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SPORTS DIGEST:Dodgers are one win away from the World Series

This is the best time of the year to be a sports fan. The college and professional football season is in full swing, the basketball and hockey seasons are starting and baseball has its postseason.

It’s a great time to be alive, unless you’re a UCLA football fan.

As of this writing, the Dodgers are up three games to none against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. By the time you read this, they could have qualified for the World Series for the first time in 29 years.

It has been a crazy season for the Dodgers. They have won more games then any other Los Angeles Dodgers team. Had the best 60-game run in team history only to follow that with a 1-16 stretch that put a considerable amount of their fan base on suicide watch.

But after winning the first six games of the postseason — three against the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the National League Division Series and three more against the Cubs — the Dodgers are on the verge of the World Series.

They have done in with tremendous pitching, especially out of the bullpen, and clutch hitting. I wasn’t sold on Dodger President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman’s baseball philosophy until this year.

Friedman believes in building a deep, solid team system that can win games in a variety of ways — a team that isn’t dependent on one single player.

That has been the Dodgers this season — particularly in the playoffs. The bullpen gave up four runs in the series against Arizona. It has allowed four base runners in 10-plus innings in the Cubs series.

Overall, the pitching staff has allowed 15 runs in six postseason games. Fourteen of those 15 runs came on home runs. In other words, if the Dodger pitchers keep you in the ball park, you aren’t going to score very often.

Many Dodgers fans gasped when they learned Oct. 14 that Corey Seager would not play in the Cubs series because of a bad back. No worries.

Charley Culberson, who had been stashed in Oklahoma City all years at the Dodgers triple-A minor league affiliate, was activated and has hit .333 in the series and fielded his position well.

Culberson hit the walk-off home run that won the Dodgers game last season on Vin Scully’s last night in the broadcast booth. He will be a steady player until Seager gets back.

Cody Bellinger, who carried the Dodgers offense on his back since he was recalled at the end of April, has slumped in the postseason with only one home run, but Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner and Austin Barnes have taken turns carrying the load.

And Kenley Jansen is showing the rest of the country that he is the best closer in baseball.

The Dodgers are five victories away from a parade. That’s closer than they have been in 29 years.

ON TO SOUTH BEND: With a win against Notre Dame Oct. 21, the USC Trojans could creep back in the Top 10 of the nation’s college football programs.

The No. 11 Trojans have either underachieved this season or they were highly overrated, depending on your viewpoint. A win over Notre Dame, ranked 13th, would set the Trojans back on course for a berth in the Pac 12 Championship game. If they win the rest of their games, there is no reason to think they can’t play in the college football playoffs.

The Trojans have turned the ball over too much and, with the exception of the Stanford game, have let their opponents hang around too close to the lead.

They have dodged bullet after bullet this season except against Washington State. Quarterback Sam Darnold has struggled throwing too many interceptions and fumbling the ball away. Coach Clay Helton might want to simplify things and let Ronald Jones run the ball more to take the heat off Darnold.

SERRA GRAD SHINES: Khalil Tate, who starred at Serra High School in Gardena, probably would have liked to stay closer to home and play for UCLA or USC. The Trojans and Bruins had other options at quarterback so Tate went to the University of Arizona, where he started seven games last season as a freshman after the Wildcats starting quarterback got hurt.

This year, Tate has capitalized on an injury to the starting quarterback again and has led Arizona to two consecutive wins, against Colorado and UCLA.

Against Colorado Oct. 7, Tate ran for 327 yards, the most ever by a Division 1 quarterback in a game.

The Bruins slowed him down to only 230 yards Oct. 14 as the Wildcats defeated the Bruins, 47-30.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez had to tell the Tucson media this week why Tate didn’t start the season opener. He said Brandon Dawkins, who did start the opener, had a better training camp than Tate and that Tate was bothered by a sore shoulder.

The shoulder is healthy now and there is nothing wrong with Tate’s legs, as he averaged more than 19 yards a carry against Colorado and UCLA.

With the loss to the Wildcats, the Bruins fell to 3-3 and closer to oblivion.

After missing most of the preseason with a sprained ankle, Lonzo Ball is expected to start at point guard Oct. 19 when the Lakers open the 2017-18 season against the Clippers at Staples Center.
(Courtesy photo)

IT’S NBA TIME: The NBA season opens for the Clippers and the Lakers Oct. 19 with the two teams facing each other at Staples Center.

The Clippers have been the best team in Staples for the last four years, but no one knows how good they will be this season without Chris Paul at point guard.

The Clippers strength is their front court where DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are the best combination of big men in the league. Of course, the NBA in 2017 is not a league for big men. The most dominant players today play on the wing where they can pull up and shoot three-pointers all night.

Whether the Clippers can thrive with Griffin and Jordan as their stars remains to be seen. They also lost J.J. Reddick and Jamal Crawford from last year’s team, meaning there are lots of points for the newcomers to score.

The Lakers are — they hope — in the final year of rebuilding. If nothing else, they should be fun to watch.

Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball sprained an ankle and missed most of the preseason, but he should be ready to go when the opening bell sounds.

The Lakers are still young and a 35-win effort would seem like a good season for them. Anymore wins than that would be gravy. The Clippers hope to hang on to a playoff berth.

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