Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 16

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."

The fourth CFP rankings came out last night and not surprisingly, the top-five remained the same as it's been since the initial rankings were released back on November 24. It's Alabama's 22nd time at No. 1, which is more than DOUBLE the combined No. 1 rankings of all other schools, combined. Notre Dame and No.3 Clemson are set for a rematch in the ACC title game on Saturday, just the fourth-ever rematch in the same season between top-five schools. 5-0 Ohio St stayed at No. 4 and 7-1 Texas A&M at No. 5. The Buckeyes were No. 4 when the first rankings were released back on Nov 24 with a 4-0 record. However, while Ohio St has played just ONCE since then, it seems all but certain that the Buckeyes are a shoo-in for a 'Final Four' berth if they beat Northwestern on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game. Ohio St was NOT going to meet the required six games played to qualify for the Big Ten championship but not to worry, the Big Ten "had its back."  Much like Casablanca's Captain Renault was "Shocked, shocked that there was  gambling going on in Rick's Cafe Amercain," I needed to be "picked up off the floor" after hearing that the Big Ten "made an exception" for the Buckeyes. Who'da ever thunk it?

8-2 Iowa St moved up to No. 6, as its season-opening 31-14 loss at home to ULL (as a two-TD favorite) seems to be all but forgotten by the committee, as if it NEVER happened in the 2020 season. The ESPN commentators seemed to be in agreement that Florida should have fallen further than just ONE spot (from No. 6 to No. 7) but just which teams did they think should be ranked ahead of them. Surely not No. 8 Georgia, which Florida 'spanked' 44-28 in Jacksonville, nor 8-2 Oklahoma, which has lost 38-35 at home to 4-6 Kansas St and 37-30 at Iowa St. I guess maybe they think 8-0 Cincinnati should be No. 7, where the Bearcats were before not playing playing since Nov 28 and falling to No. 9. Let's see a show of hands of people who would take Cincy at pick'em over Florida on a neutral field. The Bearcats are surely NOT worrying about sneaking into the 'Final Four' but do need to beat No. 23 Tulsa in the AAC title game. By the time the Bearcats take the field at 8:00 ET vs the Golden Hurricane, they'll know if current No. 12 Coastal Carolina has completed a 12-0 regular season by beating ULL (3:30 ET kick) in the SBC championship game. If the Chanticleers win, the Bearcats had better win as well, or they could find themselves no longer the highest ranked Group of 5 school. I'll have much more in Friday's Notes, which features a CFB weekend preview.

CBB: There were no Tuesday games between ranked opponents (higher ranked teams are 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS) but there were FIVE games featuring a ranked team vs an unranked opponent.  FOUR of the five won (all covered), with No. 24 Clemson losing 66-60 at Va Tech. That was hardly much of a surprise, as although the Tigers had opened 5-0 SU & ATS, Va Tech was 4-1 (now 5-1) and had just fallen out of the top-25 (from No. 15) with a bad 75-55 home loss to Penn St. The Hokies closed as a two-point favorite.

There are again no games between ranked opponents on Wednesday but there are four games between ranked and unranked ones. 5-1 Villanova was No. 3 in the preseason poll and is now No. 7 as it hosts Butler, which has played just one game. No. 11 Texas (5-1) hosts 3-4 Sam Houston St and No. 20 Ohio St (5-0) is at 4-2 Purdue. Last but not least is now No. 21 Duke (opened No. 9 in the preseason poll) visiting South Bend to face Notre Dame. Both schools are just 2-2, as Duke has already lost twice at home, to Michigan St and Illinois. Notre Dame opened 1-2 (lost to Michigan St and Ohio St), before Saturday's first-ever victory at Kentucky. Notre Dame built a 22-point halftime lead on Kentucky before hanging on for a 64-63 win, needing a defensive stop at the end. Villanova is favored by 13 points, Texas by 28 points and Duke is favored by four points. However, 5-0 and 20th-ranked Ohio St is a four-point dog at 4-2 and unranked Purdue. Ranked teams are 88-12 (.880) SU but a more modest 56-42-2 (57.1%) ATS against unranked opponents.

My NFL Week 15 preview is set for Thursday's Notes.

Good luck...Larry

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