A Q&A with Cal expert Ryan Gorcey, as Cougars prepare to face Cal's explosive offense and suspect D

LET’S TALK ABOUT the Cal offensive line. Bear quarterback Davis Webb and Cal’s struggling defense have dominated the conversation headed into Washington State’s tilt on Saturday (7:30 pm, ESPN). But the offensive line, Cal expert Ryan Gorcey of tells CF.C, is arguably the Bears’ No. 1 strength. Here is our Q&A with the guy who knows Cal top to bottom. Give our readers the scoop on the Cal offensive line, and QB Davis Webb.   Strengths? Weaknesses? 

Gorcey: The Cal offensive line is arguably the strongest part of this team, though the Bears may be missing left guard Chris Borrayo (back spasms). He was getting back into the swing of things this week. If he can't go, super sub Patrick Mekari, who filled in at left tackle when Aaron Cochran was down with an ankle injury earlier this season, is more than an able replacement.

The Bears have allowed 15 sacks -- second-fewest in the Pac-12 -- and a minuscule 3 percent sacks per passing attempt (or 1 sack for every 31 attempts).

Part of that is due to the offensive line (which, since it switched to the kick slide from the vertical set midway through last season, has been a completely different unit), and part of that is due to Webb, who has a tremendous feel for the pocket.

Webb has six rushing touchdowns, but don't let that fool you into thinking he's a dual-threat quarterback. It's more that he's a mobile quarterback -- able to step up in the pocket, slide the pocket and move side-to-side in order to avoid pressure. He's very accurate downfield, and he's got several speedy weapons on the outside, namely Chad Hansen and Demetris Robertson, and a pair of slot receiver jitterbugs in Melquise Stovall and Bug Rivera.

Webb tends to go to his right more than his left, but he is very quick through his check downs and isn't shy about changing the play at the line, and checking in and out of run and pass plays on run-pass options. What’s the injury situation for Cal as it prepares to host WSU, and which Cal team do you see showing up against the Cougs: the team that knocked off Utah and Texas … or the team that got whacked by UW over the final 2 1/2 quarters last week?

Gorcey: Where to start? Before the season, Cal lost safety Griffin Piatt to an injury retirement and run-stopping safety Damariay Drew to an ACL tear.

Then, sophomore safety Evan Rambo went down with an ACL, safety-turned-linebacker Derron Brown went down with a broken hand, nickel back DePriest Turner to an Achilles, defensive tackles Luc Bequette (the heir-apparent to James Looney) to an ACL, Russell Becker and Chris Yaghi to foot injuries and now, cornerback Darius Allensworth to a hamstring. Defensive end DeVante Wilson has also been hobbled this week.

Things are looking pretty bleak on the injury front. And as bad as Cal has been at defending the run (almost all of those injuries occurred after the Utah and Texas upsets) now the defensive backfield is wasting away. That doesn't bode well for defending the Air Raid, or the new run element of the Washington State offense. What is the single-most impactful matchup on offense, and defense, in your mind for WSU-Cal. 

Gorcey: On offense, I'm interested to see how the now-healthy Chad Hansen and Demetris Robertson match up with Washington State's secondary. Cal hasn't seen the Tampa-2 looks that the Cougars have shown, and they've had difficulty against the press. If the Cal run game can get going early (and note here that offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has said that he needs to be more disciplined in play calling in that regard) then the corners won't be able to press up on the outside. And that should give the Bears more room to move and find seams in the zone coverages.

For Cal on defense, can I say, “Everything?”  Marloshawn Franklin, the No. 2 corner, has been thrust into the No. 1 roll with Allensworth out, and he hasn't gotten much help from the safeties. I think the match-up to watch, if there's a gun to my head, is the defensive ends against Washington State's wide splits offensive line.

Last year, the Bears got seven sacks on Luke Falk, but all of the players who recorded those sacks are gone.  Cal needs good games from Spokane native Evan Weaver and TFLs and sacks leader Cameron Saffle, who has 48 stops on the season. If Cal can get in Falk's face, and if Looney can suck up at least two blockers inside, I think the Bears have a chance at slowing down the passing attack. Sonny Dykes last year was reported to be looking to leave Cal by USA Today and ESPN, with ESPN saying it would be a surprise if Dykes was still there in 2016.  He’s still there.  Do you see anything on the horizon this offseason where Dykes could leave … or do you see Dykes (at least) finishing out his contract at Cal through 2019?

Gorcey: Dykes was looking around, but no one out there bit. With the way things are looking this year, I don't see that changing.

If you look at what Mike MacIntyre has done at Colorado, who started there the same time Dykes began his time at Cal, Dykes just doesn't stack up in terms of turning a program around. Both inherited dumpster fires, and while the Bears posted an eight-win season with Jared Goff at the helm, the team's taken a step back -- especially defensively, this year.

Now, Dykes has done yeoman's work to change the program's culture. And he has completely turned around the team's academic fortunes. But if the Bears finish at 5-7 or 6-6, with losses to Arizona State, a vulnerable USC and a downtrodden Oregon State, I don't suspect there will be many schools clamoring for him this offseason. What's your WSU-Cal prediction, including score?  Write as much as you'd like for our readers on how you see this Cougs-Bears battle playing out Saturday.

Gorcey: I'm expecting another shootout. Maybe not to the degree of the 60-59 contest two years ago, but I think it's entirely possible that Washington State puts up 60.

I can see this as a 60-45 game, easily, especially if Washington State decides to go to the run (pictured above, Cougar RB Gerard Wicks)

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