In 1969, Ohio State was number one for nearly the entire season, with the unbeaten Texas Longhorns right behind the Buckeyes at number two.
The Buckeyes were the defending national champions and looked to be unbeatable until they were upset by the Michigan Wolverines and new coach Bo Schembechler.
The Texas Longhorns moved up to number 1, with their conference rivals the Arkansas Razorbacks right on their heels at number 2.
These two unbeaten teams met up in the Ozarks in December for the SWC championship. That game
was called the Great Shootout or the Game of the Century. It was such a big deal that even President Richard Nixon was in attendance.
Texas won a game for the ages, 15-14 and President Nixon came into the locker room and crowned Texas the national champions. One national title was actually awarded to a team before the bowl games were played back in those years, but the others were awarded after the New Year’s Day bowl games as they should be.
This angered Joe Paterno and Penn State greatly with them also being undefeated.
The SWC champion got an automatic Cotton Bowl bid which number one Texas grabbed. Penn State, instead of going to Dallas and settling it on the field, chose to go to the Orange Bowl in Miami.
Notre Dame had not been to a bowl game in 50 years, but decided to end their ban on bowl games
I was a youth of 10 when this all took place and I have read different things about what happened here.
LSU was the SEC champions and sported a 9-1 record which was equal to that of Notre Dame. The LSU Tigers felt that they belonged in the Cotton Bowl to face Texas for the national championship.
But, the Cotton Bowl picked Notre Dame because they were just Notre Dame and the bigger national draw.
LSU and head coach Charlie McClendon were irate. They were so angry that they refused to go to any bowl.
That was one version.
The other was that the LSU Tigers had been in talks with the Cotton Bowl representatives about getting the bowl bid and that was their plan and they had no back up plans. When the Notre Dame fighting Irish made themselves available, then the Cotton jumped all over the Irish. Rightfully so since coming off of a 50 year absence from bowls and the national mystique following the Notre Dame program they would be the natural choice. It was a huge story back in those years.
Texas beat Notre Dame when Texas Quarterback James Street led the Longhorns from behind late again as they beat the Irish and their star Quarterback Joe Theisman, 21-17.
In the other major bowl games, Penn State beat Big 8 Champion Missouri in the Orange Bowl, 10-3.
SEC runner up, Ole Miss, upset a discouraged Arkansas, 27-22, in the Sugar Bowl.
The USC Trojans conquered the Michigan Wolverines 10-3 in one of many Rose Bowl
disappointments for Bo Schembechler.
But, LSU stayed home and watched on television. The story goes that they stewed about how Notre Dame had done them wrong. The ones that were really done wrong were the LSU players who deserved to play in a bowl game that season.
These events brought about some bad blood between the LSU Tigers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Most of it was on the side of the Tigers.
The Irish really didn’t know that they had even offended the Tigers.
The timing of this was almost amusing. The Irish and the Tigers had never played on the football field before and yet they were scheduled to meet the following season of 1970 in South Bend, Indiana.
The Tigers were all set on going up to Indiana and getting some revenge on the Irish.
But, that didn’t work out so well for LSU.
Notre Dame was ranked number 2 in the country. They had Joe Theisman at Quarterback, Tom Gatewood at Wide Receiver and Larry DiNardo at Offensive Guard. Ironically, DiNardo’s younger brother Gerry would become the head coach of the LSU Tigers years later.
But, it was their defense that would shine. Led by Walt Patulski and Greg Marx, they completely shut down the LSU Tigers.
LSU had Buddy Lee and Bert Jones at Quarterback, but they could get little going that day and the Irish kicked a single Field Goal to win the game, 3-0.
LSU was ranked 7th coming in and they did win the SEC championship that season.
The Tiger Defense deserved some approval for a job well done sacking Heisman hopeful Joe Theisman 6 times on the day. His lack of production that day could have cost him the Heisman Trophy.
In 1971, the Tigers would get that revenge that they were looking for in Baton Rouge. The Tigers
were ranked 14th and already had 3 losses that year.
The Irish came to town with only a loss to USC and were ranked 7th. The LSU Tigers whipped Notre Dame 28-8 which was a pretty convincing victory back in that era of college football.
Future first round draft pick, Bert Jones arrived on the scene that day in a nationally televised game on ABC.
The LSU defense was also great that day stopping the Irish on the goal line several times. Brilliant LSU Safety Tommy Casanova displayed the skills that made him a 3 time first team All American.
The 1971 game may have set things right with LSU coach Charlie McClendon, but maybe some bad blood remained.
These two programs didn’t meet again until 1981 when Gerry Faust led the Irish to a big 27-9 win over LSU in his first game as a college football coach. Many thought that the Irish would not skip a beat since the following season under previous coach Dan Devine they played the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl for the national title.
Notre Dame won again in 1984, 30 – 22. But, the Tigers of LSU bounced back to win 2 straight.
But, by now, there were few people left that were involved with the earlier bad blood.
After Notre Dame kicked a Field Goal to win the Music City Bowl in the 2014 season, they took a 6-5 series lead over LSU in their all time series.
Notre Dame has plenty of rivals and doesn’t really need another, but if they did the LSU Tigers might gladly oblige.