Week six of the college football season brings us the California Golden Bears. Luckily this week we were able to get a one-on-one with FanSided’s Cal editor Daniel Abella from Golden Bear Lair. He has graciously answered a six-pack of questions for us and we were surprised to hear that he likes Washington State on the road in this one. Here are his answers:
(If you want to see my answers to his questions on GBL, Click Here)
ACU: Sonny Dykes is an offensive disciple of Mike Leach. Cal doesn’t run a whole lot of the same stuff necessarily, but the philosophy is somewhat similar. When you think of the two, what’s the biggest difference and biggest similarity of their offenses?
GBL: I guess the biggest similarity has to be that both men can develop quarterbacks. Mike Leach has worked with the likes of Graham Harrell, Kliff Kingsbury and Tim Couch. He helped build those men and honestly, he is building a formidable quarterback in Connor Halliday. Meanwhile, Dykes has done the same on a much more under-the-radar level. While at Louisiana Tech, he made Colby Cameron into one of the premiere passers in the NCAA. Cameron threw for 4,147 yards and 31 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions. And now, he is taking a true freshman (Jared Goff) and turning him into a guy who can torch teams like Ohio State and Northwestern for hundreds of yards. Both men are offensive guru’s who run fast-paced offenses.
Where the men differ is probably in demeanor. Both are tough-nosed and all about discipline. However, Dykes doesn’t talk much, where it seems like Leach is more willing to talk and really get his word in edge-wise. Leach, rightfully or not, has become a character who is indelibly etched on the college football viewers mind because of the incident with ESPN/Texas Tech. Dykes isn’t known to people who don’t watch Pac-12 or La Tech football.
ACU: Cal’s had a tough schedule, so much so that I don’t think anybody expected any more than their current record. Have they been better or worse than you expected during the early stretch that has them 1-3?
GBL: I think they had exceeded my expectations heading into last weekend’s game against Oregon. They were 1-2, but they had Northwestern beat and they had played Ohio State tight outside of the first six minutes of play (regardless of what OSU fans want to say). That said, I was disappointed and underwhelmed with their play this past weekend. Keep in mind, I think Oregon is the best team in the nation and I had no delusions that they would get ripped by Oregon. But, I thought they would play better and I was really upset that Dykes opted to take out his starter (and the man he will build his program around for the coming years) Jared Goff out for Zach Kline. I think that this game is a must win for Cal and Washington State, both teams need this for a potential bowl berth. However, Cal will really tell me (and the Cal faithful) a lot about what this team is about. Rebounding from such an embarrassing loss is more important and telling than an win can be.
ACU: What’s been your biggest surprise thus far for Cal?
GBL: Jared Goff. I honestly thought Zach Kline was a shoe in to start and yet this true freshman came into camp and was named starter. Then, he played well in his first three games. I think, even with his interception problem this year, has played better than anyone could have imagined.
ACU: How bad does the loss of Chris McCain hurt Cal’s defensive philosophy? What’s does Cal have to do to be successful without him Saturday?
GBL: If Cal would have been completely healthy on the defensive end, I would have said this loss was a big deal. That said, with all the losses and injuries, this only seems like an extra bit of bad luck. McCain is an amazing player who had the potential to change games. But, he was basically a non-factor this season because he was one of the few actual solid players out there.
ACU: Cal has beaten Washington State 8 straight times (including 31-17 in Pullman last season). Do they make it 9 on Saturday, or are they hurting too much with injuries and the loss of McCain to get the job done?
GBL: No. I think Cal loses this weekend. I see Cal’s offense being ineffective against Washington State because the run game has been so ineffective, and the run game gives Cal the best chance of winning the game. That leaves the game on the shoulders of Jared Goff or Zach Kline (who suddenly was thrusted into a race for the starting role this week), and either way that spells bad news for Cal. I also think that Washington State would have to have their worst night in terms of turnovers for this game to actually end up in Cal’s win column. This team was already bound to be a rebuilder, and now without most of their defensive starters and a lot of depth issues, this game seems like it’ll just be another tough loss that Cal has to watch slip away
ACU: What’s your take on Washington State thus far in the Mike Leach era? Also, looking back, what was your original take on the Leach hire?
GBL: I love Mike Leach, and that isn’t just cause I hate ESPN. I really liked what he was up to in Lubbock before getting ousted from Texas Tech. I thought he was unjustifiably fired and I was disappointed he was kind-of black balled for a while there. Before I went off to college, I was a big UCLA fan (my brother went there, so it was kind of in the brother contract). Needless to say, I was happy when Leach was in the UCLA conversation and disappointed when they passed him up twice. I think he (unlike Rich Rodriguez) is going to actually build the program he took over into a winner. It may take a while due to the Pac-12 North becoming as tough as the SEC West, and not slowing anytime soon, but Washington State could be a perennial top-25 team much like Tech was during Leach’s tenure.