Ness Notes: Thursday Nov 12

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 5-3 Indianapolis Colts visit Nashville on Thursday night to take on the 6-2 Tennessee Titans. The Titans can open a two-game lead in the division with a win, while the Colts can move into a first-place tie with the Titans by winning. The teams meet again at Indianapolis in Week 12. The Colts signed QB Philip Rivers in the offseason as a FA and he's been solid but it's the team's defense that's been the key, as the Colts are allowing a league-low 290.0 YPG and 20.0 PPG (3rd-best). The Titans entered the season off their great playoff run of last season (won at New England and Baltimore before losing at KC in the AFC championship game) and got off to a 5-0 start. However, back-to-back losses followed, before last Sunday's 24-17 win over the Bears. The game is a pick'em and the over/under is 48 1/2. 

MACtion Part 2: Buffalo and Kent moved to 2-0 in the MAC East with wins on Tuesday night and last night, it was Central and Western Michigan winning to move to 2-0 in the West. The Chippewas dominated from the start, taking a 26-0 halftime lead on their way to a 40-10 at Northern Illinois. In stark contrast, Toledo never trailed at Western Michigan and when it went up 38-28 with 2:54 left in the game, it seemed almost a sure thing that Toledo would be off to a 2-0 start. However, the Broncos closed to 38-34 with an 11-play, 70-yard TD with 45 seconds remaining. Needing to recover an onsides kick, WMU did just that and then, with 17 seconds left, got a 9-yard TD pass and converted the extra-point to win 41-38. The MAC is now off until Next Tuesday and Wednesday, again playing three games each night. The "marquee" matchup will be Western Michigan at Central Michigan (Nov 18) with the winner moving to 3-0 and gaining the tiebreaker edge in what is just a six-game schedule. After next week's Tuesday and Wednesday games, the MAC will transition to Saturdays for the final three weeks.

CFB Weekend: There are no top-25 matchups set for this weekend, although EIGHT of the AP's top-10 were scheduled to play (No. 4 Clemson and No. 8 BYU had open dates). However, note that the "operative" phrase in my first sentence is "scheduled to play." As of Thursday morning, No. 1 Alabama's game at LSU, No. 3 Ohio State's game at Maryland and No. 5 Texas A&M's game at Tennessee have all been postponed or canceled. Throw in No. 12 Georgia at Missouri plus  No. 24 Auburn at Miss St and FIVE ranked teams have 'lost' games because of COVID-19 issues. Three more games, Memphis at Navy, Air Force at Wyoming and UL-Monroe at Arkansas St have also been postponed or canceled. That's EIGHT games so far (it is only Thursday), following 10 games suffering similar fates last weekend. And so it goes in this "time of COVID."

Higher ranked teams will remain 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS when facing a lower-ranked opponent. As documented here each week, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results. Ranked teams did go a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents last 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). We are still waiting for that "regression to the mean," in which ranked teams start covering against unranked ones. 

This weekend features 14 games between ranked and unranked teams. That includes FIVE of the nation's top-10 teams, the first being No. 7 Cincinnati hosting East Carolina on Friday. The Bearcats are the highest-ranked Group of 5 team and a "look back" at Wednesday Notes sheds some light on that situation. Cincinnati has won 18 straight at home as it welcomes a 1-5 East Carolina team to Nippert Stadium (Cincy is favored by 27 1/2-points). No. 2 Notre Dame, fresh off its 47-40 double-OT win over Clemson, will put its 13-game winning streak (longest active among FBS teams) on the line when the Fighting Irish visit Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College. Notre Dame has to be careful of a let down but maybe BC's near upset at Clemson on Oct 31 (Tigers barely edged the Eagles 34-28) has gotten Notre Dame's attention. The Fighting Irish are favored by 13 1/2-points. No. 6 Florida also has to be wary of a let down, as the Gators welcome Arkansas to "The Swamp," fresh off their 44-28 win over Georgia. Florida is favored by 17 1/2-points. No. 9 Miami-Fl barely escaped with a 44-41 win at NC State on Nov 6 and plays at Va Tech. The ACC got rid of its two divisions this season (plus added Notre Dame), so the championship game will feature the teams with the league's top-two records. Currently, Notre Dame is 7-0, Clemson 7-1 and Miami 6-1. The 'Canes are a two-point underdog. No. 10 Indiana is ranked in the AP's top-10 for the first time since 1969 and will play at Michigan St, a team which has lost 38-27 to Rutgers at home as a 10-point favorite, won at 27-24 Michigan as a four-TD underdog and lost 49-7 at Iowa. Indiana is favored by seven points.

NINE more ranked teams play unranked opponents, including 2020's two 'Cinderella' programs, No. 15 Coastal Carolina and No. 22 Liberty (both are 7-0). The Chanticleers are 5-1-1 ATS and play at 4-3 Troy, where they are favored by 10 1/2-points. Liberty is 5-2 ATS and will host Western Carolina, which is an FCS school (Flames are favored by 33 points). NFL midseason update and Week 10 preview coming in Friday's Notes.

Good luck...Larry

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