Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
College football: USC vs. Minnesota, Coliseum, Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7; UCLA at Houston, 12:30 p.m., Prime:
Top 12 reasons why USC and UCLA won’t be playing in a bowl game this year: No. 1 — The Trojans are on probation; No. 2 — The Bruins won’t win six games. You can fill in the other 10 reasons as the new, improved Pac-12 begins its existence. Actually, there’s a lot of deju vu in the air. No matter that the Trojans are in some people’s Top 25 rankings, or that UCLA is No. 53 in the USA Today Sagarin ratings, the season starts with more questions than answers. Can USC keep pretending to play for pride, with no payoff at the end except for personal stats? “We can’t do anything about the cards we were dealt,” safety T.J. McDonald, the son of former USC defensive back Tim McDonald, told Sports Illustrated in its Pac-12 preview issue. “But we can go out there and dominate.” The Golden Gophers are first up for the Trojans, who collected a 32-21 win a year ago in Minneapolis that started with a Marc Tyler 3-yard TD run in the first quarter. Tyler, of course, won’t be along for the ride this time, suspended by coach Lane Kiffin for Internet transgressions. Watch for Dillon Baxter to begin his own case to remain a starter standing behind Matt Barkley. Meanwhile, in Houston, the Bruins begin to purge the 4-8 finish from a season ago with a game against the Cougars. Last year, UCLA knocked out two quarterbacks — including star slinger Case Keenum — and handled then-No. 23 Houston a 31-13 stinger at the Rose Bowl. Jonathan Franklin ran for three TDs and 158 yards in 26 carries. Keenum comes in with 13,586 total yards, fifth all time and only 3,500 away from the No. 1 spot, as well as 107 TD passes, which is eighth-best in NCAA history.
Tennis: U.S. Open, open round, 1-to-8 p.m., ESPN2:
Don’t go looking around Flushing Meadows for Sam Querrey. The Thousand Oaks High grad, who couldn’t defend his title at the ATP’s L.A. Open last month because of lingering effects of cleaning bone fragments out of his right elbow, told organizers of the Grandest Slam of U.S. events that he’ll have to pass here, too. “The arm gets fatigued after about an hour of playing, and I don’t have the strength to be able to play a three-out-of-five set match at a high level yet,” said the 23-year-old Querrey, whose ranking has fallen to No. 79 after going as high as 17th in January. “I think an extra three or four weeks would be beneficial for me.” Novak Djokovic comes in as the men’s No. 1 seed for the first time in a major, but he has a shoulder injury that forced him to retire in his last tournament. Americans Mardy Fish (seeded 8th), Andy Roddick (seeded 21st), John isner (28th) and James Blake, plus wildcards Ryan Harrison, Bobby Reynolds, Donald Young and Robby Ginepri, are going to get strong backing, but not much else. On the women’s side, former champs Serena Williams is seeded 28th and Venus Williams isn’t even on the radar among the seeds. That means No. 4 seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus could meet Serena in the third round. “Poor, poor, poor Victoria Azarenka,” said John McEnroe, who’ll be doing color commentating for CBS during the event, starting with the womens’ third round on Saturday and Sunday (8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day).
MLB: Dodgers vs. San Diego, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:
The last mid-week day game of the season comes up in the series finale (12:10 p.m., Prime), so watch how many fans actually hit the concession stand in the eighth inning to load up on $1 Dodger Dogs for the ride home. Clayton Kershaw goes tonight in search of win No. 17. The middle game of this series is Tuesday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9).
MLB: Angels at Seattle, 7:10 p.m., FSW:
Joel Pinero back in the rotation? The AL West needs the Angels to stay competitive, and this four game series continues Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (7:10 p.m., FSW each game).
World Track and Field Championships, 3 p.m., Universal Sports:
Allyson Felix’s 400 meter final race is today; she’s also targeting the 200 meter final Friday before the 4×400 relay on Saturday and 4×100 relay on Sunday (both on Channel 4).
WNBA: Sparks vs. Seattle, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Comedian Jay Mohr, filling in for Jim Rome on his syndicated radio program last week, surmised that more people likely watched the George Lopez weeknight talk show that TBS just canceled than have watched any WNBA contest, even a finals game. This one is televised. Lopez isn’t anymore. Break even? The Sparks also play at Phoenix this week (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NBA TV).
MLB: N.Y. Yankees at Boston, 4 p.m., ESPN:
The chess match continues on the MLB Network for the opener (Tuesday) and the closer (Thursday) of this series, too.
Golf: Deutsche Bank Championship, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Winner is paid in German money? From Norton, Mass., with the final two rounds on NBC.
MLB: Dodgers at Pittsburgh, 1:05 p.m., Channel 9:
It’s a make-up game from a rain out back in May. Turns out to be the first of 11 straight on the road in 11 days in four cities.
College football: UNLV at Wisconsin, 5 p.m., ESPN; Murray State at Louisville, 3 p.m., ESPNU; Kentucky at Western Kentucky, 6:15 p.m., ESPNU:
Yes, these count.
MLB: Dodgers at Atlanta, 4:35 p.m., Prime:
They’ll finish it with games Saturday (4:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Sunday (10:35 a.m.).
MLB: Angels vs. Minnesota, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
No more Jim Thome to worry about. The series finishes Saturday (6:05 p.m., Channel 13) and Sunday (12:35 p.m., FSW).
MLB: Arizona at San Francisco, 7 p.m., MLB Network:
The channel also has Saturday’s matchup (6 p.m.) for the NL West leaders.
NFL exhibition: Oakland at Seattle, 7:30 p.m., NFL Network:
Everyone plays tonight — it’s the last slate of games before the real ones begin next week.
College football: TCU at Baylor, ESPN, 5 p.m.:
Not on The Longhorn Network.
Soccer: U.S. vs. Costa Rica, Home Depot Center, 8 p.m., ESPN:
The U.S. roster includes the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and Chivas’ Heath Pearce. Home field advantage.
College football: LSU vs. Oregon in Arlington, Tex., 5 p.m., Channel 7:
It’s simply scandalous: LSU’s suspensions versus Oregon’s suspicions in a full-throttle, Pac-12-SEC matchup that sure smells like a bowl game. It’s enough to pull the first “College GameDay” crew out after summer hibernation, making Cowboys Stadium the place to be at 6 a.m. (on ESPN, 7 a.m. on ESPN). The Ducks’ spotlight is on the return of LeMichael James, leading the nation in rushing a year ago (1,731 yards) and third in the Heisman voting.
College football: Utah State at Auburn; 9 a.m., ESPN2; Akron at Ohio State, 9 a.m., ESPN; Northwestern at Boston College, 9 a.m., ESPNU; Indiana State at Penn State, 9 a.m., Big Ten Network; South Florida at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4; BYU at Mississippi, 1:45 p.m., ESPN; San Jose State at Stanford, 2 p.m., Comcast Bay Area; Florida Atlantic at Florida, 4 p.m., ESPNU; Boise State vs. Georgia in Atlanta, 5 p.m., ESPN; Tulsa at Oklahoma, 5 p.m., FX; Colorado at Hawaii, 7:15 p.m., ESPN2:
As Andrew Luck would have it, the highly rated Stanford Cardinal starts the season on Opening Weekend, along with the first looks at Oklahoma, Boise State, Notre Dame, BYU, Florida, Georgia and Colorado.
High school football: Oaks Christian vs. Bellevue, 8:30 p.m., Prime:
They always get the prime TV game, don’t they?
Series: “Game Time: Tackling The Past,” Channel 4, 8 p.m.:
A brief synopsis of the premiere episode of something that looks like a G-rated “Eastbound And Down” meets “North Dallas Forty”: Pro football star Jake Walker (played by Ryan McPartlin, from “Chuck,” who also played football at the University of Illinois) is living the dream…or so he thinks. The veteran tight end is on pace to set the all-time receiving yards record and a probable spot in the Hall of Fame. While working out at training camp, Jake receives an unexpected call from his brother Dean (Josh Braaten, “Semi-Pro”) – their father Frank (Beau Bridges) has suffered a major heart attack. Jake immediately leaves practice and returns to Riverton, N.C., the small hometown he’s avoided for nearly 15 years. Memories of glory and regret flood his mind as he returns to the family and friends he abandoned in pursuit of his career. Jake dutifully visits his dad and brother, but all the hurt and misunderstanding from the past begins to resurface, leaving him counting the days until he can return to his team. Then Jake’s agent calls: His contract is not being renewed amid concerns about his surgically repaired knee. To avoid the media circus, Jake extends his stay in Riverton, and, trying to make the best of it, starts reconnecting with the community — like his high school sweetheart, Sarah (Katie Carr). He takes over his dad’s high school coaching job. By the time Jake gets a new contract offer from another team, he’s not sure he wants to leave. OK, that wasn’t brief. But now you don’t really have to know what you’re missing since it’s up against some prime-time college football.
Series: “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” HBO, 10 p.m.:
In the episode called “Mister Softee,” Larry David has a flashback to a painful childhood memory after hearing a particular song played by a passing ice-cream truck, causing him to flub a key play in a softball title game. He’s only got one person to turn to for support: Bill Buckner.
College football: Marshall at West Virginia, ESPN, 12:30 p.m.; SMU at Texas A&M, Prime Ticket, 4:30 p.m.:
The Aggies have two Doak Walker candidates in their backfield. If you care to find out who they might be.