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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 30

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Dec 30, 2020

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 college bowl season resumed on Tuesday after a two-day break with favorites having gone 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS, while there had been four overs and six unders. The 7-3 Oklahoma State Cowboys took on the 8-2 Miami Hurricanes in the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando. OSU was ranked 21st in the CFP rankings but unranked in the AP, while Miami entered ranked 18th in both the AP and CFP. The Alamo Bowl featured 6-3 Texas (20th in both the AP and CFP rankings) vs 4-1 Colorado (Buffs had fallen out of both polls when it lost 38-31 at home to Utah on Dec 12). Tuesday was a good day (night) for the Big 12, as Oklahoma St beat Miami 37-34 and Texas, in its 57th all-time bowl, routed Colorado 55-23!Oklahoma State scored on its first three possessions, taking a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter on drives of 75, 82 and 49 yards. Miami suffered a major injury with 4:06 left in the second quarter as QB D'Eriq King left the game with an injured right knee. He watched the second half on crutches but his replacement, N'Kosi Perry completed 19 of 34 passes for 228 yards and two TDs and no INTs. Miami did close to 37-34 with 5:39 left in the fourth punted but then failed on a fourth down in its final two possessions. OSU's Spencer Sanders passed for 305 yards and four TDs.Texas' big win was marred by a shoulder injury that forced QB Sam Ehlinger out of the game for the second half. Ehlinger passed for 160 yards and a touchdown in what is likely his final appearance for Texas. Casey Thompson, Texas' backup QB, threw four TD passes tying an Alamo Bowl record. Not bad for a guy who had four completions all season before Tuesday. RB Bijan Robinson ran for 183 yards and a score plus caught two TD passes, as the Longhorns outgained Colorado 638 yards to 378. Texas has now won bowl games in all FOUR of head coach Tom Herman's seasons in Austin. Miami lost as a ranked AP team, while Texas won and easily covered. That makes ranked teams playing unranked opponents 3-2 SU but 2-3 ATS in the bowls to-date. Both favorites won (OSU closed as a one-point choice) and both games went over. Favorites are now 9-3 SU and 7-5 ATS, while it's six overs and six unders.Two bowls are set for Wednesday, with 3-3 Wisconsin taking on 4-4 Wake Forest in the Duke's Mayo Bowl from Charlotte, NC (12 noon ET on ESPN). Wisconsin is in a bowl for the 19th consecutive season, the third-longest active streak in the nation. As for Wake, the Demon Deacons are playing in a school-record FIFTH consecutive bowl. The Badgers have been much busier than Wake Forest recently, playing five games in the last six weeks, while the Demon Deacons have played only once since Nov 14. (note: Wake has played the fewest games of any ACC team this season). However, this will be the Demon Deacons' SEVENTH game in their home state this year. Will that help? Wisconsin is favored by 10 points (over/under is 51 1/2). The first of the New Year's Six bowls will be tonight's Cotton Bowl (8:00 ET from Dallas, Tx on ESPN), as 8-2 Oklahoma takes on 8-3 Florida. The Sooners are ranked 8th in the AP and Gators 10th, giving us our first ranked vs ranked bowl game. The only other time Florida and Oklahoma have played was in the BCS Championship following the 2008 season, when the Tim Tebow-led Gators won the national championship with a 24-14 win. This game had all the makings of a classic offensive shootout, until Florida lost ALL of its main receiving corps. The Gators were a 2 1/2-point choice but there has been a major swing in the odds since, as the Sooners are currently favored by seven points (over/under is 65). What a shame. Pity the poor bettors who had Florida minus-2 1/2 but how about the Oklahoma bettors who got 2 1/2-points. VERY happy I never 'got involved!' CBB: The AP's new poll was released Monday and 7-0 Gonzaga, the AP's preseason No. 1, got 62 of 64 first-place votes as it held its No. 1 ranking for the 5th consecutive week (preseason and for regular season polls. Why wouldn't the Bulldogs be No. 1, as they own FOUR wins over ranked opponents (all on neutral sites) through just their first seven games, a poll record! 6-0 Baylor is No. 2 and got the remaining two first-place votes. Gonzaga and Baylor were supposed to meet on Dec 5 but the game was postponed for COVID reasons. Here's hoping the two schools DON'T reschedule. Why give us a preview of what seems likely to be our national championship matchup? 8-1 Kansas is up to No.3, having won EIGHT in a row since losing its season-opener 102-90 to Gonzaga. 8-1 Villanova is No. 4, losing only an OT game to now-No. 24 Va Tech. Rounding out the top-5 is Houston, which is 7-0 (note: all records through Sunday). The Big Ten has a record NINE teams in the top-25, including Northwestern, the school's highest ranking this late in a season since 1969 (spoiler alert: Wildcats lost Tuesday at Iowa). Minnesota entered the poll for the first time on Monday with an 8-1 record (T-21) but unlike Northwestern, 'celebrated' by beating No. 17 Michigan St 81-56. It was Minnesota's largest margin of victory ever over Michigan State, which now owns its first 0-3 start in conference play in 19 years! Falling out of the poll were No. 17 North Carolina and No. 22 Xavier, which lost its first game of the season (66-61 at No. 11 Creighton), after an 8-0 start.Wednesday's card features a 'Battle' of Unbeatens' in the SEC, as No. 7 Tennessee is at No. 12 Missouri. It's the SEC opener for both 6-0 teams, with the Vols favored by four points. No. 2 Baylor (-42.5) will host Alcorn St plus two more ranked teams are in action. No. 23 Virginia (-6.5) at Notre Dame and No. 25 Ohio St (-13) hosting Nebraska. I'll catch up with Y-T-D numbers of games between ranked teams and games between ranked and unranked teams in Thursday's Notes. I'll pick up with daily NBA coverage after this weekend, when the ONLY college football contest remaining will be the national championship game.Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Football Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma/Florida Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Dec 30, 2020

The first of the New Year’s Six bowl games is Wednesday night in a battle between the Big 12 champion and the SEC runner-up. The Cotton Bowl has Florida facing off against Oklahoma at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.Oklahoma opened their season with a 38-35 upset loss at home to Kansas State, which they followed up with a 37-30 upset loss at Iowa State the next week. The Sooners won their next five games to put themselves in the Big 12 championship game. As a 5-point favorite, Oklahoma raced out to a 24-7 halftime lead against Iowa State and held on to avenge their October loss to the Cyclones by a 27-21 score. Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler completed 22 of 3 passes of 272 yards with a touchdown pass along with a rushing touchdown. Rattler completed 68.0% of his passes this season for 2784 yards with 25 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He added another five touchdowns on the ground. The Sooners returned 16 starters from the team that finished 12-2 last year after losing to LSU in the college football semifinals by a 63-28 score. The team not only improved as the season progressed, but they also got two impact players back midseason after they served five-game suspensions. Running back Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 479 yards in his five games with a 5.8 yards-per-carry average with six touchdowns. Defensive end Ronnie Perkins registered 5.5 sacks in his five games with the team while helping the Oklahoma defense hold their opponents to 16.0 points-per-game and 323.0 yards-per-game, with those numbers being -5.9 points-per-game and 12.6 yards-per-game lower than their season averages.The Sooners’ defense ranked 19th in the nation by allowing 334.6 yards-per-game. Oklahoma averaged 41.8 points-per-game along with 475.8 yards-per-game, which was ninth and 18th in the country. Led by Rattler under center, the Sooners averaged 321.6 passing yards-per-game, 11th in the nation.Florida returned 12 starters from last year’s group that finished 11-2 with a 36-28 win over Virginia in the Orange Bowl. The Gators opened 2-0 before losing by a 41-38 score at Texas A&M. Florida would win their next six games before being upset in their final regular-season game at home to LSU by a 37-34 score. The Gators had already clinched a spot in the SEC championship game before that setback. They played Alabama in Atlanta on December 19th, where they kept things close but could never catch up to the Crimson Tide in a 52-46 loss.Senior quarterback Kyle Trask completed 26 of 40 passes for 408 yards with three touchdown passes along with a rushing touchdown. Trask completed 69.7% of his passes for 4125 yards with 43 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He led an offense that was ninth in the nation by averaging 508.8 yards-per-game and 41.6 points-per-game, 11th in the country. Yet the Gators' defense was 63rd by allowing 28.6 points-per-game and by giving up 404.7 yards-per-game. Trask will be without his top-four targets in this game. Tight-end Kyle Pitts, along with wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney, are opting-out of this game to prepare for the NFL. Jacob Copeland is unavailable given COVID protocols. These four players combined for 174 receptions for 2778 yards with 34 touchdowns this season.For Oklahoma, only cornerback Tre Jones is opting out of this bowl game. The senior had 31 tackles with three interceptions, and six passed defended.BookMaker lists the Sooners as a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 67.5. ESPN has the broadcast starting at 8 PM ET.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: EPL, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball and NBA Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Dec 30, 2020

The Wednesday sports card features another two college football bowl games, along with action in the NBA and college basketball, and the conclusion of Matchweek 16 in the English Premier League.The Mayo Bowl kicks off the action at 12 PM ET in a game between Wake Forest and Wisconsin. The Demon Deacons will be playing in just their second game since November 14th after getting upset at Louisville on December 12th as a 1-point favorite. Wake Forest goes into this game with a 4-4 record.Wisconsin lost three straight games in a row midseason in setbacks to Northwestern, Indiana, and Iowa before evening their regular season record at 3-3 with a 20-17 win in overtime against Minnesota. Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte is the site of this game. The Badgers are 10.5-point favorites with the total set at 51.5 (all odds from BetOnline).The Music City Bowl was scheduled for 4 PM ET on Wednesday with Iowa playing Missouri. This game was canceled after a COVID outbreak in the Tigers’ program. The college basketball card tips off at 12 PM ET with VCU playing at Saint Joseph’s as an 8-point road favorite with an over/under of 154.5.At 7 PM ET, Xavier hosts Seton Hall on FS1. The Pirates are 3-point favorites with a total of 145 in this Big East battle. The CBS Sports Network has a Atlantic 10 showdown with Davidson playing at home against Richmond in a pick ‘em game with an over/under of 140.5. Arkansas plays at Auburn on ESPN2 with the Razorbacks a 3.5-point road favorite with a total of 145.5 in this SEC clash. ESPNU has an Ohio Valley Conference game with Belmont at home against Murray State laying 3 points with an over/under of 146.At 9 PM ET, UConn hosts DePaul on the CBS Sports Network as an 8.5-point favorite with the total set at 142.5 in this Big East contest. Florida visits Vanderbilt in a SEC showdown on ESPN as a 6-point road favorite with an over/under of 141.Six games take place in the NBA on Wednesday starting at 7:35 PM ET. None of these games are on national television. Two matches conclude Matchweek 16 in the English Premier League. At 1 PM ET, Tottenham plays at home against Fulham. The Spurs begin the day tied in fifth place in the EPL table with 26 points after a 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton on Sunday. Fulham is in 18th place with 11 points after a 0-0 draw with Southampton. Tottenham is a -1.25 goal line favorite with the total at 2.5. The NBC Sports Network has the broadcast. The NBC Sports Network has the second game at 3 PM ET with Liverpool visiting Newcastle United. The Reds remain in first place with 32 points after settling for a 1-1 draw against West Brom on Sunday. Newcastle is in 15th place with 18 points after a 2-0 loss at Manchester City on Saturday. Liverpool is a -1.5 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 3.

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 29

by Larry Ness

Tuesday, Dec 29, 2020

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."NFL Week 16 opened on Christmas Day with RB Alvin Kamara scoring SIX rushing TDs, as the Saints routed the Vikings 52-33. His effort tied him with Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals in 1929 for the most in NFL history. He is only the FOURTH player to score six TDs of any kind in a game, joining Nevers, Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965). The week concluded last night as the Bills CRUSHED the Pats 38-9 in New England. Buffalo QB Josh Allen threw three of his four TD passes to Stefon Diggs, completing 27 of 36 passes for 320 yards. His 34 TD passes on the season set a franchise record, surpassing the mark set by Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly in 1991. The 12-3 Bills now hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC by virtue of their 26-15 victory over the 12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) back on Dec 13. Buffalo can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win over visiting Miami on Sunday or a Pittsburgh loss at Cleveland. The defending champion KC Chiefs (14-1) own the No. 1 seed, which gives them the ONLY bye in the AFC in this season's revamped postseason. There are SO many playoff-positioning implications in Week 17 (all games will be played on Sunday, Jan 3), that I will once again offer a "special" Saturday Ness Notes to preview the 'state of the NFL.' I will note that the Jaguars "kept up their end" in losing for a 14th straight time, 41-17 at home to the playoff-bound (?) Chicago Bears. Checking in on the 'race' for the NFC's No. 1 seed (and ONLY bye). 12-3 Green Bay (NFC North champs) currently own the No. 1 seed, one game ahead of 11-4 New Orleans (NFC South champs) and 11-4 Seattle (NFC West champs). The Packers will clinch the top-seed with a win at Chicago but the Saints can wrest the No. 1 seed back from the Packers with a win and if Green Bay loses in Week 17 and Seattle wins, as New Orleans would have the best conference record among the trio (note: If Green Bay and New Orleans are tied at 12-4 alone, the Packers own the head-to-head tiebreaker). To add more intrigue to the mix, if the Seahawks and Packers both finish 12-4 (meaning the Saints would have lost), Seattle wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a superior record in common games with Green Bay, Got it? Home teams finished Week 16 9-7 SU & ATS, with home dogs going 3-5 SU and 4-4 ATS. Games averaged 47.6 points, with seven overs, eight unders and one push. Don't forget to check out Saturday's NFL-only edition of Ness Notes.The college bowl season resumes after a two-day break. Favorites were 5-2 SU & ATS to open the bowl season. The first three bowl games averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs were 2-1, not an expected 3-0. However, the next four bowl games averaged just 36.3 PPG, with all going under. That made it two overs and FIVE unders heading into Saturday's tripleheader. The only ranked team (I use the AP poll, not the CFP rankings) to have played through the first seven bowls was No. 13 BYU, which routed UCF 49-23 in the Boca Raton Bowl. However, two ranked teams took the field (both from the Sun Belt) on Saturday, as No. 16 ULL (9-1) met 7-4 UTSA in the First Responder Bowl and No. 9 Coastal Carolina (11-0) met 9-1 Liberty in the Cure Bowl. Saturday's third bowl was 5-6 Western Kentucky playing 5-4 Georgia St in the LendingTree Bowl.The Ragin' Cajuns led 24-7 but saw the Roadrunners score 17 straight points to tie the score at 24al,a one-yard TD midway through the fourth quarter gave ULL the win (10-1) but NOT the cover. The Cure Bowl was a mano-a-mano showdown between QBs Willis (of Liberty) and Grayson McCall (of Coastal Carolina). Willis did not throw a TD pass and had two INTs but threw for 220 yards and ran for 137, while scoring four TDs. McCall threw for 318 yards and three TDs plus ran for 96 yards and a score. The game went into OT and Liberty won 37-34, ending Coastal's perfect 11-0 season (had a 12-game winning streak). Liberty won the game by blocking Coastal's FG attempt in OT to finish 10-1. It must have been 'sweet,' as Liberty's lone loss came at NC St, when the Wolfpack blocked a potential game-winning FG attempt by the Flames, VERY late in the game! The third Saturday bowl saw Georgia St easily beat Western Kentucky 39-21. Heading into Tuesday's two bowl games, favorites are 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS. The three Saturday bowls averaged 62.0 PPG with two games going over and one under. That makes it four overs and six unders. ULL won but failed to cover and Coastal Carolina lost SU, making the three ranked teams playing unranked opponents 2-1 SU but 1-2 ATS in the bowls to-date.Tuesday's bowls: The 7-3 Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the 8-2 Miami Hurricanes in the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Fl at 5:30 ET on ESPN. OSU is ranked 21st in the CFP rankings but is unranked in the AP, after opening the season 15th in the preseason poll. Miami was NOT ranked in the AP's preseason poll (coming off a 6-7 season, including an 'ugly' 14-0 bowl loss to La Tech) but enters the game ranked 18th in both the AP and CFP. Some may be surprised that ESPN also carries the Alamo Bowl (you'll NEVER guess which city it's being played in!) at 8:00 ET. It features 6-3 Texas and 4-1 Colorado. The Longhorns are ranked 20th in both the AP and CFP rankings, while the Buffs fell out of both polls when it lost 38-31 at home to Utah on Dec 12. It was a disappointing season for the Longhorns but the Alamo Bowl marks the 57th all-time bowl appearance for Texas, the second-most in the country behind only Alabama. The Buffaloes were the surprise team of the Pac-12 this season, despite head coach Karl Dorrell not being hired until February. They made the most out of their limited opportunities, finishing the regular season with a 4-1 mark, and 3-1 in league play for a second-place finish in the South Division. Oklahoma St is favored by 1 1/2-points over Miami-Fl (over/under is 62) and Texas is favored by 7 1/2-points over Colorado (over/under is 64 1/2).I'll catch up on CBB and the NBA in Wednesday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Football Alamo Bowl: Texas/Colorado Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Dec 29, 2020

This year’s Alamo Bowl brings together two old rivals from the Big 8 days. Texas and Colorado last played each other in 2009. Two years later, the Buffaloes joined Utah in the expanded Pac-12 conference. These foes reunite at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.Texas entered the year with high expectations with 16 starters back from the group that finished a disappointing 8-5. The Longhorns concluded their season on a high note with a 38-10 upset victory over a Utah team that just missed making the college football play in last year’s Alamo Bowl. After a 2-0 start, Texas was upset at home against TCU the week before their annual showdown with Oklahoma. The Longhorns lost a heartbreaker in a four-overtime classic against the Sooners by a 53-45 score. Texas won their next three games before losing at home to Iowa State by a 23-20 score. The Longhorns responded in closing out their regular season with a 69-31 victory at Kansas State. Sam Ehlinger completed 20 of 27 passes for 274 yards with two touchdown passes against the Wildcats. He has completed 60.1% of his passes for 2406 yards with 25 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. Ehlinger has added 382 rushing yards with another eight touchdowns. While he has one more year of eligibility, the senior has yet to announce if he plans to return to Austin for a final year or make himself available for the NFL draft. Texas looks to win their seventh game of the season with a fourth straight victory in a bowl game under head coach Tom Herman. Their three losses were by 13 combined points. But after Ehlinger led the Longhorns to an upset win over Georgia in the 2019 Sugar Bowl, expectations got higher for this program. Herman is managing several opt-outs in the latter part of the season. Senior left tackle Sameer Cosmi has left the team to prepare for the NFL draft. With senior center Derek Kirkstetter out with an ankle injury, Texas will likely have two freshmen starting on their offensive line. Wide receiver Brennan Eagles has also opted-out for this game along with a handful of players and defense. Colorado was reeling in February when Mel Tucker left the program to become the Michigan State head coach after just one season with the Buffaloes. Karl Dorrell got hired to return to the program as the new head coach, where he once served as an offensive assistant for both Bill McCartney and Rick Neuheisel just weeks before COVID would wipe out their planned spring practices. He inherited 14 returning starters from a team that finished 5-7 for the third straight season.Dorrell conducted one of the best coaching jobs of the season by leading a team that won four of five games, despite the logistical challenges and an inexperienced quarterback room. Sophomore running back Jarek Broussard emerged from nowhere to become the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 813 yards with a 6.3 yards-per-carry average. Senior Sam Noyer was steady under center despite having 41 career passing attempts going into the fall. He completed 58% of his passes for 1000 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions. The dual-threat quarterback added 191 rushing yards with five touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards-per-carry. The Buffaloes are 16th in the nation by averaging 218.4 rushing yards-per-game. Colorado won their first four games of the season with upsets against UCLA and Stanford to start their season. The Buffaloes got bypassed to represent the Pac-12 North in the Pac-12 championship game due to playing one less conference game than USC due to straight weeks of canceled games against Arizona State and the Trojans in late November. Colorado then lost their final game of the season on December 12th by a 38-21 score at home to Utah.Senior linebacker Nate Landman will miss this game with an Achilles’ injury. It will be just the second bowl game appearance for this program in the last thirteen seasons. BetAnySports lists Texas as an 8-point favorite with the total set at 63.5. ESPN broadcasts the game at 9 PM ET. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NCAA Basketball and NCAA Football Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Dec 29, 2020

The Tuesday sports card features two college football bowl games, along with action in the NBA and college basketball, and the continuation of Matchweek 16 in the English Premier League.The Cheez-It Bowl kicks off at 5:30 PM ET in a game between Oklahoma State and Miami (FL) at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The Cowboys ended their regular season with a 7-3 record after their 42-3 victory at Baylor as a 6-point favorite on December 12th. The Hurricanes are 8-2 after they lost at home to North Carolina by a 62-26 score as a 3-point favorite on December 12th. Oklahoma State is a 1-point favorite with a total of 61 (all odds from BetOnline). ESPN has the broadcast.The ESPN doubleheader continues at 9 PM ET with the Alamo Bowl between Texas and Colorado at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The Longhorns are 6-3 on the season after their 69-31 win at Kansas State as a 7-point favorite on December 5th. The Buffaloes lost their first game in five days on December 12th, with their 38-21 loss to Utah as a 3-point favorite. Texas is a 7-point favorite with an over/under of 63.5.Nine games are in the docket in the NBA. The TNT doubleheader starts at 7:35 PM ET with Milwaukee visiting Miami in their first meeting since the Heat defeated them in five games in Eastern Conference Semifinals last season. The Bucks have lost two of their first three games after their 130-110 upset loss at New York as a 13-point favorite on Sunday. The Heat are 1-1 so far this season after they defeated New Orleans last Friday by a 111-98 score as a 3-point favorite. Milwaukee is a 5.5-point favorite with the total at 223.Phoenix hosts New Orleans in the TNT nightcap at 10:05 PM ET. The Suns improved their record to a 2-1 mark with their 116-100 win at Sacramento as a 3.5-point favorite on Sunday. The Pelicans have won two of their first three games after defeating San Antonio by a 98-95 score as a 4.5-point favorite on Sunday. Phoenix is a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 223.5.The nationally-televised college basketball card tips off at 7 PM ET. Rutgers hosts Purdue on FS1. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 14th in the nation in the latest Associated Press poll. They are 3.5-point favorites with a total of 139.5. Memphis plays at home against South Florida on ESPN2 as a 7.5-point favorite with an over/under of 136. Mercer is at home against Wofford on ESPNU as a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 144.5.Houston travels to Tulsa for a game on ESPN2 at 9 PM ET. The fifth-ranked Cougars are 7.5-point road favorites with an over/under of 127. A battle of ranked Big Ten teams features on FS1 as well at 9 PM ET. Iowa is ranked 10th in the nation as they host the 19th ranked Northwestern. The Hawkeyes are 10.5-point favorites with a total of 152.5.The festive fixture schedule continues with five matches to continue Matchweek 16 in the English Premier League. Four games start at 1 PM ET, headlined by Arsenal playing at Brighton and Hove Albion on the NBC Sports Network. Arsenal comes off a triumphant 3-1 win at home against Arsenal on Saturday to elevate them to 15th place with 17 points. The Seagulls come off a 2-2- draw at West Ham United on Sunday, which leaves them in 16th place with 13 points. Arsenal is a -0.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.25.At 3 PM ET, Manchester United hosts Wolverhampton on the NBC Sports Network. The Red Devils come a 2-2 draw at Leicester City on Saturday, which has them in fourth place with 27 points. The Wolves settled for a 1-1 draw at home against Tottenham on Sunday to give them 21 points, which puts them in 11th place in the EPL table. Man United is a -1 goal line favorite with a total of 2.5.

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Ness Notes: Monday, Dec 28

by Larry Ness

Monday, Dec 28, 2020

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: NFL Week 16 concludes with the 11-3 Buffalo Bills visiting the 6-8 NE Patriots on ESPN/ABC at 8:15 ET. Something just doesn't seem quite right about that headline, does it? The Buffalo Bills are led by the right arm (and both legs) of QB Josh Allen, He had four TDs (two passing, two rushing) in a 48-19 win in Denver in Week 15. The performance allowed Buffalo to capture its first AFC East title since 1995 and land Allen his fourth AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor of the season. As for the Pats, who have essentially 'owned' the division since Bill Belichick brought his hoodie to their sideline, they are 'led' by former MVP Cam Newton, who may have 11 rushing TDs (Allen has eight) but has thrown just five TDs passes (Allen has 30) and 10 INTs, for a QB rating of 79.6 (Allen's is 104.2). Note that in the Week 8 meeting between these two teams (in Buffalo), the Pats were just a four-point underdog, losing 24-21 but winning ATS. However, in tonight's game at home in Foxboro, the Past are a seven-point home dog (over/under is 47). I'm taking a 'pass' off a 4-1 NFL Sunday which included a Game of the Year win on Pittsburgh (NEVER in doubt, right?). As I've talked about all season, this has been a 'crazy' NFL season. I'll recap Week 16 in Tuesday's Notes and will again feature a special Saturday edition of Ness Notes to preview Week 17 (all games will be played on Sunday, Jan 3).NBA: The 2020-21 NBA season opened after the shortest offseason in league history on Dec 22. The Clippers beat their Staples Center co-tenants 116-109 on Tuesday, 'spoiling' the Lakers' ring ceremony. The Clipps then avenged last season's 3-1 playoff collapse to the Nuggets with a resounding 121-108 win on Friday. However, the Clippers returned on Sunday for their home-opener against the 0-2 Mavericks and promptly got BLOWN-OUT, 124-73! You read that right. The Clippers trailed 77-27 at halftime, with their 50-point deficit being the largest at the break in the shot-clock era, which began in 1954-55. Nice to know the NBA is still the NBA we've always known. The Cavs, Magic and Pacers have all opened 3-0 in the East, while the Thunder are 1-0 in the West. Here's an idea. Why not realize that OKC is simply the West's "best team" and NOT make them play anymore games, while making them the West's No. 1 seed for the postseason. I'm pretty sure Ohio State football fans understand that logic! Unfortunately for the Thunder, the NBA didn't 'buy' my suggestion, as OKC will host the Utah Jazz tonight, as part of a five-game NBA card (no TV games). The linemakers also seem confused as to OKC's 'greatness,' as the Jazz are favored by 8 1/2-points on the road.CBB: It was a reasonably quiet Friday through Sunday in college hoops. There were two top-25 matchups, with No. 9 Wisconsin winning at No. 12 Michigan St on Friday and Gonzaga leaving little doubt about its No. 1 ranking with a 98-75 rout of No. 16 Virginia in Fort Worth, Tx on Saturday. Wisconsin's win was NO small deal as the Badgers had dropped 12 straight in East Lansing, with their last victory at Breslin Center coming back in 2004. Higher ranked teams are now 15-7 SU but just 11-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams. The last three days saw five games between ranked and unranked opponents, with ranked teams going 3-2 SU and ATS. No. 4 Iowa was upset in OT at Minnesota on Friday and No. 23 Ohio St lost at Northwestern on Saturday. Ranked teams are currently 119-19 (.862) SU but a more modest 74-62-2 (54.4%) ATS vs unranked opponents Y-T-D. The new AP poll will be released this afternoon but according to current rankings, Monday's CBB features No. 1 Gonzaga (-39.5) at home to Northern Arizona, No. 9 Wisconsin (-9) home to Maryland and No. 12 Michigan St (-2.5) at Minnesota. Gonzaga will obviously remain at No. 1 but Wisconsin should move up from No. 9. NO way Michigan St doesn't fall in the rankings (out of the top-25?) and I can't imagine Minnesota NOT moving into the poll for the first time this season. The new poll will be part of Tuesday's Notes.However, the focus of Tuesday's Notes will be the resumption of the bowl season (no games Sunday or Monday) and my NFL Week 16 recap.Good luck...Larry

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NFL, EPL and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Dec 28, 2020

The Monday sports card concludes Week 16 in the NFL, along with games in the NBA and college basketball and the start of Matchweek 16 in the English Premier League.The festive fixture schedule continues with three matches to kick off Matchweek 16 in the English Premier League. Leicester City visits Crystal Palace at 10 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network. The Foxes settled for a 2-2 draw with Manchester United on Saturday to keep them in third place in the EPL table with 28 points. The Eagles are in 13th place in the standings after their 3-0 Saturday loss at Aston Villa. Leicester City is a -0.5 goal line road favorite with the total set at 2.5 (all odds from BetOnline).Chelsea hosts Aston Villa on the NBC Sports Network at 12:30 PM ET. The Blues fell to seventh place with 25 points after their 3-1 loss at Arsenal on Saturday. The Villans are also in seventh place after their 3-0 win against Crystal Palace. Chelsea is a -0.75 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3.Manchester City visits Everton at 3 PM ET. The Cityzens jumped to fifth place with 26 points in the table with their 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday. Everton has won four matches in a row to put them in second place after they defeated Sheffield United on the road by a 1-0 score. Man City is a -1 goal line favorite with the total at 3. This game is on the NBC Peacock app.Sixteen games are on the college basketball betting card starting at 1 PM ET. The lone nationally-televised contest is at 7 PM ET with Illinois State playing at Loyola-Chicago. Five games are on the NBA docket starting at 7:30 PM ET. None of these games are on national television. Monday Night Football on ESPN presents a passing of the guards for AFC East primacy. Buffalo clinched the AFC East title for the first time since 1995 with their 48-19 win Denver last Saturday as a 6-point favorite. The Bills have secured hosting the wildcard round of the AFC playoffs. With their 22-12 loss to Miami last week, New England is eliminated from the playoffs. Cam Newton completed 17 of 27 passes for 209 yards with 38 rushing yards. Newton has completed 65.9% of his passes this season for 2381 yards with five touchdown passes but ten interceptions. He has added 489 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns on the ground. Belichick has been coy about who he will tap for his starting quarterback in this game, with Newton possibly not returning to the team next season. Backup Jarett Stidham may get an opportunity to audition for the job next season. The former Auburn quarterback has completed 18 of 33 passes this season for a 54.5% completion percentage for 212 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. Buffalo is a 7-point road favorite with the total set at 46. Kickoff is shortly after 8:15 PM ET.

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The Early Bird Gets The Worm

by Ben Burns

Monday, Dec 28, 2020

Regardless of sport, it's much easier to have a profitable season, if one gets off to a winning start. It's also much easier to get off to a winning start if one is properly prepared. Over the years, I've become known for my "fast starts." Currently, I'm off to a quick start with my basketball selections. I attribute much of my success to my offseason preparation. While each sport allows for a different type of study, by the time the season begins, I want to have devoured as much information as I possibly can. On that note, I'll point out that NHL returns on January 13th. I know it seems like last season just ended (Tampa hoisted the Cup on Sept. 28th.) but the league hopes to get back to its normal schedule, in time for next year. This condensed 56-game schedule allows them to do so. Due to travel restrictions, the divisions have been realigned. We've now got the North, West, Central, and East. The North is an "All Canadian" division, featuring the seven Canadian teams. The 24 American teams are divided equally among the other three. As I write this, on December 28th, the Avs are favored to win the Cup. While I'm not advising making any future bets, I do find it helpful to know what each team's expectations are. Current future odds, for the "top 10" teams, courtesy of Pinnacle, are listed below. Remember, you've got roughly two weeks to prepare for the upcoming season. When they drop the puck, make sure you're ready to go. Good luck and an early Happy New Year!ODDS TO WIN THE CUPColorado +536Tampa +743Vegas +753Toronto +1254Boston +1292Edmonton +1531Philadelphia +1873Washington +1988Pittsburgh +2104Dallas +2104

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NFL Monday Night Football: Bills/Patriots Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Dec 28, 2020

Monday Night Football on ESPN presents a passing of the guards for AFC East primacy. Buffalo clinched the AFC East title for the first time since 1995 with their 48-19 win Denver last Saturday as a 6-point favorite. The Bills have secured hosting the wildcard round of the AFC playoffs. They remain in control of their destiny to claim the second seed in the AFC playoffs if they win their remaining two games. The Steelers are a half-game ahead of the Bills after their victory over Indianapolis on Sunday. Yet Buffalo controls the first tie-breaker due to their 26-15 win over Pittsburgh on December 13th. Holding the second seed not only reserves the right to host the playoff game in the AFC divisional playoff round, but Buffalo would also host the AFC Championship Game if top-seed Kansas City got upset in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Bills make a case of being the best team in the NFL given their performance since Week 7. Buffalo has won seven of their last eight games while averaging 31.4 points-per-game and 399.9 yards-per-game. They have outgained their opponents by +79 net points during this run. All those numbers are the second-best in the NFL over that span. Josh Allen completed 28 of 40 passes against the Broncos last week for 359 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He added 33 yards with another two touchdowns on the ground. Allen will look to add on to his 4000 passing yards in this breakout season. He is completing 68.7% of his passes with 30 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. He has added 383 rushing yards on the ground with eight touchdowns.New England will not be AFC East champions for just the second time in the last 17 seasons. This game does offer this proud franchise the rare opportunity to play the role of the spoiler. The Patriots lost the first meeting between these two teams on November 1st by a 24-21 score as a 4-point underdog in Buffalo. It has been nineteen seasons since a  divisional opponent swept New England. The Patriots have not endured a losing season since 2000, which was Bill Belichick’s first year as a professional head coach. With their 22-12 loss to Miami last week, New England is eliminated from the playoffs. Cam Newton completed 17 of 27 passes for 209 yards with 38 rushing yards. Newton has completed 65.9% of his passes this season for 2381 yards with five touchdown passes but ten interceptions. He has added 489 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns on the ground. Belichick has been coy about who he will tap for his starting quarterback in this game, with Newton possibly not returning to the team next season. Backup Jarett Stidham may get an opportunity to audition for the job next season. The former Auburn quarterback has completed 18 of 33 passes this season for a 54.5% completion percentage for 212 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. The Patriots added cornerback Stephon Gilmour to their Injured Reserve list this week with his quad injury. He is the seventh player either out for the season or on their Injured Reserve list. Tight end Jordan Thomas joined defensive tackle Isaiah Mack on their COVID list. Belichick has 21 players listed as questionable, including running back Damien Harris.Buffalo tight end Reggie Gilliam is out with his knee and hamstring injuries. The Bills have two players on Injured Reserve. Offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe and safety Jaquan Johnson are questionable with injuries. BetAnySports lists Buffalo as a 7-point road favorite with the total set at 46. Kickoff is shortly after 8:15 PM ET.

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NFL Sunday Night Football: Packers/Titans Preview

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Dec 27, 2020

Sunday Night Football on NBC features Tennessee and Green Bay in a non-conference battle between teams with Super Bowl aspirations. Lambeau Field will showcase two of the top candidates for league Most Valuable Player in Derrick Henry and Aaron Rodgers.Tennessee clinches their spot in the playoffs with a victory in this game. The Titans also ensure a spot in the playoffs if Baltimore loses to the New York Giants in the afternoon. They go into Sunday tied with Indianapolis with a 10-4 record. If the Colts lose to Pittsburgh in the afternoon, then a Tennessee victory clinches them the AFC South title. The Titans also have playoff seeding on their minds being one game behind Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Winning the AFC South ensures hosting the first round of the playoffs for Tennessee, while the second seed in the AFC would offer them a potential second home game in the divisional round. The Titans won their fourth game in their last five with their 46-25 victory against Detroit as a 9.5-point favorite. Derrick Henry ran the ball 24 times for 147 yards in the win. Henry is heating up late in the season with 362 rushing yards in his last two games. He has rushed for 1679 yards this season with 15 touchdowns. He will make his case for league MVP tonight by tying Barry Sanders with ten straight games on the road with at least 100 rushing yards. Ryan Tannehill completed 21 of 27 passes for 273 yards with three touchdown passes. He is completing 66.5% of his passes for 3482 yards with 31 touchdown passes and just five interceptions this season. The one-two punch of Henry and Tannehill lead an offense that is number one in the NFL by scoring 31.1 points-per-game.Green Bay clinched the NFC North title with their 24-16 win over Carolina last Saturday as a 9.5-point favorite. A Packers’ victory tonight combined with a Seattle loss or tie with the Los Angeles Rams clinches the top seed in the NFC. New Orleans moved just a half-game behind Green Bay’s 11-3 record with their eleventh win of the season on Friday against Minnesota. The Packers own the tie-breaker against the Saints, given their 37-30 victory in New Orleans in late September. Rodgers completed 20 of 29 passes against the Panthers last week but for only 143 yards. He threw a touchdown pass and added another touchdown on the ground. He can make his case for league MVP by improving his 69.6% completion percentage this season, which has accounted for 3828 yards. Rodgers has thrown 40 touchdown passes with only four picks. Green Bay removed 17 players from their final Injury List this week. The Packers have two players out: safety Will Redmond and tight end Jace Steinberger. Running back Jamaal Williams and guard Simon Stepaniak are doubtful. Eight players are either out the season or on Injured Reserve, including defensive end Montravious Adams. Tennessee moved 12 players from their final Injury List. Outside linebacker Derick Roberson is out with a hamstring. Eight players are on Injured Reserve or out the season, including left tackle Taylor Lewan and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. BookMaker lists Green Bay as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 54. Kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NFL, NBA, NCAA Basketball and EPL Preview

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Dec 27, 2020

The Sunday sports card continues Week 16 in the NFL along with games in the NBA and college basketball along with the conclusion of Matchweek 15 in the English Premier League.Eleven games are on the National Football League schedule. Six games take place at 1 PM ET window of opening games. The national broadcast on Fox has Kansas City hosting Atlanta as a 10.5-point favorite with the total set at 53 (all odds from BetOnline). The primary game on CBS has Pittsburgh playing at home against Indianapolis as a 2-point favorite with an over/under of 43.Another four games take place in the 4:05 PM to 4:25 PM ET window. The national game on Fox at 4:25 PM ET is an NFC West showdown between the Lo Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. This game is a pick ‘em with the total at 47.5.Sunday Night Football on NBC features Tennessee and Green Bay in a non-conference battle between teams with Super Bowl aspirations. Lambeau Field will showcase two of the top candidates for league Most Valuable Player in Derrick Henry and Aaron Rodgers.The Titans won their fourth game in their last five with their 46-25 victory against Detroit as a 9.5-point favorite. Derrick Henry ran the ball 24 times for 147 yards in the win. Henry is heating up late in the season with 362 rushing yards in his last two games. He has rushed for 1679 yards this season with 15 touchdowns. He will make his case for league MVP tonight by tying Barry Sanders with ten straight games on the road with at least 100 rushing yards. Green Bay clinched the NFC North title with their 24-16 win over Carolina last Saturday as a 9.5-point favorite. A Packers’ victory tonight combined with a Seattle loss or tie with the Los Angeles Rams clinches the top seed in the NFC. New Orleans moved just a half-game behind Green Bay’s 11-3 record with their eleventh win of the season on Friday against Minnesota. The Packers own the tie-breaker against the Saints, given their 37-30 victory in New Orleans in late September.Green Bay is a 3-point favorite with the total set at 54. Kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET.The NBA has ten games scheduled for Sunday starting at 3:35 PM ET with the Dallas Mavericks visiting the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are 5-point favorites with a total of 230. The card concludes at 10:35 PM ET with the Los Angeles Lakers playing at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves. None of the games on Sunday are on national television.There is one nationally-televised game in college basketball. At 4:30 PM ET, Providence hosts DePaul on FS1. The Friars are 6.5-point favorites with an over/under of 144.The final four matches in Matchweek 15 of the English Premier League start at 7 AM ET. Leeds United hosts Burnley as a -0.75 goal line favorite with the total at 3 on the NBC Peacock app. At 9:15 AM ET, West Ham United plays at home against Brighton and Hove Albion as a -0.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.5 on the NBC Sports Network. Liverpool plays at home at Anfield against West Brom Albion on the NBC Sports Network as a -2.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3.5. The NBC Sports Network EPL triple-header concludes at 2:15 PM ET with Tottenham playing at Wolverhampton as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with a total of 2.25.

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