Ness Notes: Monday, Sep 28

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."

The NFL concludes its Week 3 schedule with its marquee game, as the defending champion KC Chiefs (2-0) visit Baltimore to take on the 2-0 Ravens. This was the matchup all anticipated to be last season's AFC championship game but the 14-2 Ravens (-10) were upset 28-12 by the Tennessee Titans. Does it get any better than Mahomes vs Jackson? The Ravens are favored by 3 points (-125) at BetAnySports. I'll recap NFL Week 3 in Tuesday's Ness Notes but first let's look back at the college football weekend.

There were three games featuring top-25 opponents (had been just ONE, prior to Saturday) and the higher ranked team won all three (2-1 ATS). Fourteen other ranked teams were in action against an unranked opponent and while 12 of the 14 won, the group went just 5-8-1 ATS. As September comes to a close, ranked teams vs unranked opponents are 24-4 SU but only 10-17-1 ATS (that's 37.0 percent). The two losses by ranked teams were more than a little noteworthy. No. 3 Oklahoma welcomed Kansas St to Norman looking for revenge from last season's 48-41 loss at Manhattan, as a 23.5 point favorite. Kansas State lost its home opener to Arkansas State two weeks ago and had its roster depleted by COVID-19 but came back from a 35-14 deficit in the late third quarter to win, 38-35 as a four-TD underdog. The Wildcats outscored the Sooners 17-0 in the fourth quarter and after giving up 455 yards the first three quarters, held Oklahoma to 62 yards in the fourth. It marked K-State's first-ever road win over a top-3 opponent and its first win while playing as an unranked team against an AP top-3 opponent in 30 tries (now 1-29!).

Defending champion LSU opened its season against Miss St, as Mike Leach made his SEC coaching debut for the Bulldogs. Miss St, led by K.J. Costello (a Stanford graduate transfer) ended LSU's 17-game winning streak with a 44-34 upset as a little more than a two-TD underdog. Leach's "Air Raid" offense suited Costello just fine, as he threw six TD passes plus set an SEC-record with 623 passing yards. LSU became the first defending champ to lose its season opener since Michigan did so back in 1998.<p>Speaking of rankings, the latest AP poll was released on Sunday afternoon. It was sure a poll unlike any before it (AP began its poll back in 1936), as the AP decided that all FBS schools planning to play in 2020 could be included (note Big Ten starts Oct 24 and Pac-12 schools are expected to return Nov 6). Clemson remains No. 1 (55 of 62 1st-place votes) and Alabama, after extending its record of consecutive wins over an unranked opponent to 92 with a win 38-19 at Missouri, sits No. 2 with three, first-place votes. Ohio St, which was a close No. 2 to Clemson in the preseason poll, is ranked No. 6 and actually got four first-place votes. The Buckeyes were one of FIVE schools ranked in the AP's preseason poll to enter Sunday's poll, despite not yet playing. Miss St, unranked in the preseason, entered the poll at No. 16. SIX schools dropped out of the poll, including No. 19 ULL which improved to 3-0,  No. 20 Va Tech which beat NC State 45-24 despite missing 23 players due to COVID-19 and No. 25 Marshall which was idle.

The 2020 NBA Finals are set, as the LA Lakers (No. 1 seed in the West) will meet the Miami Heat (No. 5 seed in the East. The Lakers (including their beginnings in Minneapolis) are in the Finals for the 32nd time in franchise history (but first appearance since 2010) and a 17th title would tie them with the Celtics for the most all-time, Miami is making its sixth Finals appearance (win in ) but first without longtime star Dwyane Wade. Game 1 is set for Thursday. Full preview and NBA postseason numbers to-date, in Wednesday's Notes.

Bye-Bye Denver and Boston. Entering this season's Western conference finals with the Lakers, the Nuggets had played FOUR consecutive seven-game series the last two postseasons. They won their first in 2019 against Utah, but then lost to the Blazers last season, as Portland won Games 6 and 7. Here in 2020, the Nuggets fell behind the Jazz AND the Clippers 3-1 but came back to capture each one in seven games. In the process, Denver became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit TWICE in the same postseason. In the East, Boston swept longtime rival Philly 4-0 in the first round but after taking the first two games against defending champions Toronto, needed seven games to dispatch the Raptors. Boston's performance in the East Finals against the Miami Heat was an abject embarrassment. Boston heads into the offseason, dealing with the reality that they collapsed in the second half of THREE of its four losses. Boston entered the 4th-quarter of Game up 12 but the Heat forced OT and won. Boston then owned a 17-point lead in the first half of Game 2 but didn't wait for the final period to collapse, getting outscored 37-17 in the third quarter. Boston then gave up a 26-6 fourth-quarter run in Game 6 that officially sealed its fate.

The Stanley Cup final continues with Game 6 on Monday. The Lightning took a 3-1 series lead with a 5-4 OT win in Game 4 on Friday but playing the very next night, the Stars staved off elimination with a 3-2 win in double-OT. However, they still trail 3-2 and the Lightning are a perfect 6-0 in games following a playoff loss in this year's postseason. Tampa Bay is a minus-160 favorite at BetAnySports. MLB's COVID-shortened season is complete and its 16-team playoff-field starts play tomorrow. I'll feature some random thoughts on the 2020 MLB season in Tuesday Notes, along with that NFL Week 3 recap.

Good luck...Larry

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