Exploring Notre Dame's past College GameDay experiences

Sep. 19—They're comin' to your city.

ESPN confirmed last weekend that the popular college football pregame show College GameDay, which airs live on their network from 9 a.m. to noon, will be stopping in South Bend Saturday for a showdown between No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 6 Ohio State.

Notre Dame has seen GameDay quite often, especially early in its existence. The first time the crew hit the road for a live show was back in 1993 when No. 2 Notre Dame hosted No. 1 Florida State. The Irish won that day 31-24.

ESPN's famed program has made 34 appearances at Notre Dame games including 10 of which have taken place in South Bend. The Irish are 15-19 in those 34 appearances and are 6-4 at home contests. Fan-favorite Lee Corso, who began to don the mascot's headgear when making his pick years after the show started hitting the road, is 8-4 when choosing the Leprechaun's get-up.

Countering, Corso is 12-5 when snubbing the Irish.

To get ready for GameDay, I've explored the 10 times ESPN's titular program has aired in South Bend, drawing connections to the meeting between this weekend's matchup between the Buckeyes and the Irish.

Nov. 13, 1993 — #2 Notre Dame def. #1 Florida State 31-24

As mentioned above, ESPN's College GameDay began its rise to fame when the crew filmed its first ever live show on campus. Notre Dame was the lucky recipient of the program, namely because it was hosting a battle between the No. 2 Irish and No. 1 Seminoles.

For those old enough to remember, that FSU team would be crowned national champions at the end of the 1993 season despite the loss. The Irish jumped in as the favorite after their win over the Seminoles but were caught slipping against No. 17 Boston College the week following.

Notre Dame's top-10 matchup with the Buckeyes circles back because if the Irish can top Ohio State, they'll have no time to rest with an unexpected ranked matchup with No. 18 Duke awaiting. Like the Eagles did in 1993, the Blue Devils would pit themselves as the ones to takedown a hungover Irish team at home.

Sept. 10, 1994: #6 Michigan def. #3 Notre Dame 26-24

Notre Dame's 1994 home opener was welcomed with a visit from GameDay in the run-up to the Fighting Irish's battle with Michigan.

Then-quarterback Ron Powlus (now Notre Dame's current senior associate athletics director) helped the Irish take a late 24-23 lead in the last minute before the Wolverines drove down the field and nailed a 42-yard field goal for the 26-24 win.

Like Michigan was in 1994, Ohio State will be the first major opponent to stride into Notre Dame Stadium this season. The Buckeyes are worlds apart from both Tennessee State and Central Michigan, and while the Irish won those games by a combined score of 97-20, the battle with OSU could easily become a shootout and determined by the last possession.

Notre Dame has been quick-strike through the air with breakaway speed on all sides of the offense. The Buckeyes match that with highly-regarded NFL prospect Marvin Harrison Jr. as a target for starting quarterback Kyle McCord. The chance for a late, game-sealing drive wouldn't be surprising, especially if it's the Irish performing the deed since they've perfected the two-minute drill this season.

Oct. 21, 1995: #17 Notre Dame def. #5 USC 38-10

Facing the highly regarded No. 5 Trojans in 1995 were the lower ranked No. 17 Irish.

Those rankings nearly flipped after Notre Dame squashed USC at home following a visit from GameDay earlier that day. Ohio State has been an every-year perennial national championship contender. A win over the Buckeyes would not only increase the awareness across the country that the Irish are here to contend, but would likely flip the rankings in favor of the Irish.

Oct. 5, 1996: #4 Ohio State def. #5 Notre Dame 29-16

An October matchup with the Buckeyes in 1996 has several connections to Saturday's game. Taking place during Lou Holtz's last season, it would also be the last time Ohio State would walk into Notre Dame Stadium.

The Buckeyes were victorious that day, as they have been against the Irish the last five meetings. Before the 21-10 Ohio State win in Columbus last year, the most recent matchup had been the Irish's 44-28 loss in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. when Brian Kelly and Urban Meyer had been the head at their respective programs.

Notre Dame used Ohio State as a measuring stick in 1996 to gauge where the program was at eight years after the 1988 championship. That title is still the last time the Irish were on top, and the matchup this Saturday will again show where the Freeman-led program is at when compared to the nation's elite.

Sept. 5, 1998: #22 Notre Dame def. #5 Michigan 36-20

Notre Dame's big win over the reigning split-national champion Wolverines was characterized not only by Tom Brady's lone trip to South Bend, but by the Irish's ability to run the ball down the throat of a strong Michigan defense.

Autry Denson was the running back suited up for the Irish, and unlike today's Sam Hartman-Audric Estime QB-RB dual threat, Denson was the lone threat to the Wolverines.

Denson ran for 163 yards on 24 carries, running for two touchdowns as Notre Dame completed just four passes all game.

That effort shouldn't be mirrored as Hartman has brought the offensive firepower to South Bend, but Estime's new career high 176 rush yards on 20 carries last weekend might be as useful against the Buckeyes as Denson's 163 yards were against Michigan.

Sept. 9, 2000: #1 Nebraska def. #23 Notre Dame 27-24 (OT)

Nebraska's current fall from grace has been a rough stretch for Cornhusker fans, but in 2000, the 'huskers were all about dismantling any opponent in their way. Notre Dame had been struggling to return to national prominence following a 5-7 record in the year prior.

Disappointing seasons are much different in certain parts of the country but South Bend is a place in which three losses almost qualifies you for such. Freeman's 0-3 start to his ND tenure looked to be headed that way, losing to Ohio State in Columbus and getting upset at home by Marshall.

That thought, however, has been put to bed. Since the 0-2 start last season, Freeman is 13-2 with the Irish and has the opportunity to do something Notre Dame hasn't done in quite a while: beat Ohio State.

Ryan Day, the head coach of the Buckeyes, won't be an easy man to beat and like Nebraska in 2000, OSU will be well aware of the environment Notre Dame is preparing for Saturday. None of that will surprise a program like Ohio State, but Freeman's team might just have the formula for pulling off a historic win.

Oct. 15, 2005: #1 USC def. #9 Notre Dame 34-31

The best games are synonymous with a famous tagline and whether you're on the Trojans or Irish's side, the "Bush Push" is as memorable of a USC-ND moment as any.

Even in the Charlie Weis years, the Fighting Irish had some tricks up their sleeves, and despite Weis trying to dissuade the thoughts of his team wearing green, Notre Dame ran out of the tunnel in green jerseys in hopes of upsetting the No. 1 Trojans who were defending national champions.

Freeman isn't as shy when proclaiming his support for Notre Dame green-outs. His team will be wearing much different green jerseys Saturday, opting for a lighter shade of the color when battling the Buckeyes.

Oct. 13, 2012: #7 Notre Dame def. #17 Stanford 20-13 (OT)

The famed 2012 Notre Dame team began its climb towards the BCS National Championship runner-up finish with several close and heart-thumping victories, including the seven-point overtime victory over Stanford.

Notre Dame started the season as outsiders when it came to the national championship race, but slowly the hype began to grow nationwide when the Irish continued to survive and advance through its schedule.

Irish fans don't need a reminder of the how the season ended, but after beating the Cardinal, it felt like Notre Dame was building something special, much like many have felt through the Irish's 4-0 start to the season this year.

Sept. 1, 2018: #12 Notre Dame def. #14 Michigan 24-17

ESPN has loved to attend Notre Dame/Michigan games due to the heated rivalry that exists between the two blue-blood programs. When GameDay appeared in front of the outstretched arms of Touchdown Jesus, it was the Irish who were favorites over the Wolverines.

That part is the opposite of Saturday. As of Tuesday, the Irish are three point underdogs. However, facing a Notre Dame green-out, Michigan was led by Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson. Patterson struggled under the lights, completing 20 of 30 passes for 227 yards while throwing one interception and fumbling in a crucial spot to end the game.

Sam Hartman hasn't had the same struggles since making his debut in South Bend, completing 30 of 43 passes for 524 yards, five touchdowns and zero turnovers. He's also ran for two more touchdowns in his two home games.

Nov. 7, 2020: #4 Notre Dame def. #1 Clemson 47-40 (2OT)

Notre Dame's last time hosting GameDay was ironically when the Irish were in a conference. Narrowing down the years in which Notre Dame football has been fully affiliated with a conference, and you'll find 2020 as the only possibility.

GameDay was much different that season due to the ongoing COVID pandemic that had swept over the country. The booth was stretched and was accommodated to fit inside Notre Dame Stadium, losing the rowdy background of a typical airing of the show.

Still, that didn't stop the green-clad Irish fans from flooding the field after the Irish's 47-40 double overtime victory over Dabo Swinney's Tigers. Clemson got revenge when Trevor Lawrence, who had missed the game in South Bend due to a positive test, returned for the ACC Championship to put an end to every Notre Dame fan's wildest dream: a conference championship.

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at