Most rivalries are brought about by similarities or close proximities of each school involved. Texas/Oklahoma, USC/UCLA, Army/Navy are examples. The USC/Notre Dame rivalry isn't one of them. 2000 miles seperate the two schools. Notre Dame is an Irish Catholic University located in the heartland of America. Southern California is on the west coast, smack dab in the middle of "tinsel town". Complete opposites. Yet despite this, the football rivalry between them couldn't be greater.
The rivalry isn't as long as most others, starting in December of 1926. Knute Rockne, the legendary coach of Notre Dame and USC AD Gwynn Wilson agreed to a home and away series that endures to this day. Notre Dame leads the series, taking home the Jeweled Shillelagh, 42-33-5. It took WW II to disrupt the tradition, but for only two years.
The list of reasons why this is such a great rivalry will vary from fan to fan, but here are a few of mine.
1) National Championships. No other rivalry can boast as many in the modern era. Notre Dame is an 11 time Consensus National Champion, while USC claims the same number. These numbers are always debated by fans, media and haters(we will get to that later) of both. If you went back far enough, obviously Harvard/Yale would in the conversation.
2) Individual Players. As both schools are ranked 1 and 2, no other rivalry has more All Americans in college football. In addition, both schools have more players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than any other rivalry.
3)Coaches. Knute Rockne or Knut Rokne as he was was known in his native Norway, argueably the greatest football coach of all time. From 1918 to 1930, Coach was 105-12-5. 5 undefeated seasons and 3 Consensus National Championships. Coach of the Four Horseman, "win one for the Gipper", it doesn't get any better than Rockne. USC best counters are the legendary coach Howard Jones, 121-36-13 with 4 National Championships over 16 years. Pete Carroll at 91-16, with 7 consecutive conference titles and 2 National Championships is right up there with Jones.
4)Heisman Trophies. From Notre Dame's Angelo Bertelli in 1943 to USC's Reggie Bush in 2005, these two schools have split 14 Heisman trophies. No other rivalry is close. On a side note, Mater Dei High School in California is one of only two high schools that produced multiple players to win the Heisman. Coincidently, the first, John Huart won the Heisman for Notre Dame in 1964 and USC's Matt Leinhart won it in 2004.
5)Bush Push. From the classic 2005 game in South Bend, with Touchdown Jesus looking on, a college football vernacular is born. It is difficult to watch a game today, with a scrum for short yardage, without the commentator refering to it as a "Bush Push". Many argue that a 5 yard penalty should have been called with a repeat of down as oulined in section 3 article 2B, that "no other player of his team shall grasp, push, lift or charge into him to assist in forward progress". All fans see this happen every game and it NEVER gets called. Even Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis in an interview after the game remarked "I would hope my running back, with the game on the line, would take that risk(penalty) too".
6)Two most hated programs in the Nation. Besides wins and losses, I see a couple other ways that you can judge how great a program is. First, by the number of fans for the team. This number obviously is very debatable. There are a lot of teams across the nation that boast the best and most fans. Second, is how many other team's fans "hate" your program. Without argument, USC and Notre Dame football are THE most hated programs in the nation. Brought about from years of success and media coverage, the "haters" jump on these two schools as overated and "media darlings" the moment they hit a road block.
7) I have left the 7th to the readers. Please feel free to name why you feel the the USC/Notre Dame Rivalry is dear to your hearts.
Here is to October 17th being another classic.