Bears can’t afford to lose this one

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Stalking someone’s Facebook and not noticing that you posted their name as a status instead.

Drunk Snapchatting your ex-girlfriend.

Running out of toilet paper and waddling through your house searching for some.

Trying to buy a sandwich and then realizing at the counter you have no money.

Calling your professor Mom by accident.

These are all things that are less embarrassing than losing to Washington State on Saturday. And the scariest part for Cal fans? It could easily happen.

A loss to the Cougars obviously means a couple of things: It’s a loss to a Pac-12 North rival and guarantees the Bears will toil at the bottom of the conference for another week. Beyond a minor setback, however, the loss carries much more significance.

Washington State is universally known and acknowledged as a doormat. Once a storied program, the Cougars flirted with 0-12 seasons and general awfulness for the better part of a decade. When you fire up your favorite team’s schedule before the season and see Washington State on the schedule, you think, “OK, there’s one win.”

Fair or not, that stigma exists in 2013. When the team squeezed past USC in Los Angeles, the reaction was much more “LOL LANE KIFFIN” than “Hey, maybe WSU’s legit this year.” Which is to say: A loss to the Cougars also means Cal carries the perception of a Pac-12 patsy, the easy win on the slate, the team most often scheduled for other Pac-12 opponents’ homecoming games.

And a loss feels like a real possibility for the Bears — Vegas currently favors the Cougars by a couple of points, even factoring in Cal’s home-field advantage. Mike Leach, never known for his defense, has his WSU unit ranked as the 25th-best defense in the country.

In holding the Trojans to seven points, the secondary play looked especially adept, containing superstar wideout Marqise Lee and the USC passing attack to a measly 54 yards. The Cal offense’s worst enemy is a stingy set of defensive backs, locking down their only effective dimension.

The Bears possess little to no shot of winning if Jared Goff and his crew of receivers fail to establish an early rhythm. No one’s mistaking the Cougars for the Denver Broncos, but I would be surprised if any team the Bears face falls short of 30 points scored. This Bears squad isn’t built for a knock-down, drag-out defensive struggle — they’re a first-to-50-wins type of team.

It’s funny how quickly optimism can turn sour. After the Northwestern game, comment sections lit up with hope of a new era of Cal football, led by Sonny Dykes’ innovative playcalling. Three ugly losses later, and some are calling for Dykes’ head.

Coaches and players will tell you a loss on Saturday afternoon is a loss, and you take it one game at a time. But like it or not, context matters. Forget Stanford and USC: This is the big one for Sonny Dykes and the Bears, who know they absolutely cannot slide down to the bottom of the Pac-12 pile.

Michael Rosen covers football. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michaelrosen3.