Ness Notes: Friday Nov 4

by Larry Ness

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."

CBB: There were no games between ranked opponents on Thursday and there are not any scheduled for Friday (higher ranked teams are 5-3 SU but 3-5 ATS when facing a ranked opponent). Four ranked teams were in action on Thursday against unranked opponents, No. 3 Iowa, No. 7 Kansas, No. 16 Va Tech and No. 25 Arizona St. All four won and three of the four covered, led by Iowa's 99-58 romp over Western Illinois. Luka Garza had 30 points in the first half and 'settled' for 35 points and 10 rebounds (he's averaging 34.0 & 9.7 on the season). Ranked teams are off to an impressive 51-5 (.918) SU start, while going 34-20-2 (63.0%) ATS when facing an unranked opponent. Friday will feature SEVEN games between ranked and unranked opponents, including FOUR top-10 teams. No. 4 Wisconsin (-4 1/2) will be on the road at Marquette, No. 6 Duke (-29) welcomes Bellarmine (?) to a fan-less Cameron Indoor Stadium, No. 8 Michigan St (-25 1/2), off its win at Duke, hosts Detroit Mercy and Creighton (-34) takes on Kennesaw St in Omaha. No. 15 Virginia, No. 17 Texas Tech and No. 21 Oregon are also on the court in Friday's action.

Big news in CFB came our way on Thursday. The College Football Playoff selection committee made it clear in each of its first two rankings that BYU's weak schedule was keeping it outside the top-10. The Cougars play as an Independent and had planned a 2020 schedule which included three Pac-12 teams, two Big Ten teams and one SEC team (it was being touted as the strongest in the program's storied history). However, BYU had to build a schedule from scratch when the Big Ten and Pac 12 postponed their respective seasons in August and the SEC decided to play a conference-only schedule. What remained was a slate that did not have any Power 5 schools.  BYU's strength of schedule is currently No. 87 with only three wins against FBS teams over .500. BYU's athletic director Tom Holmoe felt a sense of urgency to try to quickly schedule another quality opponent and an "incredible opportunity" arose this week, when BYU was able to replace Liberty as Coastal Carolina's opponent on Saturday, after COVID-19 issues prevented the Flames from playing in the game. The game was put together at warp speed, as Holmoe said he first learned of Liberty's precarious position on Wednesday morning but it wasn't until Thursday morning that the game became official. 9-0 BYU is No. 8 in the AP poll but just 13th in the CFP standings and 9-0 Coastal Carolina is No. 14 in the AP and No. 18 in CFP. BYU can't possibly expect that a win at Coastal Carolina will vault them into 'Final Four' territory but a win and then a win Dec 12 against San Diego St could earn them one of the more lucrative bowl bids. Then again, I am reminded of that old proverb that says, "Be careful what you wish for!" BYU is favored by 10 points.

The longest Week 12 in NFL history (began on Thanksgiving) finally ended this past Wednesday when the Steelers beat the Ravens 19-14. Home teams finished the week just 5-11 SU but 8-8 ATS, as home dogs contributed a 6-3 ATS mark. Home teams are barely over .500 for the season, entering Week 13 at 90-86-1 (.511) SU  but below .500 ATS (85-90-2 or 48.6%). Home underdogs have 'saved' home teams in 2020, going just 19-44 (.302) SU but 35-26-2 (57.8%) ATS. Week 12 games averaged 47.4 PPG with 10 of the 16 staying under. there have now been 87 overs, 86 unders and four pushes Y-T-D.

The 4-8 Carolina Panthers and the 7-5 Tampa Bucs have byes this week, completing the bye weeks for NFL 2020. The other 30 teams (15 games) are all 'working' in Week 13, as all 32 teams will have played 12 games by week's end. There was no Thursday game to kick things off and the week has added a second MNF game (Washington at Pittsburgh) and a Tuesday game (Dallas at Baltimore) because of last week's Ravens/Steelers game being pushed all the way back to Wednesday.

NFL Week 13: Let's start at the top and the bottom! The Pittsburgh Steelers are 11-0 and the New York Jets are 0-11. The Steelers will play the "early game" on Monday, when they host 4-7 Washington. Pittsburgh has an 8-3 ATS record to go along with its 11-0 start and ironically, will be facing another division leader in Washington. Yes, at 4-7, Washington (6-5 ATS) is tied with the Giants atop the NFC East, with last year's NFC East winner, Philadelphia, lurking at 3-7-1. You CAN'T make this up! Washington has been off since a 41-16 win over Dallas on Thanksgiving, giving them 11 days between games, compared with five days between games for Pittsburgh. However, Pittsburgh is favored by 8 1/2- points and the over/under is 42. The Jets have lost 11 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are now just ONE loss from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. The Jets will host the Las Vegas Raiders, who fell to 6-5 after suffering an ugly 43-6 loss in Atlanta. Las Vegas is in a battle with Miami, Indianapolis and Baltimore for the final two wild card spots in the AFC and just maybe, the 'schedule gods' did the Raiders a huge favor with a game against the Jets. Sam Darnold played for the first time since aggravating a right shoulder injury in a 35-9 loss to Kansas City back on Nov 1 and was 16-of-27 for 197 yards and was intercepted twice in the loss to the Dolphins. However, head coach Adam Gase said he will stick with him as the starter over veteran Joe Flacco. Why not? After all, Darnold hasn't thrown a TD pass in 19 quarters and his 64.0 QB rating is the worst among qualifying quarterbacks. The Raiders are favored by nine points and the over/under is 47.

Only Pittsburgh has a better record than the defending champion Chiefs, who are 10-1 but just 6-5 ATS. Led by Patrick Mahomes (30 TD passes and just two INTs in 423 attempts / 115.5 QB rating). The Chiefs will welcome 4-7 Denver to Arrowhead Stadium for SNF.  I'm sure all are aware of what happened with the Denver QB situation last Sunday but it's likely that ONE of the four QBs with NFL experience will line up under center this Sunday. Will it really matter? The Chiefs are favored by 14 points and the over/under is 51. Battling for the No. 1 seed in the NFC are the 9-2 Saints and the 8-3 Packers. New Orleans has won EIGHT games in a row to take a 2 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay atop the NFC South and a one-game lead over Green Bay atop the conference. The Saints beat the Falcons 24-9 two weeks ago in Taysom Hill's first start at QB in place of Drew Brees. The Saints are favored by three points and the over/under is 45. The Packers are home vs the 3-7-1 Eagles, who will be rooting for Pittsburgh to beat Washington and for Seattle to beat the Giants, as well as trying to slow down Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. Rodgers is having a Mahomes-like season with 33 TD passes and just four INTs in 381 attempts. In fact, Rodgers' QB rating is the best in the NFL at 117.6. The Packers are favored by nine points and the over/under is 47 1/2.

A number of other games of note are the 8-3 Browns at the 8-3 Titans (Tenn is favored by 5 1/2-points & the ov/un is 53 1/2) with Cleveland in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Can it really be? Tennessee leads the Colts by one game in the AFC South and is favored by points and the over/under is. The 7-4 Rams are at the 6-5 Cards (Rams are -3 & ov/un is 48), with both teams looking up at the 8-3 Seahawks in the NFC West. The Seahawks (-10 with an over/under of 47 1/2) host the 4-7 Giants, who as noted earlier, are in a three-way battle in the NFC East with Washington and Philadelphia. Oh, the drama.

Good luck...Larry 

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