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HomeWorldCollege Football Playoff, NFL finales, NBA launch 2021 sports calendar

College Football Playoff, NFL finales, NBA launch 2021 sports calendar

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.”

NFL finales

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.

NBA 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.

Friday

College football

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

NBA

Lakers at Spurs at 8 p.m. EST on NBA TV

Blazers at Warriors at 10:30 p.m. EST on NBA TV

Saturday

College football

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

Soccer

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

College basketball

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

NBA

Kings at Rockets at 5 p.m. EST on NBA TV

Raptors at Pelicans at 7:30 p.m. EST on NBA TV

Sunday

NFL

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

NBA

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

College basketball

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

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