(Photo: ASU Athletics)
Perhaps the most illogical way to make a prediction for an upcoming sporting event is to base it off history.
Sure, knowing that a team may have another team’s number and recognizing trends may be useful secondary evidence, but basing the entire prediction off events that happened years ago just does not make much sense.
Going into Saturday night, ASU had won 10 consecutive games against Utah. Now with that streak at 11, it is clear that ASU has owned Utah. But rest assured, the win for the Sun Devils on Saturday night was not influenced in any way by what transpired October 29, 1977 (the year the win streak began).
With all this being said, historical looks at a series between two teams can be useful simply because they are fun and build hype—especially when a storied program is set to square off with ASU.
Even though the series history is scant, the storied No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1) travels to Tempe on Saturday and brings with it a possible College Football Playoff elimination matchup. As such, now is definitely an appropriate time for a history lesson.
Here is a look at the three-game series history between the two schools.
October 10, 1998—Notre Dame 28, ASU 9
In perfect symbolism of ASU’s entire 1998 season, the power went out at Sun Devil Stadium during the game, causing the contest to be off air for 20 minutes.
Though the loss to Notre Dame sparked three wins in a row for ASU, the 1998 season proved to be one of the most disappointing and lackluster in school history.
The Sun Devils were ranked No. 8 in the country in the preseason poll, and were looking to build off the momentum of an undefeated 1996 regular season and a 9-3 1997 season with true freshman quarterback Ryan Kealy at the helm.
Yet ASU struggled to the tune of a 5-6 overall record and 4-4 record in Pac-10 play. In the contest against Notre Dame, Kealy was benched for the only time in his Sun Devil career.
Still, the game drew a massive amount of hype, as 73,501 fans packed the stadium to compose the largest crowd of ASU’s 1998 season.
For the Fighting Irish, it was the second year of storied coach Bob Davie, and he reaped the rewards of returning 14 starters.
The win over ASU came in the midst of a Notre Dame midseason surge that saw the team rattle off eight wins in a row and climb to as high as No. 9 in the country. Back-to-back losses, however, left a spoiled taste in the mouth of the Irish, as they finished 9-3.
October 9, 1999—Notre Dame 48, ASU 17
Without the services of superstar running back and eventual Heisman candidate JR Redmond for the majority of the game, the Sun Devils were throttled in South Bend in front of 80,012.
Redmond went on to rush for 1,174 yards, but his individual success did not translate to team success. The loss to Notre Dame was ASU’s third in four games, and the team finished a measly 6-6 overall and 5-3 in conference play.
Conversely, Notre Dame entered the season with legitimate national title aspirations, as their second-year coach had signed a whopping 21 highly-touted recruits.
Nevertheless, the 1999 season was a year of volatile inconsistency for Notre Dame, as it sandwiched a four-game midseason winning streak with a three- and four-game losing streak. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, they caught Notre Dame just when the Irish hit their midseason stride.
October 5, 2013—Notre Dame 37, ASU 34
Many will recall that the score to this game was a bit deceiving—Notre Dame was firmly in control with a ten-point lead and it took a garbage time Taylor Kelly touchdown pass to narrow the score to three.
ASU did impose its will offensively on Notre Dame particularly throughout the first half, but even for the remainder of the game as well—just as the 427 yards of total offense indicate.
However the demise of the Sun Devils proved to be its inability to cash in long yardage drives into touchdowns (ASU did not score until the beginning of the second quarter and did not score a touchdown until one minute was left in the first half).
Another interesting point of emphasis was that every sports pundit in the nation, even Notre Dame fans themselves, had dubbed Irish starting quarterback Tommy Reese, “Turnover Tommy.” Yet Reese answered the critics by throwing three touchdowns and only one interception against an opportunistic ASU defense. The Sun Devils offense on the other hand, committed three turnovers—two interceptions thrown by Taylor Kelly and a momentum-changing fumble by wide receiver Cameron Smith.
Considering the fact that ASU’s lone shot at a BCS bowl game was via the Pac-12 Championship and the out-of-conference game obviously did not have any impact on the Pac-12 standings, the ramifications of the loss for ASU were not as drastic as originally anticipated. Also, the Sun Devils did proceed to rattle off seven wins in a row following the loss to Notre Dame.
Still, the cause for concern was that they strayed from their disciplined, zero-turnover brand of play, and faltered at AT&T Stadium—the biggest football spotlight in America.
With Saturday’s contest likely spelling doom to the loser’s chances at a College Football Playoff berth, it will be very interesting to see if history repeats itself.