In week three of the college football season, we get a matchup of the California Golden Bears heading to South Bend to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. One of the major headlines out of this early season has been the slow start to Notre Dame in Marcus Freeman’s first year as head coach. After a close game against a talented Ohio State game had a lot of Irish fans hopeful for the year, a monumental upset loss to Marshall at home derailed the tracks of the momentum train. Now, Freeman sees himself 0-3 in games he has been head coach. A chance to break that streak will be against the California Golden Bears from the Pac-12. This is no easy win as Cal finds themselves off to a hot start at 2-0 as Justin Wilcox’s team looks to return to a bowl game this year. Let’s jump into this game’s matchup picks and predictions.
California vs. Notre Dame Betting Odds
Notre Dame enters this game as big favorites even after losing starting QB Tyler Buchner to a season-ending injury during the Marshall game. Taking his place will be backup QB Drew Pyne who doesn’t quite match Buchner athletically or size wise. Notre Dame enters this game at moneyline favorites at a line at -455 as well as spread favorites at -10.5 points. I believe being a home game as well as the fire under Notre Dame’s seats to get a win is a major part of this line. Cal is 2-0 but those two wins are against non Power-5 teams in UC Davis and UNLV. The Bears are expected to improve this season but still expected to finish around six wins this season after a 5-7 record last year.
The over/under line is also being placed at 41 points after initially opening up at 49.5 points. The loss of Tyler Buchner I’m sure is a big reason for that decline as well as both squads having well-talented defenses.
California vs. Notre Dame Picks & Predictions
My pick: Cal +10.5 (-110)
I think Notre Dame wins this game and is able to get their first win of the year, but at odds of -455 there is no reason to take that bet unless I’m throwing it in a huge parlay. That being said, I don’t think the Irish have earned any right to have a spread line at -10.5 after a mediocre performance against Marshall. They simply haven’t shown the offense to cover by that much, especially against a Cal team that has shown their ability to slow down scoring and match points. Starting QB Jack Plummer who transferred from Purdue has gotten off to a good winning start with his new team throwing for 546 yards in his first two games combined. Notre Dame started this season ranked No.5 and now finds themselves out of the ranking after their winless start. Their running game which was something they relied heavily on last year has really struggled so far. California has done a good job in their first two games only letting up only 27 points in their first two games combined.
The over/under line is something I am looking at staying away from. Especially after the line has dropped so much to 41. If it stuck at 49.5, I would be all in on the under but as it keeps moving I am going to stray away.
Notre Dame vs Cal Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Cal vs Notre Dame below.
Drew Pine vs. Cal Defense
Seeing how Drew Pyne handles the starting position will be a big thing to watch for in this game. He lost the quarterback battle during the offseason to Buchner and when he went in against Marshall after Buchner exited, he didn’t really look confident on the field. Drew Pyne only threw for 20 yards and he threw for an interception and then a late touchdown. If he wants the Irish faithful to get behind him as their starting QB, he needs to come out and have a strong game and be able to manage the Irish offense to its first win under the Marcus Freeman era. LB Jackson Sirmon has been huge for Cal so far as their leading tackler with 17 tackles so far this season. He could surely help in shaking up the new leadership of Pyne in the Irish offense.