Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 19

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." 

NFL Week 6 opened with four remaining unbeatens and 5-0 Seattle was assured of staying unbeaten, as the Seahawks were on their bye week. The Steelers joined the Seahawks at 5-0 with an impressive 38-7 home beatdown of the Browns, while the Titans moved to 5-0 with a 42-36 OT win at home over the Texans, just four days after handing the Bills their first loss of the season last Tuesday. Houston, which has won the AFC South in FOUR of the last five seasons, is now 1-5 to open 2020. Unlike Pittsburgh and Tennessee, the 4-0 SU & ATS Packers lost their 'Battle of the Bays' in Tampa. Green Bay jumped to a 10-0 lead but the Bucs defense shut down Rodgers and Co. as Tampa Bay scored the game's final 38 points! Three winless teams entered Sunday's action, with two getting off the schneid. The Falcons won 40-23 at Minnesota (Vikings are now 1-5), while the Giants eked out a 201-9 home win over Washington. The one constant of NFL 2020 so far has been, we can always rely on the Jets to not only lose, but also lose ATS. The J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets lost 24-0 at Miami, falling to 0-6 SU and ATS, while 'leading' the way with a league-worst minus-110 point differential.

As the league 'manages' its way through the "Era of COVID," we have yet another MNF doubleheader. The Chiefs were to play at the Bills this past Thursday but it was rescheduled until tonight (Fox/NFL Network at 5:00 ET). The Chiefs and Bills are both 4-1 and each team lost for the first time this season in Week 5. The Chiefs are favored () and the over/under is . The regularly scheduled Monday Night game (ESPN at 8:15 ET) features the 3-2 Arizona Cardinals at the 2-3 Dallas Cowboys. The Cards will be playing their THIRD straight road game (never a great spot) but the Cowboys are 0-5 ATS and feature arguably, the NFL's worst defense. Dallas is allowing a league high 36.0 PPG and ranked 29th of 32 teams through Week 5 by allowing 404.4YPG. What's more, QB Dak Prescott has been lost for the season, with Cincy cast-off Andy Dalton going the rest of the way under center. The current line is Dallas minus-1 and the over/under is. Don't forget, a full recap of NFL Week 6 will be the "feature attraction" of Tuesday's Notes.

ALCS/NLCS recap: Baseball fans couldn't have asked for more out of the two just completed LCS. The Rays owned the AL's best record (40-20) and took a 3-0 lead over the Houston Astros, who were able to make the expanded 2020 postseason field by finishing second in the AL West, despite a 29-131 record. However, there was no "give-up" on the Astros, who won Games 4 and 5 by identical scores of 4-3, before forcing a Game 7 with a 7-4 win in Game 6. Houston, which had won 100-plus games in each of the previous three seasons, were looking to join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to comeback from an 0-3 'hole' and win a seven-game series. However, the Rays took Game 7 by the score of 4-2 on the strength of Charlie Morton's pitching (5.2 scoreless innings), Randy Arozarena's two-run HR and a solo HR and sac fly from Mike Zunino. Arozarena was named ALCS MVP. Getting back to Morton, he improved to 3-0 in Game 7 appearances, having beaten the Yankees as a starter in the 2017 ALCS and the Dodgers in relief in the 2017 World Series. In 14.2 career Game 7 innings, he's given up just one run and six hits.

The Dodgers owned MLB's best 60-game record this season (43-17) plus posted a plus-136 run differential that was 52 runs better than any other MLB team. It was 76 runs better than their NLCS opponent (Atlanta) but the Braves took a 3-1 series lead. LA fought back to win Game 5 (7-3) and Game 6 (3-1) setting up a winner-take-all Game 7 against Atlanta rookie Ian Anderson. Anderson made his MLB on August 26 and in six regular season starts, posted a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .172 BAA. He took the mound Sunday night having not allowed a SINGLE run in 15.2 postseason innings, with the Braves winning all three of his starts. As for LA, manager Dave Roberts didn't name a starter until late afternoon. It turned out to be Dustin May, who allowed one run in one inning. Gonsolin followed and allowed two runs in two innings but then Treinen, Graterol and Urias combined for six scoreless and HITLESS innings. Trailing 3-2 in the 6th, pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez tied it with a solo HR and then Cody Bellinger hit a go-ahead HR in the seventh inning, which turned out to be the game-winner. Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was named NLCS MVP with five HRs and 11 RBI in the seven games. 2020 World Series preview set for Tuesday.

CFB recap: There had been just 10 games so far in which ranked teams have met entering this past Saturday. The Saturday schedule had just ONE such matchup but it was the 'game of the year' so far in 2020. No. 3 Georgia made the trip to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 2 Alabama Saturday night at 8:00 ET on CBS. These two national powers hadn't met in the regular season since 2015 and believe it or not, the last time the Bulldogs played in Tuscaloosa was 2007. That happened to be Nick Saban's first season with Alabama and Georgia won 26-23 in OT. Georgia's defense ranked first nationally in rushing (38.3 YPG), second in total defense (236.7 YPG) and was tied for fifth in scoring defense (12.3 PPG). Meanwhile Alabama's offense led the nation with an average of 51.0 PPG (note: Alabama put up 723 yards the previous Saturday vs Ole Miss!) but 'Bama's defense was shredded at Ole Miss in allowing 647 yards and 48 points.<p>If there wasn't enough drama surrounding the game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 and it looked for certain that he would not be able to coach the team. However, he was able to get three negative tests in a row and there he was on the sidelines. Georgia led Alabama 24-20 at the half but a Jones to Waddle 90-yard TD pass in the early third quarter sent Alabama on its way to a 41-24 win. Georgia's defense had no answers for the Tide's offense, which rolled up 564 yards. The much-maligned Alabama D held the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half. Saban improved to 22-0 against his former assistants and the Crimson Tide have now won 28 consecutive games against SEC East opponents. Saban also tied Joe Pa for most all-time wins against a ranked opponent with 86. He already owns the most wins over top-five opponents (25) and over top-10 opponents (42).

Streak setting or breaking ran 'wild ' in the SEC on Saturday, as Kentucky beat Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since 1984, having lost its previous 17 visits. Saturday's game wasn't close, as the Wildcats won 38-7. South Carolina made some history of its own, beating Auburn 30-27 at home last Saturday for its first win over the Tigers since 1933! Not to be outdone, the ACC made some waves of its own with Clemson's 73-7 rout of Ga Tech as the 66-point margin of victory was the biggest in ACC history. North Carolina visited Tallahassee 3-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation while the Seminoles only win of 2020 had come against Jacksonville St, an FCS team. Mack Brown, an FSU grad, had NEVER beaten his alma mater and he wasn't able to do it on Saturday either, as FSU went up 31-7 at the half and was able to hold on for a 31-28 win. Brown is now 0-10 lifetime vs FSU, 0-3 with Tulane and now 0-7 with North Carolina.

Alabama's win and cover over Georgia means the higher ranked team has gone 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M) in meetings between ranked opponents. However, as I have noted each week, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. There were 11 games in which a ranked opponent met an unranked one last week and the ranked team went 7-4 SU but again struggled ATS, going 5-6. Actually, that's much better than usual. Through games played Oct 17, ranked teams are 44-16 SU (.733) but only 20-39-1 (.339) ATS against their unranked opponents.

Clemson remains No. 1 in the latest AP poll (out Sunday), after winning its 37th regular season game. That ties Nebraska, which did the same from 1992-96. Clemson has Syracuse and Boston College up next, so the Tigers will almost assuredly match Miami's 39-game regular season winning streak, set from 2000-03. Clemson will play at current No. 3 Notre Dame on Nov 7 and will need to beat the Irish to move past Miami. If so, only Oklahoma's 45-game regular season winning streak (from 1953-57) stands in the way. Let's hear it for Coastal Carolina, which only moved up to FBS status in 2017, as the Chanticleers are ranked for the first time in school history at No. 25. The Big Ten 'joins the party' this weekend and I'll see you Thursday for my CFB weekend preview.

Good luck...Larry

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