Ness Notes: Wednesday, Nov 11

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."

A three-game MACtion card opened the new CFB week on Tuesday. All three favorites won, going 2-1 ATS. Ohio didn't come close to covering in its unimpressive 24-10 win over Akron, as the Bobcats were favored by about four TDs. Ohio was outgained 435-to-307 yards by Akron but survived by winning the TO 'battle' 3-0. The Zips lost their 19th straight game, with their last win coming 17-10 at home against Central Michigan on Oct 27, 2018. Kent moved to 2-0 with a 62-24 road win over Bowling Green (0-2), outgaining the Falcons 667-365 in yards The Golden Flashes passed for yards (five TDs) and ran for 295 yards. Buffalo never 'broke a sweat' at home against defending MAC champion Miami-Ohio, routing the RedHawks 42-10. The Bulls had 556 yards (353 yards passing and four TDs from QB Vantrease and 203 yards rushing), while Miami had just 258 yards.

MACtion Part 2 is Wednesday, with three more games. Eastern Michigan is at Ball St in a matchup of 0-1 teams (). 1-0 Central Michigan won the West last season and looks to move to 2-0 by winning at 0-1 Northern Illinois, where the Chippewas are favored by . The "game of the week" in the MAC is Toledo at Western Michigan. Both have opened 1-0 and the winner obviously moves to 2-0 and in a six-game schedule, would also give them a tiebreaker edge (Broncos are favored). Getting back to Central Michigan, beating Northern Illinois is a "must win," as the Chippewas would be tied at 2-0 with the Toledo/Western Michigan winner. Central Michigan hosts Western Michigan next Wednesday and plays at Toledo on Dec 12 in its regular season finale. ALL games during a six-game regular season matter GREATLY for MAC teams in the division 'hunt.'

The first set of College Football Playoff rankings won't be released until Nov 24 and an emerging trend could have the committee asking themselves the following question. How do undefeated Independent and Group of 5 teams fit into the 2020 playoff hunt? Entering the current week, excluding conferences that have played just one game (Pac-12 and MAC), there are 13 remaining unbeaten teams in the FBS (I'm also not counting No. 14 Wisconsin, which has played just one game). The list includes Power-5 schools like No. 1 Alabama (6-0), No. 2 Notre Dame (a traditional Independent playing in the ACC for the 2020 season) and No. 3 Ohio State (3-0), but also Big Ten 'surprises' like No. 10 Indiana (3-0), No. 23 Northwestern (3-0) and unranked Purdue (2-0). The Wildcats and Boilermakers play next week and the Buckeyes and Hoosiers play on Nov. 21. That's six unbeaten schools but that number will be down to four after the above-mentioned Big Ten matchups the next two weeks (Wisconsin could also be 'alive'). However, the other SEVEN unbeaten schools are either Independents or in the Group of 5. That list includes No. 7 Cincinnati (6-0), No. 8 BYU (8-0), No. 15 Coastal Carolina (7-0), No. 16 Marshall (6-0), No. 22 Liberty (7-0), Nevada (3-0) and San Jose State (3-0). 

8-0 BYU and 7-0 Liberty are both Independents and both could finish undefeated. However, the Cougars have by far the best chance, as they will be heavily favored in their last two games against North Alabama and San Diego State. Liberty plays at 7-0 Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt) in its regular-season finale on Dec. 12 plus also must play at NC State on Nov 21. I question BYU's strength of schedule and have to believe that the AAC's Cincinnati (ranked 7th) has the best chance at a breakthrough. The Bearcats are scoring 39.3 PPG and allowing just 11.7 PPG. Cincy has beaten Army 24-10 (Army was ranked 22nd at the time and is 6-1 on the season) plus crushed SMU on the road, 42-13. The Mustangs are 7-1 and currently ranked 19th. The Bearcats get 1-5 East Carolina this Saturday but then play three straight on the road, including at UCF, a team averaging 45.0 PPG. The Bearcats will likely have to "run the table" (which would include winning the AAC championship game), to have ANY chance to crack the 'Final Four.'

All eyes will turn to that first CFP ranking on Nov 24. The committee has historically kept the top-ranked Group of 5 teams (and Independents not named Notre Dame) too far down the rankings in the initial set. In fact, over each of the last six years, the highest a Group of 5 team has been ranked in the initial standings was UCF's 7-0 team of 2018 at No. 12. The year before, UCF's 7-0 team checked in at No. 18 and an 8-0 Memphis team was ranked 13th back in 2015. However, it's a L-O-N-G way from 12 or 13 to that Final 4.

Thursday's Notes will review MACtion from Wednesday, preview the start of NFL Week 10 with the AFC South showdown between the 5-3 Colts and 6-2 Titans plus take a long look at the upcoming SCFB weekend.

Good luck...Larry

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