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Georgia, Alabama win as playoff ratings soar

Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm will lead Georgia against Alabama in the national title game on January 8.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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The College Football Playoff semifinals returned to New Year's Day on Monday and led to the biggest ESPN audience for the games since the first season of the playoff system in 2015. The double overtime Rose Bowl thriller between Georgia and Oklahoma drew a 14.8 overnight Nielsen rating and average viewership of 27 million, up 39 percent over last season’s early semifinal. Georgia beat Oklahoma, 54-48, and ESPN said the television rating reached a high of 17.3 in overtime. The Sugar Bowl, with Alabama downing Clemson, 24-6, got a 12.5 rating and average viewership of 21.1 million, up 10 percent from last season’s second semifinal. The last two seasons the semifinals were played on Dec. 31. The CFP drew record viewership for ESPN in its first season when games were played on Jan. 1, 2015. Overall, ESPN had its best average viewership for the New Year’s Six in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff format. The results were aided by the calendar, the changes made to the format in 2016 that moved games away from New Year’s Eve, and some big-brand teams in the non-semifinal matchups. The semifinals, which can only be played on New Year’s Day when they are held in the Rose and Sugar bowls because those games and the conferences affiliated with them have contracts with ESPN locking in those time slots, return to Jan. 1 for the 2020 season. Next season’s CFP semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 29. The season after that, the games are slated to be played on Saturday, Dec. 28, with a 17-day gap layoff before the title game on Monday, Jan. 13.


BU men end Bucknell’s home win streak

The Boston University men’s basketball team got career nights from Will Goff (17 points, five 3-pointers) and Tyler Scanlon (14 points, 10 rebounds) to down defending Patriot League champ and preseason favorite Bucknell, 84-79, in Lewisburg, Pa. Cedric Hankerson added 21 points as the Terriers (6-7, 2-0) snapped a 15-game home win streak of the Bisons (7-8, 1-1), which was the seventh longest active run in the nation . . . Justin Wright-Foreman scored 27 points, Rokas Gustys added 15 with 13 rebounds, and Hofstra (8-6, 1-1 Colonial) eked out a 71-70 win over Northeastern (8-6, 1-1) to end the Huskies’ five-game men’s basketball win streak at Matthews Arena. After three lead changes, Hofstra scored six straight and led 66-63 on Gusty's layup with 4:07 left. Northeastern twice closed to within a point, but Gustys’ layup with 1:33 left gave Hofstra a 70-67 edge. Shawn Occeus scored 20 points and Jeremy Miller added 12 for Northeastern . . . Payton Henson finished with 17 points and slammed home a dunk in the final seconds to secure a 62-56 win for Vermont (9-5) over Harvard (5-9) at Lavietes Pavilion. Chris Lewis had 14 points to lead Harvard in its first home loss . . . Alex Petrie drained seven 3-pointers for 29 points to lead Lafayette (3-10, 1-1 Patriot) to a 60-48 victory over Holy Cross (3-10, 0-2) in Easton, Pa. Karl Charles had 13 points to lead Holy Cross, which made just 2 of 24 from long range . . . Notre Dame senior forward Bonzie Colson, a preseason All-America pick and New Bedford native, will have surgery Thursday for a left foot fracture suffered in practice this week and is expected to miss eight weeks. He leads the team with 21.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game . . .The Boston University women’s basketball team (6-6, 1-1 Patriot League) dropped a 63-58 decision to Bucknell (7-6, 1-1) at Case Gym, despite the efforts of Vanessa Edgehill, who scored 12 points, including a 3 with 17 seconds left to pull the Terriers within 1, but the Bison closed with four free throws . . . Daryl Watts (2 goals, 3 assists), Makenna Newkirk (2 goals, 2 assists), and Caitrin Lonergan (2 goals, 1 assist) led No. 2 Boston College (16-1-3, 10-0-3 Hockey East) to a 7-3 women’s hockey win at Merrimack (6-13-3, 1-9-2).


Arizona fires football coach Rodriguez

Arizona has fired football coach Rich Rodriguez after a notice of claim was filed with the state attorney general's office alleging he ran a hostile workplace. The Tucson Daily Star revealed the notice of claim Tuesday after making a public-records request. Athletic director Dave Heeke issued a statement saying the athletics department decided to go in a new direction after evaluating the program. Arizona started 6-2 this season before losing four of its final five games, including a 38-35 loss to Purdue in the Holiday Bowl. Rodriguez was 43-39 in six seasons at Arizona . . . Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee after catching a 24-yard pass on a trick play during a win over Kentucky in Friday’s Music City Bowl. Thorson came up clutching his right knee after being tackled and left the field on a cart. Coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the game that the preliminary exam indicated no serious injury. Subsequent tests revealed the tear. The school said he will work with the athletic training staff to prepare for surgery in mid-January. There was no timetable for his return. Thorson, whose 27 wins are the most by a Northwestern starting quarterback, announced last month he would return for his senior season . . . A person familiar with his decision said Bill Snyder will return next season for his 27th as Kansas State’s football coach, ending weeks of speculation about the 78-year-old's future. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Snyder has not made his plans public . . . Oregon State running back Ryan Nall, Auburn tailback Kerryon Johnson, and Nebraska offensive lineman Nick Gates will forgo their final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft . . . All-American inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said he is returning to Wisconsin for his senior season.


Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was carted off the field during the Music City Bowl after making a catch.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press


Murray withdraws, mulls hip surgery

Andy Murray’s long-term hip injury forced him to withdraw from the Brisbane International in Australia. The move casts serious doubts over his participation in the Australian Open and has him contemplating surgery. The former No. 1-ranked Murray pulled out two days ahead of his scheduled return to competitive tennis for the first time since Wimbledon in July. Murray plans to stay in Brisbane for a few days before deciding whether or not to play the Australian Open or fly home. Murray said he'd been trying to rest and rehabilitate the problematic right hip, with surgery a second option because “the chances of a successful outcome are not as high as I would like.’’ Murray’s withdrawal came hours after Garbine Muguruza, the Wimbledon champion and women’s top seed, retired from her opening match because of leg cramps, while leading in the third set against Aleksandra Krunic. Fifth seed Johanna Konta reached the quarterfinals with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Ajla Tomljanovic, and Alize Cornet advanced with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. American men’s qualifier Michael Mmoh beat Federico Delbonis, 6-3, 6-4, Chung Hyeon upset fifth seed Gilles Muller, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), Kyle Edmund rallied for a 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 win over Denis Shapovalov, and Denis Istomin beat No. 7-seeded Damir Dzumhur, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-2 . . . The United States beat Japan, 2-1, at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, but Jack Sock injured his hip in the process, slipping on the court during the first set of his match against Yuichi Sugita. He was forced to retire at 1-1 in the second set after losing the first set 7-6 (7-1). Hopman Cup director Paul Kilderry said he thinks Sock will be OK for the unbeaten Americans for Thursday’s Group B match with Switzerland. The US already led 1-0 after Japan’s female player, Naomi Osaka, withdrew with an unspecified illness, handing CoCo Vandeweghe a 6-0, 6-0 win. The Americans were also awarded the mixed doubles match, 4-0, 4-0, because Osaka could not play . . . Roger Federer continued preparing for his Australian Open title defense with a 6-3, 7-6 (10-8) win over Karen Khachanov at the Hopman Cup, helping Switzerland to a 2-0 win over Russia. Federer's playing partner Belinda Bencic beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the women's singles match . . . Maria Sharapova had 11 aces and saved seven of 10 break points to beat American Alison Riske, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, and advance to the Shenzhen Open quarterfinals in China. The five-time major winner will face Zarina Diyas, who upset third-seeded Zhang Shuai, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4. Kristyna Pliskova took down French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, 6-1, 6-4 . . . Top seeded Caroline Wozniacki took just 57 minutes to beat American Madison Brengle, 6-3, 6-0, in the ASB Classic first round in Auckland, New Zealand. Americans Sachia Vickery and Varvara Lepchenko pulled off upsets. Vickery surprised defending champion and fifth seed Lauren Davis, 6-1, 6-2, while Lepchenko downed seventh seed Mona Barthel, 6-2, 6-2.


Andy Murray is considering hip surgery after withdrawing from the Brisbane International.Darren England/EPA/Shutterstock


United States edges Russia at Juniors

Kieffer Bellows scored his second goal with 7:29 left in the third period and the United States defeated Russia, 3-2, in the quarterfinals of the World Junior Championships in Buffalo. Kailer Yamamoto also had a goal, Joey Anderson added an empty-netter, and Joseph Woll made 27 saves for the defending champion Americans, who will play Sweden in the semifinals on Thursday. Sweden held on for a 3-2 win over Slovakia to remain unbeaten in the tournament . . . Drake Batherson scored twice and Brett Howden added a goal and two assists as Canada earned an 8-2 quarterfinal win over Switzerland at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo. Canada will play the Czech Republic in the semifinals on Thursday night. Filip Zadina scored twice in regulation, including the tying goal with 2:26 left in the third period, and Kristian Reichel and Martin Necas scored in the shootout to give the Czechs a 4-3 win over Finland.



Revolution sign teenager Angking

The New England Revolution signed 17-year-old midfielder Isaac Angking as a Homegrown Player. Angking, a senior at Mt. Pleasant High School in Providence, agreed to a a five-year deal for the MLS minimum salary, $67,500 annually. A dominant performer for the Revolution Academy, leading the Under-19 competition in scoring for most of the fall season, Angking tallied 12 goals in 11 games . . . Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said striker Gabriel Jesus is likely to be out from 4-6 weeks after sustaining a "medial collateral ligament injury" ligament damage in his left leg against Crystal Palace on Sunday.


Schoutens skates to Olympic berth

Carlijn Schoutens won the 3,000 meters in 4 minutes, 14.03 seconds at the United States Olympic speedskating trials in Milwaukee, earning her first Olympic spot. The 22-year-old, born in New Jersey to Dutch parents, finished 1.71 seconds ahead of Mia Manganello to claim the only spot available for next month’s Olympics in South Korea . . . Injured Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball (sprained left shoulder) and center Brook Lopez (sprained right ankle) were cleared to practice, but are questionable for Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma City . . . 2018 Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk will be the guest speaker and honored with the 21st Francis Ouimet Award for Lifelong Contributions to Golf at the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund’s 67th Annual Banquet on Tuesday, March 27 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Furyk, 47, has won 17 PGA Tour events, including the 2003 US Open, and the 2010 TOUR and Fed Ex Cup Playoffs . . . Michael Felger, co-host of 98.5 The Sports Hub’s top-rated Felger and Massarotti program, agreed to a multiyear extension, parent company Beasley Media Group announced. Dale Arnold, co-host with Michael Holley of WEEI’s Dale and Holley program, also featuring Rich Keefe, also agreed to terms on a multiyear deal. Financial terms for both were not disclosed.