Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers points out something to official Lemuel Hawkins in an NFL exhibition game in Cincinnati on Aug. 23.
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NFL Week 1:
Dallas at N.Y. Giants, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., Channel 4
New England at Tennessee, Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2
Washington at New Orleans, Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11
San Francisco at Green Bay, Sunday, 1 p.m., Channel 11
Pittsburgh at Denver, Sunday, 5:30 p.m., Channel 4
You make the call — the fact that the NFL has decided to start the season with replacement officials gives critics plenty of reason to believe there’s going to be something strange occurring that could somehow affect the outcome of the division races down the road. For example, a graphic demonstration recently on ESPN’s “NFL Live” showed that defensive pass interference calls have almost doubled per exhibition game with replacement refs so far when compared to 2011. It doesn’t help that these refs are also having some issues with trying to turn on their microphones, knowing which way to turn to announce a penalty, and sometimes trying to decide how to spot the ball. Where’s Ed Hochuli when you need him? “The inconsistency in pass interference was astronomical,” said ESPN’s Merril Hoge. “It’s drastically, grossly inconsistent. I’m telling you this, it is going to cost someone a game on (the first) Sunday. And unfortunately when you parlay that to the length of the season, you may go back to Week 1 and say, ‘That cost us the playoffs.'” So maybe they should be taking bets in Vegas about which star QB is going to get tripped up worst first? Peyton Manning’s debut in Denver will already be in the national spotlight, a couple of days after his brother Eli’s first start as the defending Super Bowl champs when the New York Giants take on rival Dallas in the league’s mid-week opener. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III and Drew Brees also are on our TV sets for this first weekend.
MLB: Angels at Oakland, 1:05 p.m., FSW:
Oakland’s Josh Reddick and his $485,000 salary speak volumes when compared to any one of the multi-million sluggers in the Angels’ lineup. The 25-year-old has 28 homers and is hitting 351 with a .568 slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers in the last two weeks. No wonder the A’s have won nine straight and are breathing down the Texas Rangers’ necks in the AL West. Seven of the Angels’ next 10 are against the slingin’ A’s, starting with these three that include Tuesday (7:05 p.m.) and Wednesday (12:35 p.m.). Oakland’s team batting average of .237 may be next-to-last in the major leagues, but its 153 homers rate ninth overall. Oakland’s key is a staff 2.43 ERA, second overall only to Tampa Bay. The Angels (15) and A’s (13) also rank 1-2 in shutouts thrown by any MLB team. The Angels have already blanked Oakland four times this year; the A’s have two against the Angels.
MLB: Dodgers vs. San Diego, Dodger Stadium, 5:10 p.m., Prime:
What’s left for the Dodgers to do? Beat some lefties. Three Padres’ left-handers are set to go here, starting with Andrew Werner, then former Dodger Eric Stultz on Tuesday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Clayton Richard for Wednesday (7:10 p.m., Prime). Since the All-Star break, the NL West fourth-place Padres (28-19) actually have a better record than the Dodgers (24-23) and the fourth-best record overall in the NL since June 11.
College football: Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, 5 p.m., ESPN:
College football’s Tech support takes the spot normally set aside for NFL stuff.
WNBA: Sparks at Minnesota, 5 p.m., NBA TV:
After riding a nine-game winning streak, with most of those games at home, the Sparks are on a 0-2 road trip that continues here, and then Friday at Washington (4 p.m.) and Sunday at New York (1 p.m., KDOC). Then the last four in a row are at home before the playoffs.
Golf: BMW Championship, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
The $8 million event at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana is the last one of the Fed Ex Cup playoffs before the field is trimmed for the Tour Championship set for Sept. 20-23 in Atlanta. NBC has the final two rounds here.
MLB: Dodgers at San Francisco, 7:15 p.m., Prime:
Whatever the difference is in the NL West between the Giants and Dodgers at the moment this series begins, a sweep seems to be in order. The Giants have already swept the Dodgers twice in a three-game series this year, most recently about two weeks ago. The Dodgers pulled off their own three-game sweep during their last visit to San Francisco July 27-29, just after the arrival of Henley Ramirez. One of the keys to the Giants’ recent sweep was the effectiveness of left-handed reliever Javier Lopez (above). He got two saves in two days by making nine total pitches — specifically, being called into induce a game-ending double-play ground ball by Andre Ethier one night, then inducing a game-ending ground-out by Ethier the next night. Expect to see Giants manager Bruce Bochy have Lopez ready to face Adrian Gonzalez in at least one key situation this series. The series continues with national exposure on Saturday (1:05 p.m., Channel 11) and Sunday (5 p.m., ESPN).
MLB: Angels vs. Detroit, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
A hook-up of Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander is alligned for the second game of this three-game set (Saturday, 6:05 p.m., FSW). The series ends Sunday (12:35 p.m., FSW)
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony: 4:30 p.m., NBA TV:
The Springfield, Mass., shrine welcomes a class that includes former UCLA and Lakers forward Jamaal Wilkes, former UCLA standout Reggie Miller, Boston Celtics player and coach Don Nelson, former University of Virginia and Houston Rockets standout Ralph Sampson, plus a team called the All American Red Heads and former Georgia star and U.S. Olympic standout Katrina McClain. As part of the NBA TV coverage, it will replay Miller’s 57-point game for Indiana against Charlotte in 1992 (Thursday, 11 a.m.), followed by the ’95 Eastern Conference semifinal Game 1 when he scored eight points in the final 8.9 seconds to help the Pacers stun the New York Knicks. (Thursday, 1 p.m.).
Horse racing: Opening day, Pomona Fairplex Park, first post, 1 p.m.:
The 13 days of thoroughbreds, in and amongst the turtle, pig and other farm animal races, starts today and goes through Sept. 23. It’ll be dark on Mondays and Tuesdays as part of the L.A. County Fair hours.
College football: USC vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J., 12:30 p.m., Channel 7:
Don’t get carried away thinking the Orange have an advantage here. It’s not at the Carrier Dome, for one. Syracuse has also lost six in a row. While the Trojans were sailing along to a season-opening win against Hawaii, Syracuse was a rally short against Northwestern, losing 42-21 despite quarterback Ryan Nassib thriving in a new up-tempo spread offense and throwing for 311 yards and four touchdowns in the second half. Nassib finished 44 of 65 for 470 yards, all school records. In USC’s 38-17 win over Syracuse at the Coliseum last year, Nassib was 25 for 37 and 230 yards with one TD. The Trojans’ Matt Barkley threw for 324 yards and five TDs, distributed to five different receivers.
College football: UCLA vs. Nebraska, Rose Bowl, 4:30 p.m., Channel 11:
Considering how well the Cornhuskers’ fans travel, and that that UCLA still hasn’t started classes yet, the shade of red at the Rose Bowl could leave the home Bruins feeling a bit powdery blue. A season-opening win at Rice is one thing; facing a Nebraska squad a bit puffed up after a 49-20 win over Southern Mississippi, where they racked up 632 yards in offense and got a career-best 354 yards passing from Taylor Martinez, with five TDs, is another. The Huskers run a spread-option offense under coach Bo Pelini, and in Saturday’s win, they didn’t fumble once — the first time that’s happened for the Huskers since a 2009 Holiday Bowl win over Arizona.
Tennis: U.S. Open women’s final, 5 p.m., Channel 2; men’s semifinals, 9 a.m.-to-3 p.m.:
Maria Sharapova has had a breezy first three rounds, but she hasn’t been past the fourth round here since her victory in 2006. Keep an eye on defending champ Samantha Stosur, who is a bit under the radar as the seventh seed. The women’s semifinals are Friday, along with the men’s doubles final (Channel 2, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
AP Photo/Mike Groll
Andy Roddick gestures during his match with Fabio Fogniniin the third round of play at the 2012 US Open on Sunday.
Tennis: U.S. Open men’s final, 1 p.m., Channel 2:
You expect to see Andy Roddick somehow get this far on his Grand Goodbye tour? After announcing on his 30th birthday last week that he’d be retiring after this event, he won two straight matches and then had a Tuesday fourth-round meeting set up against 2009 U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro. Win that, and all bets are off. Defending men’s champ Novak Djokovic probably has a better shot at putting this date on his calendar. The women’s doubles final is also today.