Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 8

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."

MNF: The Steelers had a three-point win over Tennessee in Week 7, a four-point win over Baltimore in Week and then a five-point win over sad-sack Dallas in Week 9. Back-to-back blowouts over the Bengals (36-10) and the Jags (27-3) followed but then it was a five-point win over the COVID-riddled Ravens in Week 12. Last night in Week 13, "the clock struck 12" for Pittsburgh, which after opening a 14-0 lead over Washington, walked away with a  23-17 loss. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain alone as the lone team in the NFL's 101-year history to complete a perfect season (14-0 regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs, for 17-0). It was the THIRD straight win for Washington, which moved into a first-place tie with the NY Giants in the NFC East at 5-7. In the regularly scheduled Monday night game, Buffalo's Josh Allen threw TD passes to FOUR different receivers (he was 32-40 for 375 yards, his third-highest total of the season), as the 9-3 Bills held onto sole possession of first place in the AFC East with a 34-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Glendale, Az (49ers were forced from their facility in Santa Clara County by heightened COVID-19 restrictions). The defending NFC champs fell to 5-7 and remain in last place in the NFC West with just four games remaining.

NFL Week 13 finally wraps up with the 3-8 Cowboys in Baltimore to face the HUGELY disappointing 6-5 Ravens (went 14-2 in last year's regular season). The Ravens have lost THREE straight and FOUR of their past five. The NFL Network reported Sunday that the team will activate reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson and have him start on Tuesday but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh declined to discuss it. The 3-8 Cowboys are the worst team in the NFL's worst division and at 2-9 ATS, own the NFL's worst pointspread record. That's a lot of "worsts" for head coach Mike McCarthy, who was expected to be "just the right coach" to get the talented Cowboys to "live up to their potential." So much for that. Baltimore is favored by 7 1/2-points and the over/under is 45 1/2.

New AP poll in CBB: The top-three schools remained the same in the second regular season AP poll. Gonzaga, Baylor and Iowa are 1-2-3 with each opening 3-0. Wisconsin lost 67-65 at Marquette and fell from No. 4 to No. 13. Taking over at No. 4 is Michigan St (up from No. 8) and Kansas is up to No. 5 (from No. 7). The rest of the top-10 is Illinois, Houston, Creighton, Villanova and Duke. Falling out to the poll was No. 20 Kentucky (see Monday's Notes for more details) and No. 21. Both San Diego St and Louisville have opened 4-0 and entered the poll for the first time this season at No. 24 and No. 25, respectively. Here's a couple of head-scratchers. Tennessee opened No. 12 in the preseason and remains at No. 12, without having played a game (that changes tonight / see below). Then there is Michigan, which opened No. 25 in the preseason poll but despite opening 4-0, the Wolverines have been the last team left out in each of the last two polls.

Mon CBB: No. 19 Richmond was the only ranked team in action on Monday and hadn't played since it beat then-No. 10 Kentucky on Nov 29. The Spiders had to cancel two games last week after a positive COVID-19 test within the program and they announced the matchup with the Terriers on Saturday. Richmond scored the first 11 points of the game but Wofford shot 55% after halftime and took its first lead with 4:32 remaining. Richmond won 77-72 but never came close to covering. We've had just nine matchups between ranked teams so far with the higher ranked team going 6-3 SU and 4-5 ATS in the first nine games. However, Tuesday serves up an impressive tripleheader of such contests, No. 3 Iowa is at No. 16 North Carolina, No. 5 Kansas hosts No. 8 Creighton and No. 6 Illinois is at No. Duke. Here's a closer look.

No. 3 Iowa (3-0) will welcome No. 16 North Carolina (3-1) to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Luka Garza (34.0 & 9.7) has arguably been the best player in the nation so far but the Hawkeyes have yet to be challenged in romps over North Carolina Central, Southern University and Western Illinois. That leaves coach Fran McCaffery eager to see how his team fares against the Tar Heels. North Carolina won its first three games of the season before dropping a last-second 69-67 decision against No. 17 Texas in the Maui Invitational championship game on Wednesday (Longhorns won it with 0.1 seconds to play). Iowa's No. 3 ranking is the school's highest since it was also No. 3 in the 2015-16 season. The Hawkeyes are favored by 3 1/2-points. Creighton was ranked No. 11 in the AP's preseason poll (the highest in school history) and after a 3-0 start is up to No. 8 as the Bluejays visit No. 7 Kansas, which is 4-1. To say the least, this visit to Allen Fieldhouse will be a competitive upgrade for the Bluejays after being favored by between 21 and 32 1/2-points over North Dakota State, Omaha and Kennesaw State. In contrast, Kansas had played No. 1 Gonzaga and beaten then-No. 20 Kentucky. Kansas is favored by 4  1/2-points. In another ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, No. 5 Illinois will play at Cameron Indoor Stadium against No. 10 Duke. Both schools lost last week, as the Fighting Illinois fell 82-69 to No. 2 Baylor in Indianapolis, while Duke lost at home 75-69 to now-No. 4 Michigan State. Duke has been the dominant school in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, going 19-2. The Blue Devils have won EIGHT straight games as part of the series, while going 9-0 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is favored by 3 1/2-points.

With Richmond's win but non-cover, ranked teams are 62-8 (.886) SU and 38-30-2 (55.9%) ATS when facing an unranked opponent.  There are FOUR games between ranked teams and unranked opponents on Tuesday. No. 12 Tennessee (-5.5) hosts Colorado, No. 15 Va Tech (-5) is home vs Penn St, No. 21 Rutgers (-4) is home vs Syracuse and No. 22 Ohio St (-5) is at Notre Dame. Tennessee deserves a quick mention as the Vols opened No.12 in the AP's preseason poll and have remained at No. 12 through the first two polls of the regular season despite having yet to play a game. Colorado is the fourth team to be slated as the opener for the Volunteers, who have had five overall games canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 issues with them or their opponents. The Buffaloes have been dealing with the same issues since opening 2-0. Colorado had to postpone its Pac-12 opener against Arizona State, then resumed and was scheduled to host Washington State on Saturday. Coronavirus issues with the Cougars forced a postponement Friday night. As for Tennessee, it canceled its game against No. 1 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic on Wednesday and Friday's game against Notre Dame. The Volunteers and the Buffaloes quickly adjusted and added this game. "Fingers crossed."

Wednesday Notes will feature poll updates in CFB (AP and CFP), an NFL Week 13 recap, plus my daily look at college hoops.

Good luck...Larry

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