Jan. 1 (UPI) — Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson battle in the College Football Playoff Semifinals on Friday before a slate of NBA games and NFL season finales fill the sports schedule for the first weekend of 2021.
Six more college football bowl games and hundreds of college basketball games also will be held from Friday through Sunday.
Alabama, the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, takes on No. 4 Notre Dame in the first semifinal at 4 p.m. EST Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Rose Bowl Game airs on ESPN.
“They [Alabama} are well coached in all areas,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters Monday. “What they do, they do extremely well with really good football players.
“It falls back on us to be much better at what we do. We played 11 games [this season], and one of them wasn’t up to our standard. We’ll have to play up to our standard.”
The top-ranked Crimson Tide (11-0) are heavy favorites to beat the Fighting Irish (10-1) and ultimately win the National Championship. Heisman Trophy finalists Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith lead Alabama’s offense, which ranks fifth in the nation in yards per game and second in points per game.
The Notre Dame defense has allowed the 14th fewest points per game this season. The Irish also have one of the top rushing offenses in the country, averaging 217.6 yards per game.
“They [Notre Dame defenders] fly to the ball and are very physical,” Smith said at a news conference Wednesday. “They have all kinds of blitzes, are technically sound and don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Projected No. 1 NFL Draft pick for 2021 Trevor Lawrence will quarterback No. 2 Clemson against No. 3 Ohio State in the second semifinal matchup. The Tigers face the Buckeyes at 8 p.m. EST Friday at New Orleans. The Sugar Bowl airs on ESPN.
Clemson (10-1) is a slight favorite to beat Ohio State (6-0) in the Sugar Bowl. The Tigers rank second in scoring offense with 49.7 points per game. They have the No. 7 passing offense in college football.
The Buckeyes rank ninth with 42.5 points per game. They also have the No. 4 rushing offense in the country with an average of 275.7 yards per game.
“It’s just fun getting the opportunity to play a team like Ohio State,” Lawrence said Tuesday. “It’s a huge brand and they are a great team year in and year out.
“To get the opportunity to play them is what you expect in a semifinal. We are playing the best of the best and we are excited for the opportunity.”
Clemson rallied from a 16-0 deficit to beat Ohio State in a 2020 College Football Playoff semifinal game. The Tigers then lost to LSU in the National Championship game.
“That game hurt us a lot last year,” Fields said Monday, when asked about the 2020 loss to Clemson. “That has kind of been our motivation this whole offseason, getting the chance to play these guys again.”
The NFL season will end for 18 teams Sunday as the regular season concludes with Week 17. Three teams from the AFC and five teams from the NFC have clinched eight of the available 14 playoff berths prior to kickoff of the season finales.
While some teams jockey for postseason berths and better seeds, others are out of the picture and can look toward the 2021 NFL Draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets already have secured the top two picks, but the remaining slots are up for grabs, and teams could move up in draft priority if they lose their final games.
All 16 Week 17 games take place Sunday. The NFC East division title — and a playoff berth — still is in play for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Football Team.
The Cowboys face the Giants at 1 p.m. EST on Fox. Washington battles the Philadelphia Eagles at 8:20 p.m. EST on NBC.
The Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals face off in another NFC matchup with a playoff berth on the line. The winner of that game at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS advances to the postseason.
The Chicago Bears also will fight for a playoff spot when they host the Green Bay Packers at 4:25 p.m. EST. That game airs on Fox.
In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts will fight for playoff berths.
The Dolphins face the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens battle the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns play the Pittsburgh Steelers. All of those games air on CBS.
The Titans play the Houston Texans at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS. The Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS.
The Texans, Falcons, Bengals, Eagles, Detroit Lions, Giants, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos are in the Top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft order, but could end up with a later pick if they win their Week 17 matchups.
LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and a cast of other NBA stars will take the court for games from Friday through Sunday.
James’ Los Angeles Lakers face the San Antonio Spurs at 8 p.m. EST Friday on NBA TV. The Golden State Warriors host the Portland Trail Blazers at 10:30 p.m. EST Friday on NBA TV.
The Houston Rockets host the Sacramento Kings at 5 p.m. EST Saturday. Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans take on the Toronto Raptors in another Saturday matchup. Both games air on NBA TV.
The Boston Celtics take on the Detroit Pistons in the first game of Sunday’s NBA schedule. Durant, Irving and the Nets then host Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards.
The Warriors host the Blazers for their second matchup of the weekend at 8:30 p.m. EST on NBA TV.
Peach Bowl: Georgia vs. Cincinnati at noon EST on ESPN
Citrus Bowl: Auburn vs. Northwestern at 1 p.m. EST on ABC
Rose Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Alabama at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN
Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Clemson at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN
Lakers at Spurs at 8 p.m. EST on NBA TV
Blazers at Warriors at 10:30 p.m. EST on NBA TV
Gator Bowl: NC State vs. Kentucky at noon EST on ESPN
Outback Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Indiana at 12:30 p.m. EST on ABC
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Iowa State at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN
Orange Bowl: Texas A&M vs. North Carolina at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN
Premier League: Brighton vs. Wolves at 12:30 p.m. EST on NBC
La Liga: Real Madrid vs. Celta Vigo at 3 p.m. EST on beIN Sports USA
La Liga: Huesca vs. Barcelona at 3 p.m. EST on beIN Sports USA
Texas at Kansas at noon EST on ESPN2
Creighton at Providence at noon EST on Fox
Missouri at Arkansas at noon EST on CBS
DePaul at St. John’s at noon EST on FS1
Baylor at Iowa State at 1 p.m. EST on Big 12 Network
Iowa at Rutgers at 2 p.m. EST on ESPN2
LSU at Florida at 2 p.m. EST on CBS
West Virginia at Oklahoma at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN2
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech at 4 p.m. EST on Big 12 Network
Virginia Tech at Virginia at 4 p.m. EST on ACC Network
Alabama at Tennessee at 6 p.m. EST on ESPN2
Purdue at Illinois at 6 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network
Kentucky at Mississippi State at 6 p.m. EST on SEC Network
Michigan State at Nebraska at 8 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network
Duke at Florida State at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN2
San Francisco at Gonzaga at 10 p.m. EST on ESPN2
Stanford at Oregon at 10 p.m. EST on ESPNU
Kings at Rockets at 5 p.m. EST on NBA TV
Raptors at Pelicans at 7:30 p.m. EST on NBA TV
Falcons at Buccaneers at 1 p.m. EST on Fox
Cowboys at Giants at 1 p.m. EST on Fox
Jets at Patriots at 1 p.m. EST on CBS
Vikings at Lions at 1 p.m. EST on Fox
Steelers at Browns at 1 p.m. EST on CBS
Ravens at Bengals at 1 p.m. EST on CBS
Dolphins at Bills at 1 p.m. EST on CBS
Seahawks at 49ers at 4:25 p.m. EST on Fox
Cardinals at Rams at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS
Jaguars at Colts at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS
Titans at Texans at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS
Raiders at Broncos at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS
Chargers at Chiefs at 4:25 p.m. EST on FOX
Packers at Bears at 4:25 p.m. EST on Fox
Saints at Panthers at 4:25 p.m. EST on Fox
Washington at Eagles at 8:20 p.m. EST on NBC
Celtics at Pistons at 3 p.m. EST on NBA TV
Wizards at Nets at 6 p.m. EST on NBA TV
Blazers at Warriors at 8:30 p.m. EST on NBA TV
Ohio State at Minnesota at 5:30 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network
Houston at SMU at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN2
Northwestern at Michigan at 7:30 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network
This week in the National Football League
The Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen (R) gets a high five from guard Jon Feliciano after a throwing a touchdown Monday night against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where the Bills defeated the Patriots 38-9. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo