Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 9

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."

Eights are wild in tonight's MNF contest between the New England Patriots and the NY Jets (8:20 ET on ESPN). The Pats have won EIGHT consecutive meetings against the New York Jets, many of them by lopsided margins. The Pats swept the Jets by a combined 63-14 margin in 2019's two games, as Belichick improved to 30-10 in the rivalry. The Jets have lost all eight of their games this season and entering Week 9, had mustered a league-low 94 points this season, 39 fewer than the next-closest team (Washington had played one fewer game). The Jets have only scored two TDs in their last four games and entered Week 9 ranking last in total offense (259.0 YPG), last in passing (155.9 YPG) and last in third-down conversions (28.3 percent). 

The post-Brady Patriots have lost four consecutive games for the first time since 2002 and New England hasn't lost five in a row since 1995. Can the 0-8 Jets win? Maybe not but we just saw the 0-8 ATS Cowboys lead the 7-0 Steelers 19-9 into the fourth quarter before collapsing but still being able walk away with an ATS win. The Pats are favored by 10 points and the over/under is 42. I'll take a pass and "get back to work" with the start of NFL Week 10 when the Colts and Titans square off for first place in the AFC South on Thursday night. Tuesday's Notes will feature a Week 9 recap and a mid-season update.

CFB recap: Entering the CFB week (Nov 4-7) there had been 16 meetings so far this season between ranked opponents, with the higher ranked team having gone 15-1 SU and 14-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). However, the past weekend saw No. 1 Clemson lose 47-40 (2-OTs) at No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Georgia lose 44-28 to No. 8 Florida in Jacksonville. Both No. 9 BYU (51-17 over No. 21 Boise St) and No. 13 Indiana (38-21 over No. 23 Michigan) followed the previous weeks' form of the higher ranked teams winning and covering.

Clemson saw its 28-game winning streak vs ACC opponents end, as did its 39-game regular season winning streak fall as well (for those 'keeping score,' I incorrectly wrote last Thursday that Clemson had won 40 straight). Notre Dame won its NINTH game over an AP No. 1 team (since 1936) but it was its first since the Irish topped Florida St back in 1993. Notre Dame has now won 13 straight overall (longest active streak among FBS teams) and 23 straight at home (QB Ian Book is 14-0 at home as ND's starting QB). Georgia led Florida 14-0 and 21-14 but trailed 41-24 at the half. Florida QB Kyle Trask threw for 474 yards and four TDs to become the first player in SEC history to pass for four-plus TDs in FIVE straight games. Boise St began the game without starting QB Bachmeier (not unexpected) but then lost QB Spears VERY early, after he went 4 of 4 for 41 yards. The Cougars won in a rout and are 8-0, extending the team's best starting since BYU opened the 2001 season at 12-0. The Wolverine faithful can't help but be getting tired of Jim Harbaugh, as Indiana dominated Michigan, 38-21. However, let's be sure to give Indiana head coach Tom Allen his due, as the Hoosiers' win ended a 24-game losing streak to Michigan (last win came back in 1987), the last time Indiana opened 3-0 in the Big Ten. Could that win move Indiana into the AP top-10 for the first time since 1969? I'll tell you in just a bit when I give the latest AP poll update. 

Wrapping up, higher ranked teams are now 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. Ranked teams began the college football week 68-22 (.756) SU when taking on an unranked opponent but a 'money-burning' 36-53-1 (.404) ATS. I opined last Thursday, will this trend continue throughout the 2020 season? Or, will there be a "regression to the mean?" Well, ranked teams did go a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents this past week but still could NOT win more than 50 percent ATS, going 6-7-1. The numbers Y-T-D stand 82-22 SU (.788) but just 42-60-2 ATS (.412).

New AP poll: Clemson was the AP's preseason No. 1 and had stayed atop the poll each week but the Tigers' loss to Notre Dame (see above) dropped them to No. 4. "Movin' on up" was Alabama, getting 59 of the 62 first-place votes. Notre Dame (two 1st-place votes) jumped two spots to No. 2, its best ranking since the Fighting Irish were 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in the final regular season poll of 2012. Stepping back in time for a moment; despite starting that season unranked, the Fighting Irish ended it 12–0 and ranked No. 1. However, Alabama crushed Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship Game and later, adding insult to injury, ALL wins in the 2012 and 2013 seasons were vacated for the use of ineligible players. Returning to 2020, Ohio St remained No. 3 (one vote) and Texas A&M claimed the No. 5 spot (highest ranking since its No. 5 ranking in 2012). Rounding out the top-10, Florida is up to No. 6, Cincinnati is No. 7, BYU is No. 8, Miami-Fl is No. 9 and yes, Indiana did crack the top-10 for the first time since 1969 (does anyone but me remember John Pont, who is the ONLY Indiana head coach to lead the Hoosiers to the Rose Bowl?), at No. 10.

Georgia fell EIGHT spots to No. 13 plus No. 21 and No. 23 Michigan dropped out of the rankings. New to the latest poll are No. 23 Northwestern (back in for the first time since 2018) and No. 25 ULL, which returns after being ranked as high as 19th earlier this season. A "shout out" goes to 7-0 Coastal Carolina, which remained at No. 15 and 7-0 Liberty, which has climbed to No. 22 after its 'fantastic finish' win 38-35 at Va Tech as a 17-point underdog. Let me close with a tribute to Nick Saban, like him or not. Alabama has now been ranked No. 1 at some point in each of the last 13 seasons (streak began in 2008, Saban's 2nd season). Alabama has topped the AP poll on 123 occasions, well ahead of Ohio State's 105. Oklahoma is third with 101 weeks at No. 1 and Notre Dame is next at 98. One last "shout out" to Saban; he's been Alabama's head coach for 92 of those 123 No. 1 rankings, which is one more than USC's legendary program has all-time (91).

Just like last week, my Wednesday and Thursday Notes will concentrate on the 2020 CFB season and an upcoming preview of the weekend, respectively.

Good luck...Larry

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