THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 1:
UCLA vs. VIRGINIA
Details/TV: At the Rose Bowl, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 11
USC vs. ARKANSAS STATE
Details/TV: At the Coliseum, Saturday at 8 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
For starters, this L.A.-based opening doubleheader may not set the rest of the college football nation into a frenzy as much as Jim Harbaugh’s khaki-optional debut with Michigan at the home of Pac-12 contender Utah (Thursday, 4 p.m., FS1), Texas’ visit to Notre Dame (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Channel 4) or Wisconsin getting cheesy with Alabama in Arlington, Tex., for the only matchup of ranked teams (Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 7).
Both USC and UCLA have debuted into the Top 15 of most pre-season polls by having, on paper, formidable branding, a nice color scheme and a roster built to entertain. Yet, do Trojans fans even know the nickname for this Arkansas State team from the Sun Belt Conference that presumably will arrive via swamp buggy in time for the kickoff on a channel that still not everyone has? Do they care? The Red Wolves — there you go — are a 31-point underdog according to early Vegas calculations, and the game has an over/under of 69.5 points. Meaning a 50-19 USC decision is how it should play out. It’s just a matter of how much QB Cody Kessler is given an opportunity to tie his single-game school record with 7 TD passes and take some heat off coach Steve Sarkisian.
Earlier in the day, we get to compare the heat index in Pasadena to what kind of warmth Josh Rosen will generate as Jim Mora’s new quarterback. Brady Quinn, the former Notre Dame QB who’ll call this TV game, said he expects Virginia defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta to “pressure the crap” out of Rosen “because that’s been his blueprint – he likes to see how a new quarterback takes a hit and stays in the pocket.” The visiting ‘Hoos (as they are called), 5-7 a year ago, nearly upset the then-No. 7 Bruins in the 2014 opener. UCLA squeezed out a 28-20 win thanks to its defense. UCLA, ranked No. 7 to start 2014, squeezed out a 28-20 win at Virginia in last year’s opener thanks to the defense.
But, hey, it’s early. That’s about the best thing we can saw at this point about Week 1.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
MLB: DODGERS vs. SAN FRANCISCO
Details/TV: At Dodger Stadium, Monday-Wednesday, SportsNet L.A.:
Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News wrote after the Giants won two of three against the Cubs last week: “I can now exclusively reveal the Giants’ three-step plan to come back and win the division to reach the playoffs: 1. Hang in there. 2. Wait for the Dodgers to show up on the schedule. 3. Pounce.” It has worked so far. The pitching rotations have been modified a bit since the Giants took two of three at Dodger Stadium during a June 19-21 stretch — the Dodgers’ Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias absorbed the losses on the mound — and more could happen when the rosters are allowed to expand to 40 players on Tuesday. With Hunter Pence and Joe Panik injured, the Giants refuse to panic, using Marlon Byrd and Kelby Tomlinson as able bodies. As they line up, the Dodgers’ have Zack Greinke (14-3, 1.61) on Tuesday against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner (16-6, with a 5-0 mark in five August starts that included 53Ks and just four walks). Clayton Kershaw, 0-2 in three starts against the Giants with an ERA more than one-run higher than he is against the rest of the league, goes Wednesday. The teams also have four more to play in San Francisco – where the Dodgers are 0-6 this season – on Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
All games at 7:10 p.m.
THE REST OF THE WEEK:
Serena Williams’ journey toward a Grand Slam has our attention as the 135th U.S. Open starts Monday at Flushing Meadows, N.Y., on ESPN and ESPN2 … The NFL exhibition season ends with all 32 teams playing on Thursday, including Oakland at Seattle (7 p.m., Channel 5) and San Diego at San Francisco (7 p.m., Channel 2) … The Dodgers’ week ends with four games in San Diego, while the Angels have three in Oakland before hosting Texas for three in Anaheim on the weekend … Read more at this link.