08.26.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1When the Associated Press college football writers’ poll came out last week – again, based on nothing except expectations and brand recognition, and a Top 25 that will not have any affect on eventual decisions based on bowl game selection when it’s said and done – USC and UCLA combined for one total vote.
The Trojans got that one vote, from blogger in Reno, and made it into the list, at the end, among the “Others Receiving Votes” category.
If there’s anything to it, Fresno State, the Trojans’ opponent in their opener at the Coliseum – Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, with Jason Benetti, Rod Gilmore and not Bill Walton – got eight votes.

This is the first time since 2001 – Pete Carroll’s first season there – the Trojans haven’t been in an AP Top 25 preseason ranking. That team finished 6-6 and lost the Las Vegas Bowl. In 2002, they were ranked No. 20 in the preseason, finished at No. 4, won the Orange Bowl, and all heck broke loose.
Which turns things to the incumbent, Clay Helton.
A 1-0 record under his watch in 2013. A 5-4 mark when he was interim again in 2015.
A 10-3 posting in 2016 at No. 3 in the final AP poll with freshman Sam Darnold, Adoree Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ronald Jones.
An 11-3 finish in 2017, 9-1 in conference, 12th in the final AP poll, with sophomore Darnold, Jones, Uchenna Nwosu, Deontay Burnett … and conference title, and a loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.
A 5-7 record last year, losing five of their last six, including games at UCLA and against Notre Dame, with freshman quarterback JT Daniels, saw a No. 15 presason AP ranking slip to No. 17, to No. 22, and then disappear after a 1-2 start with losses to Stanford and Texas.
Helton says going into the ’19 campaign: “When you have a 5-7 season, you’re going to hear it. And it’s deserved. It’s well-deserved. I’ve never worried about the outside noise. “Having been in it for 25 years of college football, having seen my dad in it for 40 years in both NFL and college, it’s part of the game. As a leader and as a head coach, when you go win a Rose Bowl and a Pac-12 title, you go hand out the accolades to everybody else. When you have an off season, you have to own it.”

As for UCLA, which had no AP preseason poll votes: It opening opponent, Cincinnati, had 16 votes prior to this first matchup in Ohio (Thursday, 4 p.m., ESPN, Adam Amin, Matt Hasselbeck, Pat McAfee).
If we’re still counting, the Pac-12 had no team in the AP Top 10. Oregon (11), Washington (13), Utah (14), Washington State (23) and Stanford (25) kind of sums up the listings of the logos at this juncture. And Arizona already at this point has one loss, in Hawaii.
In the inaugural coaches’ poll – again, a complete crapshoot because we’re not even sure who fills out those ballots that also mean nothing of consequence – the Trojans had 47 also-ran mentions, and UCLA had two.

College Football Week 1:
In the Pac 12:
Kent State at Arizona State, Thursday at 7 p.m., Pac 12 Network
Utah at BYU, Thursday at 7:15 p.m., ESPN
Colorado State at Colorado, Friday at 7 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma State at Oregon State, Friday at 7:30 p.m., FS1
Eastern Washington at Washington, Saturday at noon, Pac 12 Network
Northwestern at Stanford, Saturday at 1 p.m., Channel 11
UC Davis at Cal, Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Pac 12 Network
Oregon vs. Auburn in Arlington, Tex., Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Channel 7
New Mexico State at Washington State, Saturday at 7 p.m., Pac 12 Network

Nationally to watch:
Florida A&M at Central Florida, 4:30 p.m., CBSSN
Georgia Tech at Clemson, 5 p.m., ACC Network
South Dakota State at Minnesota, 6 p.m., FS1
Rice at Army, 3 p.m., CBSSN
Tulsa at Michigan State, 4 p.m., FS1
Wisconsin at South Florida, 4 p.m., ESPN
UMass at Rutgers, 4:15 p.m., Big Ten Network
Utah State at Wake Forest, 5 p.m., ACC Network
Purdue at Nevada, 6:30 p.m., CBSSN
Florida Atlantic at Ohio State, 9 a.m., Channel 11
Northern Iowa at Iowa State, 9 a.m., FS1
South Alabama at Nebraska, 9 a.m., ESPN
Mississippi at Memphis, 9 a.m., Channel 7
Indiana vs. Ball State in Indianapolis, 9 a.m., CBSSN
Indiana State at Kansas, 9 a.m., FSW
Mississippi State vs. Louisiana in New Orleans, 9 a.m., ESPNU
Akron at Illinois, 9 a.m., Big Ten Network
Toledo at Kentucky, 9 a.m., SEC Network
Duke vs. Alabama in Atlanta, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
South Carolina vs. North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Holy Cross at Navy, 12:30 p.m., CBSSN
Georgia State at Tennessee, 12:30 p.m., ESPNU
Idaho at Penn State, 12:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Montana State at Texas Tech, 1 p.m., FSW
Portland State at Arkansas, 1 p.m., SEC Network
Boise State vs. Florida State in Jacksonville, Fla., 4 p.m., ESPN
Missouri at Wyoming, 4:30 p.m., CBSSN
Middle Tennessee State at Michigan, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Georgia at Vanderbilt, 4:30 p.m., SEC Network
Miami of Ohio at Iowa, 4:30 p.m., FS1
Virginia at Pittsburgh, 4:30 p.m., ACC Network
Louisiana Tech at Texas, 5 p.m., Longhorn Network
Houston at Oklahoma, 4:30 p.m., Channel 7
Bethune-Cookman vs. Jackson State from Atlanta, noon, ESPN2


NUMBER 2A Dodgers road brings the laundry situation back to some normalcy, against their NL West foes, and interleague … is it finally over? It is not … But this week away from home will most likely feel like home games based on traveling crowds on vacation.
And finally, September arrives.
Meanwhile, the Angels get an attendance boost based on  weekend visit from the Boston Red Sox.

How the week plays out for the Dodgers (still an MLB-best 86-46 mark in the NL West, 20 games up, a magic number of clinching the division of 13 — really, we’re watching that? — and a 4-2 week that included a sweep of the Blue Jays and, despite losing two of three to the Yankees, keeping a No. 1 spot in the ESPN MLB Power Rankings):
At San Diego:
Monday at 7:10 p.m., SNLA (Dustin May vs. Eric Lauer)
Tuesday at 7:10 p.m, SNLA (Walker Buehler vs. Cal Quantrill)
Wednesday at 6:10 p.m., SNLA (Kenta Maeda vs. Chris Paddack)
At Arizona:
Thursday at 6:40 p.m., SNLA (Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Merrill Kelly)
Friday at 6:40 p.m., SNLA (Tony Gonsolin vs. Zac Gallen)
Saturday at 5:10 p.m., SNLA, Channel 5 (Cleyton Kershaw vs. Robbie Ray)
Sunday at 1:10 p.m., SNLA (Dustin May vs. Alex Young)

How the week plays out for the Angels (63-70 in the AL West, losing six of seven to AL West foes last week,13 1/2 back in the AL wild card, yet staying lethargically at No. 20 in the ESPN MLB Power Rankings but at least get two days off at home this week to skip some starting pitching spots):
Vs. Texas at Angel Stadium:
Tuesday at 7:07 p.m., FS1 (Mike Minor vs. Andrew Heaney)
Wednesday at 7:07 p.m., FSW (Ariel Jurado vs. Patrick Sandoval)
Vs. Boston at Angel Stadium:
Friday at 7:07 p.m., FSW (Nathan Eovaldi vs. Dillon Peters)
Saturday at 6:07 p.m., FSW (Brian Johnson vs. Jaime Barria)
Sunday at 1:07 p.m., FSW (Rick Porcello vs. Andrew Heaney)


NUMBER 3Go track down the Sunday edition of the New York Times for about as complete a pre-tournament coverage as you can get for the U.S. Open, happening the next two weeks in Flushing Meadows. The main event on Day 1: Serena Williams against Maria Sharapova, 4 p.m. Monday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Williams, 37, and Sharapova, 32, who have met in the finals of the other three Grand Slam events, have never played each other here. But now the eighth-seeded Williams has drawn the unseeded Sharapova for a first-round matchup. Venus Williams has a first-round match against Zheng Saisai  (11:15 a.m., Louis Armstrong Stadium).
Coverage of the opening rounds to the round of 16 are all on ESPN and/or ESPN2 daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4-to-8 p.m.
More info: www.usopen.org


NUMBER 4Again these are simple exhibitions, and wagering is discouraged, even though this is the final week of the NFL fake schedule:
Rams at Houston, 5 p.m., Channel 2
Chargers at San Francisco, 7 p.m., Channel 7, NFL Network
Raiders at Seattle, 7 p.m., Channel 5
The NFL Network also has Pittsburgh at Carolina, 4 p.m.


NUMBER 5Why can’t the MLS just schedule the LAFC and Galaxy to play games at least one a month. And rotate it to the Coliseum, Angel Stadium, Whittier College, a roped off area at the Will Rogers Polo Grounds in Pacific Palisades.
Twice a year robs the league, and the city, of something special that would not be watered down otherwise with repetition.
How the week now sets up for LAFC (19-3-5, a +46 goal differential, still atop the Western Conference):
Vs. Minnesota, Banc of California Stadium, Sunday at 7:30 p.m., YouTube TV
How the week sets up for the Galaxy (13-11-3, a -3 goal differential, fourth in the Western Conference, four points behind third place  Seattle):
At Seattle, Sunday at 3:30 p.m., FS1



  • For the eighth straight season, the Sparks already have a playoff spot locked down in the WNBA, so there’s that. And guard Riquna Williams, who was suspended 10 games on July 16 because of her involvement in an alleged domestic violence situation, came back and had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in a 98-65 victory against visiting Indiana at Staples Center last week as a starter.
    How the week plays out for the Sparks (18-10, winners of three in a row, with the No. 4 overall spot in the rankings, a half-game back of Las Vegas):
    At Washington, Tuesday at 4 p.m., ESPN2
    At Indiana, Thursday at 4 p.m., WNBA League Pass
    At Las Vegas, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., NBA TV
  • The U.S. begins play in the FIBA World Cup in China, vs. the Czech Republic (Sunday at 5:30 a.m., ESPN+). More info: www.fiba.basketball/basketballworldcup/2019
  • The BIG3 title game lands at Staples Center (Sunday, noon, Channel 2). More info: https://big3.com
  • The AVP goes to Chicago for its regular Labor Day weekend for its season championship (Sunday, 11:30 a.m., NBCSN live). More info: https://avp.com

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