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This Weekend in Sports: NFL Playoffs and the Cotton Bowl

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Jonathan Daniel, Rob Carr, Scott Halleran, R. Yeatts / Getty Images

The NFL playoffs start, and the college bowl season nears its close. Here’s what to watch this weekend:

Friday January 4

Cotton Bowl — (10) Texas A&M vs. (12) Oklahoma

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas; 8 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel leads Texas A&M (10-2) against Oklahoma (10-2), which is guided by quarterback Landry Jones. The Sooners shared the Big 12 title with Kansas State, but their September 22 loss to the Wildcats kept them from the BCS slot. Manziel led A&M to a 29-24 win at Alabama on November 10, giving the defending national champions their only loss thus far this season.

Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat

American Airlines Arena, Miami; 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
While still waiting for point guard Derrick Rose to return from the knee injury he suffered in last year’s postseason, Chicago (17-13) has managed to stay within a game of Indianapolis in the Central Division thanks to the play of Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. The Bulls travel to Miami to face the Heat (22-8), whose superstars LeBron James and Dwayne Wade each rank among the top eight in the league in scoring.

L.A. Lakers at L.A. Clippers

Staples Center, Los Angeles; 10:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
Before losing back-to-back contests to the Nuggets and Warriors this week, the Los Angeles Clippers (25-8) had won 17 consecutive games. Guards Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford have teamed with forward Blake Griffin to make the Clippers a potential NBA-title contender. Led by NBA scoring leader Kobe Bryant, the Lakers (15-16) are still chasing the .500 mark and sitting 1.5 games out of a playoff spot.

Saturday, Jan. 5

U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas; 1 p.m. (ET) on NBC
It’s the East vs. the West, as 90 of the nation’s best high school football players meet in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. More than 200 NFL players have played in past editions of the game, which is marking its 13th anniversary this year.

(8) Ohio St. at (11) Illinois

Assembly Hall, Champaign, Ill.; 2:15 p.m. (ET) on Big Ten Network
Ohio State (11-2 overall; 1-0, Big Ten) faces Illinois (13-2; 0-1) in an early-season Big Ten battle. Forward Deshaun Thomas leads the Buckeyes in both points and rebounds per game. Senior guard Brandon Paul, who ranks second in the conference at 18.7 points per game, paces the Illini.

(5) Notre Dame at (1) Connecticut

Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. ; 4 p.m. (ET) on CBS
A rematch of a 2012 women’s national semifinal highlights the opening week of Big East basketball. Notre Dame (11-1) is led by guards Kayla McBride and Skylar Diggins, both of whom were on the Fighting Irish team that beat UConn in the Final Four in April. Undefeated Connecticut (12-0) has already beaten five ranked teams on the way to the top national ranking. Forwards Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart lead the Lady Huskies’ attack.

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

Reliant Stadium, Houston; 4:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC
Houston (12-4) faces Cincinnati (10-6) in a wild-card game that is a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game won by the Texans. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub faces a Bengals’ defense that finished third in the league with 51 quarterback sacks. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt led the NFL with 20.5 sacks. He’ll look to force Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton into mistakes.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.; 8 p.m. (ET) on NBC
NFC North champion Green Bay (11-5) gets another shot at Minnesota (10-6) and NFL rushing champ Adrian Peterson, who ran for 199 yards in the Vikings’ 37-34 win over the Packers last Sunday. The scene shifts to frigid Lambeau Field, where Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s top-rated passer, will work against a depleted Vikings secondary.

Sunday, Jan. 6

Iowa at (2) Michigan

Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.; 12 p.m. (ET) on Big Ten Network
After falling to No. 5 Indiana, 69-65, on Monday, Iowa (11-3 overall; 0-1, Big Ten) faces its second highly-ranked opponent in a week in the form of second-ranked Michigan (13-0; 0-0). Guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been the top scorers for the Wolverines, while swing man Roy Devyn Marble has led the Hawkeyes with 15.6 points per game.

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
AFC North champion Baltimore (10-6) hosts Indianapolis (11-5) in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck faces a Ravens defense with veteran linebacker Ray Lewis returning from a triceps injury. Lewis said this week that he will retire when this season is over. Baltimore may turn running back Ray Rice loose on an Indianapolis defense that ranked 29th in the NFL against the run.

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

FedEx Field, Landover, Md.; 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Winners of seven games in a row, NFC East champ Washington (10-6) hosts Seattle (11-5), which has won five consecutive contests. Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III faces a Seahawks team that ranked fourth in the league in total defense. Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson leads his team against a Washington defense that ranked 30th in the NFL against the pass.

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