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This Weekend in Sports: USC-Stanford, NASCAR Chase and a Sunday Night Football Grudge Match

WKD Sports 9-13
Rich Schultz, Thearon W. Henderson, Rainier Ehrhardt, Leon Halip / Getty Images

The upcoming sports calendar features several key battles between ranked college football teams, the beginning of the NASCAR Chase for the Cup and Week 2 of the NFL. Here’s what to watch this weekend:

Friday, Sept. 14

Women’s British Open

Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, UK; Various Times; ESPN-TV
The fourth and final major of the women’s golf season runs through the weekend on the Royal Liverpool course at Hoylake, England. Defending champion Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato and Paula Creamer are among the favorites to win.

Saturday, Sept. 15

(1) Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks

Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.; 3:30 p.m. (ET); CBS-TV
Top-ranked Alabama (2-0) rolls into its SEC schedule with a visit to Arkansas (1-1). Though the Crimson Tide beat Western Kentucky 35-0 last week, quarterback AJ McCarron was sacked six times. The Razorbacks are still in shock after being upset by Louisiana-Monroe in overtime last week.

Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.; 4:05 p.m. (ET); FOX-TV
The New York Yankees (80-62) began Thursday tied for the American League East lead with the Baltimore Orioles and just three games ahead of Tampa Bay (77-65) in the AL Wild Card race. The Yankees will send Ivan Nova (11-7, 4.92) out to make his first start since Aug. 21. Tampa counters with James Shields (14-8, 3.71), who must keep New York hitters Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson in check.

(18)Florida Gators at (23) Tennessee Volunteers

Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.; 6 p.m. (ET); ESPN-TV
Behind quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Justin Hunter, Tennessee (2-0) has made its first appearance in the AP rankings since 2008. This weekend, the Volunteers host SEC rival Florida (2-0), whom they haven’t beaten in their last seven meetings. The Gators hope SEC rushing leader Mike Gillislee, who injured his groin last week against Texas A&M, is ready to attack the Tennessee defense.

(2) USC Trojans at (21) Stanford Cardinal

Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif.; 7:30 p.m. (ET); FOX-TV
It will be difficult for this year’s USC-Stanford game to match last season’s epic battle between Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck, won by Luck and the Cardinal, 56-48, in three overtimes. Barkley returns to lead USC (2-0) in the Pac-12 conference match-up. Stanford (2-0) won’t have Luck on its side in this game, but quarterback Josh Nunes and tailback Stepfan Taylor can be difficult to defend.

(20) Notre Dame Fighting Irish at (10) Michigan State Spartans

Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.; 8 p.m. (ET); ABC-TV
Notre Dame (2-0) will start sophomore Everett Golson at quarterback against Michigan State (2-0) and its stingy defense. Spartans’ defensive end William Gholston could create havoc for the Irish. The Notre Dame defense figures to have its hands full with MSU tailback Le’Veon Bell.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez

Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nev.; 9 p.m. (ET); HBO-PPV
WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. defends his title against challenger Sergio Martinez in a highly anticipated match. Chavez, 26, is undefeated with a 46-0-1 record, but he will be tested by Martinez, who has won five straight fights.

Sunday, Sept. 16

Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.; 1 p.m. (ET); CBS-TV
The Baltimore Ravens (1-0) used a no-huddle offense and a stifling defense to rout Cincinnati on Monday night. They’ll look to keep Eagles quarterback Michael Vick from connecting with his many offensive weapons. The Philadelphia (1-0) defense could have real issues containing Ravens’ running back Ray Rice.

GEICO 400

Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, IL; 2:16 p.m. (ET); ESPN-TV
NASCAR’s Chase begins at Chicagoland Speedway this Sunday. Cup Series leader Denny Hamlin enters the Chase series with a narrow three-point edge over five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski. Eight other drivers remain in contention for the 2012 Sprint Cup championship.

Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves

Turner Field, Atlanta, Ga; 8:05 p.m. (ET); ESPN-TV
The Washington Nationals (89-54) take baseball’s best record south to Atlanta for a three-game series with the Braves (81-62), who trail them by 8.5 games in the National League East. Washington sends Gio Gonzalez (19-7, 2.93) to the mound in search of his 20th win. The Braves counter with Mike Minor (8-10, 4.42), who must find a way to stop Washington hitters like Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and others.

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers

Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Ca.; 8:20 p.m. (ET); NBC-TV
Two of the NFC’s best teams square off in prime time, as the San Francisco 49ers (1-0) face the Detroit Lions (1-0). Head coaches Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers and Jim Schwartz of the Lions nearly came to blows after last year’s contest, which was won by San Francisco. Niners quarterback Alex Smith must use his time wisely, as the Detroit defense hopes to create havoc at the line of scrimmage.

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