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Poll: Picking the best USC football game of all time

While there is certainly a massively more important worldwide focus right now, a combination of missing March Madness and USC Trojans spring football, as well as some free time thanks to social distancing, has given us an opportunity to get a little creative in our coverage for the time being.

Like last offseason, when we turned to the WeAreSC community to help select the All-Time USC team, we’re calling on you again to help pick a few more USC superlatives.

This week, we’re going to take on the challenge of naming the best USC game of all time.

With the help of the WeAreSC staff, and with a nod to March Madness, we’ve selected the 16 finalists and will spend the next few days allowing readers to vote them down to a final winner.

As luck would have it (and truly, this is just how it happened to play out), the 16 finalists fell into four games each in four very distinct categories. We have four USC – Notre Dame games, four USC – UCLA games, four Rose Bowl games and four games we’ll just call, “others.”

Up first, you’ll help narrow down the four USC – Notre Dame games, deciding which two will proceed to the Elite Eight.

The first matchup features a pair of comebacks, as the 1931 edition takes on 1974.

In the 1931 matchup, Notre Dame had a 26-game winning streak and a 14-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Gus Shaver scored twice for the Trojans, and a Johnny Baker field goal with less than a minute remaining gave USC a 16-14 win. It was USC’s first win at Notre Dame and the Trojans would go on to win the national championship.

The 1974 USC – Notre Dame game is another well-known Trojan comeback story. The Fighting Irish raced out to a 24-0 lead and USC running back Anthony Davis scored just before halftime to make it 24-6. Davis then returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown and USC scored 35 third-quarter points on its way to a 55-24 win.

The second matchup pits two games that sparked some famous phrases, including “Fertig to Sherman,” “4th and 9” and the “Bush Push.”

In the 1964 game (and stop me if you’ve heard this before), USC faced a steep deficit, as Notre Dame took a 17-0 lead into halftime. The Fighting Irish were ranked No. 1 in the country and were 9-0 to that point in the season. USC running back Mike Garrett and tight end Fred Hill scored touchdowns to make it 17-13 with just over five minutes to play. Later, USC faced a fourth down with the game on the line and Trojan receiver Rod Sherman suggested to head coach John McKay that USC run “84-Z-delay.” The resulting touchdown pass from quarterback Craig Fertig to Sherman gave the Trojans a 20-17 win.

In 2005, Notre Dame took a 31-28 lead with 2:04 left in a back-and-forth game. USC then faced fourth-and-nine with 1:32 left at its own 26-yard line. Quarterback Matt Leinart called an audible and fired a pass down the sideline to Dwayne Jarrett, who took the ball all the way down to the Notre Dame 13-yard line. USC eventually found the endzone on a Leinart quarterback sneak in the final seconds, which came with the help of a shove from Reggie Bush, and the Trojans grabbed a 35-31 win in South Bend.

Be sure to select your winner in each matchup, and then check back throughout the week as we continue to whittle our final 16 games down to an ultimate winner, as we look for the best USC football game of all time.

And be sure to visit the WeAreSC message board to discuss your choice.

Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.

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