THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:
NO. 15 USC vs. FRESNO STATE
Details/TV: Coliseum, Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Ch. 11
Sift through all those college football preseason prognostic publications and you may come across the one that took the initiative to put a list together of the 100 impact players of the 2014 season. Not surprisingly, UCLA and USC are well represented. One valid reason why the Bruins start the year so high in the rankings without having played a game yet is the presence of quarterback Brett Hundley (above). The No. 14 most impactful player on BecketSports preseason magazine has thrown or rushed for a touchdown in each of his 27 career games going into his junior season, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes for 6,700 yards over a two-year career, and piling up 53 TDs compared to 20 picks. Then there’s Myles Jack, No. 31 on the list, the offensive and defensive freshman of the year last season by accounting for eight TDs — seven as a running back and one returned after an interception. The Bruins’ opening act toward possibly repeating as the Pac-12 South champs starts way out in Charlottesville, Va., against a school that went 2-10 a year ago and lost its last nine.
The Trojans have a much more familiar dance partner to start their season — the one they ended it with last year. And they’re doing so with five players on that top 100 list, all underclassmen as well. Junior defensive end Leonard Williams (No. 11), junior running back Javorius “Buck” Allen (No. 41, right), sophomore safety Su’a Cravens (No. 55), junior quarterback Cody Kessler (No. 68) and junior receiver Nelson Agholor (No. 73) were part of a Trojan squad that ended a scattered 2013 season with a 45-20 win over Fresno State in the less-than-infamous Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Allen ran 27 times for 86 yards and two TDs, while game MVP Kessler completed 22 of 30 passes for a career-high 345 yards and four TDs, two of them to Agholor (5 catches, 94 yards).
As for the rest of the week: The IRL season ends in Fontana on Saturday night, the U.S. Open tennis tournament starts Monday in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the Angels and A’s have four more to play in Anaheim, the Dodgers are in Arizona and San Diego for those wanting to take an end-of-summer roadie, and the NFL exhibition season finally ends. Here’s more details.