The Irish and Bears have matched up just four times in history, and Notre Dame has won them all. The last match-up was in 1967 at home, that day Ara Parseghian’s defending national champion Irish prevailed 41-8.
5-7 a year ago, among their five victories were wins over USC and Stanford. This season The California Golden Bears coached by 6th year head coach Justin Wilcox, are 2-0. In week one they beat UC Davis 34-13. Last week they prevailed over future ND opponent UNLV 20-14.
Cal’s offense will be led by Purdue transfer Jack Plummer. Last year against the Irish, Plummer was 25-36 for 187 yards and 1 TD. This year through two games he has continued to show accuracy hitting 51 of 74 good for 546 yards, 4 TDs and 2 interceptions. Plummer is not likely to run the ball and has been sacked three times.
Cal’s running attack is led by 6-0 205 freshman Jayden Ott. He is averaging 6.5 yards on 24 carries, and has scored one TD. He also is a threat to catch the football with 5 catches to his credit.
Plummer has spread the ball out nicely among his top three receivers. The Bear’s top threat looks to be 6-2 Junior Jerimiah Hunter who has notched 11 catches good for 154 yards so far. His other top targets are J. Michael Sturdivant and Mavin Anderson, a couple of redshirt freshman, four-star recruits.
Cal has been known for their defense under Justin Wilcox and they employ a unique scheme that amounts to a 2-4-5 alignment.
Look for 6-4, 335 Ricky Correia to anchor the interior line and for a heavy rotation at outside linebacker from where Cal frequently brings pressure. Two transfers headline this rotation, Oduba Isidor from UCLA and 6-6 270 pound Xavier Carlton from Utah. In the secondary is a lot of experience led by lockdown corner Lu-Magia Hearns. A year ago the Bears gave up just 23.8 points per-game.
The book on Cal is that the offense has some skill players and a competent game manager at QB but the offensive line has issues protecting and run blocking. Defensively on the other hand, Cal is good enough to keep the Bears in just about any game.
One can only imagine what ND offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has been like at practice this week so look for a new attitude by the ND o-line line this week. This should allow some inside runs by Audric Estime which will eat some time of possession, and take pressure off of Drew Pyne. On the other side of the ball I expect the defensive line to wear the Bears offense down, and to make some plays in the second half. Low scoring is the feeling here.
The Irish are a 10.5 point favorites . The over/under is 40.5.
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 19 CAL 14