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NFL Saturday Night Football: Dolphins/Raiders Preview

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Dec 26, 2020

The Saturday triple-header in the NFL concludes with Miami playing in Las Vegas at 8:15 PM ET on the NFL Network in a game with playoff implications for both teams.Miami controls its fate to make the playoffs with their current 9-5 record. The Dolphins are tied with Baltimore for the seventh and final spot in the AFC playoff race but own the tie-breaker against the Ravens with a better conference record. They won for the third time in their last four games with their 22-12 win at home against New England last week. Despite being without running back Myles Gaskin, wide receiver DeVante Parker, and tight end Mike Gesicki, Miami generated 383 yards of offense against the Patriots. Undrafted rookie running back Salvon Ahmed from Washington became the first Dolphins rusher to gain at least 100 yards in 32 games with his 122-yard effort. The offense was missing their top-five receivers in terms of catches as well, but rookie Lynn Bowden has stepped up with 17 receptions from his 20 targets over the last three games for 160 yards. Rookie Tua Tagovailoa completed 20 of 26 passes for 145 yards with an interception in the victory. In his eight games, including seven starts, he has completed 63.8% of his passes for 1359 yards with nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions. But he is only averaging 6.47 yards-per-attempt. The Dolphins lead the NFL by allowing 18.4 points-per-game. Their 26 takeaways are tops in the league, and they have generated nine turnovers in their last four games. But their victories against Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams are their only two wins this season against teams that have a winning record going into Week 16. Las Vegas has lost four of their last five games to spoil their 6-2 start to the season. The Raiders are technically still alive to make the playoffs, but they must win their final two games and get some help from the Dolphins and Ravens losing their remaining games. Las Vegas comes off a crushing 30-27 loss at home in overtime to the Los Angeles Chargers Thursday. Backup quarterback Marcus Mariota played in relief for an injured Derek Carr to complete 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The former Titans’ quarterback added another 88 yards with a touchdown with his legs. Head coach Jon Gruden has been mum on who his starting quarterback will be in this game. Carr’s groin injury has improved this week, and he is clear to play. He is completing 68.1% of his passes for 3396 yards with 24 touchdown passes. But five of his seven interceptions have taken place in his last five games. Besides these turnovers, the Raiders’ defense has let them down during their current slide. They have allowed their last five opponents to average 36.0 points-per-game. Las Vegas has only five sacks during that span. Their lone win in these previous five games was against the 1-13 New York Jets in a triumph aided by the all-out blitz from Gregg Williams on their final-play touchdown pass that got the defensive coordinator fired the next day.The Raiders will be without defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who is out with an injury. Linebacker Nicholas Morrow was added to their COVID list to join linebacker Nick Kwiatoski. Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is questionable with a calf injury.Miami activated running back Myles Gaskin this week from their COVID list. Guard Solomon Kindley is out with his knee and foot issues. The Dolphins have five players listed as questionable: guard Ereck Flowers; tight end Mike Gesicki; wide receiver Jakeem Grant; defensive end Shaq Lawson; wide receiver DeVante Parker.BetAnySports lists the Dolphins as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 47.5.

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

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Dec 26, 2020

The Saturday sports card offers a busy slate, including a triple-header in the NFL and college football, and games in the NBA, college basketball, and the English Premier League. The NFL kicks off at 1 PM ET with Tampa Bay visiting Detroit. The Buccaneers have won two straight games to raise their record to a 9-5 mark with their 31-27 win at Atlanta as a 6-point favorite last week. The Lions have lost four of their last five games to fall to a 5-9 record this season after their 46-25 loss at Tennessee. Given COVID protocols requiring many of their coaches to be in quarantine, Detroit will rely on interim coaches who have never called NFL plays on offense and defense before today. Tampa Bay is a 10-point favorite with the total set at 54 (all odds from BetOnline). The game is on the NFL Network.Arizona hosts San Francisco at 4:30 PM ET. The Cardinals have won two games in a row to improve their record to an 8-6 mark after their 33-26 win against Philadelphia last week as a 6.5-point favorite. The 49ers fell to 5-9 last Sunday when they suffered their third straight upset loss at Dallas by a 41-33 score as a 4-point favorite. Arizona is a 5-point favorite with an over/under of 48.5. Amazon Prime has the broadcast.The nightcap has Miami visiting Las Vegas for an 8:15 PM ET kickoff. The Dolphins have won three of their last four games to improve to a 9-5 record with their 22-12 win against New England last week. Las Vegas has lost four of their last five games to fall to a 7-7 record on Thursday, December 17th in their 30-27 upset loss at home to the Los Angeles Chargers. Miami is a 3-point road favorite with the total at 48. The NFL Network has the broadcast. The first two college football bowl games are at 3:30 PM ET. Western Kentucky plays Georgia State in the LendingTree Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The Hilltoppers are 5-6 after winning their final three regular-season games, culminating in a 37-19 victory at Charlotte on December 6th. The Panthers have won three of their last four games to earn their 5-4 record after their 30-24 win against Georgia Southern. Georgia State is a 3.5-point favorite with the over/under at 50. The game is on ESPN.Louisiana-Lafayette plays the University of Texas-San Antonio in the First Responder Bowl at Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas. The Ragin’ Cajuns earned a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game against Coastal Carolina before that game got canceled because of COVID issues. Louisiana last played on December 4th when they won at Appalachian State by a 24-21 as a 3.5-point underdog to raise their record to 9-1. UTSA is 7-4 after their 49-17 win against North Texas on November 28th as a 1.5-point favorite. The Ragin’ Cajuns are a 13.5-point favorite, with the total at 55.5. This game is on ABC.Liberty plays Coastal Carolina at 7:30 PM ET in the Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The Flames improved their record to an 8-1 mark after they shutout UMass on November 27th by a 45-0 score. The Chanticleers last played on December 12th when they won at Troy by a 42-28 score to keep their perfect 11-0 record. Their showdown with Louisiana the next week in the Sun Belt Conference championship got canceled. Coastal Carolina is a 7-point favorite with the over/under at 59.5.A light Saturday college basketball schedule has three nationally-televised games. At 1 PM ET, Louisville hosts Kentucky on ESPN. The Cardinals are 4.5-point favorites with the total set at 134. Houston visits Central Florida at 2 PM ET on ESPN2. The Cougars are ranked sixth in the nation by the Associated Press. They are 7.5-point favorites with an over/under of 136.The marquee matchup in college basketball is on CBS at 4 PM ET, featuring two top-20 teams. Gonzaga is the number one team in the nation, while Virginia ranks 16th. These two teams will play on a neutral court at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. The Bulldogs are 9-point favorites, with the total at 140.The NBA has ten games scheduled for Saturday starting at 5 PM ET. No games are on national television.Matchweek 15 in the English Premier League starts on Saturday with six matches. Four of these matches are on national television. At 7:30 AM ET, Manchester United visits Leicester City on the NBC Sports Network as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with the over/under at 2.75. Aston Villa hosts Crystal Palace at 10 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -0.5 goal line favorite with the total set at 2.75. NBC has Chelsea playing at Arsenal at 12:30 PM ET as a -0.5 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.5. At 3 PM ET, Manchester City plays at home at the Etihad Stadium against Newcastle United on the NBC Sports Network as a -2.25 goal line favorite with the total at 3.25.

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Ness Notes: Friday, Dec 25

by Larry Ness

Friday, Dec 25, 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."2020-21 Bowl season: The "no drama" bowl season continued on Thursday in the New Mexico Bowl, which was moved from Albuquerque to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico. Hawaii turned a pair of first-quarter interceptions into TDs and took a 21-0 lead at the half. QB Chevan Cordeiro's had three first-half TD passes, one set up by his 52-yard run. RB Calvin Turner Jr. caught a 75-yard TD pass and when Houston had closed to 21-14, returned a kickoff 92 yards for a TD  "All the money" came in on Hawaii (Houston closed as a 7-point favorite, after opening as a 12-point choice) and it was 'right.' The final score was 28-14 (no scoring in the 4th quarter). Favorites are now 4-2 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, Wednesday's two bowl games combined for just 76 points, as both stayed under and Thursday's final score of 42 was well below the closing total of 60. Two overs and four unders, so far. Friday's bowl game was previewed in Thursday Notes, if interested. The current line has Buffalo up to 5 or 5 1/2-point favorites (over/under is 54 1/2).It's a Christmas Day NFL game (4:30 ET on FOX/NFL Network) between the 6-8 Vikings and the 10-4 Saints in New Orleans. The Saints have lost two in a row (following a NINE-game winning streak) and are now ONE game behind 11-3 Green Bay. The Saints are tied with the 10-4 Seahawks but own the tiebreaker, currently allowing them to hold on to the No. 2 seed. The 6-8 Vikings are not officially eliminated from postseason play just yet but the team's playoff hopes are clearly on 'life support.' New Orleans is favored  by seven points and the over/under is 51. Saturday's bowls will be covered in a "special" Saturday edition of Ness Notes, along with a preview of Saturday and Sunday's NFL Week 16 gamesCBB: The NBA has 'owned' Christmas Day in recent years but the Big Ten has decided in this 'Year of COVID' to 'crash the party.' In fact, COVID sparked the move. Typically, the NCAA upholds a rule requiring three days off around Christmas but the organization waived the regulation as various teams remain on campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Big Ten hoops will play FOUR Christmas games that feature four ranked teams. The first game features a top-25 showdown between No. 9  Wisconsin (7-1) and No. 12 Michigan St (6-1) at East Lansing at 12:30 ET. The lone game without a ranked opponent in this Christmas 'grand slam' is 5-2 Maryland visiting West Lafayette to take on 6-3 Purdue. No. 19 Michigan (6-0) travels to Lincoln to play 4-4 Nebraska at 6:00 ET and No. 4 Iowa (7-1) visits Williams Arena in Minneapolis to take on 7-1 Minnesota. Wisconsin opened a small road favorite but early movement has Michigan as a two-point choice. Higher ranked teams are 13-7 SU but just 9-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams. In the two games featuring ranked teams vs unranked opponents, Michigan is an eight-point favorite at Nebraska and Iowa a 6 1/2-point road choice at Minnesota. Ranked teams are 116-17 (.872) SU but a more modest 71-60-2 (54.2%) ATS vs unranked opponents Y-T-D.It's its Christmas, it MUST be the NBA. The ESPN/ABC family has a Christmas Day Extravaganza with FIVE games, beginning at 12 noon ET with New Orleans at Miami and concluding with the Clippers visiting Denver at 10:30 ET to play the Nuggets. The Heat surprised almost all (surely Milwaukee fans!) by making it to the NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Lakers. However, the Heat were the NBA's best ATS team in last year's "bubble-based" playoffs, going 16-5 ATS. Miami is favored by 3 1/2-points. Speaking of Milwaukee, the Bucks are up next (2:30 ET), when they host Golden St. Milwaukee overcame a 17-point deficit entering the 4th quarter in their season-opener at Boston on Wednesday, only to lose 122-21, when Giannis short-armed a free-throw attempt that would have sent the game into OT. As for Golden St, I guess the best way to put it is, "these are not your father's Warriors." Milwaukee is favored by 10 1/2-points. The Kevin Durant-led Nets (Kyrie would say the Irving-led Nets) are in Boston to face the Celtics, where Brooklyn is a three-point road favorite. It's the second straight game in which Boston has been a home dog. It didn't turn out well for Milwaukee. Will Brooklyn fare better? The Lakers opened their title defense Tuesday night and lost at Staples Center to co-tenants, the LA Clippers. The Lakers celebrated their NBA title with a ring ceremony (often a jinx as I pointed in taking AND winning with the Clippers!), then trailed by as many as 22 points early on against the Clippers before rallying but eventually losing 116-109. As for the Mavs, Luka Doncic led the Mavericks to the playoffs last season to end the franchise's three-season absence but Dallas lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The Mavs opened their season Wednesday night but lost 106-102 to the Suns, who picked right up where they left off from last year's Orlando 'bubble' (Suns were 8-0 SU & ATS). LA is favored by 6 1/2-points.The  5-game game Extravaganza finally concludes with the Clippers visiting the 'Mile High City" to take on the Nuggets. Most should remember (surely the Clippers and Nuggets do) LA's stunning collapse in their second-round exit in last season's playoffs. The Clippers led the series 3-1 and had a double-digit lead in the second half of Game 5 but the Nuggets came back to win, and then rallied again in Game 6, before finishing the upset in Game 7. Knee-jerk says take the Clippers but they are off a BIG win over the Lakers, while the Nuggets are off a wild home OT 124-122 loss to the Kings in their season-opener. This ISN'T an easy business. The Clippers are a three-point road favorite.See you Saturday for that "special" edition of Ness Notes (Bowls and NFL, only). I'll catch up with CBB and the NBA on Monday.Merry Christmas...Larry

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

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Dec 25, 2020

The Friday Christmas Day sports schedule offers a full day of games in the NBA and college basketball and a game apiece in the NFL and college football.The card tips off in the NBA with five games. At noon PM ET, Miami hosts New Orleans on ESPN as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 223.5 (all odds from BetOnline). The Heat was upset on Wednesday in their opening game of the season in a 113-107 loss at Oklahoma City as a 4.5-point favorite. The Pelicans upset Toronto on the road by a 113-99 score as a 4-point underdog on Wednesday.Milwaukee plays at home against Golden State at 2:30 PM ET on ABC with an over/under of 235.5. The Bucks were upset at Boston in their opening game on Wednesday as a 4.5-point favorite. The Warriors will be without Draymond Green in this game after he was injured in their 125-99 loss at Brooklyn on Wednesday.The Nets follow up that opening night victory by visiting the Celtics at 5 PM ET on ABC. Brooklyn is a road favorite laying 3 points with a total of 227.5. At 8 PM ET, the Los Angeles Lakers host Dallas on ABC and ESPN as a 6-point favorite with an over/under 227.5. The Lakers were upset in their opening game against the Clippers by a 116-109 score as a 2-point favorite on Tuesday. The Mavericks come off a 106-102 loss at Phoenix on Wednesday as a 1.5-point underdog. The NBA slate concludes at 10:30 PM ET on ESPN, with the Los Angeles Clippers playing at Denver. The Nuggets were upset on Wednesday by a 124-122 score as an 8-point favorite. The Clippers are 1-point road favorites with a total of 225.The college basketball card involves four games in the Big Ten. At 12:30 PM ET, Wisconsin visits Michigan State on Fox as a 1.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 140.5. The Badgers have won four games in a row after their 67-53 victory against Nebraska on Tuesday. The Spartans were upset in their last contest at Northwestern by a 79-65 score on Sunday. Purdue hosts Maryland at 2:30 PM ET on FS1 as a 6-point favorite with a total of 137. The Boilermakers had their three-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday with their 70-52 loss at Iowa as a 5.5-point underdog. The Terrapins ended a two-game losing streak on Tuesday with an 84-71 win against LaSalle as a 17.5-point favorite.Michigan plays at Nebraska in their first road game of the season at 6 PM ET. The Wolverines are 8-point road favorites with a total of 148.5. Michigan won their sixth straight game to start the season with a 62-58 win against Penn State back on December 13th. The Cornhuskers have lost three of their last four games after a 67-53 loss on Tuesday as a 13.5-point underdog at Wisconsin.Iowa visits Minnesota at 8 PM ET. The Hawkeyes rebounded from their weekend loss to Gonzaga with that win against Purdue on Tuesday. The Golden Gophers come off a 90-82 upset win against Saint Louis as a 2-point underdog on Sunday. Iowa is a 7.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 163.5.The Camellia Bowl kicks off at 2:30 PM ET from the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, between Marshall and Buffalo. The Thundering Herd were upset in the Conference USA championship game at home to UAB by a 22-13 score as a 4.5-point favorite last Friday. The Bulls were also upset in the Mid-American Conference championship game on Friday against Ball State as a 12.5-point favorite by a 38-28 score. Buffalo is a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 54.5. This game is on ESPN.Week 16 in the NFL kicks off at 4:30 PM ET with New Orleans playing at home against Minnesota. The Saints have lost their last two games after their 32-29 loss at home to Kansas City as a 2.5-point underdog on Sunday. The Vikings have lost their two straight games after an upset at home to Chicago on Sunday by a 33-27 score. New Orleans is a 7-point favorite with an over/under of 51. Fox and the NFL Network have the broadcast.

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NFL Christmas Day Football: Saints/Vikings Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Dec 25, 2020

A rare Christmas Day game in the NFL takes place between two NFC teams still alive in the playoff race. New Orleans begins Week 16 of the season with a 10-4 record, which puts them one game ahead of Tampa Bay in the NFC South. A victory in this game clinches the division for the Saints. They are tied with Seattle for the second seed in the NFC, and they are one-game behind Green Bay for the top spot, which ensures home-field advantage and a bye in the first round of the playoffs. New Orleans does not own a potential tiebreaker with the Packers since Green Bay defeated them in September. The Saints lost two games in a row after their 32-29 loss to Kansas City as a 2.5-point underdog last Sunday. New Orleans only gained 285 yards in that game, but their offense was only on the field for 18:46 minutes. They averaged 5.59 yards-per-play, which was just below their 5.6 yards-per-play season average. They gave up 411 yards to the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes on the field for over 41 minutes. The Saints’ defense held Kansas City to just 4.67 yards-per-play. That was below their 4.9 yards-per-play defensive average, which is the third-best in the league. New Orleans is also third in the NFL in total defense by giving up only 306.4 yards-per-game. Drew Brees made his first start in five games on Sunday by completing 15 of 34 passes for 234 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Brees is completing 70.5% of his passes for 2430 yards in his ten games with 21 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Minnesota still has slim playoff hopes after losing their second straight game on Sunday in a 33-27 upset loss at home to Chicago as a 2.5-point favorite. With their 6-8 record, the Vikings are a game behind the Bears and two games behind Arizona, who currently occupy the final playoff spot in the NFC.Kirk Cousins completed 24 of 35 passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. He is completing 67.6% of his passes for 3569 yards with 29 touchdown passes. But Cousins is also responsible for 18 turnovers, including 16 interceptions, which is second-most in the league. The Vikings have been decimated by injuries, especially on defense. The linebacker position is particularly thin. Eric Kendricks and Troy Dye are out, with Todd Davis listed as doubtful for this game. Defensive end Jalyn Holmes, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Alexander Mattison are also out. Fullback C.J. Ham and defensive tackle Arman Watts are questionable. Minnesota has five players on Injured Reserve, including linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Danielle Hunter. New Orleans has wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith and safety Marcus Williams, both out for this game on a short week. They have four players questionable with injuries: guard Andrus Peat; defensive tackle Malcom Brown; defensive end Trey Hendrickson, guard Nick Easton. The Saints have six players on Injured Reserve, including wide receiver Michael Thomas. BookMaker lists New Orleans as a 7-point favorite with the total set at 51. Fox has the broadcast starting at 4:30 PM ET.

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Dec 24

by Larry Ness

Thursday, Dec 24, 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." Bowl season continues: The "no drama" bowl season continued on Wednesday, as Georgia Southern took a 21-3 lead at the half over La Tech in the New Orleans Bowl, on its way to a 38-3 win. Eagles QB Shai Werts, who missed the final two regular-season games with a shoulder injury, ran for three TDs and threw for another. Louisiana Tech's bowl winning streak of six games was the longest active mark in the country but it came to a crashing halt! In the Montgomery Bowl, Memphis took an 18-0 halftime lead over FAU and went on to post a 25-10 victory. Brady White, a sixth-year senior who is the most productive passer in Memphis history, completed 22 of 34 for 284 yards and three TDs. The win was the first for Memphis since a double-overtime victory over BYU in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl. Memphis had been on a 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS run in its last eight conference championship or bowl games, so the win was 'sweet.' For FAU,  the result was 'sour,' as the Owls entered on a 6-0 SU & ATS run in conference championship or bowl games. Favorites are now 4-1 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, Wednesday's two bowl games combined for just 76 points, as both stayed under (two overs and three unders through five bowls). Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bowls: The 2020 New Mexico Bowl will be played Christmas Eve (3:30 ET on ESPN) in Frisco, Tx (near Dallas). The game is normally played in Albuquerque, NM but was relocated from New Mexico due to that state's health guidelines regarding intercollegiate athletics and travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Heard that before? The Rainbow Warriors know all about appearing in bowl games the last two decades, with 11 appearances in that stretch. However, only ONE bowl appearance came in the 48 contiguous states, when a 12-0 Hawaii team played in and lost the 2008 Sugar Bowl (2007 season) 41-10 to Georgia (remember Colt Brennan?). Todd Graham is in his first season at Hawaii but has the Rainbow Warriors in their FOURTH bowl in the last five seasons. It's been a bumpy ride for teams all across college football but the Houston program is right up among the schools the virus has affected most. The Cougars had EIGHT games postponed, canceled or rescheduled due to COVID-19 issues. Between Nov 14 and this bowl game, Houston has played just one game, a 30-27 loss to Memphis on Dec 12. The Cougars, who despite an overall 3-4 record (3-3 American Athletic Conference), are headed to their SEVENTH bowl in the last eight seasons but the first under second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen. Houston is favored by 8 1/2-points and the over/under is 59 1/2.7-2 Marshall and 6-1 Buffalo have experienced similar football seasons. Marshall opened 7-0 and was ranked 15th in the AP poll when it lost 20-0 at home to Rice on Dec 5 as a 24 1/2-point favorite. The Thundering Herd then lost at home again in the C-USA championship game on Dec 18, 22-13 to UAB. Buffalo entered the AP top-25 for the first time in school history (at No. 23) on Dec 13 with a 6-0 record. However, the Bulls (-12.5) were upset in the MAC championship at Ford Field on Dec 18, 38-28. Both schools will be looking to amends when they meet in the Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Al) at 2:30 ET on ESPN. Individually, Marshall's freshman QB Grant Wells and Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson, each have something to prove as well. Wells threw FIVE interceptions in the shutout loss against Rice and then completed just 8 of 24 pass attempts in the Dec 18 loss to UAB. As for Patterson, after 301- and 409-yard games in consecutive weeks against Bowling Green and Kent State put him on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy race, he was held to 47 yards on 18 carries against Ball State. He injured his right knee and was limited during the second half but is expected to play. Buffalo is favored by five points and the over/under is 54. The NBA season opened Tuesday with a doubleheader and last night, the remaining 26 teams played 13 games. TNT could NOT have asked for a better contest, as the Celtics beat the Bucks 122-121. Boston dominated the first three quarters and entered the fourth quarter with a 101-84 lead. However, the Bucks led 120-119 in the game's final second when Jayson Tatum banked-in a three-pointer with .4 seconds left for 122-120 Boston lead. Giannis was fouled on an alley-oop try on the inbounds pass but after making the first free-throw, he short-armed the second, allowing the Celtics to win 122-121. ESPN televised a late game in which the Suns, who were a league-best 8-0 SU & ATS in the Orlando "bubble," beat Doncic and Mavs 106-102. A few other notable items were the Heat, who lost to the Lakers in six games in last season's Finals, losing their season-opener 113-107 at Orlando. Russell Westbrook served up a triple-double (21-11-15) in his Wizards debut but Washington lost 113-107 at Philly. The WORST news came out of Houston, where the Thunder/Rockets game was postponed. More troubling was the news that James Harden has been fined $50,000 by the NBA and ruled "unavailable" for Wednesday's game due to a violation of the league's COVID-19 protocols after the league reviewed video of him socializing mask-less at a club earlier this week. The season is only two days old!! No games on Thursday but the NBA (on ESPN/ABC) has a Christmas Day Extravaganza with FIVE games, beginning at 12 noon ET with New Orleans at Miami and concludes with the Clippers visiting Denver at 10:30 ET to play the Nuggets, who they blew a 3-1 lead to in last season's playoffs.Catching up with college hoops: Wednesday featured two games between ranked teams, No. 11 Rutgers (6-0) at No. 23 Ohio State (6-1) and No. 13 Creighton (6-2) at home vs No. 22 Xavier (8-0). Ohio State rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit and finally took the lead at 63-61, with 4:25 remaining. The Buckeyes pulled away for an 80-68 win, as THREE players had career highs in points; Duane Washington Jr. (22), E.J. Liddell (21) and Kyle Young (17). It was Rutgers' first loss. Although Creighton was the higher ranked team, Xavier invaded Omaha as the unbeaten one. Xavier took an early 17-5 lead but the Musketeers didn't score over the final 5:05 of the first half, as the Bluejays took a 36-34 edge into halftime. Creighton moved to 7-2 with the 66-61 win but didn't cover. Higher ranked teams are now 13-7 SU but just 9-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams.Three ranked teams, No. 5 Villanova, No. 8 Tennessee and No. 18 Illinois faced unranked opponents and all three won, although Tennessee didn't cover as a HUGE favorite. Most notable among the three was the Fighting Illini falling behind the Nittany Lions at Penn St 19-4 in the first five minutes but recovering to enter the half tied at 43-all. With the score 54-54 at the 13:38 mark, Illinois took complete control of the game to win, 98-81. Illinois recorded its highest point total in a Big Ten game since knocking off Northwestern 99-57 on March 8, 1995. Ranked teams checked in at 101-16 (.863) SU and 63-52-2 (54.8%) vs unranked teams at the start of the week. They have gone an impressive 15-1 SU from Monday-Wednesday but just 8-8 ATS. Doing the math, ranked teams are 116-17 (.872) SU but a more modest 71-60-2 (54.2%) ATS vs unranked opponents. No games in college hoops on Thursday but the Big Ten serves up a four-game 'Grand Slam' of contests on Christmas Day (see Friday's Notes). Good luck...Larry

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Camellia Bowl Notes: Marshall vs. Buffalo

by Sean Murphy

Thursday, Dec 24, 2020

The Christmas Day Bowl showdown between Marshall and Buffalo may look like a terrific matchup on paper, but injuries and opt-outs have the potential to derail that notion.Marshall will be without at least three key pieces - most notably RB Brenden Knox, who has elected to sit out this game and forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Knox was really one of the only things the Thundering Herd offense had going for it down the stretch with redshirt freshman QB Grant Wells struggling mightily. The Herd enter this contest off consecutive losses against Rice and UAB, scoring only 13 points in the process. Knox isn't the only notable absence, however, as Marshall will be without its top tackler and C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Tavante Beckett, who has also elected to opt-out. Buffalo has concerns of its own, with RB Jaret Patterson nursing a knee injury suffered in last week's stunning MAC Championship Game loss to Ball State. Patterson had run for a whopping 815 yards and 14 touchdowns over his last three games before last week's misstep against the Cardinals. While Patterson is expected to play in this game, he'll likely be wearing a knee brace and it remains to be seen how effective he can be, or whether he'll see a full workload. Both teams feature starting quarterbacks that showed flashes of brilliance over the course of the season but are best suited to 'game manager' roles in my opinion. Note that last week's contest marked the first time Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease attempted more than 27 passes in a game this season, and we know how that one went for the Bulls. Marshall QB Wells has thrown more than two touchdown passes just twice in eight games against FBS opponents this season. The Bulls are currently installed as 5.5-point favorites.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAA Football Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Dec 24, 2020

The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque usually hosts the New Mexico Bowl, but local COVID protocols prompted a move to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas this year. The trip is under 300 miles north for the Houston Cougars while the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors will be playing their first bowl game in the mainland since 2008.Houston has lost three of their last four games after their 30-27 loss at Memphis as a 7-point favorite on December 12th. The Cougars allowed an 85-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown that overcame their 109 net yardage edge in that game. Houston has dealt with eight games this season either canceled, postponed, or rescheduled because of COVID issues. They will be playing just their second game since November 14th as they look to even their record at 4-4. The Cougars opened their season on October 8th with wins against Tulane and at Navy in their first three games but have only beaten South Florida since. Junior quarterback Clayton Tune completed 30 of 49 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. He is completing 60.7% of his passes for 1832 yards with 13 touchdown passes, along with seven interceptions. He has added 269 rushing yards with five touchdowns on a 4.3 yards-per-carry average. Hawai’i has won two of their last three games after their 38-12 win over UNLV on December 12th. Chris Cordeiro completed 20 of 33 passes for 252 yards while adding another 88 rushing yards with a touchdown. The sophomore quarterback is completing 62.1% of his passes for 1947 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has rushed for 450 yards with seven touchdowns. The Rainbow Warriors are 4-4 on the season with upset victories against Fresno State and Nevada. This contest will be their first game away from home since November 14th.Both of these teams are dealing with opt-outs. The Rainbow Warriors will not have the services of running back Miles Reed, who decided to transfer after the win over UNLV. The junior has rushed for 346 yards on 82 carries this season.Houston has lost three of their top starters for this game. Wide receiver Marquez Stevenson decided not to play to focus on the Senior Bowl and the NFL draft. The two-time American Athletic Conference first-teamer has 20 catches of 307 yards with four touchdowns this season. On defense, both linebacker Grant Stuard and defensive end Payton Turner have opted-out of this game to prepare for the NFL draft. Stuard led the conference with 8.7 tackles-per-game this season, while Turner led the team with 5.0 sacks.Houston did not play in a bowl game last year in the first year under head coach Dana Holgorsen after playing in five straight bowl games. Hawai’i is playing in their third bowl game in a row after defeating BYU in their familiar Hawai’i Bowl spot last year by a 38-34 score. Houston is a 9.5-point favorite, with the total set at 59.5 at BookMaker. ESPN has the broadcast at 3:30 PM ET.

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There's No Tanking in the NFL

by Wayne Root

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2020

THE FANS BELIEVE THISIn the NFL, there’s is no tanking to improve for draft positions. Many have thought so but it’s doubtful it’s gone from average Joes setting up a scenario for their team to justify whatever they wanted to fit their own agenda. “Please lose so we get the Number One selection”.  ORGANIZATION RESET Let me explain what is real and is very much defined by the teams actions. It’s call an “organization reset of assets”. That’s a fancy term for dumping players; not games. That’s a slick and smart way to dump salaries and clear cap space. This is management’s and the owners way of moving forward.  LAST YEAR MIAMI FOR TUA When the Miami Dolphins were dumping and trading their best players for their own organization reset, they not only lost games but we’re getting blown out. One couldn’t have a discussion without hearing how Miami was setting themselves up to draft Alabama’s quarterback, Tua. It was a sure bet as the losses piled up. Then what happened? They began to win. They actually finished the season with five (5) wins. What happened? They reset and properly allocated their organization’s assets. They dumped huge contracts.  2019 to 2020 RESULTS They NEVER lost a game on purpose. They reset for this year. If you look at the success of what they managed to do in a year; few would have believed they’d go from 0-10 last year to winning five games to eliminating New England from the playoffs last week to themselves at even money to make it into the wild card arena of the NFL playoffs. Cincinnati ended up choosing Joe Burrow as the first selection.   THE JETS WIN This brings me to 2020 with the race of becoming this year's worst team. The word was that the Jets had a firm hold on first place. But the head coach wouldn’t sign off on continuous losing. And why would he? He’s 99% for sure fired in two weeks. Why leave what he needed as a franchise quarterback for the new head coach to walk into? Why would Sam Darnold want to lose so that he would lose his job as the Jets' starting quarterback? He may not get another chance after this job. THE COWBOYS  If someone was to tank and trade up, the Cowboys could not renew Dak Prescott at $35M and lose the past two weeks. But they didn’t. In fact, they went winner, winner and still could make the playoffs.  THE TALENT IS UNPROVEN  Keep in mind the there are many talented players in the top six draft spots coming out of college. And none are guaranteed to be the next superstar. Who knows where the next Patrick Mahomes will come from? Or the next sixth-round pick as in Tom Brady. What about the next Dick Butkus? There’s always that next one. Or play, reset and get into the first six picks.   PLAYERS PLAY TO WIN This is why players won’t go 0-16. No matter what.  And it’s not proven that the coach or management have asked for that. Did you see the celebration for the Jets after Sunday’s defeat on the road against the Rams as a 17-point dog?  They did not want to be in the same all-time losers category as only two other teams are presently in. Did you see the clips of how much it meant for Cincinnati to defeat the Steelers as a 13.5-point underdog? Maybe the Jacksonville Jags will win a game in their last two weeks? But they won’t try to lose! WILL THE JAGS HOLD ON Only two games remain, but the Jaguars’ horrendous season can’t end soon enough. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took to Twitter Sunday, writing that the New York Jets delivered an early Christmas present to Jacksonville. Indeed, the Jaguars are now in the driver’s seat to land Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft because of the Jets' upset of the Los Angeles Rams, 23-20, on Sunday to notch their first win of the season. JAGS FINAL TWO GAMES Now all they need to do is lose the final two games against Chicago Bears this upcoming Sunday at TIAA Bank Field, and the Indianapolis Colts in the season finale. Although the Jaguars and Jets now have identical 1-13 records, the Jaguars own the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker for the No. 1 overall pick. Will they tank or are they just bad enough to lose while playing and giving 100%?  I say there’s no tanking at all. But in the upcoming months, the Jags will get Trevor Lawrence on a cheap five-year contract and use cap space to protect their investment with some offensive lineman picks a big backfield blockers. Now that’s an organizational reset of assets. If they can only hold on and gain two more losses. 

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 23

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Dec 23, 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 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 Rutgers  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. 12  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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NCAA Football Montgomery Bowl: Memphis/Florida Atlantic Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2020

The Montgomery Bowl features a pair of three-loss teams from Group of Five conference programs on Wednesday night on ESPN.  It will be played at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, the neutral site location for this bowl game. Memphis has won four of their last five games to raise their record to a 7-3 mark. The Tigers last played on December 12th when they upset Houston by a 30-27 score as a 7-point underdog. Memphis used an 85-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to help them take a 27-6 lead entering the fourth quarter before allowing the Cougars to score three unanswered touchdowns to tie the game with 28 seconds left in the game. Yet quarterback Brady White led the Tigers’ offense to the Houston 30-yard line, where they kicked a winning 47-yard field goal to escape with the victory.  White completed 22 of 35 passes for 246 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the win. The senior is completing 66.2% of his passes this season for 3096 yards with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. First-year head coach Ryan Satterfield experienced several opt-outs from the skill positions on offense this year. Running back Kenneth Gainwell and wide receivers Damonte Coxie and John Williams left the program at various points in the season. Memphis still scored 31.6 points-per-game while averaging 451.6 yards-per-game with that latter number ranking 26th in the nation. The Tigers defense struggled at times as they ranked 102nd in the nation by allowing 448.7 yards-per-game. Three of their last four victories were by seven combined points, with their only easy win in that span being their 56-14 triumph over an FCS opponent in Stephen F. Austin. Florida Atlantic was riding a four-game winning streak before they closed out their regular season with a 20-3 loss at Georgia Southern and then a 45-31 upset loss at Southern Mississippi. The Owls placed their worst defensive game of the season against the Golden Eagles by giving up 515 total yards. First-year head coach Willie Taggart brought in former South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt as his defensive coordinator, who shifted the unit to a 4-3 formation without the benefit of spring practices. Yet FAU ranked ninth in the nation by allowing only 16.5 points-per-game, and they ranked 15th in the country by giving up 326.4 yards-per-game.Taggart set a tone early in his tenure by an All-Conference returning starter at quarterback in Chris Robison. Former Indiana transfer Nick Tronti and redshirt freshman Javian Posey have competed for the starting position throughout the regular season. Posey’s mobility persuaded Taggart to give him the nod as the starter as the season moved forward, yet his troubles with turnovers have still given opportunities for Tronti. Posey has completed 30 of his 60 passes for 390 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions while adding 401 rushing yards on a 7.2 yards-per-carry average. Tronti completed 54.1% of his passes for 759 yards with five touchdown passes and two interceptions. He has rushed for 116 yards on just a 1.9 yards-per-carry average. FAU has won five games this season despite scoring only 20.0 points-per-game. That scoring mark is 112th in the nation, and the 328.9 yards-per-game average is 111th in the country. The Owls are 4-0 in their history in bowl games after they defeated SMU by a 52-28 score under head coach Lane Kiffin in the Boca Raton Bowl last year. Memphis lost by a 53-39 score to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl last season despite White throwing for 479 yards. BookMaker lists Memphis as a 9.5-point favorite with the total set at 52. The ESPN broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

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

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2020

The Wednesday sports card features a busy basketball schedule in the NBA and college basketball along with another two college football bowl games.The New Orleans Bowl kicks off at 3 PM ET on ESPN in a game between Louisiana Tech and Georgia Southern. The Bulldogs make the short trip to the Big Easy, coming off a 52-10 loss at TCU as a 21-point underdog on December 12th. Georgia Southern has lost three of their last four games after losing to Appalachian State as an 8.5-point underdog on December 12th. The Eagles are a 6.5-point favorite with the total set at 49 (all odds from BetOnline).The Montgomery Bowl follows that game up at 7 PM ET on ESPN, with the Memphis Tigers facing the Florida Atlantic Owls. Memphis has won four of their last five games after they upset Houston on December 12th by a 30-27 score as a 7-point underdog. Florida Atlantic had their four-game winning streak snapped on December 19th when they were upset at Southern Mississippi by a 45-31 score as a 9.5-point favorite. The Tigers are 8.5-point favorites with an over/under of 50.5.The college basketball card tips off at noon ET with two games. Notre Dame hosts Bellarmine as a 15.5-point favorite, with the total at 142.5. UNC-Wilmington plays at home, laying 19 points against Delaware State with an over/under of 155.5.The nationally-televised college basketball schedule starts at 3 PM ET with Xavier visiting Creighton in a Big East clash between two ranked teams on FS1. The Musketeers are ranked 22nd in the Associated Press poll, while the Bluejays come in at 13th. Creighton is a 6.5-point favorite with the total at 155. ESPN2 has Oregon hosting UCLA in a Pac-12 showdown. The 25th-ranked Ducks are 2.5-point favorites with an over/under of 138.5. At 5 PM ET, Seton Hall plays at home against Georgetown in another Big East battle on FS1. The Pirates are a 9-point favorite with the total set at 147.Providence plays at Butler on the CBS Sports Network at 6 PM ET. The Friars are 1.5-point road favorites with an over/under of 137.5.Villanova visits Marquette on FS1 at 7 PM ET. The 7th ranked Wildcats are -4.5-point road favorites with the total at 142.5. The nationally-televised college basketball card closes with two late-night games. At 9 PM ET, DePaul makes their season-debut after several COVID issues on FS1 against Western Illinois. Boise State hosts New Mexico in a Mountain West Conference clash on the CBS Sports Network at 10 PM ET. The Broncos are 11.5-point favorites with an over/under of 141.The 2020-21 NBA season swings into full gear with 13 games. At 7:30 PM ET, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks travel to Boston to play the Celtics on TNT. The Bucks are 3.5-point road favorites with a total of 225.The nightcap is on ESPN at 10:30 PM ET, with the Phoenix hosting the Dallas Mavericks. The game is a pick ‘em with the over/under at 236.5.

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