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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly speaks to his team during practice at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Monday as the Irish begin final preparations for Saturday's Cotton Bowl matchup with Clemson.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018 1:00 am

Look back at Irish's, Tigers' titles

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Cotton Bowl

Notre Dame vs. Clemson

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Records: Notre Dame (12-0), Clemson (13-0)


When Notre Dame and Clemson meet in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, it will be a matchup between the royalty of college football's past and that of its present. Notre Dame boasts 11 national championships, among the most of any program. The Tigers have only two but have reached the College Football Playoff four consecutive seasons, winning the national title in 2016.

The matchup between the No. 3 Irish and the No. 2 Tigers will be the first in the five-year history of the CFP that features two undefeated teams. One of those teams will remain undefeated and have a chance to add yet another national championship to its trophy case.

Notre Dame has been focused on winning a national championship this year since last season ended in the Citrus Bowl. The Irish are one win away from having a chance at their ultimate goal. 

“This is Notre Dame football, (a national championship) has to be tangible,” linebacker and Carroll graduate Drue Tranquill said before the season. “That's what we do, that's the tradition of this place. This year will be the 30th year since we won the championship in 1988, and that's unacceptable here.

“That's got to be the goal, that's got to be the standard. ... Guys are hungry for that.”

Here is a look at all the championships Clemson and Notre Dame have won.

Notre Dame

1900: Notre Dame won its first national championship under Knute Rockne behind the fabled “Four Horsemen” of Grantland Rice's imagination: Elmer Layden, Don Miller, Jim Crowley and Harry Stuhldreher. The Irish finished 10-0 and won the only Rose Bowl they have ever played in.

1929: After the worst season of Knute Rockne's tenure, a 5-4 campaign in '28, the Irish rebounded with a 9-0 season despite playing all of their games on the road while Notre Dame Stadium was constructed. Rockne battled phlebitis in his leg and coached some games from a wheelchair.

1930: The Irish went undefeated for the second straight year, finishing 10-0 in their first season at Notre Dame Stadium. They capped the season with a 27-0 road victory over Southern California to clinch the national title in Rockne's last game as coach. The legendary leader died in a plane crash the next spring at age 43.

1943: The season ended with a loss to Great Lakes Navy, leaving the Irish 9-1, but Notre Dame had beaten five teams ranked in the Top 10, including Michigan, Navy and Army, and was awarded the national championship over 9-0 Purdue. Angelo Bertelli won the first Heisman Trophy in Irish history.

1946: The Irish went 8-0-1, with the only blemish a 0-0 tie against then-No. 1 Army at Yankee Stadium. Notre Dame captured its second national title under coach Frank Leahy and kicked off the greatest stretch in the long history of Notre Dame football.

1947: Quarterback Johnny Lujack won the Heisman Trophy and Notre Dame finished a 9-0 campaign with a 38-7 win over No. 3 USC, clinching the second and final set of back-to-back championships in program history.

1949: The Irish went undefeated for a fourth straight season, completing a stretch in which they finished a combined 37-0-2 and won three national titles. The 1949 team went 10-0 to give Leahy his fourth championship, the most of any Notre Dame coach. Leon Hart became the second and last tight end to win the Heisman Trophy.

1966: The Irish returned to prominence under coach Ara Parseghian, going 9-0-1, the program's first undefeated season since 1953. Notre Dame and Michigan State both finished without a loss and the teams tied 10-10 in East Lansing, but the Irish were awarded the title.

1973: Notre Dame's first ever 11-win season ended with a 24-23 Sugar Bowl victory over then-No. 1 Alabama, denying the Crimson Tide a national championship and giving Parseghian his second title in his penultimate season.

1977: The Irish lost to Ole Miss in the second week of the season but then rattled off nine straight victories to earn a matchup against No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Notre Dame demolished the Longhorns 38-10, forcing six turnovers, to finish 11-1 and capture the only championship under Dan Devine.

1988: The most recent Notre Dame national championship came under Lou Holtz, a 12-0 campaign that featured a thrilling 31-30 victory over then-No. 1 Miami in the “Catholics vs. Convicts” game and a 27-10 win over No. 2 USC in the regular season finale. A 34-21 triumph over No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl sealed the championship.


1981: The first national championship in Clemson history came courtesy of a dominant defense that intercepted 23 passes and gave up just 8.8 points per game, fewest in the country. The Tigers, under coach Danny Ford, went into the Orange Bowl against No. 4 Nebraska 11-0 and prevailed 22-15 to capture the title, despite entering the game a 41/2-point underdog.

2016: After falling to Alabama in the 2015 CFP National Championship, the Tigers got revenge on the Tide, winning arguably the best CFP game to date, 35-31. Deshaun Watson hit receiver Hunter Renfrow for a game-winning touchdown with 1 second left on the clock. Clemson finished 14-1 and cemented itself as a titan of 2010s college football.