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The Sports Report: USC could fall victim to a trap game

Stanford USC Football
Kedon Slovis
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news. Why am I taking time away from my birthday to put together a long newsletter? Because I love my readers, that’s why. At least, that’s what my mom told me to say.

USC FOOTBALL

Today’s game against BYU has all the makings of a classic trap game, so USC coach Clay Helton knew he needed to address it right away.

“We won a big game last week, but now a mature team ... puts that last game aside,” he said. “Let’s focus on this game. We’re not here to win one big game. We’re here to have a great season.”

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So, Helton played select clips of practice from the week before they routed Stanford, 45-20.

“This is how you won that game,” he told them. “You won it on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.”

In the hours after the Stanford game that turned him from lightly recruited backup to new Trojans savior, Kedon Slovis was inundated with messages on his phone. It was an immediate reminder of how much his life was about to change. For the most part, he tried to ignore them.

“At this point,” Slovis said, “we have to keep our eyes forward.”

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Against BYU, he will face a secondary which, in an admittedly small sample size, has proven formidable. The Cougars, who boasted the nation’s 29th-best pass defense a year ago, have allowed just 282 total passing yards through two weeks, good for 19th in the nation.

So all eyes will be on Slovis and how he reacts in his first hostile road environment.

Read more:

USC vs. Brigham Young: How the teams match up

USC FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: 790 KABC

USC 31, Fresno State 23

USC 45, Stanford 20

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Today at BYU, 12:30 p.m., ABC

Sept. 20 vs. Utah, 6 p.m., FS1

Sept. 28 at Washington, TBD

Oct. 12 at Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m. NBC

Oct. 19 vs. Arizona, TBD

Oct. 25 at Colorado, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Nov. 2 vs. Oregon, TBD

Nov. 9 at Arizona State, TBD

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Nov. 16 at California, TBD

Nov. 23 vs. UCLA, TBD

UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA’s issues will be resolved or accentuated quite publicly tonight when they face the No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners at the Rose Bowl in front of a national television audience.

“It’s a long season,” quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said when asked what he would say to fans about the team’s early struggles. “Would you rather be 0-12 or 10-2?”

I think most Bruins fans would settle for 2-0 at this point.

Thompson-Robinson said the team maintained its faith in coach Chip Kelly’s offense even though it’s generated just 14 points and 239.5 yards per game this season.

“We trust in him,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We trust in this offensive staff that they’ll put us in the best positions so we just gotta go out there and make more plays.”

Oklahoma is favored by a billion points. (OK, really, it’s 23 1/2 points).

Read more:

UCLA-Oklahoma: A look at how the teams match up

UCLA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: AM 1150

Cincinnati 24, UCLA 14

San Diego State 23, UCLA 14

Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 5 p.m., Fox

Sept. 21 at Washington State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Sept. 28 at Arizona, TBD

Oct. 5 vs. Oregon State, TBD

Oct. 17 at Stanford, 6 p.m., ESPN

Oct. 26 vs. Arizona State, TBD

Nov. 2 vs. Colorado, TBD

Nov. 16 at Utah, TBD

Nov. 23 at USC, TBD

Nov. 30 vs. California, TBD

FRIDAY’S TOP 25 SCORES

No. 20 Washington State 31, at Houston 24

TODAY’S TOP 25 SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse, 4:30 p.m., ABC

No. 2 Alabama at South Carolina, 12:30 p.m., CBS

Arkansas State at No. 3 Georgia, 9 a.m, ESPN2

Northwestern State at No. 4 LSU, 4:30 p.m., SEC Network

No. 5 Oklahoma at UCLA, 5 p.m., Fox

No. 6 Ohio State at Indiana, 9 a.m., Fox

New Mexico at No. 7 Notre Dame, 11:30 a.m., ABC

Kent State at No. 8 Auburn, 4 p.m., ESPN2

No. 9 Florida at Kentucky, 4 p.m., ESPN

Idaho State at No. 11 Utah, 1:15 p.m., Pac-12 Network

No. 12 Texas at Rice, 5 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Pitt at No. 13 Penn State, 9 a.m., ABC

Montana at No. 15 Oregon, 7:45 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Lamar at No. 16 Texas A&M, 4 p.m., ESPNU

Stanford at No. 17 UCF, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Arizona State at No. 18 Michigan State, 1 p.m., Fox

No. 19 Iowa at Iowa State, 1 p.m., FS1

No. 21 Maryland at Temple, 9 a.m., CBS Sports Network

Portland State at No. 22 Boise State, 7:15 p.m., ESPN2

Hawaii at No. 23 Washington, 4:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

No. 24 USC at BYU, 12:30 p.m., ABC

Florida State at No. 25 Virginia, 4:30 p.m., ACC Network

TODAY’S PAC-12 SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

No. 24 USC at BYU, 12:30 p.m., ABC

No. 5 Oklahoma at UCLA, 5 p.m., Fox

Air Force at Colorado, 10 a.m., Pac-12 Network

Stanford at No. 17 UCF, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Arizona State at No. 18 Michigan State, 1 p.m., Fox

Idaho State at No. 11 Utah, 1:15 p.m., Pac-12 Network

North Texas at California, 1:15 p.m

Cal Poly SLO at Oregon State, 1:15 p.m.

Hawaii at No. 23 Washington, 4:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Texas Tech at Arizona, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Montana at No. 15 Oregon, 7:45 p.m., Pac-12 Network

RAMS

Rams safety Eric Weddle was cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol and is expected to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at the Coliseum, coach Sean McVay said.

“I feel as normal as I’ve ever felt,” Weddle said after practice.

Weddle, 34, was injured during the first half of the Rams’ season-opening victory over the Carolina Panthers when he attempted to tackle running back Christian McCaffrey, who was attempting to hurdle Weddle. McCaffrey’s left knee hit Weddle in the head, causing a bloody cut that Weddle said required seven stitches.

A sharp edge inside the first layer of his helmet padding, and the impact of McCaffrey’s knee against his head, might have caused the cut, Weddle said.

Weddle is eager to get back onto the field against the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees. Weddle stressed that patience was a key when playing against the NFL’s all-time passing-yardage leader.

“You just have to be stay in the moment, stay consistent, don’t get down and he’ll give you some opportunities,” Weddle said. “Whether it’s an errant throw, whether it’s a sack, whether it’s a tipped ball — those are the plays you’ve got to capitalize on.”

RAMS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: 710 ESPN, 93.1 JACK FM

Rams 30, at Carolina 27

Sunday vs. New Orleans, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Sept. 22 at Cleveland, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Sept. 29 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m., Fox

Oct. 3 at Seattle, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network

Oct. 13 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m., Fox

Oct. 20 at Atlanta, 10 a.m., Fox

Oct. 27 vs. Cincinnati, 10 a.m., CBS (in London, counts as home game for Rams)

Nov. 10 at Pittsburgh, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Nov. 17 vs. Chicago, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Nov. 25 vs. Baltimore, 5:15 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 1 at Arizona, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 8 vs. Seattle, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Dec. 15 at Dallas, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Dec. 22 or 23 at San Francisco, TBD

Dec. 29 vs. Arizona, 1:15 p.m., Fox

CHARGERS

Kicker Michael Badgley, who missed the opener because of a right-groin injury, said he felt “better” kicking in practice Friday but is listed as questionable for the game at Detroit.

The second-year pro out of Miami, who made 15 of 16 field-goal attempts last season said his biggest challenge this weekend will be balancing his desire to play with the potential for hurting the team if he is not 100%.

“It’s one of those situations that kind of makes you grow up pretty quick because you have to listen to your body,” Badgley said. “It’s not high school or college anymore. You have to think about what’s best for the team. If you’re going to go out there and be an absolute liability, that’s not good for anybody.”

CHARGERS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: KFI-AM 640, KFWB-AM 980

at Chargers 30, Indianapolis 24 (OT)

Sunday at Detroit, 10 a.m., CBS

Sept. 22 vs. Houston, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Sept. 29 at Miami, 10 a.m., CBS

Oct. 6 vs. Denver, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 13 vs. Pittsburgh, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Oct. 20 at Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 27 at Chicago, 10 a.m., Fox

Nov. 3 vs. Green Bay, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Nov. 10 at Oakland, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network

Nov. 18 vs. Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., ESPN (at Mexico City, counts as home game for Chargers)

Dec. 1 at Denver, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Dec. 8 at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 15 vs. Minnesota, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Dec. 22 or 23 vs. Oakland, TBD

Dec. 29 at Kansas City, 10 a.m., CBS

DODGERS

Alex Verdugo hasn’t resumed baseball activities since he injured his back in a game on a rehabilitation assignment Sept. 2 and won’t when he returns to California from Arizona, where he has been stationed.

With 20 days remaining until Game 1 of the National League Division Series, manager Dave Roberts acknowledged it’s “very unlikely” Verdugo will be on the roster for the first round. His regular season is almost certainly over.

“But we expect to play through October, so there’s no hard deadline anyway,” Roberts said. “The key is to do whatever it takes to get him healthy. And then where that leads us, we’ll know more.”

On the field, the Dodgers defeated the New York Mets, 9-2, behind a strong effort by Clayton Kershaw.

KINGS

Columnist Helene Elliott on the Kings. An excerpt:

Todd McLellan had a good first day of training camp. The Kings’ new coach found his way to the rink, for starters, and while that’s a low bar it put him ahead of his predecessor. Willie Desjardins got lost on his way to Toyota Sports Performance Center for his first day as interim coach last season, and players quickly followed his lead by trudging through a lost season.

McLellan arrives at a strange and uncertain moment in the Kings’ history. The memories of their 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup triumphs are fading and they haven’t found the right mix to climb back to prominence. Management’s mistaken belief that the core players of the championship teams had two more kicks at the Cup left in them delayed the necessary rebuilding process. It all cratered last season with a 30th-place finish and league-worst goal differential of -61 that showed how far they’d strayed from their identity as defensive demons.

“We need to be a winning team this year. We were embarrassed with the last four seasons, if you ask me,” defenseman Drew Doughty said on Friday, honest as always. “Since we won the last Cup it’s been ----. We’re ready to go, and we need to get on each other and expect more out of each other.”

That’s a good start. As last season fell apart, players fell into poor practice habits and stopped dispensing the kind of tough love in the locker room that Doughty credits with pushing him to be better when he was young. “That doesn’t happen as much anymore, and sometimes I think that’s why we’ve gone south, because we don’t have those guys that get on guys,” said Doughty, whose eight-year, $88-million contract kicks in this season.

Those failings are on them. At least they seem to know it. “Everyone should be harder on each other,” Dustin Brown said. “Young guys, old guys, should be hard on everybody especially after the last couple of years.”

BOXING

The Ryan Garcia-Avery Sparrow fight scheduled for tonight in Carson was called off because... Sparrow was arrested Friday afternoon by U.S. Marshals.

Sparrow had a warrant out for his arrest stemming from an April domestic dispute in which he allegedly brandished a firearm after a woman threw his clothes out of a window.

Sparrow was not aware that he was in legal trouble until he landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday for his fight. According to Sparrow’s Philadelphia-based promoter Russel Peltz, a warrant was never served to Sparrow back home because he was not listed living under any address.

The rest of the fight card will still take place at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday and stream on DAZN, highlighted by undefeated Mexican star Jaime Munguia taking on Patrick Allotey.

Read more:

Jaime Munguia and Erik Morales combine to form Team Tijuana

Tyson Fury just punching the clock while waiting for Deontay Wilder rematch

Canelo Alvarez will move up two divisions to fight Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 2

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

No. 24 USC at BYU, 12:30 p.m., ABC

No. 5 Oklahoma at UCLA, 5 p.m., Fox

Dodgers at New York Mets, 4 p.m., Sportsnet L.A., AM 570

Tampa Bay at Angels, 6 p.m., FSW, AM 830

LAFC at Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m., YouTube TV, AM 710

BORN ON THIS DATE

1924: Baseball player/announcer Jerry Coleman (d. 2014)

1936: Former Dodger Stan Williams

1940: Basketball coach Larry Brown

1957: Former Dodger Tim Wallach

1974: Runner Hicham El Guerrouj

1989: Golfer Tony Finau

AND FINALLY

Tim Wallach sets the Montreal Expos record with his 114th RBI. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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