Play it forward: Jan. 2-8 on your sports calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

NFL wildcard playoffs:
Saturday — Cincinnati at Houston, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 4; Detroit at New Orleans, 5 p.m., Ch. 4.
Sunday — Atlanta at N.Y. Giants, 10 a.m., Ch. 11; Pittsburgh at Denver, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 2:

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Take a knee and thank the TV gods that Tim Tebow’s season isn’t over. One of the great storylines of this NFL season has been born again – barely. Give the Denver quarterback a rock and slingshot and maybe he and the Broncos have a chance of taking down the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC wildcard opener. But probably not. Which makes this one all the more compelling. Despite Tebow’s ability to will the Broncos into contention for the AFC West title, they claimed their first playoff trip since 2005 despite having lost their last three in a row and watching the Raiders and Chargers give away their shots at snatching it away only because of a tier of tie-breakers. It’s cause for pause and reflection. Or, as the Global Language Monitor recently acknowledged as an English language word, Tebowing. The website recently said that the word “Tebowing” is about as hot in the language this year as “Obamamania” was in 2008. The word apparently first made an appearance on Oct. 23, when he kneeled after leading the Broncos to an overtime win against Miami. “Sports have become significant generators of new cultural trends and memes that transcend the athletic arena,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “The ESPN sports broadcasting network has widely championed the word. Jared Kleinstein’s tebowing.com website devoted to people posing in the ‘tebowing position’ has been wildly popular. The New York Times has recently carried an editorial on the subject and the Chinese search engine, Baidu.com, already has hundreds of citations for tebowing.” One other QB who could be thankful for being the postseason: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who made it, while Oakland’s Carson Palmer, the guy he replaced, didn’t.

MONDAY

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College football: Rose Bowl in Pasadena: Oregon vs. Wisconsin, 2 p.m., ESPN:

Don’t worry. The Rose Bowl Flea Market will take place as scheduled this week on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There may be some old stuffed badgers to pick over. The last two losers of the Rose Bowl will return to see if they can get it right. Two-time Big Ten champion Wisconsin lost the Rose Bowl to TCU last year. Three-time Pac-12 champion Oregon was busted up by Ohio State two years ago before falling in the BCS title game last January.

College football: Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State, 5:30 p.m., ESPN; TicketCity Bowl in Dallas: Penn State vs. Houston, 9 a.m., ESPNU; Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.: Michigan State vs. Georgia, 10 a.m., Channel 7; Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.: Nebraska vs. South Carolina, 10 a.m., ESPN; Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.: Ohio State vs. Florida, 10 a.m., ESPN2:

Remember when the Fiesta Bowl was in jeopardy of being taken out of the BCS rotation after a scandal over bogus political campaign contributions and expense reimbursements got longtime game CEO John Junker fired? Now it has the best match up outside the BCS title game between LSU and Alabama. Let the tortilla chips fall where they may.

NHL Winter Classic: N.Y. Rangers at Philadelphia, noon, Channel 4:

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Ryan Howard with some eyeblack in the Flyers’ net at Citizens Bank Ballpark might be the home team’s best chance in the annual outdoor game, as coach Peter Laviolette has been juggling goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky. Some 44,000 are expected to pack it into the baseball stadium, where it’s ideal for hockey: A predicted high of 41 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain. They’ve already moved the faceoff back two hours from the original time to make sure it’s optimial playing conditions.

NHL: Kings vs. Colorado, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

Figure out a way to play this outdoors on the LA Live rink, and we’ll be right over. The Kings have won four of their last six with new coach Darryl Sutter and somehow snuck into the Pacific Division lead, although their record is only eighth-best-range in the Western Conference. Darryl Evans, the Kings’ radio analyst and the man who ended with “Miracle On Manchester” with his overtime goal, will be honored as part of the team’s Legends Night Series. Read more at this link.

TUESDAY

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NBA: Lakers vs. Houston, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

What was Kevin McHale thinking when he agreed to coach these Rockets of Houston?

College football: Sugar Bowl in New Orleans: Michigan vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

The Sugar Bowl committee decided to take the 13th-ranked Wolverines and 17th-ranked Hokies, passing up No. 8 Boise State and No. 11 Kansas State in the process and putting their credibility on the line. “We thought every team we had an opportunity to select presented us with certain unique credentials,” Sugar Bowl chief executive officer Paul Hoolahan said. “In the final analysis, we just felt the two teams we have chosen really give us in the long run the best opportunity to put together a matchup that will provide a very exciting football game.” Tech, meanwhile, has has trouble selling its 17,500-ticket allotment.

WEDNESDAY

NBA: Clippers vs. Houston, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

Chances of Chauncey Billups being up to playing in this one? Check his groin yourself.

College football: Orange Bowl in Miami: Clemson vs. West Virginia, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

The 15th-ranked Tigers and 23rd-ranked Mountaineers made it this far. They might as well let them play it.

THURSDAY

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College basketball: UCLA vs. Arizona, Honda Center, 8 p.m., Prime; USC vs. Arizona State, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m.:

The Wooden Classic, in early January? That’s how UCLA decided to digest it this year rather than have it against a non-conference foe in December. So this one against the defending Pac-10 champ Wildcats is designated as the annual event to honor the legendary coach. “We just want to kind of keep it going and hopefully next year we’ll get a chance to get it back more on course with four teams and two games,” said Nan Muehlhausen, Wooden’s daughter.

College basketball: BYU at Loyola Marymount, 6 p.m., Prime:

These post-Jimmer Cougars are playing their first season in the West Coast Conference, and already have a win over USD. The Lions (8-6) won their conference opener against USF on Saturday.

NBA: Lakers at Portland, 7:30 p.m., Channel 9, TNT:

The Blazers, which started 3-0 before losing to the Clippers last Sunday, may be even better without Brandon Roy.

NHL: Kings vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

Last matchup: A 4-3 win against the Coyotes on the day after Christmas, against former Kings goalie Jason LaBarbara.

High school football: Under Armor All-American Game, 4:30 p.m., ESPN:

Taft of Woodland Hills defensive tackle/offensive guard Antwaun Woods, committed to playing at USC next season, will be part of this annual exhibition in St. Petersburg, Fla.

FRIDAY

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NBA: Lakers vs. Golden State, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, FSW:

Lakers radio analyst Mychal Thompson gets to see his son, Klay, play for the first time in person as an NBA player. The Warriors took him in the first round out of Washington State. Thompson’s other son, Mychel, out of Pepperdine, has stuck with Cleveland so far.

College football: Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Tex.: Kansas State vs. Arkansas, 5 p.m. Channel 11:

The sixth-ranked Razorbacks were left out of a BCS bowl because of a rule that precludes three teams from a single conference from making a BCS game. Then again, the Cotton Bowl should be a BCS game, and the Fiesta shouldn’t.

SATURDAY

College basketball: UCLA vs. Arizona State, Honda Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

The last time the Bruins were 0-3 to start conference play was in 1987-88, yet that team rebounded to finish 12-6 and tie for second in the conference. However, they missed the NCAA Tournament, and it cost Walt Hazzard his coaching job.

NHL: Kings vs. Columbus, Staples Center, 1 p.m., FSW:

The two just met back on Dec. 15, when the Kings nabbed a 2-1 win with a pair of third-period goals to end a five-game losing streak.

NBA: Clippers vs. Milwaukee, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Brandon Jennings (22.7 points a game so far) seems to be feeling like his old self again for the Bucks.

Series: “Saturday Night Live,” 11:35 p.m., Channel 4:

Charles Barkley is the host. Or if he’s a no show, it’s Keenan Thompson dressed as Charles Barkley. Sir Charles hosted the show’s first 2010 episode as well, 16 years after he did his first one coming off an MVP season with the Phoenix Suns.

College football: BVAA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.: SMU vs. Pittsburgh, 10 a.m., ESPN:

SMU coach June Jones thought he had the once vacant Arizona State job. Then the school turned him down and took Pitt coach Todd Graham, who talked to ASU officials after Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson declined to give him permission to do so. Graham then sent a text massages to his players that he was leaving after just one season.

High school football: U.S. Army All-American Bowl, 10 a.m., Channel 4:

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Locals involved in this one include Oaks Christian defensive back Ishmael Adams (headed to UCLA) and receiver Jordan Payton (pictured), plus Crespi offensive guard Jordan Simmons (USC) at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

SUNDAY

NBA: Lakers vs. Memphis, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., FSW:

Gasol vs. Gasol, once again.

College basketball: USC vs. Arizona, Galen Center, 2:30 p.m., FSW:

The Wildcats’ Solomon Hill (Fairfax High) comes back home as the team’s top scorer, rebounder and assist man.

College football: GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala.: Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State, 6 p.m., ESPN:

The MAC and Sun Belt champions get to play on the eve of the national title game. You go, daddy.

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