Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
College football: USC vs. Stanford, Saturday at the Coliseum, 5 p.m., Channel 7; UCLA vs. Cal, Saturday at the Rose Bowl, 4 p.m., Prime Ticket:
This year’s Bay Area invasion is a tale of two Pac-12 cities. AP No. 4 Stanford’s visit to the Coliseum for a nationally televised encounter with the Trojans is Andrew Luck’s last stop in Hollywoodland before his NFL career begins in Miami in 2012. He comes in with a QB rating of 180 (fifth best in the nation), 20 TDs, and 3 Ints for the 7-0 Cardinal (5-0 in the Pac-12 North). And he’s only been sacked twice. AP’s new No. 20 USC (6-1, 3-1), surfing home on the wave of a victory at Notre Dame, had Stanford all but beaten a year ago in Palo Alto, but the Cardinal won, 37-35, when Luck (20 of 24 passing, 285 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Ints) led his team on a last-minute drive, capped by a game-winning field goal with four seconds left. Never mind that Matt Barkley threw for 390 yards (on 28 of 45 passing, 3 TDs to Robert Woods and 0 Ints). On that same day, a few hours earlier, Cal leveled UCLA, 35-7, in Berkeley, as Kevin Prince couldn’t break 100 yards passing and Johnathan Franklin mustered just 54 yards rushing and had a critical fumble. Some things just don’t change much, do they? The Bruins (3-4, 2-2) will be six players short against the Bears (4-3, 1-3) because of conference suspensions handed down in the aftermath of last week’s fight in Arizona. As if it’ll matter much now.
MLB: World Series Game 5: St. Louis at Texas, 5 p.m., Channel 11:
All tied up again, the Game 1 starters come back for an encore. Chris Carpenter outlasted C.J. Wilson in that one, 3-2. Wilson’s post-season career record fell to 1-5 with a 5.32 ERA. We’ll see who goes back to St. Louis ready for a closeout in Game 6 or, if needed, Game 7, on Wednesday and Thursday.
NFL: Baltimore at Jacksonville, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
Maurice Jones-Drew, meet Ray Lewis.
Boxing: Pomsawan Porpramook vs. Akira Yaegashi:
Normally, this wouldn’t even get a sentence on the last page of the sports section. And it still may not. But somehow, this is a 12-rounder in Tokyo for Porpramook’s WBA world minimumweight title belt left us intrigued. Seriously? Minimum weight. Yes. Something to strike fear in what used to be called straw weight. Either way, you have to be 105 pounds. Add three more, and you’re all the way up to light flyweight. I’m imagining thoroughbred jockeys hitting each other with their whips.
Documentary: “The Real Rocky,” 5 p.m., ESPN:
Director Jeff Feuerzeig and producer Mike Tolin reintroduce the public to the story of Chuck Wepner, and his historical fight against Muhammad Ali in 1975 that inspired Sylvester Stallone to write his Academy Award-winning “Rocky” movie (which came out in 1976) about a Philadelphia underdog. Just like in the film, Wepner was picked out of obscurity to fight Ali. Wepner’s mother interrupted him while he was watching an episode of “Kojak” to tell him to pick up that day’s newspaper. Promoter Don King had chosen Wepner to fight Ali, but no one had bothered to tell him. Wepner lasted 15 rounds, knocking down Ali once in the ninth (OK, so he stepped on his foot). Ali won by a decision. Sound familiar? Now 72, Wepner, living near the Hudson River in New Jersey, tells his story to the camera, in black-and-white glory. “The day before the (Ali) fight, I took my wife out shopping and bought her a powder-blue negligee, because I told her, ‘You need to look right when you sleep with the heavyweight champion of the world,'” he said. “The night I lost, my (ex-)wife is sitting on the edge of the bed in the neglige and she asks, ‘So, am I going to Ali’s room or what?'” Stallone insists Wepner isn’t Rocky Balboa, but in 2006, Wepner settled a lawsuit with Stallone for using him as his inspiration for the “Rocky” series (no details of the settlement have been revealed). Next year, the Hollywood version of Wepner’s story is coming out in a flick called “The Bleeder,” staring Liev Schreiber. It’s not based on Rocky Balboa.
NHL: Kings vs. New Jersey, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
Said Kings goalie Jonathan Quick after recording his third straight shutout Saturday against Dallas: “It feels great to have that done but at the end of the day it’s one game. It’s a long season and we got to keep the momentum going into Tuesday night.” At the end of the day, the Kings are 1-0 on Tuesday night home games this season. But they’re 0-1 when faced to play against the Devils. A 2-1 loss in a shootout in Jersey way back on Oct. 13 looks somewhat lethargic.
NHL: Ducks at Chicago, 5:30 p.m., Prime:
It’s the first of a seven-game road trip that doesn’t end until Nov. 5, with stops this week in Minnesota (Thursday, 5 p.m., Prime), Nashville (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., KDOC) and Columbus (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Prime). May as well go back to Stockholm.
College football: Connecticut at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m., ESPN:
Because ESPN can, and the Big East needs some propaganda to show it can support a 12-team football league.
NHL: Kings at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., FSW:
Forced to meet twice now in five days, the Kings aren’t Star struck, but the 1-0 win last week over the team that has had the hottest start in the Western Conference was missing one thing — Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen, who sports a 6-0-0 record. His 1.48 GGA is third in the league, behind Quick’s 0.81.
College football: Virginia at Miami, 5 p.m., ESPN; Rice at Houston, 5 p.m., Fox Sports West:
We’ve gotten used to watching Thursday night college games. Why not another.
College football: BYU vs. TCU in Arlington, Tex., 5 p.m., ESPN:
It’s another pretend bowl game — Mormons vs. Texas Christians — at Jerry Jones Stadium and Atomic Bomb Shelter. A matchup tailor made for Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.
College football: Cal Lutheran vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Williams Rolland Stadium, 1 p.m.:
The Kingsmen dedicate their new $8.9 million football field at 12:30 p.m., even though they’ve played two home games on it (winning both). This is actually their last home game of the season, with two more on the road before the Division III playoffs.
College football: Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., 12:30 p.m., Channel 2; Navy at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4; Wisconsin at Ohio State, 5 p.m., ESPN:
Gatorade body shots, anyone? Florida fans, you sit here. Georgia fans, over there. Since 1992, the Bulldogs-Gators “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” has been played on the last Saturday in October. Shaken and stirred.
NHL: Kings at Phoenix, 6 p.m., FSW:
Nine days after they last met in Phoenix, they’re at it again. Quick shut ’em out, 2-0, for his 100th career win. Go look it up. Maybe the league is afraid the Coyotes will fold before December.
Horse racing: California Cup XXII, Santa Anita, first post, 1 p.m.:
Nine races worth $820,000 spotlight the state’s bestest thoroughbreds, capped by the $175,000 Cal Cup Classic. Your appetizer to next week’s Breeder’s Cup in Kentucky.
MLS playoffs: Western Conference semifinals: Galaxy at Colorado, Columbus or New York, noon, TV TBA:
Gotta wait until after the two first-round one-and-done playoff games for a lowest-seeded wildcard winner to face the team with the league’s best record in the first leg of the two-game series, the back end of which will be at Home Depot Center next week. The quest: Keep the home field all the way through the MLS Cup, on Nov. 20, which also happens to be at the Galaxy’s home pitch and could be David Beckham’s final appearance.
Rock & Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon, 7:30 a.m., L.A. Live:
The course this year starts and ends across the street from Staples Center and includes a trip past the Coliseum, then come back, then a stretch through downtown, then come back. Just in case you planned to have breakfast at the Pantry or something and couldn’t find parking. Runners are told they have to finish in four hours. Bands are supposed to performing every mile, so there’s about a dozen spots open, according to the official website (linked here), all funneling into a Bret Michaels’ grand finale.
NHL: Kings at Colorado, 5 p.m., FSW:
Is it a big deal when “The Sports Guy,” aka Bill Simmons, says he’s given up on the NBA and bought season seats for the Kings? Apparently so (linked here). The Kings put a link to his column on Grantland.com from their home site. Even though Simmons wrote: “Of course, I never would have bought Kings tickets without a (NBA) lockout.” Look for him next time you’re at Staples Center. Or buy his tickets off him on StubHub if you dare.
Tennis: WTA Championships final, 10 a.m., ESPN:
“Strong Is Beautiful,” according to the women’s pro tennis marketing campaign. But as for a final field of eight competing in the season-end WTA Championship, strong name recognition might help. Let’s talk Turkey — as in Istanbul, where this event takes place. We’ll give you the first two seeds — Caroline Wozniacki (left) and Maria Sharapova (above). We’ve also vouch for Li Na. The other five to make it here: Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, Vera Zvonareva, Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska. You’ve got representatives from Denmark, Russia, the Czech Republic, Belarus, China, Australia and Poland. The U.S. is shutout, since Serena Williams keeps slipping (down to No. 14) and Venus Williams is ranked out of the Top 100 (rankings linked here). The point is, the WTA would like to reintroduce itself to you. Again. Sharapova is making her fifth appearance at the WTA Championships, but the first since 2007. She won the thing in ’04, back when it was at Staples Center. Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond are one of four doubles teams competing. But that’s about all we got.
NFL: Dallas at Philadelphia, 5:15 p.m., Channel 4:
America’s team against the Dream Team. Or something like that. At least it’s not in England.