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Ness Notes: Thursday, Nov 26

by Larry Ness

Thursday, Nov 26, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The 2020-21 college basketball season tipped off on Wednesday and just like in college football, COVID-19 issues will continue to force postponements and cancellations until a vaccine can be distributed. The final count was 32 games either canceled (27) or postponed (5). The most notable cancellation was No. 2 Baylor and No. 18 Arizona's tourney game being played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Three other ranked schools fell into that category as well, as No. 9 Duke and No. 20 Oregon postponed their respective games, while No.12 Tennessee canceled its game. However, Arizona St was able to quickly reschedule and played Rhode Island at the 2K Empire Sports Classic in Uncasville, Ct. ASU was one of 17 ranked schools to play on Wednesday and 16 of the 17 won, going an impressive 12-5 ATS. No. 22 UCLA (DON'T remind me!) was the only loser, falling 73-58 at San Diego St. SIX top-10 schools played on Wednesday, as No. 3 Villanova,  No. 4 Virginia, No. 5 Iowa, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Illinois and No. 10 Kentucky all won, although 'Nova and Wisconsin failed to cover. It's a busy Thanksgiving Day schedule and so far, just four games have been canceled. The "marquee" matchup is Kansas taking on Gonzaga at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Melbourne, Fl. Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the final poll of the unfinished 2019-20 CBB season and Gonzaga (which finished No. 2 Kansas) opens No. 1 in the AP's preseason poll this year (Kansas is No. 6). The game tips at 1:30 ET on FOX, with Gonzaga favored by four points. No. 3 Villanova and No. 18 Arizona St meet in the 2K Empire Classic, giving us the first two of what will be many meetings between ranked opponents throughout the season (Villanova is favored by 4 1/2-points). Two more ranked teams play on Thursday, No. 8 Illinois at home against Chicago St (Illinois is favored by 39 points) and No. 15 West Va at the Crossover Classic against VCU in Sioux Falls, SD (West Va is favored by 9 1/2-points).NFL Week 12 was scheduled to kick off with THREE games on Thanksgiving but COVID-19 had "other ideas." 10-0 Pittsburgh was expected to host 6-4 Baltimore Thanksgiving evening but that game has been moved to Sunday (fingers crossed). Going on as scheduled will be Detroit and Dallas hosting their annual Thanksgiving games. The Houston Texans entered the 2020 season having won the AFC South in FOUR of the previous five years but will visit Detroit with just a 3-7 record. The Lions check in at 4-6 and are almost guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the 18th time in the 21 seasons since 2000. The game kicks off at 12:30 ET on CBS, with Texans favored by three points (over/under is 51). Of note is the fact that Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is set to make his 10th career Thanksgiving Day start, which would tie Troy Aikman for the most in NFL history. Stafford is 4-5 in those starts and it may surprise some (it did me), that Aikman was just 5-5. Washington visits Dallas at 4:30 ET in a game televised by FOX. Washington and Dallas each enter the contest at 3-7 on the season but the winner will own first place in the cynically-named "NFC Least!" That is until Monday, when the 3-6-1 Eagles will have a chance to regain the division lead if they can upset the Seahawks. Dallas is favored by three points and the over/under is 46. Moving ahead to Sunday, let's start at the top and the bottom! The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-0 and New York Jets are 0-10. This marks just the SIXTH time in the Super Bowl era in which a team has opened 10-0 and another 0-10 in the same season. The most recent occurrence was back in 2011, when the Packers and Colts did so. Green Bay would go 15-1 but lose their first playoff game (at home to the Giants), while the Colts finished 2-14 in a season in which Peyton Manning never played because of a neck injury. Prior to the Steelers starting 10-0 this season, 17 teams have started 10-0 in the Super Bowl era. Of those teams, SIX won the Super Bowl (2009 Saints, 1998 Broncos, 1991 Washington, 1990 Giants, 1985 Bears and undefeated 1972 Dolphins). Of the 21 previous teams to start 0-10 in the Super Bowl era, just THREE ended up winless with the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns going 0-16 and the expansion 1976 Buccaneers losing all 14 games. Enough history.Baltimore won its final 12 games of the 2019 regular season to finish 14-2 but then got upset in its first playoff game, 28-12 at home by the Titans. The 6-4 Ravens are in real danger of missing the postseason in 2020, as they've fallen short in EVERY important game so far. Will that change here in Pittsburgh? The Steelers are favored by four points and the over/under is 45 . The NY Jets have lost 10 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are two losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. New York will host a 6-4 Miami team which comes in after seeing its five-game winning streak snapped last Sunday in a 20-13 loss at Denver. Miami is favored by seven points and the over/under is 44. The Steelers and Jets own the longest active winning and losing streaks in 2020, respectively. However, the 8-2 Saints opened the season 1-2, before winning their last SEVEN (just 4-3 ATS but have three straight ATS wins). The Saints will be in Denver to take on the 4-6 Broncos and are favored by six points (over/under is 43 1/2). The Jacksonville Jaguars upset the now 7-3 Colts 27-20 in Week 1 as a seven-point home dog but have since lost NINE in a row, going 3-6 ATS. The Jags host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team which is trying to navigate a COVID-19 outbreak. However, through it all, the Browns enter 7-3 and look as if they will have their first winning season since 2007 and could make the playoffs for the first time since 2003! Cleveland is favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 49 .Speaking of the 7-3 Indianapolis Colts, they will host the Tennessee Titans (also 7-3), with the winner taking the lead in the AFC South. The Colts just beat the Titans 34-17 at Tennessee in Week 10 and an Indy win would not only give them a one-game lead in the division but a 2-0 season sweep of their division rivals. The Colts are favored by three points and the over/under is 51 1/2. The defending champion KC Chiefs are 9-1 in 2020, as Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 3,035 yards with 27 TD passes and just two INTs in 374 attempts (both INTs have come against the Raiders).  Mahomes will lead the Chiefs, who have won 18 of their last 19 games (including 2019 playoff run), into Tampa for a game with the 7-4 Bucs. Tampa Bay has lost TWO of its last three games, with Brady looking more than a little shaky in the losses (five of his nine INTs have come in those games). The Bucs will have a hard time catching the Saints but even if they lose here, the good news is that after a Week 13 bye, they finish with games against Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit and Atlanta, again. NONE of those teams own a winning record. However, a win would put Tampa in very good shape in the NFC wild card race. Is this a showdown between the G.O.A.T and the future G.O.A.T? It may just be. KC is favored by  3 1/2-points and the over/under is 56. SNF features 5-5 Chicago at 7-3 Green Bay and MNF has 7-3 Seattle at 3-6-1 Philadelphia. The Packers are favored by 8 1/2-points (over/under is 45) and the Seahawks are favored by five points (over/under is 50). My Friday Notes will recap NFL and CBB action from Thanksgiving but mainly feature Friday and Saturday CFB games.Good luck...Larry

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 12

by Sean Murphy

Thursday, Nov 26, 2020

December is right around the corner but a lot of teams still haven't separated themselves from the pack in this unique 2020 NFL season. Here's our weekly look around the league at three teams on the rise and three on their way down entering Week 12.Stock RisingNew York GiantsThere's something positive happening in the Meadowlands these days - at least when it comes to one of the two NFL franchises that call New Jersey home. The G-Men are coming off their bye week, which came on the heels of consecutive wins over NFC East opponents. Shockingly enough, they're still alive and kicking in the abysmal NFC East race and this week they're afforded another favorable matchup against the Joe Burrow-less Bengals in Cincinnati. Credit the New York defense for charting a course back to contention and look for another positive performance this week.Tennessee TitansThe Titans were in desperate need of a strong bounce-back performance in a tough matchup in Baltimore last Sunday and they got exactly that. Tennessee may only go as far as RB Derrick Henry can carry them but that's not necessarily a bad thing as he's more than capable of doing the heavy lifting. After this Sunday's date with the Colts the Titans schedule lets up a bit with home games against the Browns and Lions sandwiched around a trip to Jacksonville to face the lowly Jaguars. New Orleans SaintsWhat's not to like about the Saints these days? Their defense has staged an incredible turnaround after a rough start to the season while their offense has shown no signs of slowing down, even with QB Drew Brees sidelined. Few were talking about New Orleans as a true Super Bowl contender leading into the season but that is quickly changing. This Sunday they travel to Denver to face a Broncos squad in a clear letdown spot off a rare victory last week. Stock FallingJacksonville JaguarsThe Jags stock was admittedly not all that high to begin with, but having not won a game since Week 1, and coming off a blowout defeat at the hands of the Steelers (who have a tendency to play down to their competition) we may not have seen their worst just yet. Jacksonville hosts a surging Browns squad this Sunday and will stunningly turn to third-string QB Mike Glennon (yes, he's still in the league). The Cleveland defense has to be salivating at the prospect of teeing off on the statue-like Glennon on Sunday afternoon. Chicago BearsComing off four straight losses and with no reason to believe its offense can get on track, Chicago heads to Green Bay to face what is sure to be a highly-motivated Packers squad this Sunday. The Bears haven't won a game since mid-October and while they will get some relief with a home game against the Lions next week, expect their losing streak to continue as a near double-digit underdog at Lambeau Field. New England Patriots While last Sunday's game in Houston was by no means a must-win situation, the Patriots playoff hopes are quickly diminishing in a crowded AFC field. Now things get tricky with the high-flying Cardinals visiting Foxborough this Sunday before the Pats pack their bags and head for Los Angeles for consecutive games against the Chargers and Rams (in a five-day span). The sputtering and inconsistent New England offense has been the biggest issue but last Sunday the defense just couldn't get off the field, allowing an average Texans offense to go on long, clock-churning drives. Expect more of the same against Arizona.

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Big 10 Conference Football Report - Week 6

by ASA, Inc.

Thursday, Nov 26, 2020

NEBRASKA @ IOWA (-14 OPEN to -13.5 CURRENT) – Friday, November 27th  NEBRASKA – The Huskers looked like they had some momentum after playing Northwestern very tough on the road 3 weeks ago (outgained Wildcats by 130 yards in loss) and then they topped Penn State at home following that game.  With that supposed momentum heading into last weekend, Nebraska went off as a 17 point chalk at home vs Illinois and proceeded to get thumped 41-23.  No fluke here as the Illinois outgained Nebraska by 98 yards and put up 285 yards rushing on the blackshirts.  Speaking of blackshirts, the Huskers donned their all black uniforms on Saturday in an effort to perhaps intimidate Illinois or maybe to round up some extra energy for themselves.  Well they can put those uniforms back where they came from as the Illinois offense ripped them for almost 500 yards and scored 4 TD’s on their first 5 possessions of the game.  The Illini welcomed back starting QB Peters and scored 5 total TD’s after managing only 6 offensive TD’s in their first 3 games.  On offense the Huskers coughed up 5 turnovers including 4 from new starting QB McCaffrey (3 interceptions & 1 fumble).  Nebraska now ranks 118th in TO margin, 121st in 3rd down defense, and 111th in 3rd down offense.  Not a winning combination.  McCaffrey was replaced by former starter Adrian Martinez for Nebraska’s final possession and he led them to a TD.  Both can run the ball but neither has been great through the air as they’ve combined for just 707 yards passing with 2 TD’s and 6 interceptions.  We have another full blown QB controversy in Lincoln heading into Friday’s rivalry game vs Iowa.     NEBRASKA NEXT UP – @ Purdue  IOWA – You could argue the Hawkeyes are playing as well as anyone in the Big 10 right.  After their 41-21 trouncing of Penn State last Saturday, their first win in Happy Valley since 2009, they have now outscored their last 3 opponents 125-35.  An offense that looked fairly pedestrian has taken advantage of their opponent’s turnovers over the last 3 games.  Iowa has a +7 TO margin (9 takeaways & 2 giveaways) in just the last 3 games and they’ve turned those 9 opponent turnovers into 45 points (6 TD’s & 1 FG).  They’ve had 8 TD drives of 55 yards or less in those 3 wins.  In their win last week @ PSU, 24 of their 41 points came directly off 4 Nittany Lion turnovers.  Over their last 3 games, Iowa is averaging 42 PPG on just 370 YPG of offense.  That equates to 1 point for every 8.8 yards gained.  That’s extremely efficient and the takeaways have played a big part in that.  If the offense can keep up that efficiency rate, we don’t think they will, this team should be set because the defense is very good.  The Hawkeye defense now ranks 3rd in the Big Ten in total defense, 3rd in scoring defense, 4th in rush defense, 3rd in pass defense, and 2nd in sacks.  On top of that their 4.3 YPP allowed ranks 1st in the league.  IOWA NEXT UP – @ Illinois   MOST RECENT MEETING – Iowa went to Nebraska as a 4-point favorite last year and won 27-24 with the Huskers getting the close cover.  The Hawkeyes won the game on a 48 yard field goal as time expired.    POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Iowa has won 5 straight in this series with a 3-2 ATS mark in those games.  5 of the last 8 meetings in this series have been decided by one score (8 points or less).  The Hawkeyes are 1-0 ATS as a home favorite this year but leading into the 2020 season, they were just 5-13 ATS their last 18 in that role. PENN STATE @ MICHIGAN (-4 OPEN to -2 CURRENT) - Saturday, November 28th  PENN STATE – We thought the Nittany Lions were in a good spot to pick up their first win last Saturday.  They had been outgaining their opponents on the year despite their 0-4 mark entering last week.  They  showed some fight @ Nebraska after getting down 27-6 and if they could avoid the turnover bug, we felt they had a decent shot at home vs Iowa.  Well they turned the ball over 4 times and dropped to 0-5 for the first time in their history getting smoked 41-21.  They now have 13 turnovers in 5 games and just 4 takeaways.  Not going to win many, or any, games with those TO margin numbers.  Will Levis got the start at QB, as we expected, after almost rallying PSU @ Nebraska a week earlier.  He led the Lions to just 1 first half TD vs Iowa and was yanked for previous starter Sean Clifford after the first 2 second half possessions led to nothing.  With Iowa up 31-7, Clifford and PSU made a run cutting the lead to 31-21 to start the 4th quarter as his first 2 passing attempts were TD’s.  The comeback ended when Clifford threw his 7th and 8th interceptions of the season in the 4th quarter, one returned for an Iowa TD.  Both QB’s, Levis & Clifford, led Penn State in rushing and their RB’s had only 16 combined yards rushing.  Does this team keep fighting with 2 road games on deck or are they too far beat down emotionally to care at this point?     PENN STATE NEXT UP – @ Rutgers  MICHIGAN – Did we ever think we’d see Michigan players storm the field after a 48-42 OT win vs Rutgers?  That is where we are in this crazy 2020 Big 10 season.  Michigan looked like they might do the unthinkable and lose to Rutgers as they got down 17-0 midway through the 2nd quarter.  Joe Milton got the start at QB again for Michigan, but he was replaced by Cade McNamara after the Wolverines got down by 17.  After McNamara took over, he led Michigan to 5 TD’s in his 7 offensive possessions.  They took an 8-point lead with 5:00 minutes remaining but Rutgers sent the game to OT with just 27 seconds remaining with a TD and 2-point conversion.  To put the Rutgers 42 point effort into perspective, Michigan had held the Knights to just 37 total points in their previous 5 meetings.  The Wolverines pass defense continues to get shredded every week.  Rutgers QB Vedral threw for a career high 381 yards and 3 TD’s.  Vedral had 6 career TD passes entering the game.  It was the THIRD quarterback already this season to throw for career high yardage in a game vs Michigan.  The 1,370 yards passing the Wolverines have given up this year is the most in the Big 10 and the 12 TD passes allowed is 13th most ahead of only Rutgers.  On top of that the 180 points allowed this year by Michigan is better than only Rutgers as well.  This program is used to playing stifling defense and it’s not happening this season.    MICHIGAN NEXT UP – Home vs Maryland   MOST RECENT MEETING – These two met last season @ PSU with the Nittany Lions laying 7.5 points.  PSU won the game 28-21 with Michigan getting the half point cover.  Despite the loss Michigan dominated the stat sheet with 419 total yards to just 293 for Penn State.  POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The home team has won 7 of the last 8 meetings outright (6-2 ATS).  Michigan has won 8 of the last 9 meetings SU in Ann Arbor (6-3 ATS) OHIO STATE (-29 OPEN to -28 CURRENT) @ ILLINOIS – Saturday, November 28th  OHIO STATE – OSU looked like they were going to cruise to an easy win last week leading 28-7 at half vs Indiana.  They easily covered the first half line of -11 and they actually had the game spread of -20.5 covered at half.  The Buckeyes added another TD just 3:00 minutes into the 2nd half for a 35-7 lead.  What looked like another OSU home blowout turned into a battle with IU scoring TD’s on 4 of their next 5 possessions.  The Hoosiers cut the lead to 42-35 with 10:00 minutes remaining in the game but they didn’t cross midfield again and OSU held on for the 7 point win.  The Buckeye offense is fantastic.  No questioning that.  They put up over 600 total yards and topped 40 points for the 3rd time in 4 games this season.  QB Fields wasn’t invincible this week as he actually threw 3 interceptions which is the same number he had thrown in his entire career at Ohio State (17 games).  The defense didn’t look great.  IU had receivers running wide open all day long.  Indiana QB Penix threw for 491 yards and 5 TD’s.  The 491 yards through the air was the 4th most EVER allowed by Ohio State in a single game.  The big plays allowed were very concerning to head coach Ryan Day as Indiana had at least one pass of 25 or more yards in all 5 of their TD drives.  The OSU pass defense now ranks dead last in the Big 10 and 115th nationally allowing 291 YPG.  Another concern?  OSU was outscored 28-14 in the 2nd half which marked the 3rd consecutive game they’ve been outscored after halftime.     OHIO STATE NEXT UP – @ Michigan State  ILLINOIS – The Illini finally got starting QB Peters back after he had missed 3 straight games due to Covid.  He stepped in and didn’t miss a beat throwing for 205 yards while rushing for another 36 in Illinois’ upset win at Nebraska.  They entered the game as 17-point underdogs and won easily 41-23.  It was the 3rd time already this year that a Big 10 underdog of 17 points or more won the game outright!  It was the 2nd huge upset for the Illini in the span of year as they beat Wisconsin last season as a 29-point dog.  Prior to last year’s win over Wisconsin and this year’s win over Nebraska, the Illini had been an underdog of 17 points or more 55 times since 1980 winning just TWO of those games outright.  Well they have another shot this weekend as a huge dog at home vs OSU.  Illinois has some momentum entering this game with 2 straight wins after starting the season 0-3.  They’ve outgained each of their last 2 opponents and they’ve really started to lean on their running game with 623 yards on the ground the last 2 weeks, including gashing the Huskers for 385 rushing.  Peters may have to do more through the air this week as OSU’s defensive strength is vs the run (98 YPG allowed).  The Illini are now near full strength for the first time in nearly a month and they’ll definitely need to find a way to keep up on the scoreboard here as their defense will have a tough time slowing the Buckeyes down.  ILLINOIS NEXT UP – @ Illinois   MOST RECENT MEETING – OSU was a huge 41 point favorite at home in this match up last year and won 52-14.  They outgained the Illini by 440 yards in the game and held them to just 105 total yards.  POINTSPREAD NUGGET – OSU has won the last 9 meetings outright by an average score of 39-14.  The Buckeyes are 6-3 ATS in those games.  Historically however, the Illini have been the money maker here with a 22-13 spread record since 1980.  NORTHWESTERN (-11 OPEN to -13.5 CURRENT) @ MICHIGAN STATE - Saturday, November 28th  NORTHWESTERN – After starting 4-0, Northwestern had their biggest game of the season last week vs Wisconsin.  A game that would most likely decide the Big 10 West.  The Cats came out on top 17-7 despite being -103 total yards, -5 first downs, and -15:00 time of possession.  Northwestern averaged just 3.8 YPP and rushed the ball 23 times for 24 yards.  So how do you win with stats like that?  Win the turnover battle decisively which they did.  They forced the Badgers into 5 turnovers and they had a +4 TO margin on the day.  In a game that saw these two teams combine for 17 punts, 9 in the 3rd quarter alone, it was all about field position and defense.  Speaking of field position, there was a stretch in the 2nd half where Wisconsin, down 14-7 at the time, started 4 consecutive possessions at their own 38, 42, 47, and 48 yard line.  The Wildcat defense came up huge during that stretch limiting 3 of those 4 possessions to 4 plays or fewer followed by a punt as they were protecting their tight lead.  While they didn’t completely shut down Wisconsin on a yardage basis (363 yards) they came up big when they had to.  They put constant pressure on QB Mertz with 3 sacks, 7 TFL’s and 7 QB hurries.  The Badgers crossed midfield 8 times in the game and came away with only 7 points.  That’s what Northwestern does.  They play great defense, don’t beat themselves (+8 TO margin on the season), and play the field position game.  Let this one simmer.  The Cats are 5-0 and have punted more than any team in the Big 10 with 30.  The next highest is 26 punts by Rutgers.  They know who they are and they find ways to win.  Now they are sitting pretty.  With the Minnesota – Wisconsin game getting cancelled this weekend all but eliminating the Badgers, the Cats look like they are heading to the Big 10 Championship game for the 2nd time in 3 years.    NORTHWESTERN NEXT UP – @ Minnesota  MICHIGAN STATE – MSU had a bye week to get ready for this match up with Northwestern.  They technically picked up 3 or 4 extra days to prepare as their originally scheduled game @ Maryland wasn’t cancelled until last Thursday.  They used last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to revisit the fundamentals they’ve been lacking and began the game planning for NW on Monday.  In their most recent game vs Indiana, the Spartans were atrocious.  It seemed to be a great spot for them catching IU off a huge win over Michigan with Ohio State on deck.  Sparty was also coming off an embarrassing effort @ Iowa so it looked like a good spot for MSU to rebound and play well.  Nope.  They were shut out 24-0 by the Hoosiers, had only 9 first downs and 191 total yards.  They also turned the ball over 4 times which led directly to 17 of Indiana’s 24 points.  They were missing 3 starters in the defensive backfield in that game so a number of inexperience players were thrust into action.  It showed with IU QB Penix throwing for 320 yards which actually doesn’t look so bad when you consider what he did to OSU’s defense last Saturday.  On offense they benched starting QB Lombardi, who now has more interceptions than TD passes, after throwing 2 picks in the first 20 minutes of the game.  Redshirt freshman Thorne took over and was just OK.  Thorne led the Spartans to 150 yards on their final 8 possessions and didn’t score a point so it wasn’t as if he sparked the offense.  The running game continues to be non-existent as MSU has score 1 rushing TD this season and averages 73 YPG on just 2.2 YPC, all Big 10 worsts.  MICHIGAN STATE NEXT UP – Home vs Ohio State   MOST RECENT MEETING – Big swing in the number this year as MSU was favored by -7.5 @ Northwestern last year and now the Cats are favored by 11 @ MSU.  The Spartans won last year’s match up easily 31-10.  POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The Wildcats have covered the last 8 meetings in East Lansing and the road team in general has been a big money maker in this series covering 14 of the last 16.  The totals in this series have been set very low as of late with the last 4 being set at 35, 43, 41.5, and 41 points.  All 4 went over the total.  Saturday’s opening total came out at 41.5.  RUTGERS @ PURDUE (-11 OPEN to -12 CURRENT) - Saturday, November 28th  RUTGERS – How does Rutgers bounce back off a devastating home loss to Michigan?  They jumped out to a 17-0 lead, blew the lead, had to come back and score a TD + 2 point conversion to push the game to OT, and then lost in OT.  The Scarlet Knights missed a FG in the first overtime that would have won the game making this loss even more difficult.  The 48-42 loss while tough to swallow, was quite the improvement considering the last 2 times Michigan paid a visit to Piscataway they left with 42-7 and 78-0 wins.  Rutgers definitely hung with Michigan statistically as well and actually outgained the Wolverines on a YPP basis 5.8 to 5.4.  QB Vedral, who transferred to Rutgers from Nebraska, threw for a career high 381 yards and 3 TD’s.  The 42 points scored was the most by a Rutgers team in conference play since the 2015 season.  The offense is averaging 29.6 PPG and has scored at least 20 points in all 5 of their games (1-4 record).  While that may not seem like a huge deal, let’s remember this team averaged 5.6 PPG in conference play last year, scored a total of 51 points in 9 games.  They were shutout 4 times.  Drastic improvement to say the least.  As we’ve mentioned before, HC Greg Schiano has them heading in the right direction.    RUTGERS NEXT UP – Home vs Penn State  PURDUE – Speaking of how Rutgers will respond after a crushing defeat, how about Purdue?  They are in a similar situation as they seemingly scored the winning TD last week at Minnesota with under 1:00 minute remaining after never leading the entire game.  The infamous phantom offensive pass interference call on the Boilers took away the TD and they proceeded to throw an interception on the next play in their 34-31 loss.  In an unprecedented move, multiple betting sites actually decided to refund Purdue bettors because of the terrible call.  Starting QB O’Connell was unable to go making way for sophomore Jack Plummer to get the start.  Plummer actually gave O’Connell a neck and neck battle for the starting QB this year and started 7 games a year ago so we were not expecting a drop off.  If anything, Plummer made a case to continue as the starting QB throwing for 367 yards and 3 TD’s while completing 82% of his attempts.  Plummer will get the start this Saturday as it looks like O’Connell will be sidelined again.  The offense was also sparked by the return of WR Moore, who is their top weapon and had yet to play in a game this season.  He didn’t disappoint putting up 136 total yards on 18 touches.  The defense wasn’t great as they allowed the Gophers to average nearly 6.3 YPP and convert on 8 of their 13 third & fourth down attempts.  They did stiffen up and get much better vs the Minnesota running attack as the game wore on.  The Gophs had 108 yards on the ground on their first 5 possessions but just 23 yards on their final 3 possessions.    PURDUE NEXT UP – Home vs Nebraska   MOST RECENT MEETING – These two have met just one time since Rutgers joined the Big 10.  That was back in 2017 and the Scarlet Knights upset the Boilers 14-12 as a 9.5 point home underdog.  POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Since November of 2013, the Boilermakers are a money making 30-15-1 ATS (67%) when coming off a SU loss.  Rutgers is 2-0 ATS this year as a double digit underdog covering vs OSU & Michigan.  Can they pull the upset here?  The last time Rutgers won a game outright as a dog of 10 or more was back in 1999.  They are 0-82 SU in that role since that win.  MARYLAND @ INDIANA (-14 OPEN to -11.5 CURRENT) - Saturday, November 28th  MARYLAND – The Terps haven’t played a game since November 7th when they upset Penn State 35-19 in Happy Valley.  They’ve been dealing with Covid issues on the team & staff and they haven’t been able to practice.  That changed on Monday when Maryland was able to run a normal practice for the first time in a few weeks as they prepare for their game @ Indiana.  The Terps originally had 23 players test positive for Covid, however there were no new positive cases since last week.  The challenge in handicapping this one is the 21 day Big 10 rule.  They will still have a fairly large number of players out because of that, but who are they?  Teams across the country have been very tight lipped on this for much of the season and it’s difficult to get that information.  Until we know that info, it’s a game we’ll just take a pass on.  We’ll see what we find out as the week continues.  It’s unfortunate for Maryland as they were playing very well entering this situation with back to back wins over Minnesota & Penn State.  The offense rolled up over 1,000 yards and 80 points in those 2 wins.  QB Tagovailoa was really starting to play well after a disastrous first start @ Northwestern in their season opener.  Head coach Mike Locksley tested positive as well and will be at practice virtually this week.  He will be able to travel with the team on Saturday as the Big Ten coaches 10 day window will be over for him.     MARYLAND NEXT UP – @ Michigan  INDIANA – As we stated in last week’s report, we weren’t so sure on what to think of Indiana.  They looked solid in their 3 most recent games vs Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State entering Saturday’s game @ OSU, however consider the competition.  We were impressed by this team’s resolve on Saturday after they fell behind 35-7 early in the 2nd half.  They made a huge comeback and cut the lead to 42-35 with still over 10 minutes remaining.  Their final 2 possessions resulted in a total of 18 yards and the Hoosiers were not able to pull off the huge upset.  They showed they do belong this year among the top 3 or 4 teams in the conference.  QB Penix, who beat out Peyton Ramsey (now at Northwestern) for the starting spot last year, was injured for much of 2019.  This year he has been fantastic.  He threw for almost 500 yards on OSU and he now leads the Big 10 averaging 312 YPG through the air.  He’s thrown more passes (201) and has thrown more TD’s (14) than any other QB in the league.  WR Fryfogle leads the Big 10 averaging 128 YPG receiving and has 18 catches for 418 yards his last 2 games alone.  If they can ever get their running game going to take some pressure off Penix shoulders watch out.  On Saturday they had 16 rush attempts for -1 yard and IU now ranks 13th in the league averaging just 76 YPG on 2.4 YPC.  The defense was shredded by OSU.  No big deal there as the Buckeyes tend to do that to everyone.  We were impressed by the pressure they put on QB Fields with 5 sacks and forcing 3 interceptions from a normally mistake free QB.  This team is good and they’ll be favored in 2 of their last 3 regular season games.  IU has a real shot at 7-1 if they can upset Wisconsin on the road.  If they can win 2 of their last 3 and finish at least 6-2 it would be their most conference wins since the 1994 season.  INDIANA NEXT UP – @ Wisconsin   MOST RECENT MEETING – Indiana was a 6.5 point favorite @ Maryland last year and squeaked by with a 34-28 win giving the Terps a half point cover.    POINTSPREAD NUGGET – This has been a high scoring series as of late with each of the last 5 meetings going Over the total.  The teams have combined for an average of 72.5 points in those 5 meetings.  The total in this game opened 60 and has been pushed up to 63 as of Wednesday afternoon.

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NFL Thanksgiving Day Football: Cowboys/Football Team Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Nov 26, 2020

The traditional Thanksgiving Day game on Fox features the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Washington Football Team at 4:30 PM ET. First place is on the line, even with both these teams owning 3-7 records. The winner of this game will take a 1/2 game lead in the NFC East over Philadelphia with their 3-6-1 record heading into the games on Sunday.Dallas snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday with their 31-28 upset victory at Minnesota as a 7-point underdog. The Cowboys got their ground game going with the return to the Pro Bowl guard Zach Martin back onto the field as they rushed for 180 yards against the Vikings. The effective running game helped quarterback Andy Dalton complete 22 of 32 passes for 203 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Dalton is completing 63.2% of his passes for 655 yards but with just a 5.6 yards-per-attempt average. The veteran has passed for four touchdowns, but he has also thrown four interceptions. The Cowboys are last in the NFL by allowing 31.8 points-per-game. Dallas has allowed 24 passing touchdowns, which is the most in the league. They have only accrued three interceptions. Their defense is allowing a touchdown pass once in every 13.5 pass attempts but only picking off a pass in every 108 throws. Dallas’ pass rush has not helped their cause as they are sacking the quarterback once in every 18 dropbacks. The Cowboys’ run defense has not been much better as they are second-to-last in the NFL by allowing 153.8 rushing yards-per-game. Dallas has improved in this area by holding their last three opponents to 96.7 rushing yards-per-game.The Football Team snapped a two-game losing streak with a 20-9 victory against Cincinnati as a 2-point favorite last week. Quarterback Alex Smith completed 17 of 25 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Smith is completing 68.2% of his passes for 918 yards in his four games (three starts) this season. He has only thrown two touchdown passes while getting picked off four times. Smith had thrown for 325 and 390 yards before his efficient performance against the Bengals last week. The Washington defense produced four sacks with three hits on the quarterback (including the one that ended Joe Burrow’s season). The Football Team ha 32 sacks on the season, tied for third in the league. This pass rush has helped Washington own the stingiest pass defense in the NFL by holding their opponents to just 195 yards-per-game. The Football Team’s run defense has been another matter as they are allowing their opponents to average 138.8 yards-per-game, which is 27th. Washington generated six sacks while compiling eight sacks on the quarterback in the first meeting between these two teams. They dominated that game in a 25-3 victory. Andy Dalton made his first start for the Cowboys in that game after Dak Prescott suffered his season-ending injury the week prior but got knocked out with a concussion. Dallas will not have the services of starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins along with tight end Blake Jarwin and Prescott, who have all suffered season-ending injuries. Placekicker Greg Zuerlein is questionable with his back injury. Washington has lost strong safety to a season-ending Achilles’ injury along with quarterback Kyle Allen which created the opportunity for Smith under center. The Football Team has four starters listed as questionable: left tackle Cornelius Lucas III (ankle); wide receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle); running back Antonio Gibson (ankle); placekicker Dustin Hopkins (groin). The Cowboys will be playing this game with a heavy heart with the sudden passing of their longtime strength and conditioning coach on Wednesday. The 54-year old was rushed to the hospital Tuesday morning for a medical emergency. BetOnline lists Dallas as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 46.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAA Basketball, NCAA Football and NFL Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Nov 26, 2020

The Thursday Thanksgiving sports card features games in the NFL as well as college football and college basketball.The NFL Thursday card is reduced to two games with the decision to push back the Baltimore Ravens/Pittsburgh Steelers prime-time showdown to Sunday, given the COVID issues that the Ravens are experiencing. The NFL card kicks off at 12:30 PM ET with Detroit hosting Houston. The Lions have lost three of their last four games, with their 20-0 upset loss at Carolina on Sunday as a 3-point favorite. Houston has won two of three games after they upset New England at home by a 27-20 score on Sunday as a 2.5-point underdog. The Texans are 3-point road favorites with the total set at 51.5 (all odds from BetOnline). CBS has the broadcast.Washington visits Dallas at 4:30 PM ET on Fox. The Football Team snapped a two-game losing streak last week with their 20-9 victory at home against Cincinnati as a 2-point favorite. The Cowboys ended their four-game losing streak on Sunday with their 31-28 upset win at Minnesota as a 7-point underdog. This divisional game is a rematch of Washington’s 25-3 victory in a pick ‘em game on October 25th. Dallas is a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 46.The lone game on the college football docket is a battle on winless teams in New Mexico and Utah State. The Colorado State/Air Force contest at 2 PM ET got canceled on Wednesday due to a COVID outbreak in the Rams program. The Lobos lost their fourth straight game last Friday in a 28-0 loss at Air Force as an 8-point underdog. The Aggies take the field after losing their fourth straight contest on November 14th at home to Fresno State by a 35-16 score as an 11-point underdog. New Mexico is a 6.5-point road favorite with a total of 51.5. FS1 broadcasts the game at 7 PM ET.The televised college basketball schedule begins at noon, with Western Kentucky and Memphis playing on ESPN in the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Both teams come off victories on Wednesday. At 1:30 PM ET, Fox has the showdown between #2 ranked Kansas facing #1 ranked Gonzaga in the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida. The Bulldogs are 4-point favorites with the total set at 150. St. John’s hosts LaSalle at 2 PM ET on FS1 as a 10-point favorite with an over/under of 144.5. At 2:30 PM ET in the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, VCU plays West Virginia on ESPN after both teams won their opening games on Wednesday.Auburn plays Saint Joseph’s in the Fort Myers Tip-Off at 4:30 PM ET on FS1. The Tigers are a 7-point favorite with the total at 151.The Crossover Classic continues at 5 PM ET with Northern Iowa playing Saint Mary’s on ESPN after both teams lost their games on Wednesday.Liberty and Mississippi State face off after losing on Wednesday in the Space Coast Classic in Melbourne, Florida at 6 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network. ESPN has Boston College playing Rhode Island at 7 PM ET after both teams lost their opening games in the 2K Empire Classic at Uncasville, Connecticut. At 7:30 PM ET, Utah State and South Dakota State play in Sioux Falls after both teams lost on Wednesday in their games in the Crossover Classic. Purdue and Clemson play in the finals of the Space Coast Classic at 8:30 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network after both teams won on Wednesday. ESPN has the finals of the 2K Empire Classic in Uncasville at 9 PM ET in a showdown between Villanova and Arizona State.

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Nov 25

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The initial CFP standings of the 2020 season were released last night and there were no surprises in the top-four. 7-0 Alabama is No. 1, 8-0 Notre Dame No. 2, 7-1 Clemson No. 3 and 4-0 Ohio St  No. 4. That's the same top-four as both the current AP and Coaches' poll, with only a minor change. Ohio St is No. 3 and Clemson is No. 4 in both of those polls. Let me begin with this reminder. The first CFP rankings/standings began in 2014 and the first four teams in the initial rankings have NEVER all made it to the final four. Alabama earned the No. 1 spot in the CFP standings for the 19th time, more than double the amount of any other school. However, is that good or bad news for the Tide? Over the past FIVE seasons, NO team ranked No. 1 in the initial CFP rankings has gone on to win the national championship. As for Clemson claiming the No. 3 spot over Ohio St, which is No. 3 in both of the traditional polls, the Buckeyes may think they 'won' by avoiding that No. 3 spot. After all, NO team ranked No. 3 in the initial CFP standings has ever gone on to win the national championship.The "close but no cigar" spots of No. 5 and No. 6 went to 5-1 Texas A&M and 6-1 Florida, respectively. The Gators surely can't complain, as they lost at A&M 41-38 back on Oct 13. Florida is on a roll and if the Gators win their final three regular season games plus win the SEC title game (Alabama is the likely opponent), Florida will surely make the school's first-ever 'Final Four' appearance. Rounding out the top-10 are 8-0 Cincinnati at No. 7, 5-0 Northwestern at No. 8, 5-2 Georgia at No. 9 and 7-1 Miami-Fl at No. 10. The Bearcats are the highest ranked Group of Five team at No. 7 and made some history. Over each of the previous six years, the highest any Group of 5 team has been ranked in the initial standings was UCF's 7-0 team of 2018 at No. 12! If the Bearcats remain the highest-ranked Group of 5 team, they will get an invitation to a New Year’s Six Bowl. Is there a chance for Cincinnati to get into position to make the playoffs? Cincy would HAVE to finish 11-0 and would need the teams ahead of them like Clemson, Florida, and Texas A&M to finish with two losses.Speaking of two losses, how does Georgia come in at No. 9? The Bulldogs lost 41-24 at Alabama and 44-28 to Florida in Jacksonville. 9-0 BYU, ranked No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches' poll, came in at just at No. 14. The Cougars are led by QB Zach Wilson (74.3% for 2,724 yards with 26 TDs and just two INTS in 237 attempts), who owns the nation's top passer rating of 205.3. The Cougars are averaging 47.6 PPG and their nmargin of victory sits at a nation-best 33.7 PPG. Selection committee chairman Gary Barta, the AD at Iowa, told ESPN that BYU’s schedule was the key reason the Cougars were ranked so low. BYU’s schedule was decimated when the Pac-10, the Big Ten, and the SEC went to conference games only. BYU’s original schedule included Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, and Missouri but the Cougars were not able to put together a revised schedule in 2020 (on short notice) that included a Power Five team. BYU tried to hastily schedule a game with Washington for this Saturday, after the Huskies' Apple Cup game against Washington St was canceled but Washington decided to play a Pac-12 game with Utah. Who can blame Washington? BYU has had a terrific season but with only a home game with San Diego St on Dec 12 remaining, BYU's only realistic hope is to earn an at-large berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl.The 2019-2020 college basketball season was abruptly shut down back on Mar 12 but the 2020-21 season, with COVID-19 issues still very much looming, opens on Wednesday. The AP's preseason college basketball poll was released back on Nov 9 and Gonzaga barely edged Baylor for the No. 1 spot. Gonzaga held the No. 1 spot for four weeks last season and was 31-2, finishing No. 2 in the AP's final poll in a season that was never completed. The Bulldogs received 28 first-place votes and its 1,541 points was just ONE point clear of Baylor, which received 24 first-place votes after going 26-4 last season and finishing as the nation's 5th-ranked team. Villanova (24-7 last season) received 11 first-place votes and its No. 3 ranking is the school's highest preseason ranking since the 1995-96 season. Virginia, coming off back-to-back 30-win seasons (and a national championship in the 2018-19 season), got ONE first-pace vote after going 23-7 last season and is ranked 4th. Iowa went 21-11 last season (was ranked 25th in the final poll) but with the preseason player-of-the -year (Luke Garza) deciding to stay, the Hawkeyes will open the season ranked No. 5.Kansas was 28-3 when last season was called off due to COVID-19 but earned 63 of the 65 first-place votes to claim the No. 1 spot. The Jayhawks open the 2020-21 season as the nation's 6th-ranked team, followed by No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Illinois, No. 9 Duke and No. 10 Kentucky. Creighton checks in ranked No. 11, the highest preseason ranking in school history. Houston is ranked No. 17, its highest preseason ranking since the 1983-84 season. The Dayton Flyers went 29-2 last season (finished ranked No. 3) but will open the current season unranked. San Diego St went 30-2 last season (finished No. 6) but also opens unranked, as do Louisville (24-7 and ranked No. 14) and Seton Hall (21-9 and ranked  No. 15).Just like in college football, COVID-19 issues will continue to force postponements and cancellations until a vaccine can be distributed. At last count (this morning at 10:00 ET), 25 scheduled Wednesday games have been postponed (five) or canceled (20). The most notable cancellation was No. 2 Baylor and No. 18 Arizona's tourney game being played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Three other ranked schools fall into that category as well, as No. 9 Duke and No. 20 Oregon postponed their respective games, while No.12 Tennessee canceled its game. Top-10 schools that are playing on Wednesday include, No. 3 Villanova (-14) vs Boston College, No. 4 Virginia (-18.5) at home to Towson, No. 5 Iowa (-26) home to NC Central, No. 7 Wisconsin (-20.5) at home to Eastern Illinois, No. 8 Illinois (-29) vs NC A&T and No. 10 Kentucky (-25) home to Morehead St.With three NFL games scheduled for Thanksgiving, Thursday's Notes will feature my NFL Week 12 preview, with my college football preview moving to Friday.Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Basketball Futures Bet: Baylor Bears to Win 2021 Championship

by Al McMordie

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2020

The 2021 Men's Basketball Championship will likely be played within the state of Indiana, rather than across the nation, in an effort to reduce travel.  And it is also likely that there will be (at best) sparse attendance at the arenas.  So, what we've come to love about March Madness -- the enthusiasm of the fans, the music of the bands, the cheerleaders -- will be absent.  But that doesn't mean we can't have another futures prediction.Faithful followers have come to learn that our Futures predictions are the best in the business.  Let's review some highlights just in the past few years.  In College Basketball, we cashed Virginia as our Preseason Futures wager (at 22-1 odds) to win the 2019 Title.  Also in 2019, we cashed our Futures wager on the Washington Nationals in Baseball, at 18-1 odds.  This past season we followed up the Nationals with our Preseason Futures pick on the Dodgers, at 4-1 odds.  And that made it three winning MLB Futures in four seasons, as we had Houston, at 10-1 odds, in 2017.  In hockey, we delivered with the Tampa Bay Lightning this past season, at 7-1 odds.  And we cashed the Spurs (14-1, 2014), Warriors (5-1, 2016), and Warriors again (-160, 2018) in the NBA.  This Football season, we didn't have a pick in College Football, but we currently have the New Orleans Saints (at 10-1 odds) to win the Super Bowl.So, who is our pick to win the 2021 Men's NCAA Basketball Championship?  We're going to go with a university which has never won a basketball championship (at least by its men, as the Lady Bears have won three titles):  Baylor.   The Bears' odds to win the 2021 Men's Championship are currently 12-1 at both MyBookie and BetUS.The Bears last made the Final Four over 70 years ago (1950), and have reached the Title game just once (1948).  But this should be their breakthrough season under veteran coach Scott Drew, who has already won over 350 games at just 50 years of age.The Bears finished last season at 26-4, and spent five weeks ranked #1 in the country.  They lost a couple of key players from last season, in center Freddie Gillespie and guard Devonte Bandoo, and Tristan Clark decided to retire after sustaining a knee injury in his sophomore season.  But there's a wealth of talent in Waco.  In the backcourt, the Bears will be led by Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Donavan Mitchell.   Transfer Adam Flager will come off the bench, as the sixth man.  In the frontcourt, Baylor will have Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Mark Vital.Take Baylor to win the 2021 Men's NCAA Basketball Championship at 12-1 odds.  Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: UEFA Champions League and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2020

The Wednesday sports card features the debut of the college basketball season with a full slate of games all day. Another eight matches also take place in the afternoon for the UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday 4. The televised college basketball schedule begins at noon, with Xavier hosting Oakland on FS1 as an 18.5-point favorite with a total set at 138.5 (all odds from BookMaker). George Washington travels to Navy on the CBS Sports Network for a noon tipoff with the Midshipmen 2-point favorites. Four more nationally-televised matches take place at 2 PM ET. Illinois State travels to Columbus to play Ohio State on ESPN with the Buckeyes a 17.5-point favorite and the over/under set at 137.5. ESPN2 has St. Mary’s facing Memphis in the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where the Tigers are a 7.5-point favorite with a total of 138.5. Kansas State hosts Drake on ESPNU as a 5-point favorite with an over/under of 131.5. Fairfield travels to Providence on FS1 with the Friars' 20-point favorites with a total of 126.The 4 PM ET window has three more televised games. EPSN has Oklahoma State traveling to UT-Arlington, where they are an 8-point road favorite with an over/under of 138.5. Michigan hosts Bowling Green on ESPN2 as a 14-point favorite with the total set at 148. Georgetown plays at home against Maryland-Baltimore County as a 13-point favorite on FS1.At 4:30 PM ET on ESPNU, Western Kentucky visits Northern Iowa, and is  a 2-point road favorite, with the total set at 140. The CBS Sports Network broadcasts the Liberty/Purdue matchup in the Space Coast Classic in Melbourne, Florida at 6 PM ET with the Boilermakers' 9.5-point favorites with a total of 124.5. Butler hosts Western Michigan at 6 PM ET on FS1, with the Bulldogs laying 19.5-points with an over/under of 132. The 7 PM ET window has three more nationally televised games. ESPN has Rhode Island playing Arizona State on a neutral court in Uncasville, Connecticut, for the 2K Empire Classic, where the Sun Devils are an 8-point favorite with the total set at 150.5. Rhode Island is a late replacement for Baylor, who pulled out of the event given COVID issues. West Virginia visits South Dakota State on ESPN2 as a 10-point road favorite with an over/under of 146. St. John’s hosts Saint Peter’s on FS2 as a 10.5-point favorite with an over/under of 139. At 8 PM ET, Connecticut hosts Central Connecticut on FS1 as a 26-point favorite. The CBS Sports Network has Mississippi State hosting Clemson at 8:30 PM ET with the Tigers' 4.5-point road favorites with a total of 136. The second game in the 2K Empire Classic on ESPN takes place tentatively at 9:30 PM ET, with Villanova playing Boston College as a 14-point favorite with an over/under of 140. Utah State travels to Virginia Commonwealth on ESPN2 at 9:30 PM ET as a 14-point favorite with a total of 136.Two more nationally televised games close out the Wednesday card. Marquette hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 10 PM ET as a 30-point favorite on FS1. At 10:30 PM ET, UCLA visits San Diego State on the CBS Sports Network as a 3.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 133.The UEFA Champions League plays their final eight games for Group Stage Matchday 4. These matches are all reverse fixtures of the games played on November 3rd in the round-robin group stage six-match schedule.Two matches take place at 12:55 PM ET. Borussia Monchengladbach hosts Shakhtar Donetsk after defeating them by a 6-0 score. Manchester City travels to Olympiacos after their 3-0 victory earlier this month. The remaining six matches take place at 3 PM ET. Bayern Munich hosts Salzburg after defeating them by a 6-2 score. Atletico Madrid plays at home against Lokomotiv Moskva after these two teams played to a 1-1 draw. Real Madrid travels to Inter Milan looking to avenge a 3-2 loss at home. Porto travels to Marseille after defeating them by a 3-0 score in their first meeting. Ajax hosts Midtjylland after beating them by a 2-1 score. Atalanta attempts to avenge their 5-0 loss at home to Liverpool. All eight games are available on the CBS Sports All-Access package. Alternatively, the CBS Sports Network broadcasts a whip-around show during the six 3 PM ET games.

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Nov 24

by Larry Ness

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: Jared Goff outplayed Tom Brady last night, completing 39 of 51 passes for 376 yards with three TDs. WRs Robert Woods (12 receptions for 130 yards and one TD) and Cooper Kupp (11 receptions for 145 yards) brought their "A" games. Woods had a single-game high in 2020 for catches and Kupp matched his season-high (also had 11 catches in Week 9). Tom Brady completed 26 of 48 passes for a modest 216 yards with two TDs (both Goff and Brady had two INTs}. The two TD passes lifted Brady's career count to 566, allowing him to pass injured New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (565) for the most in NFL history. The Rams have now won THREE of four and at 7-3 are tied atop the NFC West with Seattle, while the Bucs have lost TWO of three and at 7-4 not only trail the 8-2 Saints by 1 1/2-games in the NFC South but also have lost BOTH meetings with New Orleans this season.NFL Week 11 recap and highlights: Let's start with the numbers. Home teams did well in Week 10 going 11-3 SU and 8-6 ATS (home dogs were 2-3 SU & ATS) and followed in Week 11 by going 9-5 SU and 9-5 ATS, as well (home dogs were 3-1 SU & ATS). Doing the math on the Y-T-D numbers, home teams are now 85-75-1 (.531) but they remain under .500 ATS at  77-82-2 ATS (48.4%). Home dogs are well below .500 at 17-37 (.315) SU but are a small money-maker in going 29-23-2 (55.8%) ATS. Week 10's 14 games averaged 45.7 PPG (down about 7 PPG from Week 9) and Week 11 games followed suit, averaging 45.5 PPG. A closer look reveals that SIX games averaged more than 50 PPG, while SIX others averaged under 40 PPG. THREE games totaled 60-plus points, while THREE others totaled 30 points or less. EIGHT of Week 11's 14 games stayed under the total and there have now been 81 overs, 76 unders and four pushes through 11 weeks.Week 11 highlights: Pittsburgh moved to 10-0 with a 27-3 win at Jacksonville. Pittsburgh's D is allowing the fewest points in the league (17.4 per) and leads the league with 38 sacks and 21 takeaways. Pittsburgh has had at least ONE sack in 67 straight games, two games shy of the all-time record of 69, set by the TB Bucs from 1999 thru 2003. Pittsburgh is 10-0 for the first time in franchise history and becomes the NINTH team this century to start that hot. Of the previous eight, only one (2009 Saints) won the Super Bowl. The NY Jets are the "yin" to Pittsburgh's 'yang," as their 34-28 loss to the Chargers dropped them to 0-10 on the season. The Jets have lost 10 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are two losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. In direct contrast to the Steelers, the Jets are now the NINTH team since 2000 to have opened 0-10 and of the previous eight, the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns are the only ones to finish 0-16.Russell Wilson's MVP candidacy has somewhat faded but he picked up his 93rd regular season win last Thursday, tying Peyton Manning for the most by a QB through his first nine seasons. Wilson also reached 30 TD passes for the FOURTH straight season, joining Brett Favre and Drew Brees as the ONLY QBs to do so in NHL history (not bad company). Two QBs made their NFL debuts as a starter on Sunday and BOTH won! Taysom Hill (not Winston) got the start for the Saints and completed 18 of 23 for 233 yards plus ran for 51 yards with two TDs, as New Orleans beat Atlanta 24-9. Carolina's PJ Walker started for an injured Teddy Bridgewater and completed 24 of 34 for 258 yards with one TD and one INT. However, with the Carolina defense 'throwing its first shutout' in five years, the Panthers broke a five-game losing streak in beating the Lions 20-0 (Detroit was held to just 10 FDs and 185 total yards).Sticking with the QB theme, the Chargers' Justin Herbert entered Sunday's game with the Jets as the first QB in the Super Bowl era to lose SEVEN of eight starts despite an overall passer rating exceeding 100.0. He shredded the Jets pass D for a career-high 366 yards, while throwing three TDs. He has completed 68.0% on the season for 2,699 with 22 TDs and six INTs (QB rating of 104.7). He's now become the first rookie in league history with at least a two TD passes in SEVEN consecutive games! Two "feel good" stories from Week 11 were Alex Smith and Andy Dalton. Just FOUR days after the second anniversary of an injury that threatened his life, Smith led Washington to a 20-9 win over Cincinnati. He had thrown for 390 yards the week before but the Washington lost to Detroit. Smith threw for just 166 yards vs the Bengals but the "W" had to feel VERY good. However, there was some sad news to come out of the Cin/Was game, as Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow (the No. 1 pick of the 2020 Draft), suffered a torn ACL and MCL. Returning to the "fell good" theme, Burrow's Cincinnati predecessor, Andy Dalton, coming off a bout with COVID-19, threw three TDs passes (game-winning TD pass came with 1:37 left), as the Cowboys upset the Vikings 31-28. It was Dalton's first win as Dallas' starting QB.A final shout to a pair of WRs. Keenan Allen of the Chargers has quietly had some career for the Chargers, garnering very little recognition. However, he set a Chargers single-game record with 16 catches against the Jets and is now one of only FIVE players with two games of at least 15 receptions. The other four are Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker and Jason Witten. Allen entered the 2020 season with 303 receptions his previous three seasons, with six TDs in each. He already has 81 catches through 10 games (on pace for 130) and six TDs. Then there is New Orleans' WR Michael Thomas. He set an NFL single-season record with 149 catches in 2019 but he's been hampered by injuries for MOST of 2020. However, he had NINE catches on Sunday and his career total now sits at 489 receptions, the MOST of any receiver in NFL history through his first five seasons! Don't look over your shoulder, Jerry Rice!Wednesday's notes will feature the first CFP rankings of 2020 (out tonight) plus the opening of 2020-21 college hoops season. With the NFL dominating the Thanksgiving landscape, I'll preview NFL Week 12 on Thursday, with my CFB preview moving to Friday.Good luck...Larry

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Big Al's Daily Angle: UEFA Champions League Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020

The Tuesday sports card features the first eight matches in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday 4. These matches are all reverse fixtures of the games played on November 4th in the round-robin group stage six-match schedule.Two matches start at 12:55 PM ET. Chelsea travels to Rennes following their 3-0 victory against them that helped them stay tied in first place in Group E with 7 points. The Blues have scored seven times in their three matches without conceding a goal. Rennes is tied for last place in the group with just one point from a draw. They have scored just one goal while conceding five times. Chelsea is a -1 goal line favorite with the total set at 2.75 (all odds from BetOnline).Sevilla maintained pace with Chelsea with seven points in Group E with their 3-2 victory over Krasnodar. They have scored four times in their three matches while allowing only two goals. Krasnodar hosts this rematch tied with Rennes with just one point in group stage play. They have scored three goals but conceded eight times. Sevilla is a  -1 goal line favorite with the over/under at 2.75.The remaining six matches take place at 3 PM ET. Istanbul Basakshir travels to Manchester United after upsetting the Red Devils by a 2-1 score. They have three points in Group H with two goals scored and five allowed. Man United is tied in first place with six points in the group with two victories. They have scored eight times while conceding three goals. Man United are -1.75 goal line favorites with the total at 3.25. RB Leipzig joined Man United in first place with six points in this group of death after they upset PSG by a 2-1 score. The Red Bulls have scored four goals while allowing six. PSG hosts the rematch with three points in Group H. They have scored four goals and conceded six times in group play. The 2019-20 Champions League finalists are a -1 goal line home favorite with an over/under of 3.5.Barcelona maintained their perfect record in Group G with a 2-1 victory at home over Dynamo Kyiv. They have scored nine goals while allowing just two goals. Dynamo Kyiv hosts this rematch tied for the bottom in the group with one point. They have scored three goals while allowing six goals. Barcelona is a 0.75 goal line favorite with the over/under at 3.25.Juventus is in second place in Group G after their 4-1 win at Ferencvaros. They have scored six goals while conceding just three. Ferencvaros has allowed 11 goals while scoring four times in group stage play. They only have one point in group play. Juventus is a -2.25 goal line favorite with the total set at 3.5.Lazio hosts Zenit after these two teams settled for a 1-1 draw. Lazio is in second place in the group with five points. They have scored five goals and allowed three goals. Zenit is in last place in the group with just one point. They have scored two goals while allowing five goals. Lazio is a -0.75 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.75. Club Brugge looks to avenge a 3-0 loss at home to Borussia Dortmund. Club Brugge is in third place in the group with four points. They have scored three goals while allowing five goals. Dortmund hosts the rematch in first place in the group with six points. They have scored six goals while conceding three times. All eight games are available on the CBS Sports All-Access package. Alternatively, the CBS Sports Network broadcasts a whip-around show during the six 3 PM ET games.

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 23

by Larry Ness

Monday, Nov 23, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 11: A detailed recap will be featured in Tuesday Notes but Week 11 was highlighted by Pittsburgh moving to 10-0 with a 27-3 win at Jacksonville, as the Jags have now lost NINE in a row. However, the Jets one-upped Jacksonville by losing 34-28 at the Chargers to fall to 0-10 to open the 2020 season. The Jets have lost 10 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are two losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. Week 11 featured two overtime games, the Titans beating the Ravens 30-24 in Baltimore (no "playoff revenge" for the Ravens) and the Colts edging the Packers 34-31, after holding Green Bay to THREE points after halftime (GB led 28-14).MNF concludes with the Rams at the Bucs (8:15 ET on ESPN). The 6-3 Los Angeles Rams need a win to keep pace with the 7-3 Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and the 7-3 Tampa Bay Bucs need a win to stay just a half-game back of the 8-2 Saints in the NFC South. I'm "old school" and can remember the Rams beating the Bucs 9-0 at Tampa in the 1979 NFC championship game (can you say Chuck Knox & John McKay?). Fast-forwarding to 2020, the Bucs are favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 48 1/2.CFB recap: Unfortunately, I begin with the fact that 18 games were either postponed or canceled due to COVID-related issues. The list includes SIX ranked teams, as No. 4 Clemson, No. 5 Texas A&M (for the second straight week), No. 12 Miami-Fl, No. 15 Marshall, No. 21 Texas and No. 24 ULL. It hardly bodes well that San Diego St at Fresno St and Washington at Washington St (both scheduled for Friday), have already been canceled. There were three games between ranked teams in Week 12, all played on Saturday. The higher ranked teams had gone 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS in meetings between top-25 teams entering Saturday but only No. 3 survived on Saturday, edging No. 9 Indiana 42-35 (didn't come close to covering). In the other two matchups, No. 10 Wisconsin lost 17-7 at No. 19 Northwestern and No. 14 Oklahoma lost badly at No. 18 Oklahoma,41-13. Updating the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team 18-5 SU and 16-7 ATS in meetings between top-25 teams.Moving on to ranked teams vs unranked ones. Ranked teams went a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents from Nov 3-7 but still could NOT win more than 50 percent ATS, going 6-7-1. However, when 'all the dust had settled' from the week of Nov 10-15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (then-No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That trend continued in last week's games (Nov 17-21), as ranked teams went 11-1 SU and a solid 8-4 ATS. That's a three-week run of 37-2 (.949) SU and 25-13-1 (65.8%) ATS. The Y-T-D numbers are 105-24 (.814) SU and 61-66-2 (48.0%) ATS. Can (will) ranked teams finally go over .500 ATS after this Thanksgiving weekend?Recapping those three games between ranked teams, Ohio State QB Justin Fields looked 'human' for the first time in 2020, as did Ohio St's pass defense. Fields entered the game with as many TD passes as incompletions (11 each) but while he did throw for 300 yards with two TDs and a rush TD, we saw signs of mortality. He had more incompletions (12, going 18 of 30) than in his first three games combined plus threw THREE interceptions, after entering the game with ZERO in 83 attempts (he also was sacked FIVE times!). The Buckeyes were favored by three TDs but won by just SEVEN, as Indiana QB Pennix passed for 491 yards and five TDs. Ohio St did beat Indiana for the 26th consecutive time and won for the 18th straight time over a top-10 Big Ten opponent but the Buckeyes' run of 16 straight double digit wins in Big Ten play came to an end. Wisconsin redshirt freshman QB Graham Mertz 'exploded' on the scene by completing 20 of 21 passes while throwing five TDs in his college debut back on Oct 23 (45-7 win over Illinois). However, while Wisconsin routed Michigan 49-11 last Saturday, he threw for just 127 yards and against Northwestern's D on Saturday, was picked off THREE times. Northwestern moves to 5-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1996 (the year after the team's 1995 Rose Bowl trip). Oklahoma's Mike Gundy has led Oklahoma to a bowl game in each of the last 14 seasons (and will make it 15 straight in 2020) but he fell to 2-14 in the "Bedlam" series with Oklahoma, as the Sooners routed the Cowboys 41-13. No. 1 Alabama beat Kentucky 63-6 and has now scored 35-plus points in 20 straight games, the longest streak in FBS history. No. 6 Florida won 38-17 at Vandy (eighth straight game of 35-plus points) as Kyle Trask threw three TD passes and now has 30 in his first seven games, the first QB in SEC history to do so. No. 7 Cincy eked out a 36-33 win at UCF, as the Cincinnati defense held the Golden Knights to 359 yards (entered the game averaging 619.1 YPG). It's not easy to cover a 51-point spread but No. 8 BYU did just that, beating North Alabama 66-14 to move to 9-0. Some lowlights of the weekend were Penn St losing 41-21 at home to Iowa, as the Nittany Lions fell to 0-5 for the first time in school history (program began play back in 1887!) and Tennessee losing its FIFTH in a row (30-17 at Auburn) after a 2-0 start. The Vols opened 2019 at 2–5 start but won their final SIX games of the season, including a 23–22 comeback victory in the Gator Bowl against Indiana. The Vols opened 25th in the preseason AP poll and started 2-0 in 2020 and were up to 14th when they visited then-No. 3 Georgia on Oct 10. The Vols led 21-17 at the half "between the hedges" but would get shut out in the second half of a 44-21 loss. NOTHING has gone right since, as the team's five straight losses have all come by double digits. That's the first time that's happened in school history (FB program started in 1891).New AP poll: The AP poll began back in 1936 but unanimous No. 1 rankings are pretty rare, as it's happened just 80 times in poll history. However, 67 of those times have come since 1992 and it will come as no surprise that Alabama leads the way. The Crimson Tide received all 62 votes in Sunday's poll, claiming a unanimous No. 1 ranking for the 22nd time (most of any school), with 21 of those coming since 2012. Four ranked teams lost this past week but THREE lost to a ranked opponent, so there was little change in the current poll. In fact, the top-8 teams remained the same for the second straight week. Falling out of the top-10 were No. 9 Indiana (fell to No. 12 after losing to Ohio St) and No. 10 Wisconsin, which fell to No. 18 after losing at Northwestern. Miami-Fl moved to No. 9 (from 12) and Oregon to No. 10, up from No. 11. Northwestern jumped EIGHT spots to No. 11 with its first 5-0 start in the Big Ten since 1996. Coastal Carolina had a tough time vs Appalachian St (won 34-23) but moved to 8-0, falling just one spot to No. 16. However, the season's other 'Cinderella' team, Liberty, lost for the first time in 2020, 15-14 at NC State and fell out of the poll (was No. 21). Climbing back in at No. 25 was North Carolina, which back on Oct 11 was 3-0 and ranked No. 5. However, the Tar Heels will host No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday (Irish own the nation's longest-active winning streak at 14 in a row). Two other top-25 showdowns are No. 1 Alabama hosting No. 22 Auburn in the latest edition of the Iron Bowl (24th time both teams are ranked) and No. 15 Iowa St playing at No. 20 Texas. The Cyclones can clinch a spot in the Big 12 championship game with a win. The last time Iowa St WON a championship game was back in 1912, capturing the MVC championship.I noted above that the AP poll began back in 1936 but in reality, yesterday's poll is the last time in 2020 that it will be relevant. The first CFP rankings will be revealed Tuesday night and will take 'center stage' the rest of the way. Alabama, Notre Dame , Ohio St and Clemson are 1-2-3-4 in both current polls (Coaches' poll being the other), and it would hardly be surprising if that's the order we will see on Tuesday. Recap of the CFP rankings covered in Wednesday's Notes.Good luck...Larry 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: EPL and NFL Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Nov 23, 2020

The Monday sports card features two-afternoon matches in the English Premier League along with Monday Night Football in the NFL.The NBC Sports Network broadcasts a double-header in the English Premier League. At 12:30 PM ET, Burnley hosts Crystal Palace. Burnley earned just their second point of the season two weeks ago before the international break with their scoreless draw at Brighton. The Clarets are 19th in the EPL table with just two draws in seven matches. They have scored only three goals. Injuries have played a role this season for manager Sean Dyche’s team after they finished tied for ninth place last year. Crystal Palace returns to the pitch after a 4-1 victory against Leeds United on November 7th before the international break. That was the fourth win on the season for manager Roy Hodgson’s side that also has a draw in their eight matches. The Eagles are in ninth place with 13 points. They had only scored eight times in their first seven matches before adding those additional four goals against Leeds. Crystal Palace finished last season in 14th place in the EPL.This match is a pick ‘em with the total set at 2 (all odds from BetOnline).Southampton travels to Wolverhampton for the second match on the NBC Sports Network at 3 PM ET. The Saints return to action after a 2-0 victory at home against Newcastle United on November 6th. That victory was the Saints’ fifth this season, along with a draw in their eight matches. They currently sit fifth in the EPL table with 16 points for the results on Sunday. Manager Ralph Hassenhuttl remains without forward Danny Ings, with the Englishman on the shelf with a knee injury. Southampton finished in 11th place last season. Wolverhampton looks to rebound from a 1-0 loss at Leicester City in their most recent match on November 8th. The Wolves have four victories and one draw in their eight games for 13 points, which places them in twelfth place in the EPL table after the results on Sunday. Wolverhampton remains an outstanding defensive club for manager Nuno Espirito Santo as the nine goals they have allowed this year ties for the fewest in the league. But the Wolves have only scored only eight times, which is the fourth-fewest in the EPL. Wolverhampton finished tied for sixth place in the EPL last season, which once again qualified them for the Europa League. The Wolves are -0.25 goal-line favorites with an over/under of 2.25.Monday Night Football on ESPN features two NFC foes in the thick of the playoff race.Los Angeles won their second game in their last three contests last week with their 23-16 victory over Seattle last Sunday as a 3-point favorite. The Rams used a +2 net turnover margin to help them outgain the Seahawks by +56 net yards to defeat their NFC West rivals. Los Angeles is one-half game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West standings after Sunday’s results. This game will be the fifth time that the schedule-makers have required Sean McVay’s team to play on the east coast. The Rams are 2-2 in those games. Tampa Bay has four victories in their last five games after their 46-23 win at Carolina last Sunday as a 6-point favorite. The Buccaneers dominated the Panthers as they outgained them by 361 net yards while holding them to just 187 yards. The Bucs’ offense churned out 544 yards while being on the field for over 36 minutes of that game.Bruce Arians gave his team three days off this week after admitting that his team was tired after playing ten straight weeks without a bye week yet. The Buccaneers struggled in their three prime-time games earlier this season, with their lone victory being at the beginning of the month when they needed to rally in the second half to defeat the New York Giants at home by a  25-23 score. Arians changed the practice schedule this week by moving afternoon practices tonight. Brady has a career record of 18-7 when playing on Monday Night Football, but most of those starts were with him wearing a Patriots uniform. Tampa Bay is one game behind New Orleans in the NFC South standings after the Saints’ victory over Atlanta on Sunday. Tampa Bay is a 4-point favorite with the total set at 48. Kickoff is shortly after 8:15 PM ET.

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