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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide are easily two of the most successful college football programs of all time. With close to 30 national championships between them, they’re the two most accomplished programs in the poll era but have surprisingly played one another just seven times with the eighth coming on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl for the chance to go to the national title game.

While the Crimson Tide won the last meeting between the two, a 42-14 beating in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season, the Fighting Irish hold the all-time series lead with a record of 5-2.

Here’s a quick look back on the past meetings between Notre Dame and Alabama.

The two teams were both undefeated when they met for the first time in the 1973 Sugar Bowl

In what is still one of the highest-rated college football games of all time, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Alabama Crimson Tide met for the first time in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, which was then dubbed the “Game of the Century.”

Legendary head coaches Ara Parseghian and Bear Bryant both led their respective teams to undefeated records in the regular season and then engaged in a classic duel in New Orleans. Notre Dame and Alabama went back and forth all night but the Fighting Irish had just a little bit more and squeaked out a 24-23 victory.

Notre Dame-1, Alabama-0

Alabama and Notre Dame met again the following season in the Orange Bowl

Heading into the Orange Bowl following the 1974 season, the Alabama Crimson Tide again had an undefeated record at 11-0 but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish came to Miami with a 9-2 mark after dropping games to Purdue and USC in the regular season.

However, Notre Dame was able to pull off the upset victory over Alabama in the Orange Bowl, scoring the first 13 points and hanging on for the 13-11 victory in what turned out to be Ara Parseghian’s final game as the head coach of the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame-2, Alabama-0

The Fighting Irish took the first regular-season matchup against Alabama in 1976

Alabama and Notre Dame matched up for the first time in the regular season in 1976 in South Bend. The Crimson Tide were ranked 10th coming into the matchup with a 7-2 record while the Fighting Irish were 6-2 and ranked 18th.

But once again, Notre Dame came out on top in yet another close finish. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 14-0 lead and led 21-7 at the half but the Crimson Tide came fighting back in the second half but just fell short, losing their third straight to ND, 21-18.

Notre Dame-3, Alabama-0

The Crimson Tide lost their fourth straight to ND in 1980

In what turned out to be Bear Bryant’s final chance to beat Notre Dame, he once again couldn’t get it done when the Crimson Tide hosted the Fighting Irish for the first time in 1980.

Alabama was ranked fifth in the country with an 8-1 record while Notre Dame was ranked sixth with a 7-0-1 record (they were coming off a tie with Georgia Tech) and playing their fourth ranked opponent of the season. In quite the defensive battle, the Fighting Irish came away with a 7-0 victory in what would be Dan Devine’s final season at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame-4, Alabama-0

Alabama finally picked up their first win over Notre Dame in 1986

The Crimson Tide finally picked up their first win over the Fighting Irish on October 4, 1986, in Alabama.

In what was a bit of a down year for Notre Dame under first-year head coach Lou Holtz, the Fighting Irish, who finished the season with a 5-6 record came into the game with the Crimson Tide unranked while Alabama was ranked second in the country with a perfect 4-0 record. It was the first game to be decided by more than seven points as Alabama came away with a 28-10 victory.

Notre Dame-4, Alabama-1

The Fighting Irish got their revenge the following year in South Bend

In 1987, it was Alabama’s turn to have a bit of a down season, although the Crimson Tide were still ranked 11th in the country with a 7-2 record when they visited South Bend on November 14, 1987.

The Fighting Irish had bounced back from two losing seasons and were ranked seventh in the country with a 7-1 record when Alabama came to town. ND gave the Crimson Tide a beating that day, 37-6, which sent Alabama reeling as they also went on to lose their final two games of the season to finish with a 7-5 record. However, the Irish couldn’t keep their momentum going and they dropped their final three games of the year to finish at 8-4.

The two teams wouldn’t meet again for more than 25 years.

Notre Dame-5, Alabama-1

Alabama destroyed Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season

After more than 25 years of not playing one another, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Notre Dame Fighting Irish matched up in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season.

The Irish had gone 12-0 in the regular season under Brian Kelly while the Crimson Tide had gone 12-1 under Nick Saban. Notre Dame was the higher-ranked team coming into the game but Alabama was the heavy favorite and proved why with a 42-14 beatdown of the Irish in Miami, giving the Crimson Tide their second consecutive national championship.

Notre Dame-5, Alabama-2

Stats and scores courtesy of Sports Reference


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