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BC-AP Sports Digest

January 3, 2019

The supervisor is Fred Lief, followed by John Nicholson at 5 p.m. and Bob Lentz at 1 a.m. The New York sports desk can be reached at 800-845-8450, ext. 1630. Sports photos, ext. 1918; graphics, ext. 7636; agate, ext. 1635. For up-to-the-minute information on AP’s coverage, visit Coverage Plan at https://newsroom.ap.org For access to AP Newsroom and other technical issues, contact AP Customer Support at apcustomersupport@ap.org or 877-836-9477. All times EST.

Alabama and Clemson meet in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight season, playing for the championship for the third time. Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network joins the AP’s Ralph Russo on the AP Top 25 College Football Podcast in breaking down the teams.

https://www.podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast

Marcellus Wiley, a former NFL defensive end and Fox Sports personality, is still on the fence about allowing his young son play football. But he tells co-hosts Jim Litke and Tim Dahlberg on the AP’s PodcastOne Sports Now he likes what the NFL is doing to try to make the game safer. Listen at podcastonesports.com, the podcastone app and apple podcasts.

https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-weekly-podcast

TOP STORIES

FBC--CFP-ALABAMA-GAMBLING SABAN

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban, meticulous down to the tiniest detail, showed there’s some gambler in him in Alabama’s past two victories in the national championship game. Don’t be surprised if he goes that route again when the Tide plays Clemson on Monday night. By John Zenor. SENT: 800 words, photos.

BKN--ROCKETS-WARRIORS

OAKLAND, Calif. — NBA scoring leader James Harden leads the Rockets against the Golden State Warriors in a matchup of division leaders. Houston is going for its sixth straight victory. Harden has scored 35 or more points in eight consecutive games. By Janie McCauley. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. Game starts 10:30 p.m.

FBN--COLTS-VINATIERI

INDIANAPOLIS — At 46, Adam Vinatieri knows his time in the NFL is limited and his next loss could be his last game. But another playoff run — the Colts play Houston on Saturday in a wild-card game — has the league’s oldest player feeling young again. By Michael Marot. UPCOMING: 650 words, with photos by 7 p.m.

BKC--STANFORD-UCLA

LOS ANGELES — Murry Bartow, whose father coached UCLA during the 1970s, makes his debut as interim coach of the Bruins following the dismissal of Steve Alford. UCLA is trying to end a four-game skid in its Pac-12 opener against Stanford. By Beth Harris. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game starts 11 p.m.

SPORTS SHOWCASE

ESPORTS-GETTING WOMEN IN THE GAME

NEW YORK — Close to half of U.S. gamers are female, but few at the elite level. Many say they’re discouraged from such careers because of the toxic behavior by some male gamers. Players and executives share their experiences with the AP and discuss how women might crack this ceiling. By Jake Seiner. SENT: 1,350 words, photos, video.

COMMENTARY

FBC--ON FOOTBALL-PLAYOFF EXPANSION

The satisfying simplicity of sports is in the definitive result. A game is played, with a reward for the winner. Often that reward is to keep playing. Those are the rules from the schoolyard to stadiums. It is a model that generally works, just not necessarily for major college football. By College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo. SENT: 700 words, photos.

NFL PLAYOFFS

FBN--NFL THIS WEEK

Some juicy rematches highlight wild-card weekend, and it would be no surprise if any of the eight teams advance. Seattle beat Dallas early this season; Baltimore handled the Chargers late. The Colts and Texans split two games. Only the Eagles and Bears didn’t face off. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos by 5 p.m. For weekend use.

— With:

— FBN--PRO PICKS — By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. SENT: 700 words, photos, graphic.

Saturday Games:

FBN--TEXANS-HOPKINS

HOUSTON — DeAndre Hopkins had his best season, carrying Houston’s receivers in a year the group was decimated by injuries. Now the self-described best receiver in the NFL will need another big game when the Texans play the Colts in Saturday’s wild-card game. By Kristie Rieken. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 4 p.m.

FBN--SEAHAWKS-COWBOYS-RUN GAME

FRISCO, Texas — The Cowboys have the NFL rushing champion in Ezekiel Elliott. The Seahawks boast the league’s No. 1 run game, led by Chris Carson. Both teams figure to try to control this wild-card matchup on the ground. By Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 8 p.m.

— With:

— FBN--SEAHAWKS-INJURIES — By Tim Booth. UPCOMING: 500 words, photos by 8 p.m.

Sunday Games:

FBN--CHARGERS-JAMES

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Chargers safety Derwin James is one of the contenders for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He also has the most experience when it comes to facing Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. By Joe Reedy. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 7 p.m.

— With:

— FBN--RAVENS-MARTINDALE — By David Ginsburg. SENT: 750 words, photos.

FBN--EAGLES-JEFFREY RETURNS

PHILADELPHIA — Alshon Jeffery is preparing to return to Chicago for the first time since leaving the Bears after five seasons. Jeffery played a key role in helping the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl last season and he’s looking to help them pull off an upset. By Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 5 p.m.

— With:

— FBN--NAGY’S RISE — By Andrew Seligman. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos.

— Also:

— Capsules on four wild-card games.

— Separate stories on four bye teams: Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, Saints.

AP Sports Extra: NFL Playoffs. A paginated preview of the NFL playoffs, which start Saturday, is available in AP Newsroom by searching for “Sports Extra” under the Graphics tab. Three page sizes are available — full broadsheet, half broadsheet and tabloid — with space for local advertising or content. The pages look at the top seeds and playoff schedule. They include some content that was sent Sunday night. The next Sports Extra pages will preview the Super Bowl and will be available Jan. 23. For any questions, contact Barry Bedlan at bbedlan@ap.org

NFL

FBN--FOSTER-ARRESTED

TAMPA, Fla. — Prosecutors will not pursue a domestic violence charge against Washington linebacker Reuben Foster, citing insufficient evidence. The NFL, however, is still reviewing the matter and could discipline him. The Redskins claimed Foster after his release by the 49ers. SENT: 300 words, photos.

FBN--HALL OF FAME FINALISTS

Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed are among the leading candidates when finalists are announced in the vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. Announcement about 7 p.m.

FBN--INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Giving quarterbacks big money doesn’t guarantee success or even playoff appearances. The NFL’s six highest-paid quarterbacks in 2018 will be spectators this postseason. By Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi. SENT: 600 words, photos.

— Also:

— FBN--NFL--CASINO DEAL — SENT: 400 words, photos.

— FBN--FALCONS-QUINN — By George Henry. UPCOMING. 650 words with photos by 5 p.m.

— FBN--VIKINGS-ZIMMER — By Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 5 p.m.

AP Sports Extra: NFL Playoffs. A paginated preview of the NFL playoffs, which start Saturday, is available in AP Newsroom by searching for “Sports Extra” under the Graphics tab. Three page sizes are available — full broadsheet, half broadsheet and tabloid — with space for local advertising or content. The pages look at the top seeds and playoff schedule. They include some content that was sent Sunday night. The next Sports Extra pages will preview the Super Bowl and will be available Jan. 23. For any questions, contact Barry Bedlan at bbedlan@ap.org

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

FBC--CFP-CLEMSON-TITLE PLANS

CLEMSON, S.C. — Christian Wilkins says he hasn’t reached his destination yet. The All-American defensive tackle is among several Clemson starters who put off NFL careers for a final year with the Tigers in hopes of winning a national title. By Pete Iacobelli. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 3 p.m.

FBC--CFP-CHEAP TICKETS

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Qualifying for the college football championship game never has been harder for teams other than Alabama and Clemson. Getting into the stadium to watch the Crimson Tide and Tigers play for the title for the third time in four years has perhaps never been cheaper. By Josh Dubow. SENT: 700 words, photos.

FBC--ALL-BOWL TEAM

The AP offers an all-bowl team leading to Monday night’s title showdown. By Steve Megargee. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos by 6 p.m.

GOLF

GLF--TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Dustin Johnson is the defending champion when the PGA Tour starts a new year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The field of 2018 tour winners has 34 players, missing only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. By Golf Writer Doug Ferguson. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 10 p.m.

— With:

— GLF--MAUI MUSINGS-POULTER — Ian Poulter makes up for missing tournament in a big way. By Doug Ferguson. SENT: 750 words, photos.

NBA

BKN--RAPTORS-SPURS

SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard faces the Spurs for the first time since forcing a trade that sent DeMar DeRozan from the Raptors to San Antonio. Leonard is averaging 27.3 points for a Toronto team that has the second-best record in the NBA. San Antonio has rallied from a poor start to win 10 of its last 13. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game starts 8 p.m.

BKN--PELICANS-DOMINANT DAVIS

NEW YORK — Anthony Davis had just compiled a night the NBA hadn’t seen in 45 years — 34 points and 26 rebounds against Brooklyn. But the numbers that matter to him are in the standings. And his New Orleans Pelicans have the second-worst record in the Western Conference. By Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney. SENT: 450 words, photos.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Men:

BKC--T25-TENNESSEE-BONE’S BREAKTHROUGH

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Jordan Bone has a game built on speed, but his slow and steady development into one of the SEC’s top point guards required patience. The junior is playing his best ball as the No. 3 Volunteers enter the league schedule. By Steve Megargee. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 5 p.m.

— Lookahead to weekend play in Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12.

Women:

BKW--T25-UCONN-BAYLOR

WACO, Texas — No. 1 UConn visits Baylor for the first time in nearly five years. The No. 8 Lady Bears have won 44 consecutive conference home games since that January 2014 loss to the Huskies. By Basketball Writer Stephen Hawkins. UPCOMING. 700 words, photos. Game starts 9 p.m.

TENNIS

TEN--BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL

BRISBANE, Australia — U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka gets a reality check from her coach and proceeds to rally past Anastasija Sevastova for a spot in the Brisbane International semifinals. By John Pye. SENT: 600 words, photos.

— Also:

— TEN--HOPMAN CUP — Roger Federer sends Switzerland to final in Australia; winless U.S. loses to Britain. SENT: 400 words, photos.

— TEN--ASB CLASSIC — Caroline Wozniacki upset by Canadian teenager in New Zealand. SENT: 300 words.

— TEN--MAHARASHTRA OPEN — Kevin Anderson reaches semifinals in India. SENT: 160 words.

— TEN--SHENZHEN OPEN — Rain disrupts quarterfinals in China. SENT: 100 words.

BASEBALL

BBA--MARINERS-KIKUCHI

SEATTLE — Yusei Kikuchi is the latest Japanese star to decide on calling Seattle home in the majors. The Mariners hope the left-handed pitcher can help in their rebuild. By Tim Booth. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 5 p.m.

SOCCER

— SOC--MAN CITY-LIVERPOOL — Premier League leader Liverpool plays at title contender Manchester City. UPCOMING: 500 words, photos by 6 p.m.

OBITUARY

— OBIT-JIM MARGRAFF-JOHNS HOPKINS — Johns Hopkins football coach Jim Margraff dies at 58. SENT: 160 words.

— OBIT-MAGEE — Jerry Magee, Chargers writer who covered 42 straight Super Bowls, dies at 90. SENT: 120 words.

CAPSULES

— BKN--NBA CAPSULES

— HKN--NHL CAPSULES

— BKC--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

— BKW--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

___

Thursday Time Schedule (EST)

NBA

Toronto at San Antonio, 8 p.m.

Denver at Sacramento, 10 p.m.

Houston at Golden State, 10:30 p.m.

NHL

Minnesota at Toronto, 2 p.m.

Carolina at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

Florida at Buffalo, 7 p.m.

Calgary at Boston, 7 p.m.

Chicago at N.Y. Islanders (Nassau Coliseum), 7:30 p.m.

Vancouver at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Washington at St. Louis, 8 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.

College Basketball (Top 25)

Men

No. 2 Michigan vs. Penn State, 7 p.m.

No. 18 N.C. State at Miami, 7 p.m.

No. 21 Indiana vs. Illinois, 7 p.m.

No. 22 Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, 9 p.m.

No. 25 Iowa at Purdue, 7 p.m.

Women

No. 1 UConn at No. 8 Baylor, 9 p.m.

No. 2 Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Louisville vs. North Carolina, 7 p.m.

No. 7 Mississippi State at Arkansas, 7 p.m.

No. 9 N.C. State vs. Duke, 7 p.m.

No. 10 Tennessee at Auburn, 7 p.m.

No. 14 Syracuse at Clemson, 7 p.m.

No. 15 Michigan State at Northwestern, 8 p.m.

No. 16 Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.

No. 17 Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s, 9 p.m.

No. 19 Iowa vs. Nebraska, 8 p.m.

No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 23 South Carolina, 9 p.m.

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