Notre Dame Football: Ranking the Fighting Irish's Top 8 Rivalries

Connor Killoren@@Connor_KillorenSenior Analyst IJuly 1, 2011

Notre Dame Football: Ranking the Fighting Irish's Top 8 Rivalries

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    The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have one of the most unique schedules of any team in the nation year after year.

    The program's independent status allows it to schedule games against any opponent from any conference in America.

    Many of those opponents have been and continue to be annual matchups.

    That format allows for a significant amount of hype leading up to every contest. It also allows for some heated rivalries that are steeped in tradition and glory. 

    Follow along as we count down Notre Dame's best rivalry games.

8. Pittsburgh

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    Notre Dame's rivalry with the University of Pittsburgh isn't met with as much excitement as other games, but never fails to provide an exciting game.

    The Irish and the Panthers have played every season since 1982.

    The longest game in Notre Dame history came against Pittsburgh in 2008 when the Panthers won on a field goal in the fourth overtime.

    Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish squad won last season's matchup 23-17.

    Notre Dame leads the all-time series 44-20-1.

7. Purdue

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    Notre Dame and Purdue have met every season since 1946 to play for the Shillelagh Trophy.

    The series has been a bit one-sided in the last few seasons with the Irish having been victorious in five of the last six meetings.

    The longest winning streak in the series is 11 by Notre Dame, which won every game against Purdue from 1986 to 1996.

    The Irish won last season's contest 23-12 in Brian Kelly's first game as head coach.

    Notre Dame leads the all-time series 35-19.

6. Stanford

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    Stanford and Notre Dame have met annually since 1997, a 33-15 Cardinal victory.

    The Irish own the longest winning streak in the series, defeating Stanford in seven consecutive games from 2002 to 2008, including a 57-7 domination in 2003. 

    Things have changed in the rivalry as of late with Stanford claiming victories the past two seasons.

    The winner of each year's matchup is awarded with the Legends Trophy.

5. Navy

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    Notre Dame won an NCAA-record 43 straight games over the United States Naval Academy from 1964 to 2006.

    Navy was able to snap that streak in 2007 with a 46-44 win in three overtimes. Things have certainly changed since that game, with Navy having won the last two games of the series.

    Irish fans became accustomed to this game being an automatic "W" on the schedule, but have since treated the game as a crucial matchup.

    Fans should look forward to this contest in 2012 which will take place in Dublin, Ireland.

4. Boston College

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    This rivalry, otherwise known as "The Holy War," has never failed to live up to the hype.

    The Eagles were in control of the series for much of the last decade, winning six consecutive games from 2001 to 2008 (the teams did not meet in '05 or '06). 

    Perhaps the most memorable game of the rivalry came in 1993 when the Eagles narrowly beat the Irish 41-39, wiping out any national championship aspirations Notre Dame had.

    Another game fans won't ever forget came in 2002 when Boston College upset Tyrone Willingham's undefeated Irish squad.

    The winner of this game is awarded the Ireland Trophy. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 11-9.

3. Michigan State

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    The Battle for the Megaphone Trophy has been one of the most exciting and intense rivalries in recent Notre Dame memory.

    You know it's a great rivalry when one of the matchups was dubbed "The Game of the Century," which was a 10-10 tie in 1966. 

    However, last season's contest may have been the best game of the entire series.

    The Spartans were trailing the Irish 31-28 with time near expiring in the fourth quarter. What happened next will go down as one of the most memorable moments in college football history.

    Mark Dantonio called for a fake field-goal pass that gave his Michigan State team the victory as well as himself a heart attack. 

    Notre Dame leads the all-time series 31-26-1.

2. USC

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    Notre Dame and the University of Southern California.

    Irish fans and players alike have this game circled on the calendar every season.

    The game in 2005 is considered to be one of the best college football games ever played (the game has since been vacated by the NCAA due to sanctions against USC). 

    USC dominated this rivalry from 2002 to 2009, winning eight consecutive games over the Irish.

    However, the landscape of this rivalry has changed significantly in the last year with Pete Carroll ending his dynasty in Los Angeles by bolting for the NFL.

    New head coach Lane Kiffin lost his first game against Notre Dame 20-16 last season.

    Notre Dame leads the all-time series 43-33.

1. Michigan

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    Notre Dame and Michigan are the two most storied programs in college football.

    The Irish played its first-ever football game against the Wolverines.

    The programs own the top two all-time winning percentages. The rivalry has been a fierce one not only on the field, but off of it as well with many recruiting battles. 

    There has also been bad blood because of Notre Dame's consistent denial of any invitation to join the Big Ten Conference.

    Michigan has won four of the last five games of the series including a 28-24 victory last season. Michigan leads the all-time series 22-15-1.