Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 9

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."

NFL Week 13: Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, back in action for the first time since Nov 22, threw for just 107 yards (two TDs) but also added 94 yards rushing (one TD) to lead the Ravens to a 34-17 win over the sad-sack Cowboys on Tuesday. The Ravens ended a THREE-game losing streak while rushing for 294 yards, as the Cowboys fell to 3-9 with their SIXTH loss in their last seven games  (Dallas is the NFL's worst pointspread team at 2-10). Carolina and Tampa Bay had byes in Week 13 (no more byes the rest of the way), so we had 15 games, although there was a rare neutral-site game (not in London or Mexico), as the Bills played the 49ers in Arizona due to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County. Home teams continued to struggle, going 5-9 SU and 4-10 ATS (home dogs were 1-3 SU and ATS). The Y-T-D numbers now reveal that home teams are 95-95-1 (.500) SU, while going 89-100-2 (47.1%) ATS. Home dogs are 10-47 (.213) SU but 36-29-2 (55.4%) ATS. Week 13 games averaged 48.8 points with six going over, eight under and one push. There have now been 93 overs, 94 unders and five pushes.

College hoops: There had been just nine games between ranked opponents entering Tuesday (the higher ranked team was 6-3 SU and 4-5 ATS), which served up an impressive tripleheader of such contests. No. 3 Iowa was at No. 16 North Carolina and North Carolina's defense slowed Iowa center Luka Garza, folding him to 16 points (he entered averaging 34 PPG), ending his streak of 19 straight games scoring 20 points or more. However, he added 14 rebounds for his 24th career double-double and Garza saw THREE other players join him in double digits, led by Jordan Bohannon's 24 points. The Hawkeyes won (and covered) 93-80. No. 5 Kansas hosted No. 8 Creighton with Jalen Wilson scoring 23 points and adding 10 rebounds, hitting a go-ahead three-pointer for Kansas with 42 seconds remaining. Creighton's Marcus Zegarowski (the Big East's preseason P-O-Y) missed the last of three foul shots, allowing the Jayhawks to escape with a 73-72 win (no cover). Last but not least, No. 6 Illinois won 83-68 at No. 10 Duke. Illinois had lost 11 of 13 road matchups against top-10 opponents, with both wins coming in 1989 from the "Flyin' Illini" team that reached the Final Four. However, they had little trouble in this one, as the Blue Devils missed their first 12 three-pointers Duke had been 19-2 all time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, including 9-0 at Cameron. So much for that! Higher ranked teams are now 8-4 SU but 5-7 ATS in games between ranked opponents. No. 4 Michigan St was supposed to play at No. 18 Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight but the game was canceled.

There were FOUR games between ranked and unranked opponents on Tuesday, with ranked teams going 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS. The SU loser was previously 4-0 and No. 15 Va Tech getting routed at home by Penn St. That leaves ranked teams 65-9 (.878) SU but a much more modest 40-32-2 (55.6%) ATS. There are SIX such games on Wednesday's schedule, most notably No. 2 Baylor hosting Stephen F Austin. The 3-0 Bears will play their home opener against the 3-0 Lumberjacks in Waco, Texas. Stephen F. Austin replaces Nicholls State, which saw its scheduled game versus Baylor called off due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Colonels' program. Baylor last played a week ago Wednesday, when the Bears posted an 82-69 victory over Illinois. Stephen F. Austin recorded its THIRD straight double-digit winning margin with a 97-79 victory over LSU Alexandria on Sunday. Baylor won't look past the Lumberjacks, who beat the Bears 59-58 the last time the teams met (Dec 18, 2018). If Baylor's memory does not go back that far, how about this? The Lumberjacks broke Duke's 150-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents with an 85-83 OT win last November when Duke was the nation's top-ranked team. The Lumberjacks became the first non-ACC school to beat Duke at Cameron since St. John's in February 2000. Baylor is favored by 23 1/2-points. 

CFB recap: Higher ranked teams entered last week 21-5 (.808) SU and 19-7 (73.1%) ATS in meetings between AP top-25 opponents in the college football season to-date. We saw just two such matchups last week, with No. 10 Indiana winning 14-6 at No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 8 BYU losing its first game of the season 22-17 at No. 14 Coastal Carolina. The Hoosiers won without starting QB Penix, relying on its defense, holding the Badgers to just two FGs. Indiana won at Camp Randall for the first time since 2001 and allowed the fewest points to a ranked opponent since 1993! No. 25 Liberty was supposed to play at No. 14 Coastal Carolina but after COVID-19 issues prevented the Flames from playing in the game, BYU jumped at the chance to add a game, hoping a win at a ranked opponent would give them some extra 'street cred!' So much for that. Coastal Carolina contained BYU's high-powered offense, holding the Cougars to just 17 points in the five-point win. The Chanticleers are now 10-0, the first team in SBC history to open a season 10-0. Higher ranked teams are now 22-6 (.786) SU and 20-8 (71.4%) ATS in matchups of ranked opponents.

There were 17 games between ranked and unranked teams for the week, including the top-six schools in the AP and CFP rankings all in action. All six won and only Notre Dame failed to cover. Of the remaining 11 ranked teams, they went 7-4 SU and 6-5 ATS against their unranked opponents. The "Biggest Loser" was No. 15 Marshall, which lost 20-0 at home to a Rice team that entered having played just THREE games on the season. The not-so Thundering Herd were favored by 24 1/2-points and became the first team off to a 7-0 start (or better) to get shut out by a team with a losing record (Rice entered 1-2) since TCU did the same to Texas back in 1961! Also losing were No. 19 Oklahoma St 29-22 at TCU plus two overrated Pac-12 schools, No. 21 Oregon (21-17 at Cal) and No. 23 Washington (31-26 at home to Stanford). When the 'dust had settled,' ranked teams finished 13-4 SU and 11-6 ATS. Doing the math, ranked teams (when facing an unranked opponent) are now 126-30 (.808) SU, while 'climbing back' to .500 ATS at 77-77-2. I say 'climbing back' because through Oct 31 ranked teams were just 36-53-1 (.404) ATS against unranked opponents. The 'battle' resumes on Thursday, with just two weeks left in CFB's regular season.

I'll push my discussion regarding the AP poll and latest CFP rankings to Thursday's Notes, when I preview the upcoming CFB weekend. NFL Week 14 preview set for Friday.

Good luck...Larry

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