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Joe Montana  Dan Devine

Joe Montana and former Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine had some good memories in the Cotton Bowl during their time with the Irish.

As we reach the holidays and approach Notre Dame’s New Year’s Day showdown with last year’s national champion -- (the) Ohio State Buckeyes -- the Ghost of Bowl Games Past visits the top 10 Notre Dame bowl games to help us put this clash of titans into historical perspective.

The Irish have appeared in 34 bowl games total and enter their game against Ohio State with a 17-17 record. The Irish only played in one bowl game before 1969 (the 1925 Rose Bowl), but over the next 27 years they posted a 13-8 mark in bowl games. Since Lou Holtz left nearly 20 years ago in 1996, however, the Irish have gone just 4-9 in such games, many of which ended in blowout fashion.

Current head coach Brian Kelly has appeared in a bowl game every year and so far has a 3-2 postseason record. The Buckeyes may prove to be one of his toughest tests yet, but as we’ll see in this look back, Notre Dame has plenty of history playing in big bowl games.

We'll start with the very first...

1. Jan. 1, 1925 - The Rose Bowl: Notre Dame 27, Stanford 10

Notre Dame was 9-0 under legendary coach Knute Rockne going into the first bowl game in program history. The Cardinal were 7-0-1 under another legendary coach, Pop Warner. Stanford and Cal had previously refused to play the Irish, citing the low scholastic standards of a Catholic school. But behind the Four Horsemen, immortalized earlier that year by the words of Grantland Rice after the Irish defeated Army, Notre Dame won the game handily.

Though the game was a success and led to the establishment of Notre Dame’s annual trek to California to play either Stanford or USC over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Irish didn’t play in another bowl for another 45 years. During that time, the team won 7 of its 11 consensus national titles, including three under Rockne (1924, 1929 and 1930) and four under Frank Leahy (1943, 1946, 1947 and 1949). Back then, the AP awarded the national title after the regular season and bowl games were considered just exhibitions. Notre Dame hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since.

2. 1970 Cotton Bowl and 3. 1971 Cotton Bowl

Notre Dame returned to bowl play with back-to-back games against the mighty Texas Longhorns in their backyard in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Read more about those games at the Premium Post.

4. 1973 Sugar Bowl and 5. 1974 Orange Bowl

The Irish played Bear Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide in two consecutive games with national title implications. Read more about those games at the Premium Post.

6. 1978 Cotton Bowl and 7. 1979 Cotton Bowl

The Irish would help establish the legend of Joe Montana, resulting in a national championship and the "Chicken Soup Game". Read more about those games at the Premium Post.

8. 1989 Fiesta Bowl

The Irish win their 11th consensus national championship behind third-year head coach Lou Holtz. Read more about the games at the Premium Post.

9. 1990 Orange Bowl and 10. 1991 Orange Bowl

The Irish would face the top-ranked Colorado Buffaloes in back-to-back years, nearly ruining the Buffs' hopes for a national championship in both games. Read more about those games at the Premium Post.

11. 2006 Fiesta Bowl and 12. 2013 National Championship Game

The BCS era did not treat the Irish kindly, but behind Brian Kelly, the Irish returned to the national championship conversation, if not the actual title. Read more about those games at the Premium Post.


Tom Desplinter is a UND graduate, Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corp and associate of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. He is a life-long Fighting Irish fan and has suffered with the Chicago Cubs since birth.