Irish look to reverse trend in underdog role

Pre-game doubters rarely proved wrong when Notre Dame enters a bowl game as the underdog.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bowl Underdogs? Uh-oh…

Notre Dame has entered its bowl game as an underdog in 11 of its last 14 matchups -- winning just once.

The silver lining for Irish fans? That one win came courtesy of current head coach Brian Kelly, a 33-17 pummeling of former rival Miami.

Now Kelly's reeling 2014 Irish will attempt to reverse the program's unfortunate underdog trend Tuesday afternoon in Nashville as seven-point underdogs to LSU in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl.

The Irish have fared better as bowl game favorites over the last *30 seasons, winning six of eight dating back to the 1987 Cotton Bowl. (The Irish didn't play bowl games following *1985-86.)

Below is a look at Notre Dame's recent bowl history -- point spreads included -- dating back to the dawn of the Lou Holtz era.

2013 Pinstripe Bowl: Favored by 14.5 points over Rutgers, No. 25 Notre Dame won 29-16 in a game that mattered little to the Irish fan base.

2012 BCS Championship Game: Underdogs of 10 points to defending national champion Alabama, the undefeated top-ranked Irish were humiliated, 42-14, by the class of the modern college football world.

2011 Champs Sports Bowl: Unranked Notre Dame entered as underdogs of three points vs. No. 25 Florida State. The Irish jumped to a 14-0 lead but folded late, yielding 15 fourth quarter points in a disappointing 18-14 defeat.

2010 Sun Bowl: Kelly's first bowl with the Irish brought back the program's arch-rival from decade's past, the Miami Hurricanes. Both teams were unranked with the 'Canes staked as favorites of 2.5 points but Kelly's crew would not be denied, hammering the Hurricanes early with a 30-3 halftime lead en route to a 33-17 victory.

2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Favored by 2.5 points, unranked Notre Dame broke its ignominious, national record nine-game bowl losing streak with a 49-21 win over defenseless Hawai'i.

2006 Sugar Bowl: Paper tigers throughout the '06 campaign, No. 11 Notre Dame was routed as a nine-point underdog by the real Tigers, LSU, 41-14 in an epic mismatch.

2005 Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame's best season since 1993 concluded with the fifth-ranked Irish as underdogs of four points to No. 4 Ohio State. The Buckeyes rolled up more than 600 yards of total offense, winning 34-20 though the Irish had a shot late, cutting the lead to 27-20 with just over five minutes remaining.

2004 Insight Bowl: The now-defunct bowl pitted unranked foes Notre Dame and Oregon State. Favored by just 4.5 points, the Beavers won a 38-28 snoozer over Irish interim head coach Kent Baer as incoming head coach Charlie Weis occupied broadcast air time with an interview from home as the Irish folded late.

2002 Gator Bowl: Ranked No. 11 after an 8-0 start to Tyrone Willingham's initial season devolved into a 10-2 finish. The Irish were underdogs of 1.5 points to quarterback Philip Rivers and then-No. 17 North Carolina State. The Wolfpack won easily, 28-6 as the depleted Irish starting unit lost quarterback Carlyle Holiday on the game's opening drive.

2000 Fiesta Bowl: Listed as a three-point underdog vs. upstart, fifth-ranked Oregon State, the 10th-ranked Irish were annihilated, 41-9, in what is viewed as the biggest mismatch from a talent standpoint in Notre Dame bowl history.

1998 Gator Bowl: Favored by three points over No. 12 Georgia Tech, the 17th-ranked Irish fell 35-28 as starting quarterback Jarious Jackson returned from a knee injury that kept him from the season-finale at USC -- an ugly 10-0 defeat that knocked then 9-1 Notre Dame from contention in the BCS's initial season.

1997 Independence Bowl: The lesson? Never take a bowl-game rematch. Victorious in the regulars season by a score of 24-6 over LSU in Baton Rouge -- the only game in program history in which the Irish neither committed a penalty nor a turnover -- unranked Notre Dame entered as underdogs of 6.5 points to the No. 15 Tigers and were pummeled, 27-9, concluding a 7-6 debut campaign by head coach Bob Davie.

1995 Orange Bowl: Playing without starting quarterback Ron Powlus (injury) and starting tailback Randy Kinder (suspension) the No. 6 Irish entered as underdogs of 10.5 points to No. 8 Florida State, falling 31-26 in a back-and-forth classic. Notre Dame led the Seminoles by 12 points, 26-14, with less than 10 minutes remaining.

1994 Fiesta Bowl: The unranked, 6-4-1 Irish benefitted from the promise and power of almighty dollar to secure this major bowl bid. It showed on the field as the seven-point underdog Irish were trampled, 41-24 by the No. 4 Colorado Buffaloes. The day began with a pre-game bus fight -- among Notre Dame players -- and ended without such effort between the lines.

1993 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame was ranked No. 4 but reeling after their chances at an undefeated campaign ended on the season's final play -- a 42-yard Boston College field goal. The Irish entered this Cotton Bowl rematch as eight-point favorites and prevailed over No. 7 Texas A&M, 24-21. No. 2 Florida State, 31-24 losers in South Bend two games prior, went on to capture its first national championship with a curious 18-16 victory over No. 1 Nebraska. The Irish were relegated to runners-up, and the program hasn't been the same, since…

1992 Cotton Bowl: Ranked No. 5, and likely the second-best team in the country at season's end, 10-1-1 Notre Dame was favored by four points over No. 3, undefeated Texas A&M and the Irish rolled in the Aggies backyard, winning 28-3 behind a trio of Jerome Bettis touchdowns -- the same number "The Bus" notched one year prior in New Orleans.

1991 Sugar Bowl: The 18th-ranked Irish entered the Super Dome as underdogs of 6.5 points to Steve Spurrier's third-ranked, 'Fun-N-Gun' Gators. After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, Notre Dame won 39-28, a victory punctuated by a 22-point fourth and utter dominance on the ground -- 324 rushing yards.

1990 Orange Bowl: A rematch pitted No. 1 Colorado with No. 5 Notre Dame and the Buffaloes prevailed in a "Pick 'Em" point spread scenario, winning 10-9 after Rocket Ismail's potential game-winning 89-yard punt return touchdown was brought back by a clipping penalty in the final minutes. Notre Dame's missed second quarter extra point (blocked) provided the difference.

1989 Orange Bowl: Ranked No. 4 after seeing its 23-game winning streak snapped by then No. 7 Miami, the Irish were favored by 2.5 points over undefeated, No. 1-ranked Colorado and won going away, 21-6. Scoreless in the first half, the Buffaloes unwittingly fulfilled Lou Holtz's pre-game projection -- one told in private to his team, but captured and leaked to the media -- that Colorado would "abandon its offense and start grab-bagging."

1988 Fiesta Bowl: The undefeated, top-ranked Irish were favored by just five points over undefeated, No. 3 West Virginia and won easily, 34-21 (after jumping to a 34-6 lead) to claim the program's most recent national championship.

1987 Cotton Bowl: Favored by four points, #12 Notre Dame was blown out by #13 Texas A&M, 35-10. The '87 Irish lost their final three outings after an 8-1 start but rebounded to win 23 consecutive games thereafter including the 1988 national championship. Top Stories