dame three-and-out gave Ward one final chance, but his final throw from the Irish 14-yard line was deflected by Shawn Wooden, a name now forever ingrained in the minds of Notre Dame fans.
Notre Dame’s stay at the top of the polls would last all of seven days, as Boston College upset the Irish the following week. Florida State would win its first national title with an 18-16 win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. The Irish finished 11-1 and No. 2 in the polls after defeating Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
The clash between the Irish and the Wolverines had become September’s marquee game in college football in the early 1990s. 1994 was no different, as the Wolverines rolled into South Bend seeking their first win there in eight years against prized freshman quarterback Ron Powlus, who was making his Notre Dame Stadium debut.
It was all Wolverines in the early going, as senior quarterback Todd Collins helped spark the Wolverines to a 23-7 lead. Notre Dame would rally, however, as Powlus found Derrick Mayes in the back of the end zone with 52 seconds left to put the Irish ahead, 24-23.
Collins would have the last laugh over his young counterpart, driving Michigan deep into Notre Dame territory to set up Remy Hamilton’s 42-yard field goal with two seconds remaining, giving the Wolverines bragging rights until the two teams met again in 1997.
Notre Dame would finish 6-5-1 after a Fiesta Bowl loss to Colorado. Karma would catch up with Michigan two weeks later, as those same Buffaloes connected on a famous Hail Mary pass to stun the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Gary Moeller’s final Michigan team would finish 8-4.
College Gameday attended the sport’s most famous intersectional rivalry for the first time in 1995, as the fifth-ranked Trojans and star wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson rolled into South Bend to face a disappointing 5-2 Irish team.
USC hadn’t beaten Notre Dame in over a decade, although the teams played to a draw a year earlier in Los Angeles. It was evident early that it would be at least another year before the Trojans would finally conquer their bitter rival.
Autry Denson and Mark Edwards (pictured) combined for 177 yards on the ground, and scored all three of the team's first half touchdowns, which gave Notre Dame a 21-7 halftime lead. USC would pull within 11 on a field goal early in the third quarter, but those would be the Trojans' final points of the day. Edwards added another touchdown run and Ron Powlus found Pete Chryplewicz for his only touchdown pass of the day en route to a blowout win.
Notre Dame finished the 1995 season 9-2, earning an Orange Bowl bid to play Florida State. Despite losing both of its rivalry games to the Irish and UCLA, USC won the Pac-10 title and defeated upstart Northwestern on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. Johnson would be selected No. 1 overall in the 1996 NFL Draft.
Notre Dame was 3-0 after a comeback win a week earlier in Austin against Texas and poised to exact revenge on an Ohio State team that shredded the Irish a year earlier in Columbus, the team’s first meeting in almost 60 years. Legendary Buckeyes head coach Woody Hayes, citing the number of Catholics in Ohio, never scheduled Notre Dame during his long tenure at Ohio State.
Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus was ineffective all afternoon against a fierce Buckeyes pass rush, connecting on just 13 of his 30 passes. Mark Edwards’ touchdown plunge late in the first quarter gave the Irish a 7-6 lead, but the Buckeyes would take over from there.
A touchdown toss from Stanley Jackson and one-yard run by Pepe Pearson (pictured) sandwiched around a field goal gave the Buckeyes a 22-7 halftime lead. The Irish would get no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
Ohio State would finish the season No. 2 after a dramatic Rose Bowl win over Arizona State. Notre Dame, in Lou Holtz’s final season, would finish 8-3 and decline a bowl invitation, staying home for the postseason for the first time in 10 years.
The defending national champs and future three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady rolled into South Bend as the favorite to battle an Irish team with a new quarterback in Jarious Jackson.
It was a battle of field goals early, but Brady’s one-yard touchdown run late in the first half gave the Wolverines a 13-6 lead after 30 minutes. Notre Dame took the lead in the third quarter on a four-yard Jackson touchdown pass, but did not seize full control until its next possession.
Jackson took the snap from center and lost his balance moving back to make a pass. The stumble froze the Michigan defense, and Irish receiver Raki Nelson (pictured) slipped behind the secondary for a 35-yard touchdown pass. Two Autry Denson touchdown runs in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.
Both teams would end the season 9-3, as losses in their respective rivalry games (Michigan to Ohio State, Notre Dame to USC) cost them potential BCS bowl bids.
This game is most famously known for the sea of red that filled Notre Dame Stadium, as Nebraska fans invaded South Bend for the Cornhuskers’ rare pilgrimage to northern Indiana. The top-ranked ‘Huskers were poised to make a run at their fourth national title in seven years after a 12-1 season in 1999.
Early on, it looked as if the rebuilding Irish would be little threat to mighty Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers built a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. However, Julius Jones returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to cut the lead to seven.
Special teams would strike again for the Irish, as Joey Getherall (pictured) returned a fourth-quarter punt 83 yards for the game-tying touchdown. In overtime, Notre Dame took its first lead on a Nick Setta field goal, but Nebraska would prove victorious on Crouch’s seven-yard scamper to the corner of the end zone.
Notre Dame would win eight of its next nine games to finish 9-2 and earn a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, where they were destroyed by Oregon State. Nebraska also finished 9-2 and defeated Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl.
Perhaps the greatest game ever played in Notre Dame Stadium occurred when USC brought its 27-game winning streak to South Bend for a clash with the surprising Irish, who came in at 4-1 under first-year head coach Charlie Weis.
A defensive stop and an offensive touchdown helped the Trojans take an early lead, but momentum swung greatly towards the green-clad Fighting Irish when Tom Zbikowski returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Irish a 21-14 lead.
Trailing 28-24, Brady Quinn’s five-yard run with just over two minutes to play set Notre Dame Stadium into a frenzy. The Irish needed only a stop on fourth-and-nine on the Trojans’ final possession, but Matt Leinart connected with Dwayne Jarrett for 61 yards to help set up Leinart’s one-yard touchdown run with three seconds left, famously aided by a push from eventual Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.
Notre Dame would not lose another regular season game, earning a Fiesta Bowl bid against Ohio State. USC was triumphant in their final six games and played for their second straight national title, falling in a classic Rose Bowl to Vince Young and Texas, 41-38.