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

NUMBER 1What we know, and what we think we know, and what we hope to know more about heading into College Football Week 12:
== When you’ve got UCLA playing host to Utah (Saturday, 5 p.m. Channel 11) followed up by USC’s contest at Cal (Saturday, 8 p.m., FS1), maybe it’s just another layering of intriguing Pac 12 After Dark Doubleheader (trademark pending).
But also realize this will be the tune-up to the annual Bruins-Trojans game on Nov. 23 at the Coliseum. Yes, it’s almost here. A week before Thanksgiving. Which would end the Trojans’ season already bowl eligible.
UCLA (4-5, 4-2) can still topple the Pac-12 South with a win over the No. 8 Utes (8-1, 5-1), coming off a bye week, and make the Bruins’ game at USC become a winner-goes-to-the-conference title game affair, likely against Oregon.
USC (6-4, 5-2) takes on a squad from Cal (5-4, 2-4) that was once Top 25 caliber but won for the first time since late September with a 33-20 decision over Washington State as UCLA transfer Devon Modster threw for three touchdowns.

== If the College Football Playoff poll voters wanted to make things look equitable heading into their next week of voting (Tuesday, 4 p.m., ESPN), it would keep 9-0 Ohio State and 9-0 LSU in the top two spots (the AP voters already have the Tigers propped up over the Buckeyes in their latest non-essential poll). Then the CFP needs to properly elevate 10-0 Clemson to at least No. 3. Then leave the No. 4 spot open for the eventual winner of the Pac 12 Conference (go ahead and have Georgia as the place setter for now, as perhaps the best one-loss team in the country when compared to Alabama, Penn State and even Oklahoma).
But don’t sleep on 9-0 Minnesota, which cannot be buried in that No. 17 hole any longer.
== In the latest ESPN bowl projection, USC seems destined to be in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on New Year’s eve against either Baylor or Texas, while UCLA is a no-show – apparently the thinking is it won’t win two of its last three (it concludes against Cal on Nov. 30) to be six-win eligible.
== The Pac-12 refs keep tripping themselves up.

Also this week in the Pac 12:
=Stanford at Washington State, 1:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
=Arizona State at Oregon State, 4:30 p.m., FS1
=Arizona at Oregon, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Bye: Colorado, Washington

Also this week of national interest:
North Carolina at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m., ESPN
Fresno State at San Diego State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Alabama at Mississippi State, 9 a.m., ESPN
Indiana at Penn State, 9 a.m., Channel 7
Florida at Missouri, 9 a.m., Channel 2
Michigan State at Michigan, 9 a.m., Channel 11
Navy at Notre Dame, 11:30 a.m., Channel 4
Ohio State at Rutgers, 12:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Wake Forest at Clemson, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
Georgia at Auburn, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
Minnesota at Iowa, 1 p.m., Channel 11
LSU at Mississippi, 4 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma at Baylor, 4:30 p.m., Channel 7


NUMBER 2What we know, and what we think we know, and what the NBA season is already told us three weeks in:
== ESPN is promoting a Clippers-Lakers doubleheader on Wednesday, but in this load management era, who can we really count on for showing up? The Lakers’ game against depleted Golden State comes a day after a game in Phoenix. The Clippers’ trip to Houston to face James Harden and Russell Westbrook (and Austin Rivers) comes a day before a game at New Orleans. Which one does Kawhi Leonard give the high sign to sit out?
And who gets a waiver signed by the league to say it’s OK to sit?
== In the latest ESPN power rankings, the Lakers have come up to No. 1 despite losing Sunday night. The Clippers are No. 2.
== Kyle Lowry won’t play in the Raptors’ game against the Clippers on Monday because of a left thumb fracture. Serge Ibaka is also tending to an injury.
== Blake Griffin is scheduled to play his first game of the season for Detroit on Monday against Minnesota after missing the first 10 games because of a sore knee and hamstring. The 30-year-old had a left-knee procedure after last season.

How the week unfolds for the Lakers (7-2):
= At Phoenix, Tuesday at 6 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= Vs. Golden State, Staples Center, Wednesday at 7 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
= Vs. Sacramento, Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= vs. Atlanta, Staples Center, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
How the week unfolds for the Clippers (6-3):
= Vs. Toronto, Staples Center, Monday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Houston, Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, ESPN
= At New Orleans, Thursday at 5 p.m., Prime Ticket
= Vs. Atlanta, Staples Center, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket


NUMBER 3What we know, and what we stopped thinking we know, heading into NFL Week 11:
== The 5-4 Rams get their second Sunday Night Football close-up, this time against Chicago (Coliseum, Sunday at 5:20 p.m., Channel 4. At Cleveland in Week 3, the Rams improved to 3-0 with a 20-13 win. Look what has happened since then.
== The 4-6 Chargers, already 0-2 in the AFC West, wait until everything finishes at the end of this week to take a meeting against Kansas City in Mexico City on Monday, Nov. 18. But let’s wait and see how the field is looking. Patrick Mahomes seems perfectly fine, by the way.
== Folks can’t stop talking about Lamar Jackson.
== The Saints’ Week 10 loss to the Falcons … biggest upset of the year? Do the math.

Finishing up Week 10:
Monday: Seattle at San Francisco, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Going into Week 11:
Thursday: Pittsburgh at Cleveland, 5:20 p.m., Channel 11, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
= In the Fox 10 a.m. window (all blacked out in L.A.): Dallas at Detroit, New Orleans at Tampa Bay, N.Y. Jets at Washington, Atlanta at Carolina
= In the CBS 10 a.m. window: Houston at Baltimore (blacked out: Jacksonville at Indianapolis, Buffalo at Miami, Denver at Minnesota)
= In the Fox 1:05 p.m., window: Arizona at San Francisco
= In the CBS 1:25 p.m. window: New England at Philadelphia (blacked out: Cincinnati at Oakland)
Bye week: Green Bay, Tennessee, N.Y. Giants, Seattle


NUMBER 4The 55th NHRA Finals at Pomona starting Thursday and ending Sunday mark the end of the fourth season of Fox Sports carrying it as a live event.
(And it’s OK if we still call it the Winternationals, right? No, because that’ll be Feb. 6-9, 2020 to start the next season).
Brian Lohnes, the lead race caller this season, calls Fox’s overall approach to covering the events as more than just a fresh outlook after many years of having the events tape-delayed on ESPN.
“We’re far better in portraying it for what it is,” said Lohnes. “We can show the people the size and scope of the event, and we never really got to do that before. It’s been a subtle but important evolutionary step as well in tightening up the races between rounds – sometimes with just a 30-minute turnaround. The most fun is the bridge segment we have between qualifying and the finals, when we visit the pit areas and watch the crews and drivers prepare, and also talk to them to see if they reinforce the storylines we’ve been talking about or find new stories that we didn’t know was happening.”
Lohnes, a native of New England who has obsessed about drag racing since he was 7, says he considers every trip to the sports’ birthplace of Pomona “as if it’s Valhalla. There’s no cooler place than a Sunday afternoon with the sun setting in Southern California, everyone covered in beer and Champaign. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting.”
Steve Torrence has just a slim 16 point lead over Brittany Force in the Top Fuel standings. Robert Hight seems poised to win the Funny Car, but teammate John Force is in fourth place, 72 points back. Erica Enders likely has the Pro Stock title won with a 92-point advantage, and Andrew Hines comes into the Pro Stock Motorcycle finals with a 115-point lead.

The TV schedule includes:
Finals: Sunday, 1-to-4 p.m., FS1 (replay, 7-to-10 p.m., FS2)
Qualifying: Sunday, noon to 1 p.m., FS1 (replay, 6-7 p.m., FS2)
Qualifying: Friday, 2:30-to-4:30 p.m., FS1
More info: www.nhra.com


NUMBER 5What we’re still trying to figure out a week into the college basketball season:
== USC gets to see how Steve Alford is doing at his new gig when it travels to Nevada for a Saturday night encounter. Nevada has already lost to the Pac-12’s Utah, 79-74, in the season opener. Utah’s starting lineup includes  five underclassmen, two of them freshmen.
== But wait: How good will Utah be once the Pac-12 play starts? Maybe whatever computer rankings matter will compress the fact that the Utes compiled a 143-49 win over Mississippi Valley State on Friday night. The 94-point win set the NCAA record for largest scoring margin against a D1 opponent in 80 years.
How the week plays out for USC (2-0):
Vs. South Dakota State, Galen Center, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
at Nevada, Saturday at 8 p.m., CBSSN
How the week plays out for UCLA (2-0):
Vs. UNLV, Pauley Pavilion, Friday at 8 p.m., Pac 12 Net
How the week plays out for Long Beach State (1-1):
At Stanford, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
At St. Mary’s, Thursday at 7 p.m.
How the week plays out for Cal State Northridge (0-2):
Vs. Pepperdine, Matadome, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
At Auburn, Friday at 4 p.m., SEC Network
At Richmond, Sunday at 1 p.m., ESPN+
How the week plays out for Loyola Marymount (1-1):
Vs. Colorado State, Gersten Pavilion, Saturday at 7 p.m.
How the week plays out for Pepperdine (1-1):
At Cal State Northridge, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
At Abiline Christian, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., ESPN3
Games of national interest this week include:
Evansville at Kentucky, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Central Arkansas at Duke, 4 p.m., ACC Network
Oregon vs. Memphis in Portland, 6 p.m., ESPN
UNLV at Cal, 8 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Oklahoma vs. Oregon State in Portland, 8:30 p.m., EPSN2
LSU at VCU, 3 p.m., ESPN2
Villanova at Ohio State, 4 p.m., FS1
St. Joseph’s at UConn, 4 p.m., CBSSN
Purdue at Marquette, 6 p.m., FS1
Grand Canyon at San Diego State, 7 p.m.
Penn State at Georgetown, 3:30 p.m., FS1
San Jose State at Arizona, 5 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Michigan at Seton Hall, 5:30 p.m., FS1
Central Connecticut at Arizona State, 7 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Georgia State at Duke, 4 p.m., ACC Network
Gonzaga at Texas A&M, 6 p.m., SEC Network
Gardner-Webb at North Carolina, 6 p.m., ACC Network
Minnesota at Utah, 6 p.m., Pac 12 Network
Oregon State at Wyoming, 6 p.m.
Washington vs. Tennessee in Toronto, 2 p.m., ESPN+
Oakland at Maryland, 9 a.m.
Ohio at Villanova, 9 a.m., FS2
Columbia at Virginia, 9 a.m., ACC Network
UT Arlington at Oregon, 5 p.m., Pac 12 Network
Georgia State at Georgetown, 4:30 p.m., FS1
North Carolina Central at Louisville, 2 p.m., ACC Network
Rider at Arizona State, 3 p.m., Pac 12 Network
Idaho State at Washington State, 1 p.m., Pac 12 Network
Seton Hall at Saint Louis, 1 p.m., ESPNU
Florida at UConn, noon, ESPN
New Mexico State at Arizona, 11 a.m., Pac 12 Network
Marquette at Wisconsin, 10 a.m., FS1


*** The Baseball Writers Association of American get four straight days to let everyone know how they voted for their annual awards – it’ll be once a day, at 3 p.m., on the MLB Network. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Angels’ Mike Trout are in the conversation/final three in their respective categories:
Monday: Rookie of the Year
Tuesday: Manager of the Year
Wednesday: Cy Young
Thursday: MVP

*** How this week shapes up for the Kings (5-11-1):
= Vs. Minnesota, Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., FSW
= Vs. Detroit, Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., FSW
= Vs. Vegas, Staples Center, Saturday at 1 p.m., FSW
*** How this week shapes up for the Ducks (9-8-1):
= Vs. Detroit, Honda Center, Tuesday at 7 p.m., Prime Ticket
= Vs. San Jose, Honda Center, Thursday at 7 p.m., Channel 13
= At St. Louis, Saturday at 5 p.m., FSW

*** The ATP Finals wrap up in London (championship match, Sunday, 10 a.m., ESPN)
*** The NASCAR season ends with the Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Fla. (Sunday, noon, Channel 4). The final four who can win it: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch.

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