Play it Forward: Nov. 19-25

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

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

USPresswire Photo

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: USC vs. Notre Dame, Coliseum, 5 p.m., Channel 7; UCLA vs. Stanford, Rose Bowl, 3:30 p.m., Channel 11:

Brand protection is what’s really at stake for the 84th edition of the USC-Notre Dame rivalry. The Trojans’ image in the community has taken a shot following Saturday’s humbling loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl where Matt Barkley left with his right arm in a sling. The Trojans’ third loss in four games is a free-fall from the No. 1 spot they had in the AP poll when the season started. That’s the spot where Notre Dame currently sits, thanks to an 11-0 record coming into this game, leading the BCS standings for the first time since the thing was created in 1998.

USC has previously spoiled Notre Dame’s undefeated chances in the final game of the season in 1938, ’64, ’70 and ’80. But  No. 1 Notre Dame’s 27-10 win over the No. 2 Trojans paved the way to the Irish’s last championship, after a win over West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.

Barkley has already been ruled out for this one because of his shoulder injury, but the great subplot is the evolution of Irish senior linebacker Manti Te’o, who was USC bound coming out of high school until he changed his mind and picked the Irish. Now, he’ll play his final regular-season game at the Coliseum. “There is no next week,” Te’o said after the Irish beat Wake Forest on Saturday. “It’s USC. There is no game after that. If we take care of USC, we’ll be fine. The USC-Notre Dame game is always a battle. So we understand that and we’re going to prepare the way we know how.” Irish coach Brian Kelly said he thought Te’o “should win the Heisman Trophy, provided we continue to win.” USC has won nine of the last 10 meetings, but the ’05 “Bush Push” victory had to be vacated. The last time Notre Dame came to the Coliseum ranked in the Top 10 was at No. 6 in 2006, but the No. 2 Trojans won, 44-24.

Meanwhile, across town, UCLABruins.com had a new home page posted Sunday, as well as a strange situation — it could be playing Stanford twice in six days. Bruins freshman quarterback Brett Hundley admitted that “when the season started, obviously nobody thought we were going to do what we’re doing now.”  That was after he completed 22 of 30 passes in a 10-point win over USC to clinch the Pac-12 South Division title. Not many thought the Cardinal would be in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 North Division at this point, either. If they are to play each other in Palo Alto on Nov. 30 for the Pac-12 championship, it likely means the Cardinal has to win this meeting — unless Oregon loses to Oregon State.  If Oregon wins and UCLA beats Stanford, the Ducks would host the Bruins. If there’s a three-way tie for the North title (involving OSU), Stanford would advance to the conference title game played at UCLA, for the right to go to the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl. Make sense?

THE BEST OF THE REST ….

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Five things we learned from USC-UCLA Version 2012

Daily News staff photo

1. A cream-filled Twinkie defense and a ho-hum Ho-Hos offense does not produce a ding donging of the Victory Bell. But here’s the zinger: Lane Kiffin, still willing to fall on the sword for his team’s shortcomings, admitted afterward that he’s been told by athletic director Pat Haden that no matter how this season ends, he’ll be coming back.

“Absolutely,” Haden told us in a text message Saturday night. “He is our coach.”

Seriously, was he using a smart phone when he sent that reply?

So, no liquidation. No Laker-type drama. But no guarantee that means old man Monte is part of that deal.

It won’t stop any kind of internet speculation on who eventually Haden brings in as “his guy” once the alums are fed up with number-switching, injury-hiding, ball-deflating and any other media angst that goes along with it.

No matter if you’re craving Mike Belliotti or Ed Orgeron, Jack Del Rio or Jeff Fisher, Dirk Koetter or Bobby Petrino, Jim Tressel or Jon Gruden, Andy Reid or . . . Rick Neuheisel? Sorry. The spot is filled.

Just remember the scene at the end of the game: UCLA fans happily held up their flip phones in the stands at the Rose Bowl to snap pictures of the celebration on the field. USC fans looked down at their 5G iPhones in search for Yelp reviews on where to find the best hotel package deals in El Paso.

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A little rain, a sword-in-the-sod photo-op, and a USC-UCLA tailgate happens …

Staff photo by Hans Gutknecht

Clint Hamblin said he went to Lowe’s, bought a chunk of sod for $3.50, flung it over his shoulder, had his fiancé, Kara, spray paint the UCLA script logo into it, and then tacked it to a piece of plywood.

His friend, Aaron Brink, supplied the finishing touch. Since he recently went out dressed as Prince Charming for Halloween, he happened to have a plastic sword with a gold handle laying around.

Once Brink’s sword blade was planted into Hamblin’s fresh blades of grass, it became a photo op and talking point for those passing by their tailgate party early Saturday morning, hours before the USC-UCLA kickoff at the Rose Bowl.

“The whole thing is stupid,” said Hamblin, a Sun Valley resident, referring to a pre-game storyline that involved UCLA nixing the USC tradition of allowing its Trojan-clad band major punctuate the opening festivities by sticking his sword into the midfield grass to incite the roar of the crowd.

“I love that the Notre Dame people came to USC’s defense. USC even stabs its own logo. It’s not disruptive.”

Added Brink, a Burbank resident and USC grad: “If they won’t let our band do it, then we’ll do it.”

If most UCLA fans walking by the display had a good laugh about it, at least a couple tried to swipe the sword when no one was looking.

“That’s not going to happen,” said Hamlin, head of security at Campbell Hall School in Studio City. He also pointed over to his brother, Doug, a Pasadena police office patrolling the grounds.

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Weekly sports media column version 11.16.12

What’s included in this week’s sports media column:

The Jack Baric “A City Divided” documentary on the USC-UCLA rivalry may not be seen again this week – it debuted Monday – but there’s more planned for it starting next season. There’s also a condensed version of the blog post about the new Michael McKnight book “Intercepted” on Darryl Henley.

And we also had more on the dish putting a fork in it: DirecTV signing with Time Warner Cable to carry the SportsNet/Deportes channels.

What could have been but wasn’t:

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DirecTV-TWC SportsNet deal done — but why so long?

Perhaps it was a coincidence that the Lakers introduced new head coach Mike D’Antoni at a press conference this afternoon at the same time the announcement came across that DirecTV would finally come on board with the new Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Deportes.

Or maybe not.

But why it took DirecTV, which has nearly 2 million subscribers in Southern California, all of October and half of November to reach the agreement — after cable operators such as Charter and Cox and telco companies like Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse came aboard — is a matter of frustration and scrutiny among its customers, or even former customers who have since switched providers out of panic.

Regardless, DirecTV launched TWC SportsNet on Channel 691 this afternoon — right next to the FSW and Prime Ticket channels, covering the D’Antoni press conference — and the Spanish-language Deportes on Channel 458. Both are in time for the Lakers’ game Friday against Phoenix. D’Antoni says he will coach his first game for the Lakers on Sunday from Staples Center against Houston.

Sources at both DirecTV and TWC refused to elaborate on the terms agreed upon or provide any background on the talks after weeks of somewhat sniping in the media as to why each stood by their principles, accusing the other of things such as price gouging or hypocritical business practices.

“I don’t think it was really about the coaching change, because the die was cast over the summer when the team got Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — this isn’t a knee-jerk reaction,” said Ed Desser, the president of Desser Sports Media in Santa Monica who negotiated the Lakers’ 20-year, $3.6 billion deal with TWC nearly two years ago.

“The coaching news may have reminded everyone just how high-profile this team is. It’s an indication of the power and importance this team has in this market.”

DirecTV chief content officer Dan York said only this of why the deal finally happened: “We appreciate our customers’ patience and are happy to have arrived at an outcome that benefits everyone involved. We know that our customers will enjoy the great programming of these three franchises for many years to come.” Continue reading

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