Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 23

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 bowl season opened Monday afternoon and after three games, we haven't seen much drama. Appalachian State led North Texas 35-14 at the half on its way to a 56-28 rout in the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl. Cam Peoples scored five TDs and rushed for a school-record 317 yards as his five rushing TDs tied a school record and he also matched a bowl record for ANY team for the number of rushing TDs. The 9-3 Mountaineers have now won ALL six bowls since joining the FBS. It was the most points they've ever scored in six all-time bowl appearances.

Two more bowls followed on Tuesday, with Nevada jumping out to a 26-7 halftime lead over Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, on its way to a 38-27 win. Nevada QB Carson Strong (MWC Offensive Player of the Year) threw five TD passes (had 271 passing yards and no interceptions in 28 attempts), while the Wolf Pack's defense corralled EIGHT sacks and came up with THREE interceptions. BYU jumped out to a 21-0 1st quarter lead (led 35-10 at the half) in its 49-23 victory over UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl. QB Zach Wilson threw for three TDs and added two more on the ground, all by halftime! He went on to complete 26 of 34 passes for a Boca Raton Bowl-record 425 yards, as the Cougars amassed 434 of their 655 total yards before intermission. Appalachian St and BYU were favorites, while Nevada was a one-point dog. I'll keep tabs on how favorites do throughout the bowl season (2-1 SU & ATS start). The first three bowl games have averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs are 2-1, not an expected 3-0.

Wednesday's bowl games feature 5-4 La Tech vs 7-5 Georgia Sothern in the New Orleans Bowl (3:00 ET) and 7-3 Memphis vs 5-3 FAU in the Montgomery Bowl (7:00 ET). Both games are carried by ESPN. La Tech's SIX-game bowl winning streak is the longest active mark for ANY team in the country but Georgia Southern is in its FOURTH bowl since moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision in 2014. The Eagles won postseason games in 2015 and 2018 before falling last year 23-16 to Liberty in the Cure Bowl. Both teams have injuries at the QB position and while Georgia Southern is averaging 262.4 YPG on the ground, La Tech averages just 97.7. Is that the deciding stat? We'll see. Georgia Southern is favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 48 1/2.

Memphis was 12-1 when it made a New Year's Six bowl appearance in last year's Cotton Bowl. The Tigers 'hung around' but eventually lost 53-39 to Penn St. This Montgomery Bowl appearance vs FAU may feel like a 'step down' for Memphis but the Tigers just may feel as if they have something to prove, as a check of the record book reveals that Memphis is on a 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS run in its last eight conference championship or bowl games. Meanwhile, FAU is 6-0 SU & ATS in similar contests. Memphis is a nine-point favorite and the over/under is 52 1/2.

NBA: After the shortest offseason in league history, the 2020-21 NBA season tipped off with Brooklyn routing Golden St 125-99 and the Clippers getting the better of the Lakers 116-109 in the 'Battle 4 LA.' Kevin Durant finished with 22 points in 25 minutes of his first official game since rupturing his Achilles tendon while playing for Golden State in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, as the Nets emphatically kicked off the Steve Nash era with a blowout win. Out West at Staples Center, the Clippers stayed in the locker room while the Lakers got their championship rings, then gave Tyronn Lue a "W" in his debut as the Clippers' head coach. Paul George scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half, while Kawhi Leonard added 26 points. It's a HUGE schedule in Wednesday night's NBA (13 games), as all teams will be off on Christmas Eve. TNT gets the Bucks/Celtics game from TD Garden (7:35 ET) and ESPN, after covering two bowl games, will pick up the Mavs at the Suns (10:35 ET tip). Milwaukee is favored by four points, while the Suns are a one-point choice over the Mavs.

Catching up with college hoops: There were just three top-25 matchups from Friday through Sunday with the higher ranked team going 2-1 SU and ATS (then-No. 13 Illinois lost at then-No. 19 Rutgers on Sunday). In 12 games between ranked and unranked opponents, the ranked teams went 9-3 SU but just 4-8 ATS, including 0-4 ATS on Sunday. The Y-T-D numbers through Sunday looked like this. Higher ranked teams were 12-6 SU but just 9-9 ATS against lower-ranked teams. Ranked teams checked in at 101-16 (.863) SU and 63-52-2 (54.8%) vs unranked teams.

The new AP poll was released on Monday and 4-0 Gonzaga stayed No. 1 (61 of 64 1st-place votes) and 5-0 Baylor (three votes) stayed No. 2. Iowa's 99-88 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday only dropped the 6-1 Hawkeyes one spot, while 7-1 Kansas moved up from No. 5 to No. 3. 7-1 Villanova came in at No. 5. 5-0 Houston, 7-1 West Va, 4-0 Tennessee, 6-1 Wisconsin and 7-1 Texas, rounded out the top-10. Is "Shaka Ball' finally working in Austin? Texas entered the top-10 for the first time since the 2014-15 season (pre-Shaka). Notable highlights/lowlights from the weekend were RutgersĀ  moving to 6-0 with a three-point home win over Illinois, as the Scarlet Knights are 'knocking on the door' of the top-10 at No. 11 (up from No. 19). Michigan St fell from No. 4 to No. 12Ā  with an ugly 79-65 loss to Northwestern and preseason No. 8 Illinois, which had risen to No. 5, fell to just 5-3 on the season with a Sunday loss at Rutgers (the Illini are 'hanging in' at No. 18).

There is just ONE bowl game on Thursday and NO games in either CBB or the NBA. That will allow me to 'catch up' with college hoops happenings from Mon-Wed and to preview the bowl weekend in Thursday's Notes.

Good luck...Larry

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