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."
New England breezed to a 45-0 romp over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium but found out quickly that the stadium's co-tenants, the LA Rams, are NOT the Chargers! Rookie RB Cam Akers scored on a one-yard TD run 3:39 into the game and went on to rush for a season-high 171 yards (think the Rams miss Gurley?), while QB Jared Goff threw a TD pass and ran for a TD in LA's 24-3 win over the Pats. Cam Newton "stunk out the joint" once again, passing for just 119 yards (BTW he passed for 69 yards in the 45-0 win over the Chargers) threw for just 119 yards, was sacked FOUR times and had one INT, which turned into a "Pick-Six!" He was replaced by Jarrett Stidham but after that game Belichick emphatically said, "Cam's our QB," cutting off the question to give his answer. The Rams are now 9-4, a half-game ahead of Seattle in the NFC West (which hosts the 0-12 Jets on Sunday), while the Pats fell to 6-7. The Pats' playoff chances aren't officially 'dead' but they're close! My NFL Week 14 preview will be available in a "special" Saturday edition of Ness Notes (NFL-only report).
CBB: The only two ranked teams in action on Thursday were No. 23 Arizona St and No. 24 San Diego St and the two programs met last night in Tempe. San Diego State was playing on the road for the first time this season but pulled away in the second half for an 80-68 win to move to 5-0 on the season. The Aztecs lead the nation with 13 straight victories on the road. The Sun Devils were the higher ranked team (23 to 24), so that leaves higher ranked teams 8-5 SU but 5-8 ATS in games between ranked opponents. There were no games between ranked and unranked opponents on Thursday, so that Y-T-D mark stands at 71-9 (.888) SU and 44-34-2 (56.4%) ATS for ranked teams vs unranked opponents.
There are no games between ranked teams on Friday but FIVE involving ranked teams playing unranked opponents. All games involve teams in the AP's top-11. In order of rank it's No. 3 Iowa (4-0) hosting Iowa St, No. 5 Kansas (5-1) hosting Omaha, No. 8 Creighton (3-1) hosting Nebraska, No. 9 Villanova (4-1) visiting Georgetown and No. 11 West Va (4-1) home to North Texas. A quick pointspread update notes that Iowa is 3-1 ATS and favored by 14 over Iowa St, Kansas is 1-4 ATS and favored by 24 points over Omaha, Creighton is 2-2 ATS and favored by 14 over Nebraska, Villanova is 3-2 ATS and favored by 11 1/2 over Georgetown and West Va is 3-2 ATS and favored by 14 1/2 over North Texas. My next CBB update will be featured in Monday's Notes.
CFB: Lots to get to regarding the CFB weekend but first, a quick thought on two Friday games. The Arizona/Arizona State rivalry is one of the longest football rivalries in the nation. The winner receives the Territorial Cup, created 121 years ago for the 1899 champion between schools in Arizona and which the NCAA has certified as the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. However, the Territorial Cup did not change hands as a regular part of the competition until 2001. In this "Year of COVID" both schools will be looking for the first wins of 2020. The 0-2 Sun Devils have only played twice, the fewest of any FBS program that isn't sitting out this pandemic-impacted season, and Arizona is 0-4 and has lost a school-record 11 consecutive games, with 10 of the defeats coming by double-digit margins. No wonder an 0-2 ASU team is an 11 1/2-point road favorite. Then there is 6-1 Nevada playing 5-0 San Jose St in a MWC showdown. This marks the second consecutive home game San Jose State was forced to relocate, after the team's matchup with Hawai'i on Saturday became a road game. Following their 35-24 victory over the Rainbow Warriors, the Spartans flew to Las Vegas, where they have spent the week practicing. Tonight's game will be held at Sam Boyd Stadium, the longtime home of UNLV, which has also turned into a de facto home stadium for New Mexico this season. The Lobos were also forced to relocate because of restrictions related to the pandemic. The winner between San Jose State (-1) and Nevada will play in the MWC championship game on Dec 19.
AP poll and CFP standings: The top-seven schools did not change in the latest AP poll (Dec 6). Alabama was a unanimous No. 1 for the third straight week. Notre Dame, with its 16-game winning streak (longest among all FBS teams) is No. 2, Ohio St No. 3 and Clemson No. 4. Texas A&M is No.5, Florida No. 6 and Cincinnati No. 7. BYU had been No. 8 but its 22-17 loss at then-No. 14 Coastal Carolina dropped the Cougars to No. 14. Coastal Carolina is up to No. 11, with four schools dropping out of the top-25 and four entering or reentering. Out are No. 15 Marshall with its 'ugly' 20-0 home loss to Rice, No. 19 Oklahoma St is out for the first time this season plus Pac 12 underachievers No. 21 Oregon and 23 Washington also fell out (more on this duo, later). North Carolina (20th) and Texas (23rd) are back in, while Colorado (21st) is in for the first time since 2018 and Buffalo (24th) for the first time in school history!
The CFP standings are the only rankings that will affect the bowls and of course, the 'Final Four.' Nothing changed on Dec 8 at the top, with the top-six matching the AP's top-six, with the exception being Clemson at No. 3 and Ohio St at No. 4. BYU's loss has the Cougars down at No. 18, so there will be no more whining by the ESPN commentators regarding "underappreciated" BYU. 8-0 Cincinnati (No. 8) remains the highest-ranked Group of 5 school but the Bearcats better not lose, as 10-0 Coastal Carolina is up to No. 11. That's a wrap on the polls, so let's move on to Saturday.
As always, using the AP rankings, I note games between top-25 opponents and also games between ranked and unranked teams. I will do the same today and for those looking for the SU & ATS numbers Y-T-D for these two categories, see Wednesday's Notes. No. 7 Cincy was supposed to play at No. 18 Tulsa but the game was canceled. That leaves just two top-25 matchups, No. 19 Iowa at home against No. 25 Wisconsin and No. 9 Miami-Fl hosting No. 20 North Carolina. Wisconsin is a two-point road favorite and Miami-Fl is a three-point home favorite. FIVE ranked teams lost games on Saturday to COVID, as No. 3 Ohio St, No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 12 Indiana and No. 20 Texas had games canceled, while No. 5 Texas A&M had its game postponed. That leaves nine games between ranked and unranked opponents still "good to go" (fingers crossed), including No. 1 Alabama at Arkansas and No. 6 Florida home to LSU. Alabama and Florida are already locked into the SEC championship game but with the Tide favored by 32 points and Florida by 23, no one expects a 'slip-up.'
Of the seven other games between ranked and unranked opponents, No. 11 Coastal Carolina's at Troy and then plays ULL in the SBC title game. The Chanticleers can't control the outcome of the AAC title game between Cincy and Tulsa, but if the Bearcats lose, a 12-0 Coastal Carolina team would likely move past Cincy as the highest ranked Group of 5 team. Coastal Carolina is favored by 13 1/2-points. No. 21 Colorado is 4-0 and will host Utah at 12 ET. If the Buffs win (Colorado is favored by 2 1/2-points), the pressure would be on No. 16 USC to beat crosstown rival UCLA and claim the Pac 12 South title (Trojans are favored by 2 1/2-points).
The winner of the Pac 12 South will meet Washington in the Pac 12 championship. COVID-19 has "wreaked havoc" on college football this season and on Thursday, the Washington at Oregon game was canceled due to COVID issues with Washington. I won't question the veracity of Washington but Oregon and its fans have to be VERY unhappy, as if Oregon had beaten Washington, the Ducks would be the North champs. Washington would have claimed the North title with a win as well but how "sweet it was" for the Huskies that a canceled game gave them the North title. Then again, this MAY not be over. It is not yet clear if Washington will have enough available players to play in next Friday's championship game. Should the Huskies be unable to play, it is not a given the Ducks would play for the title. If both USC and Colorado finish undefeated, it's possible the conference could change its rules to pit the undefeated teams against each other, noting that the Colorado-USC game earlier this season was canceled because of issues the Trojans had with the virus. Wouldn't that be something?
After all, a conference "changing its rules" would be NOTHING new. The Big Ten has botched its COVID response since the jump and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren has been the subject of great controversy. Not a SINGLE living person (nor anyone who has already passed) was surprised that when Michigan canceled its Dec 12 game at Ohio St on Tuesday (meaning Ohio St would not meet the minimum of six games played) the "powers that be" found it their hearts to rewrite the rules, allowing Ohio State's 5-0 record to be good enough for them to play Northwestern next Saturday. An Ohio St win over Northwestern (Buckeyes have already been established as a 21-point favorite) will just about guarantee that Ohio St would make the 'Final Four' and the Big Ten would get the $6 million plus payday that comes with it! ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, that was never even a consideration in the Big Ten's decision to 'take a mulligan!'
Don't forget, I'll have a "special" NFL-only edition of Ness Notes on Saturday.