Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
College football: UCLA at USC, Coliseum, 7 p.m., FSW:
Matt Barkley or Rick Neuheisel: Who leaves the field after the game pretty much knowing he’s never coming back to this rivalry game?
Barkley is 2-0 in the series as the USC quarterback; Neuheisel is 0-3 as a UCLA coach. Yet, at a moment where the Bruins could win and get to the first Pac-12 title game, and the Trojans can win and still have nothing to celebrate past a 10-win season, here’s another episode of “Saturday Night Live” at the Coliseum — three times playing this annual rivalry game after dark after almost always being an afternoon affair for the city title. Last time at the Coliseum, there was almost a mid-field brawl because of how Pete Carroll’s team insisted on laughing it up in celebrating a 48-yard TD pass from Barkley to Damian Williams instead of just running out the clock with less than a minute to go. Maybe that had something to do with setting off that ugly parking lot incident before last year’s game at the Rose Bowl, when dozens of tailgaters who had all afternoon to drink it up ended up sluggling it out, resulting in two stabbings, three arrests and two police officers injured. Seems like there’s been a certain repetitiveness to the game, aside from the fact that USC has scored 28 points in the last three meetings and won them all. And if you’re looking for the usual sibling storylines: USC junior defensive back T.J. McDonald is the older brother of UCLA redshirt freshman defensive back Tevin McDonald, and USC senior defensive back Marshall Jones might end up putting a tackle on younger brother and UCLA sophomore running back Malcolm Jones, both out of Oaks Christian. Other than all that, this one means nothing much.
College basketball: UCLA vs. Chaminade, Maui Invitational, 6:30 p.m., ESPN:
Try to get your head around this, Reeves Nelson: Even if the Bruins lost this one to the NCAA Division II Silverswords, it wouldn’t be as a ranked team, and definitely not nearly the earth-shaking event as when the Ralph Sampson-led, top-ranked Virginia team came to the islands nearly 30 years ago and somehow were slayed in one of the biggest college basketball regular-season upsets ever. UCLA’s 0-2 mark pales to the 3-0 mark owned by tournament host Chaminade — no matter that their wins are over Tahiti, Western Oregon and St. Martins. They’re still wins. We’re not sure if UCLA could even register one of those in an intrasquad game at this moment. One way or another, UCLA faces Kansas or Georgetown on Tuesday, and at least one more on Wednesday (take your pick from Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee or Duke).
NFL: Kansas City at New England, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
Check it out: The last time the Chiefs faced the Patriots was the 2008 opener. Tom Brady tore up his knee, Matt Cassel came off the bench and started the rest of the way, earning himself the QB job and, eventually, some big free agency money in Kansas City after Brady returned. Now, Cassel, the former Chatsworth High standout from USC, has hurt his hand and it out for the season as the Chiefs’ QB, so the unproven Tyler Palko will make his first career NFL start.
NHL: N.Y. Islanders at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m., Versus:
Sidney Crosby’s comeback starts here, playing for the first time in nearly 11 months.
NHL: Kings at St. Louis, 4:30 p.m., Versus:
The Blues have gone 4-0-2 under new coach Ken Hitchcock and lowered their goals-against average to less than one a game.
College basketball: USC vs. Morgan State, Galen Center, 7 p.m.:
The Trojans really lost to Cal Poly the other night? Hmmmm. This second-round of the Las Vegas Invitational still isn’t in Vegas. But eventually, the Trojans play host UNLV (Friday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3.com) and then go up against either North Carolina or the other USC known as South Carolina (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3.com, or 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2, if it’s against the Tar Heels). It’s a gamble either way.
NHL: Kings at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., FSW:
Dallas started the season 11-3 but has lost five in a row and racked up 53 penalty minutes in their last defeat against San Jose. “We’re in a hole, and you can’t just jump out of a hole this deep, you have to kind of dig your way up and dig your way out and I thought we were moving in that direction,” Stars rookie coach Glen Gulutzan said. Dallas will have a new owner by the time this one is played after the league officially approved the franchise sale to Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi.
NFL: Green Bay at Detroit, 9:30 a.m., Channel 11; Miami at Dallas, 1:15 p.m., Channel 2; San Francisco at Baltimore, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:
The 10-0 Packers trying to drum the Lions are no match for Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh family feud in the late-afternoon finale while eating pumpkin pie.
College football: Texas at Texas A&M, 5 p.m., ESPN:
The Lone Star Showdown is always good for putting some kind of mess in Texas.
College football: Arkansas at LSU, 11:30 a.m., Channel 2; Iowa at Nebraska, 9 a.m., Channel 7; Boston College at Miami, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7; Pittsburgh at West Virginia, 4 p.m., ESPN; Cal at Arizona State, 7:15 p.m,, ESPN; Colorado at Utah, 12:30 p.m., FSW:
Tyler Wilson’s Razorbacks (10-1), up to No. 3 in the BCS, benefit most from the losses last weekend suffered by Oklahoma State, Oregon and Oklahoma, moving up to this battle against the No. 1 Tigers for the latest game-of-the-year matchup (three SEC teams in the top three spots now?) See how Arkansas players react while mourning the death of freshman tight end Garrett Uekman.
College football: Ohio State at Michigan, 9 a.m., Channel 7; Oregon State at Oregon, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7; Penn State at Wisconsin, 12:30 p.m., ESPN; Notre Dame at Stanford, 5 p.m., Channel 7; Alabama at Auburn, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2; Washington State vs. Washington in Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Versus; Georgia at Georgia Tech, 9 a.m., ESPN; Florida State at Florida, 4 p.m., ESPN2; Clemson at South Carolina, 4:45 p.m., ESPN:
Urban Meyer might not be the best person in the ESPN/ABC booth for the Buckeyes-Wolverines, considering, well, you know, he could be the next Ohio State coach. And if there’s a way to check out the new ESPN documentary, “Roll Tide/War Eagle,” do so before tracking down the Alabama-Auburn rivalry renewal game.
NHL: Kings vs. Chicago, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
The Blackhawks were the first team to 12 wins after 20 games in the Western Conference, second in the league with an average of 3.4 goals per contest, sparked by Marian Hossa. And suffering a 9-2 loss against Edmonton last Saturday.
NFL: Pittsburgh at Kansas City, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4; Denver at San Diego, 1 p.m., Channel 2; Chicago at Oakland, 1 p.m., Channel 11; Buffalo at N.Y. Jets, 10 a.m., Channel 2:
The Tebow traveling circus comes to San Diego for an important AFC West matchup. The Bears stay in the AFC West as well. By the way, New England is also at Philadelphia today. Think anyone cares about that one anymore?
Tennis: ATP Barclays World Tour, final match, 9:30 a.m., ESPN2:
Mardy Fish must feel like a fish out of water in the season-ending men’s pro tennis event, having to go up against Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. But being Top 8 in the world means he’s qualified to be at the 02 Arena in London. Djokovic enters with the daunting record of 69-4 this year and 10 titles, more than $10 million in winnings, and having secured a place in this thing way back in May. The world top-ranked doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are also set to be here (their final is at 7:30 a.m. on Tennis Channel).
College basketball: 76 Classic final, from Anaheim, 6 p.m., ESPN2:
Boston College, Santa Clara, Villanova, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Washington State are among the schools that came over on Thanksgiving break. The semifinals are Friday. The third-place game is today at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU. Then we all go to Disneyland. Sooners coach Lon Kruger won this tourney a year ago — as coach at UNLV. And the Lobos’ Drew Gordon played in this event before — while at UCLA.