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Friday, December 30

   by Larry Ness - 12/30/2005

The current bowl season opened with Arkansas St losing to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl 31-19, but 'covering' as a more than two-TD underdog.

Through the first 10 bowl games, underdogs were 5-5 ATS but 0-10 SU. However, underdogs have won the last three bowl games SU, beginning with Nebraska's 32-28 win over Michigan Wednesday night. Utah (plus-8 1/2) beat Ga Tech 38-10 in yesterday's Emerald Bowl and Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl, Oklahoma (a three-point dog) beat Oregon, 17-14. Nine of the 13 bowl games have gone 'over' the total.

Friday's bowl schedule features four more games, with three more games on Saturday. After an "off-day" to watch the NFL on Sunday, the traditional January 1 bowls will be played on Monday.

In the Cotton Bowl it's offense vs defense as Texas Tech takes on Alabama. Two highly-respected head coaches clash in the Outback Bowl, when Kirk Ferentz's Iowa Hawkeyes meet Urban Meyer's Florida Gators.

Louisville (in the Gator Bowl vs Va Tech) and West Va (in the Sugar Bowl vs Georgia), will try and convince the rest of the nation that the Big East is still a major conference (we'll see). The Capital One Bowl features Barry Alvarez in his final game as Wisconsin's head coach (16 years) vs Auburn, a team many believe was the SEC's best at year's end.

The Fiesta Bowl is arguably the day's most anticipated matchup, as Notre Dame takes on Ohio State. While these two CFB heavyweights are only about 250 miles apart, they've met just four times, including just twice since the 1930s. Notre Dame takes a seven-game bowl losing streak into this game (1-6 ATS) but Charlie Weis' team this year, clearly does not resemble Irish teams of the recent past. As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes lost just twice this year. To Texas, the nation's second-ranked team, 25-22 in Columbus back on September 10 and to Penn State, the nation's third-ranked team, 17-10 in Happy Valley on October 8.

Week 17 of the NFL starts Saturday with two games (Denver at San Diego plus the New York Giants at Oakland) and wraps up on Sunday. The playoff 'puzzle' is nearly complete with eight teams 'IN' and four to go. Of the 14 teams that have either made the playoffs already or will be sweating out the results of this weekend's games, NINE failed to qualify for the postseason last year!

In the NFC, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Washington can all qualify for the playoffs with wins this weekend, while Dallas needs a lot of help. In the AFC, only one spot remains. Pittsburgh is 'in' with a win at home over the Lions (is a two-TD favorite) but if the Steelers were to lose, KC can claim the final wild card spot. However, the Chiefs would first need the Chargers to beat the Broncos on Saturday and then they would have to beat the Bengals at home on Sunday.

Beginning in 2006, Ness Notes will be a daily feature, including a free play. It will updated Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET and Saturday and Sunday by 7:00 ET, beginning January 3rd.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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