Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 16

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at 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: The NFL's Week 10 concludes with a MNF matchup between two NFC North rivals, as the Minnesota Vikings meet the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field at 8:15 ET on ESPN. The Vikings opened the 2020 season 1-5 but after a bye in Week 7, have beaten Green Bay and Detroit. In contrast, the Bears opened the season 5-1 but enter this contest off THREE straight losses and a bye looming in Week 11. Clearly, current form favors the Vikings but recent series history is on Chicago's side. Chicago head coach Mike Nagy is in his third season with the Bears and is 4-0 against the Vikings. In contrast Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins is 0-3 in three meetings with the Bears as a Viking (sat out meaningless Week 17 game in 2019), with Minnesota averaging just 12.0 PPG in those contests. Does this factoid figure into one's handicapping? Cousins is 0-9 in his career on Monday nights, which is the worst record of any QB in NFL history! The ball is in your court. Minnesota is favored by three points and the over/under is 43 1/2.

There were ZERO games between ranked teams last week, so higher ranked teams remain 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS. As documented here each week, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results most of this season but we first saw a possible "regression to the mean" two weeks ago. 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. The numbers Y-T-D stood 82-22 SU (.788) but just 42-60-2 ATS (.412) as CFB began its latest week on Nov 10. However, when 'all the dust had settled' on Nov 15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That leaves the Y-T-D numbers at 94-23 SU (.803) and 53-62-2 ATS (46.1%).

CFB highlights: Unfortunately, one of the most notable headlines/storylines of the past week was the fact that 15 games were postponed or canceled due to COVID-related issues. Top-10 teams No.1 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio St and No.5 Texas A&M all did not play on Saturday. Three more ranked teams were unable to play as well, No. 12 Georgia, No. 15 Coastal Carolina and No. 24 Auburn. As noted above, the lone ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent was then-No. 19 SMU, which lost 28-24 at Tulsa. Kudos to the Golden Hurricane who fell behind the Mustangs 21-0, before outscoring them 28-3 the rest of the way. So what else is new? Tulsa trailed 16-2 at UCF on Oct 3 but came back to win 31-26 and on Oct 30 at home, trailed East Carolina 17-3 before winning 34-30. Nothing to it!

"Nothing to it" PERFECTLY describes Penn State's 2020 season. The Nittany Lions fell behind a winless Nebraska team 27-6 at the half and despite TWO chances late in the 4th quarter deep in Nebraska territory (when a TD and extra-point could have sent the game to OT), FAILED each time. Penn State's 30-23 loss drops them to 0-4 on the season. You may remember that Penn St was ranked No. 7 in the AP's preseason poll and now become just the FOURTH school in poll history to open in the top-10 and then start 0-4. The most recent time that occurred was back in 1984 with Pittsburgh but Arizona St did it in 1976 and Illinois in 1954. "We ARE Penn St!"

All four top-10 teams won this week. No. 2 Notre Dame side-stepped a let down situation by winning 45-31 at Boston College, scoring 45-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1996. Ian Book has now attempted 204 passes without an INT and moved to 28-3 as Notre Dame's starting QB. The Fighting Irish are owners of a 14-game winning streak, the longest active among FBS teams. No. 6 Florida routed Arkansas 63-35, as QB Kyle Trask threw five TD passes in the first half. He has 28 TDs through six games. Heisman voters take note! No. 7 Cincinnati won 55-17 at home over East Carolina on Friday, extending its home winning streak to 19 straight. The Bearcats are allowing just 12.4 PPG on the season. No. 9 Miami, despite missing 13 players due to injury/illness (including four starters), eked out a 25-24 win at Va Tech. The 'Canes have now won back-to-back games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, after going 0-5 in that situation in 2019. No. 10 Indiana, playing as a top-10 team for the first time since 1967, routed Michigan St 24-0 at East Lansing. The Hoosiers defense held MSU to nine FDs, 191 total yards and forced four takeaways. Indiana is now 4-0 in the Big Ten since 1987.

New AP poll: With so many top teams not playing, there was little change in the poll. Alabama (60 of 62 first-place votes) remains No. 1, Notre Dame is No. 2. Ohio St No. 3, Clemson No. 4 and A&M No. 5. Despite being idle, Clemson has now been among the AP's top-five for 50 consecutive weeks (streak began on 11/5/17), the third-longest of all-time. It's no surprise that Alabama owns the longest streak (68 straight was snapped last season), with the 2000-03 Miami Hurricanes second with 55 straight top-5 rankings. Indiana inched up one spot to No. 9 (highest since being No. 4 back in 1967) and when it plays No. 3 Ohio St this Saturday, it will mark the school's first-ever meeting of top-10 teams.

The only school to drop out of the poll was No. 19 SMU, replaced by the school that beat them on Saturday, Tulsa (see above). The Golden Hurricane are rankedĀ  (No. 25) for the first time since the final poll of 2010 (24th) and the last time Tulsa was ranked during the regular season was back in 2008. (at No. 19). "We are Marshall!" The Thundering HerdĀ  wore all-black uniforms and the number 75 on its helmets to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people on Nov 14, 1970, on a flight home from a game at East Carolina. Marshall beat MTSU 42-14 and are 7-0 (one of 12 schools still unbeaten after playing three or more games!) and ranked 15th.

Tuesday's Notes will touch on the opening of the new CFB week (more MACtion) but will concentrate on a recap of NFL Week 10.

Good luck...Larry

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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