Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
Thirty six rounds between these two going back to 2004 apparently isn’t enough. Here’s a mini-series that has reach a cliff-hanger, provided we make a clean break here, OK? Let’s bank on 12 more rounds, one more controversial decision, and we’ll put it all on a DVD for posterity’s sake. Just know going in that Pacquiao has claim to winning the two fights – the last, not so decisive — after their first bout ended in a draw. “So the question for this fourth fight is, ‘Do I need to knockout Pacquiao to get the win?’” Marquez asked last week. “Well, I will certainly try. I also know that while knocking out a fighter like Pacquiao won’t be easy, it’s not impossible either . … I just want the judges to score the fight in the ring and not what they think is happening. I don’t care about the three previous fights and how they were scored anymore. All I ask is for a fair judgment, and if I lose, I lose. But if I win, I want my hand raised that night in the ring.” That may be asking for too much. Pacquiao knows that feeling, after it seems he won his fight against Timothy Bradley last June only to have the judges not give it to him. Based on Pacquiao’s last two performances, against Bradley and Marquez, maybe he’s lost his invincibility. He’ll turn 34 soon. Has time finally caught up with him? If Pacquiao ever needed a decisive victory, this would be it. Because Floyd Mayweather isn’t coming around any time soon.
THE BEST OF THE REST …
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: USC at Nebraska, 5 p.m., Big Ten Network:
Why do the Trojans keep submitting themselves to playing the Cornhuskers? Nebraska has won the last three meetings over the last three years, by a combined total of eight points. Last year, the Trojans lost in double OT. The year before, at Nebraska, they blew a 20-point lead and lost by two. The Trojans’ schedule this week also has another trip, to the Pit in New Mexico (Wednesday, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network) and back home against Minnesota (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
NFL Week 13: N.Y. Giants at Washington, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
RG3’s simple task: The Redskins have lost 10 straight home Monday night games, nine of them with Dan Snyder as owner. The 5-6 have climbed back into the playoff picture with back-to-back wins in which Griffin has thrown for eight touchdowns and a 146.1 rating.
NBA: Lakers at Houston, 5 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Sure, run away from home with trouble hits. Don’t stop until you hit New Orleans (Wednesday, 5 p.m., TWC)
NBA: Clippers vs. Dallas, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, ESPN:
Strange enough seeing Derek Fisher and O.J. Mayo starting together in the backcourt for Dallas. Wait’ll Clipper fans see Elton Brand and Chris Kaman crashing the boards together for the Mavs, too. The Clippers start the week in Utah (Monday, 6 p.m., Prime) and then have a weekend of home matinees, vs. Phoenix (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Prime) and Toronto (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Prime).
NFL Week 14: Denver at Oakland, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:
The Raiders’ home attendance last Sunday against Cleveland was 43,641 — the smallest since they drew 32,218 on Oct. 3, 2010.
MOVIE: “Playing for Keeps,” opening citywide:
Gerard Butler is going to be etched in our minds as Frosty Hesson in the surf flick “Chasing Mavericks,” but he’s back and not using a forced American accident as he plays a retired soccer player named George Dryer (wait, is this a reference to George Best?) who tries to get his act together. He starts by trying to coach his son’s soccer team, only to be temped from all sides by the “soccer moms” who pursue him (Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, anyone else ….) Then ESPN wants him as a studio analyst. Who wins in the end? We’re guessing Jennifer Biel.
NBA: Lakers at Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet, ESPN:
A third road game in four nights … against the team leading the NBA in scoring at a 105.1 points-a-game clip. The Thunder hasn’t blundered since shipping off James Harden, winning their last four by at least a dozen points each and leading the league with a 9.8 point-per-game margin of victory. before coming home to face Utah (Sunday, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., TWC).
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: UCLA vs. Texas, Houston’s Reliant Stadium, 2:15 p.m., ESPN:
Nobody quit lately? That’s probably a good sign. The Bruins hope to find their way around the Texans’ NFL stadium – not quite the setting of the 1968 UCLA-Houston game from the Astrodome. The 5-2 Longhorns already have an OT win against USC. As a warmup, or maybe something to raise their self-esteem, the 5-3 Bruins have an exhibition game set up Tuesday against Cal State San Marcos (Pauley Pavilion, 7:30 p.m.). Anything to worry about there?
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Cal State Northridge at Arizona State, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Network:
The Matadors wake up a little earlier than usual but get some TV time against the Sun Devils.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Heisman Trophy ceremony, 5 p.m., ESPN:
We’re going to take a wild guess that most of the 870 voters who’ve submitted their ballot picked either the best freshman quarterback in the country (Texas A&M’s Johnny “Football” Manziel), the best senior linebacker in the country (Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o) or the best sophomore receiver in the country (USC’s Marquis Lee). Let’s see how the early returns are tabulated on various websites to take out the suspense.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Army vs. Navy in Philadelphia, noon, Channel 2:
The new storyline for the 7-4 Midshipmen, who started their season in Ireland losing to Notre Dame and will end it in San Francisco in the Kraft Hunger Bowl, is the status of third-string quarterback Ralph “Rafi” Montalvo. He is fighting for his life after a car accident near his Miami home on Thanksgiving that has put him in a medically induced coma. “We just pray for him,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who will have players wear an emblem on their helmets to show support for Montalvo.
NFL Week 14: Detroit at Green Bay, Sunday at 5:20 p.m., Channel 4, San Diego at Pittsburgh, Sunday at 10 a.m., Channel 2:
The Pack has 10 wins in a row of NFC North foes. Crank it up to 11? Green Bay has also won 24 of its last 26 regular-season games at home.