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2022 College Football Data Preview: Notre Dame VS California

Some data to go into Week 3’s matchup against California as well as some Strength of Schedule updates.

Marshall v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

This weekend the Irish lace up to face the California Golden Bears at Notre Dame Stadium. It’s a game that most of us, particularly those deep in the analytics, expected to be pretty inconsequential during the preseason and mostly just an opportunity to display how well the team was performing as it got its legs under it.

Alas, that is not the case.

The ND football program is going into the matchup with a ton of scrutiny following an 0-2 start, with the most recent blow coming via the Week 2 loss to Marshall. Side note: it’s looking like a lot of OFD writer’s takes on the strength of the Sun Belt this season are ringing out to be true so I guess silver linings or whatever. For many this is a must win situation. Let’s check out what some of the data has to tell us about what we should be expecting and whether or not we’re going to opt to watch the games from home or out in the wild with the rest of the college football fandom. If it’s any solace, there’s a lot more of them having to make similar game day decisions even if they’re not as vocal about it (especially looking at you SEC).

Series History

The 2022 ND-California game will mark the fifth time the two football teams have played each other. In all four prior editions of the series, the Irish have walked away the victor. The victory margins have always been wide, ranging from 15 to 42 and an average of 28.5 points.

History of ND-Cal matchups.

2022 Cal Preview

Cal is coming off of a pretty lackluster 2021 season. The Golden Bears finished last year’s campaign with an overall win rate of 42% (5-7) but is 2-0 so far in 2022. Based on last year’s performances, they’ll be the weakest opponent the Irish have faced so far this season, in terms of overall win rate and the lack of a bowl game appearance.

But the Golden Bears are 2-0 up to this point in their 2022 outing, chalking up wins against UC Davis in Week 1 and UNLV (a shared ND opponent) last week. They pulled off a more dominating win against UC Davis (34-13) than UNLV (20-14).

In the UNLV game, Cal’s passing unit carried most of the offense. The offense put up 14 points in the first quarter but ultimately slowed down a lot and scored 3 points in the second quarter, 3 points in the third quarter and blanking in the fourth quarter. A major reason that the game ended up being as close as it did was the offensive lag for the Golden Bears. UNLV scored 7 points in the second and third quarters, respectively, but was shutout in the first and fourth quarters. Ultimately, Cal’s special teams were the deciding factor. They put up two field goals and broke the 1:1 stalemate in passing and rushing touchdowns.

Detailed outcomes from Cal’s Week 2 game against UNLV.

Given the Irish’s struggles on the offensive side of the ball, these aren’t the most inspiring indicators. I don’t think any of us are excited about facing a team that’s proven it has the ability to put up points accompanied by a relatively decent defense that can keep opponents out of the end zone. A potential silver lining, though, may be that Cal’s offensive successes have come primarily through the air and ND’s defense has stood up decently against good passers.

2022 Players to Watch

Cal’s offense will be led by senior Jack Plummer. He put up decent numbers last week, completing 72% of his 39 attempts for a total of 278 yards. Comparative stats for UNLV’s quarterback, Doug Brumfeld as an additional reference point for the October matchup.

The Cal rushing unit saw running backs DeCarlos Brooks and Jaydn Ott receive the most looks. Ott accounted for the team’s sole rushing touchdown along with total yardage, 42%, 52 yards. While Brooks took on the most carries, his yards per cary lagged behind the rest of the rushers and he was surpassed in total output by fellow running backs Ott and Moore.

Rushing details for Cal from its Week 2 game against UNLV.

2022 California Trends

For the first time this season we get the unique opportunity to preview not one but two teams that the Irish will face at some point this season. Here are some trends of how California (primary) and UNLV (secondary) have done up to this point in the season and compared to each other.

Total Yards

California - Slight Drop

UNLV - Large Drop

Total yardage trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.

Passing Yards

California - Slight Drop

UNLV - Large Drop

Passing yardage trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.

Rushing Yards

California - Large Drop

UNLV - Large Drop

Rushing yardage trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.

Rushing Attempts

California - Large Drop

UNLV - Large Drop

Rushing attempt trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.

Rushing Yards (Avg. per Rush)

California - Large Drop

UNLV - Large Drop

Avg. rushing yard trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.

First Downs

California - Stable

UNLV - Large Drop

First down trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.

Third Down Conversions

California - Slight Drop

UNLV - Large Drop

Third down conversion % trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.


California - Stable

UNLV - Stable

Fumble trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.


California - Stable

UNLV - Drop

Interception trends for Cal and UNLV through Week 2.

Strength of Schedule Updates

Now that we are (hopefully) shifting more to a week-to-week centered analysis of the Irish’s 2022 season there isn’t much utility in deeply tracking the Strength of Schedule. If Playoff and bowl conversations were more in the mix, things would be looking up, though. BYU and USC both made big gains in the AP Top 25. The Cougars jumped 9 spots to #12 and the Trojans jumped 3 spots to #7. Ohio State and Clemson maintained their places in the top 5.

Strength of Schedule updates going into Week 3.

Let’s hope for a better week of football in South Bend this weekend.

Cheers and Go Irish!