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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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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 22

by Larry Ness

Tuesday, Dec 22, 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 capped NFL Week 15 with a shocker in Cincinnati. The Bengals entered on a FIVE-game losing streak (sat 2-10-1 on the season) but as a 14 1/2-point home dog, upset the Steelers 27-17. The Steelers' 11-0 start is officially a "thing of the past," as Pittsburgh was able to generate only 244 yards (12 FDs). The Bengals had just 230 yards (13 FDs), yet the game went over the low total of 40 1/2. (I had the over and it feels REALLY good to 'steal' one!). Before commenting on some Week 15 happenings, let's get to the weekly numbers. Home teams finished 8-8 SU and ATS for the week, with home dogs going 4-4 SU but 5-3 ATS. Week 15 games averaged 51.9 PPG but unlike in Week 14 when games averaged 48.0 PPG but just FIVE games went over the total, 10 games went over and just six stayed under. Y-T-D numbers available with Week 16's preview in Friday's notes.I like to start at the bottom and let's hear it for the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! Much like in last night's game, the Jets/Rams contest had little in the way of offense (Jets gained 289 yards and the Rams 303) but when a team breaks a franchise-record 13-game losing streak, who cares about how many yards the team gained. The 23-20 win ends any worries the Jets would match the 0-16 seasons of the Lions and Browns. The bad news for the Jets came in that the win may cost them the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft (expected to be Clemson's Trevor Lawrence). The Jags now own the NFL's longest active losing streak, as their 40-14 loss at Baltimore gives them 13 straight losses since the team's home-opening 27-20 win over the Colts. It also currently has them in line for the No. 1 pick. No one knows for sure if 'playing for the No. 1 pick' will play ANY part of how the Jags and Jets play these last two weeks. QAnon just may have an opinion on that!Staying in the AFC, Pittsburgh's loss drops them to 11-3, two games back of the 13-1 Chiefs (AFC West leader) and into a tie with the 11-3 Bills (AFC East leader). However, Buffalo's head-to-head win over Pittsburgh currently gives the Bills the No. 3 seed. The No. 4 seed belongs to AFC South leader 10-4 Tennessee, which owns the tiebreaker over the 10-4 Colts. The Colts (No. 6 seed) lose a tiebreaker to the 10-4 Browns for the No. 5 seed, while the 9-5 Dolphins own the tiebreaker over the 9-5 Ravens for the No. 7seed, and final playoff spot. The 7-7 Raiders are still not officially 'dead' but they are clearly on 'life-support.'Over in the NFC, the Packers' unimpressive 24-16 Saturday win over the Panthers moves them to 11-3 and with the Saints losing 32-29 to the Chiefs, New Orleans' second straight loss after NINE straight wins, moves Green Bay (NFC North leader) ONE game ahead of both the 10-4 Saints (NFC South leader) and 10-4 Seahawks (NFC West leader) for the No. 1 seed. The Saints own the tiebreaker over the Seahawks for the No. 2 seed and 6-8 Washington gets the No. 4 seed by virtue of being the "best team" in the NFC's "worst division." The 9-5 Rams own the tiebreaker and own the No. 5 seed over the 9-5 Bucs (No. 6 seed). The 8-6 Cardinals are the No. 7 seed (final playoff spot), although the 7-7 Bears and 6-8 Vikings are still 'alive.' Naturally, the 5-9 Cowboys and Giants are out of the wild card hunt but implausibly, they are still alive for the NFC's No. 4 seed, which goes to the winner of the NFC 'Least.' Can't make this stuff up. Again, NFL Week 16 preview set for Friday Notes.The bowl season opened Monday afternoon with Appalachian State (-21.5) overwhelming North Texas 56-28  to win 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, though they've posted more than 30 points in each of those outings. Not a bad program located in Boone, NC. Two more bowls go Tuesday, as 6-5 Tulane meets 6-2 Nevada in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (3:30 ET on ESPN) and 6-3 UCF and 10-1 BYU (ranked in the AP) meet in the Boca Raton Bowl (7:00 ET on ESPN). Tulane and Nevada meet for just the second time, with the only meeting between the schools coming back in 1992 at the Superdome in New Orleans with Tulane winning 34-17. Tulane is favored by 1 1/2-points and the over/under is 56 1/2. UCF and BYU both have "something to prove" in tonight's bowl game and despite BYU's outstanding defense (14.6 PPG allowed ranks 3rd), it's hard not seeing this game as anything other than a "shootout!" The UCF offense averages 44.3 PPG (5th) on 585.6 YPG (5th), while BYU's offense is averaging 43.0 PPG (6th) on 512.2 YPG (8th). BYU is favored by six points and the over/under is 76 1/2. I'll have much more on the college bowl season in Wednesday's and Thursday Notes plus will catch up with Monday's and Tuesday's CBB news, as well.I'll conclude Tuesday's Notes with the opening of the 2020-21 NBA season. After the shortest offseason in NBA history, TNT will televise an Opening Night doubleheader. Up first is the Golden St Warriors visiting Barclays Center to take on the Brooklyn Nets (7:05 ET). Golden State struggled in the 2019-20 season and finished with a league-worst 15-50 record, after appearing in FIVE consecutive NBA Finals. The Warriors will square off with former teammate and current Net, Kevin Durant. Durant is playing his first regular-season game since rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, while playing for the Warriors. In the nightcap, the Lakers will open defense of their NBA title by hosting the Clippers (10:05 ET). Of course, both teams call Staples Center home. Most think that both the Clippers and Lakers improved their respective teams during the short offseason (we'll see). The Nets are favored by 7 1/2 points and the Lakers are favored by three points.Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Football Boca Raton Bowl: BYU/UCF Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2020

The Boca Raton Bowl features an 11th-ranked BYU playing Central Florida on Tuesday night on ESPN. FAU Stadium is the site.BYU rebounded from their 22-17 loss at Coastal Carolina in that rescheduled on-the-fly “bracket buster” showdown December 5th to defeat San Diego State at home on December 12th, 28-14, as a 16.5-point favorite. Senior quarterback Zach Wilson completed 25 of 34 passes of 310 yards with three touchdown passes in the win. This game will likely be Wilson’s final game in a Cougars uniform as his NFL draft stock rises. The junior is third in the nation with a 73.2% completion percentage. He has 3267 passing yards, which is the fifth-best in the country. Wilson has accounted for 3509 total yards this season, which is the most in the FBS. He leads an offense that scores 43.0 points-per-game while averaging 510.1 yards-per-game, which ranks sixth and eighth-best in the country. The BYU defense has also been outstanding this season. The Cougars are holding their opponents to just 14.6 points-per-game and 315.8 yards-per-game, which are the third and ninth-best marks in the nation. While BYU missed out on their college football playoff aspirations, there are still many accomplishments this team with a 10-1 record can still achieve in head coach Kalani Sitake’s fifth year with the program. A victory in this game would give the Cougars their first 11-win season since 2009. A win would also produce their first one-loss season since 1996.Central Florida returns to action for the first time since November 27th when they defeated South Florida on the road, 58-46. Sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel completed 22 of 36 passes for 336 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception in the victory. Gabriel has thrown for 3353 yards this season while accounting for 3491 total yards overall. He has thrown at least 300 yards seven times this season while topping 400 passing yards four times. The Knights’ offense ranks second in the nation by averaging 373.0 passing yards-per-game. UCF scores 44.3 points-per-game while averaging 585.6 yards-per-game which are the fifth and second-best marks in the country. Central Florida is 6-3 this season, with their losses to Tulsa, Memphis, and Cincinnati being by a combined 12 points. The Knights enjoyed a 25-game winning streak from the opening of the 2017 season, where they won all five of their games decided by one possession. Yet their three losses last year in a 10-3 campaign were by seven combined points before their tough luck in close games continued this season. UCF has lost seven of their last eight games decided by one scoring possession.Expectations were high for the Knights in the third season under head coach Josh Heupel. Central Florida was 10-3 last year, and they have won 35 of their 39 games in Heupel’s tenure. Sixteen starters were initially returning from that group. Yet 17 players had opted-out by October for one reason or another (including some legal issues). Senior wide receiver Marlon Williams opted-out for this bowl game after the win over the Bulls. The Knights will miss his 79 receptions for 1039 yards along with ten touchdowns. Departures on defense have contributed to UCF taking a step back in productivity this season. The Knights have lost six previous starters on that unit from opt-outs to injury. Central Florida is allowing 31.4 points-per-game along with 473.7 yards-per-game this season. Heupel brings in a young and depleted defensive group into this game. Yet the Knights' coaching staff has had three weeks of bowl practice to prepare for this game.BookMaker lists BYU as a 6-point favorite with the total set at 75.5. The ESPN broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

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

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2020

The Tuesday sports card has the debut of the 2020-21 NBA season along with a full slate in college basketball and two college football bowl games.A double-header on TNT tips off the new NBA season. At 7 PM ET, Brooklyn hosts Golden State in the debut of Kevin Durant playing in a Nets uniform against his former team in the Warriors. The Nets are 7.5-point favorites with the total set at 230 (all odds from BetOnline).The nightcap on TNT is at 10 PM ET, with LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers being the technical home team at the Staples Center against Kawhi Leonard's Clippers. And what would an NBA season be without drama?  The latest soap opera concerns Leonard, who recently announced he will likely decline his player option next summer.  The new reigning NBA champion Lakers are 3-point favorites with an over/under of 220.5.The college football bowl schedule starts at 3:30 PM ET with Tulane playing Nevada in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on ESPN. Tulane raised their record to a 6-5 mark on December 5th with a 35-21 win over Memphis. The Green Wave have won four of their last five games.Nevada has lost two of their last three after they were upset in their most recent game at San Jose State by a 30-20 score as a 2.5-point favorite on December 11th. The Green Wave are 2.5-point favorites, with the total at 57.The Boca Raton Bowl features an 11th ranked BYU playing Central Florida on Tuesday night on ESPN. FAU Stadium is the site. BYU rebounded from their 22-17 loss at Coastal Carolina in that rescheduled on-the-fly “bracket buster” showdown on December 5th to defeat San Diego State at home the next Saturday, 28-14, as a 16.5-point favorite.Central Florida returns to action for the first time since November 27th when they defeated South Florida on the road, 58-46. The Knights are 6-3 this season, with their losses to Tulsa, Memphis, and Cincinnati being by a combined 12 points. UCF enjoyed a 25-game winning streak from the opening of the 2017 season, where they won all five of their games decided by one possession. Yet their three losses last year in a 10-3 campaign were by seven combined points before their tough luck in close games continued this season. The Knights have lost seven of their last eight games decided by one scoring possession.BYU is a 6-point favorite with the total set at 75.5. The ESPN broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.The college basketball card starts at noon ET with Boston College hosting Maine as a 23-point favorite with an over/under of 136.The nationally televised college basketball card starts at 7 PM ET, with Wisconsin hosting Nebraska on FS1. The ninth-ranked Badgers in the latest Associated Press poll are 17.5-point favorites with a total of 141.5. Texas Tech plays at Oklahoma on ESPN2 with the 15th ranked Red Raiders a 1.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 136. Western Kentucky plays at home against Tennessee Tech on ESPNU as a 21.5-point favorite with the total at 141.5. The highest-profile contest is at 9 PM ET on ESPN2, with the 7th ranked West Virginia playing at the 3rd ranked Kansas. The Jayhawks are a 2-point favorite with an over/under of 140.5. Saint Mary’s plays at San Diego State on the CBS Sports Network with the Gaels a 3-point road favorite with a total of 126. TCU hosts North Dakota State on ESPNU as a 14-point favorite with an over/under of 128.5.

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NBA Basketball Futures Bet: Milwaukee Bucks to Win 2021 Championship

by Al McMordie

Monday, Dec 21, 2020

It's the eve of the 2020-21 season, so it's once again time for our NBA Futures Wager.  Faithful followers love our selections, as we've cashed an unbelievable number of futures over the years.  Here are some recent highlights:  2020 - Lightning (7-1), Dodgers (4-1); 2019 - Nationals (18-1), Virginia (22-1); 2018 - Warriors (-160); 2017 - Astros (10-1); 2016 - Warriors (5-1); 2014 - Spurs (14-1).  The NBA season tips off Tuesday, December 22 with two games:  the Los Angeles Lakers against the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Golden State Warriors against the Brooklyn Nets.  Certainly, when the league created its schedule, it must have believed that those four teams would comprise four of the top five title contenders.  But then Warriors SG Klay Thompson sustained a season-ending injury, which has knocked out Golden State from any championship discussion.  The one title contender which will not be featured on opening night is, of course, the Milwaukee Bucks.  (No, I do not consider the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks or Denver Nuggets true title contenders.)Milwaukee has rolled to the best record in the league over the last two regular seasons, but has flamed out in the playoffs.  Last season was especially humbling, as they only managed to win one game in their series vs. the Miami Heat.  That prompted GM Jon Horst to "go back to the drawing board" to try to re-shape his team.  He make one great trade by acquiring Jrue Holiday, but fell short on what would have been a second great trade when then-Sacramento Kings G Bogdan Bogdanovic refused to agree to a sign-and-trade offer.  Bogdanovic later signed with Atlanta in free agency, while the Bucks were slapped by the league for tampering, and forfeited a 2022 2nd round draft choice.  The upshot is that there's still one major hole for Horst to fill, as the Bucks could really use one more deep threat with whom to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo.  But the pieces are still present to win the Eastern Conference.  And Milwaukee is one of the very, very few teams that can match up with the very good (and very big) Los Angeles Lakers.There's no doubt in my mind that the Lakers are the league's best team, as currently constructed.  But with current championship odds at +250, I'm going to look in another direction.  And when I say "look in another direction," I mean, look only at another team which can match up with the Lakers on the interior.  It's an exceptionally short list, topped by the Bucks.  So, we will play on Milwaukee at +650 (the current odds at BetOnline).  And, of course, it goes without saying that the Bucks team which exists on opening night may not be the team which takes the court at the start of the playoffs.  The trade deadline is still 3 months away, and one can rest assured that Horst will have ample opportunity to add another shooter -- whether by trade, or by free agency (after players get bought out by their teams).Still, the addition of Holiday to this Bucks lineup will be enough to get them over the hump in the Eastern Conference.  Holiday is the best defensive guard in the league, and he has stepped up in the playoffs -- something erstwhile floor general Eric Bledsoe was unable to do.  It's true the Nets will be a threat with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, etc.  But Steve Nash will be a rookie head coach, so I'm lukewarm on how far it will go in the post-season with an inexperienced head coach and a roster which has yet to play meaningful playoff minutes together.Take Milwaukee at +650 to win the NBA Championship in 2021.  Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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Ness Notes: Monday, Dec 21

by Larry Ness

Monday, Dec 21, 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 15 concludes with the Steelers looking to break a two-game losing streak (after an 11-0 start) with a MNF contest in Cincinnati (8:15 ET on ESPN) against the 2-10-1 Bengals. My NFL Week 15 recap will be featured in Tuesday's Notes but with the KC Chiefs moving to 13-1 with a win at New Orleans on Sunday and the Buffalo Bills moving to 11-3 with a Saturday win at Denver, the Steelers BADLY need a win here to move to 12-2. The Bengals should play "the perfect foil" but the Steelers can make a quick call to the Rams and ask how their game with the 0-13 Jets went on Sunday? Spoiler Alert, the Jets (+17) won 23-20 at the Rams, who fell out of first-place in the NFC West. The Bengals have scored just nine, seven and seven points in the three games since rookie QB Joe Burrow was lost for the season but also note that the Steelers have averaged only 18.0 PPG over their last three games, a 19-14 win over the COVID-ravaged Ravens plus back-to-back losses to Washington and Buffalo. Pittsburgh is favored by 14 1/2-points and the over/under is 40 1/2.Before getting to college football, here's a quick check on college hoops from Friday through Sunday. There were three matchups over the weekend that featured games between ranked teams. No. 1 Gonzaga beat No. 3 Iowa 99-88 and No. 12 Wisconsin beat No. 23 Louisville 85-48 on Saturday (both higher ranked teams covered). However, No. 13 Illinois lost 91-88 at No. 19 Rutgers on Sunday as a small road favorite. Then again, was it really an upset. The victory keeps the Scarlet Knights unbeaten so far this season at 6-0 and the team is now 23-2 SU since the start of last season at the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center). Higher ranked teams are now 12-6 SU but just 9-9 ATS on the season in ranked vs ranked contests. As for ranked teams playing unranked opponents, they went 9-3 SU but just 4-8 ATS Fri-Sun. No. 18 San Diego St lost its first game of the season on Friday (72-62 at home to BYU) and No. 15 Florida St lost its first game this season 86-74 at home to UCF on Saturday. This deserves a comment, as the Seminoles saw their 27-game home winning streak snapped, as well as a 41-game home winning streak at home against a non-conference opponent. No. 4 Michigan St was the third ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent this weekend when the Spartans lost 79-65 at Northwestern. Ranked teams are now 101-16 (.863) SU but a more modest 63-52-2 (54.8%) ATS against unranked opponents Y-T-D. There are no Monday matchups  between ranked opponents but FIVE ranked teams will host unranked foes, including No. 1 Gonzaga (4-0) at home vs Northwestern St and No. 2 Baylor (5-0) at home vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Both Northwestern St and Arkansas St come in with identical 1-7 records Should we issue an "Upset Alert?"CFB Weekend Recap: The AP released its final regular season poll about an hour before the CFP rankings came out and I'll start with that, as I've used the AP rankings all season-long in charting matchups between ranked teams and ones between ranked and unranked opponents. 11-0 Alabama remained an unanimous No. 1 for the FIFTH straight week, followed by 10-1 Clemson (AP's preseason No. 1) moving up to No. 2 (from No. 4) after impressively beating then-No.2 Notre Dame 34-10 (Fighting Irish lost for the first time this season to fall to 10-1). Ohio St remained at No. 3, after a less-than-impressive 22-10 win over Northwestern, giving the Buckeyes a 6-0 record (lost three games to COVID issues). 8-1 Texas A&M was No. 5, 9-0 Cincinnati was 6th, 6-1 Indiana 7th, 8-2 Oklahoma 8th, 11-0 Coastal at 9th (had its game with 9-1 ULL canceled due to COVID) and 8-3 Florida completed the top-10. The biggest falls were USC falling from No. 13 to No. 21 with a home loss to Oregon and Iowa State falling from No. 8 to No. 12 after losing to Oklahoma. No. 24 Buffalo dropped out of the poll by virtue of its 38-28 loss to Ball St, while Oregon (AP's preseason No. 9) got back in the poll at No. 25.Higher ranked teams entered the weekend 23-7 (.767) SU and 21-9 (70.0%) ATS in matchups of ranked opponents. However, in the five meetings between ranked opponents this weekend (all were conference championship games), the higher ranked teams went 3-2 SU (No. 2 Notre Dame lost to No. Clemson and No. Iowa St lost to No. 12 Oklahoma) but all FIVE failed to cover (0-5 ATS)! That makes the Y-T-D numbers sit at 26-9 (.743) SU and 21-14 (60.0%) ATS. Only two games between ranked and unranked foes got played (many cancelations), with No. 5 Texas A&M winning and covering at Tennessee and No. 13 USC losing at home to Oregon. The Y-T-D numbers stand at 135-33 (.804) SU and 84-82-2 (50.6%) ATS in favor of the ranked teams. That ATS number looks 'sad' but don't forget that through Oct 31 ranked teams were just 36-53-1 (40.4%) ATS against unranked opponents.CFP Rankings: Not sure how anyone could have reasonably been surprised as to how the final top-four came out. There was NO suspense regarding 11-0 Alabama being ranked No,. 1 (23rd time in CFP history, more than all other schools combined!) and Clemson coming in at No. 2 after it POUNDED Notre Dame. The committee had LONG ago made it clear that Ohio St was going to be a 'Final Four' team if the Buckeyes had played TWO games, so a 6-0 Ohio St team which had just won the Big Ten championship game was SURELY not going to fall out of the top-four. If there was ANY suspense to be had, it came over which school got the No. 4 spot, 10-1 Notre Dame or 8-1 Texas A&M? Jimbo Fisher can whine all he wants about going 8-1 in the SEC but his team was routed by Alabama (52-24) and didn't have a win over a top-notch team all season. If Fisher thinks a 31-20 win over Auburn counts, he has GOT to be kidding! The 6-4 Tigers lost 27-6 to Georgia and 42-13 Alabama plus for good measure, lost 30-22 at a South Carolina team that finished 2-8! Notre Dame did get the No. 4 spot and SHOULD have.My biggest takeaway from the rankings was that a two-loss Oklahoma team (No. 6) and a three-loss Florida team (No. 7) both came in ahead of 9-0 Cincinnati. The Bearcats finished in the top-20 in both scoring D (16.0 PPG ranked 8th) and total D (314.4 YPG ranked 13th) plus also finished 15th in scoring (15th) on 467.2 YPG (19th). The ONLY other school to accomplish that feat in 2020 is Clemson, which is headed to the CFP for a SIXTH straight year and has gone 79-6 (.929 ) SU since 2015. The CLEAR message that was sent is; "Group of Five schools need NOT apply" for a CFP 'Final Four' berth. The 2020 bowl season doesn't wait for anyone, as it kicks off today with 8-3 Appalachian St taking on 4-5 North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl from Conway, SC. ESPN airs it a 2:30 ET with the Mountaineers favored by 21 points (over/under is 68).There is so much on my plate right now with the NBA tipping off Tuesday, that I'll have much more on the bowls in Wednesday's and Thursday's Notes. With NFL Week 16 not beginning until Christmas, I'll have my NFL preview on Friday. That said, my closing thought is an 'ugly' reminder of how little respect given our military. I never served but my father fought in the Battle of the Bulge, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze star. By virtue of being a direct descendant (I've ridden my dad's coattails often), I'm an associate member of his Purple Heart Chapter here in Florida. I remain close with a number of the 'real' members and often attend meetings and conventions. Riddle me this. How is it possible  the "powers that be" could not find (rather, DEMAND) a bowl berth for a 9-2 Army team?I don't want to paraphrase, so I'll quote directly from an article written by ESPN reporter Adam Rittenberg. Here's the 'SAD' tale.The Black Knights had posted a 9-2 record, capped by Saturday's victory over Air Force that secured them the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Army had an agreement to play in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl against a Pac-12 opponent. By mid-afternoon Sunday, Army thought it would have the matchup secured. "OK, we should know something by 2:30,' but 2:30 came and went. 'We should know something by 3 o'clock,' but 3 o'clock came and went," head coach Jeff Monken told ESPN on Sunday night. "And then we started getting word that we were getting shut out." After a surge of Pac-12 teams opted out of bowl season and other teams, according to Monken, threatened to opt out if paired against Army, the Independence Bowl canceled its game and the Black Knights were left without a postseason destination. Monken and Army administrators informed the team following dinner at a 6:15 p.m. ET meeting. "We had guys in tears," Monken said. "We pulled off the biggest wins of these seniors' career, they just won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy back, that's going to be their legacy, and they're looking forward to playing in a bowl game one time together, before they go off in the United States Army, and we're sitting here telling them, 'Sorry, guys, you can't play.'"Thanks for your service!"Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Football Myrtle Beach Bowl: Appalachian State/North Texas Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Dec 21, 2020

The inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl kicks off the 2020-21 college football bowl season on Monday, December 21st, with North Texas playing Appalachian State at 2:30 PM ET on ESPN. The game takes place at Brooks Stadium at the home stadium of Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina. Appalachian State concluded their regular season with a 34-26 win against Georgia Southern on December 12th. The Mountaineers are 8-3 on the season, with their three losses against Marshall, Coastal Carolina, and Louisiana coming against opponents who combined for a 27-2 record. This program has won all five of their bowl appearances after defeating UAB in the New Orleans Bow last year by a 31-17 score. Senior quarterback Zac Thomas leads the team on offense with a 31-6 career record. He has completed 64.7% of his passes this season for 2075 yards with 19 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Thomas has thrown for 6865 yards in his career with 58 touchdown passes. He has added 277 rushing yards this season with two touchdowns to add to his 19 career touchdowns on the ground with over 1200 career rushing yards. This bowl game could be Thomas’ last appearance with the Mountaineers, although he does have a final year of eligibility that could entice him to return for one more season with the team.Appalachian State is ninth in the nation by averaging 243.5 rushing yards-per-game. They are averaging 5.29 yards-per-carry as a team. Running back Daetrich Harrington has opted out for this game with Marcus Williams’ status for this game questionable after both had injury-riddled seasons. Yet it would be a mistake to assume that will leave the Mountaineers short-handed at the running back. Sophomore Camerun Peoples has stepped up to rush for 807 yards this season, while freshman Nate Noel has emerged late in the year with a 6.3 yards-per-carry average. Appalachian State holds its opponents to just 314.2 yards-per-game, which is 11th best in the nation. Only Coastal Carolina scored more than 26 points against them this season. North Texas defeated UTEP on the road by a 45-43 score to raise their record to a 4-5 mark. This contest is the Mean Green’s fourth bowl game opportunity in the last five seasons after missing out on a postseason game last year under fifth-year head coach Sean Littrell.Sophomore Jason Bean will get his sixth straight start at quarterback with fellow sophomore Austin Aune out for this game. Bean has completed only 53.2% of his passes in a time-share with Aune. Yet Bean averages 8.1 yards-per-attempt, which has resulted in 880 passing yards with 12 touchdown passes with just four interceptions. Bean is the more mobile of the two quarterbacks with 336 rushing yards this season. Aune will not have wide receiver Jaelon Darden who has opted out of this game to prepare for the NFL draft. Darden leads the nation with 19 touchdown catches. After catching eight balls for 173 yards against UTEP, Darden completed his senior season with 74 receptions for 1190 yards. Darden’s absence provides an opportunity for other Mean Green receivers to take a larger role in the offense. North Texas scores 35.1 points-per-game while averaging 515.0 yards-per-game. The Mountaineers’ defense may present the stiffest test this season for the Mean Green offense after playing only one team ranked in the top-80 in defensive efficiency. North Texas is a big underdog in this game because of their porous defense. The Mean Green allows their opponents to average 6.44 yards-per-play which is the 20th worst mark in the country. Seven of the eight FBS opponents they played this season scored at least 35 points against them. BetAnySports lists Appalachian State as a 21.5-point favorite with the total set at 67.

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

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Dec 21, 2020

The Monday sports card offers a busy slate of action with NFL Monday Night Football, the English Premier League, college basketball, and the kickoff of the 2020-21 college football bowl season.The inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl starts at 2:30 PM ET on ESPN, with North Texas playing Appalachian State. The game takes place at Brooks Stadium at the home stadium of Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina. Appalachian State concluded their regular season with a 34-26 win against Georgia Southern on December 12th. The Mountaineers are 8-3 on the season, with their three losses coming against opponents who combined for a 27-2 record. This program has won all five of their bowl appearances after defeating UAB in the New Orleans Bow last year by a 31-17 score. Senior quarterback Zac Thomas makes his final career collegiate start with a 31-6 career record.North Texas defeated UTEP on the road by a 45-43 score to raise their record to a 4-5 mark. This contest is the Mean Green’s fourth bowl game opportunity in the last five seasons after missing out on a postseason game last year under fifth-year head coach Sean Littrell.Appalachian State is a 21-point favorite with the total set at 64.5 (all odds from BetOnline).The college basketball schedule tips off a noon ET with Clemson hosting Morehead State as a 23-point favorite with an over/under of 126.5. The Tigers rank 24th in the Associated Press poll.The nationally-televised schedule begins at 7:30 PM ET on FS1, with Butler playing at home against Southern Illinois. The Bulldogs are a 9-point favorite with a total of 133.Tulsa visits Memphis at 8 PM ET on ESPN2 in an American Athletic Conference clash. The Tigers are an 8.5-point favorite with an over/under of 137.5. Murray State plays at Austin Peay in an Ohio Valley Conference game at 8 PM ET on ESPNU. The Racers are a 4-point road favorite with the total at 145.The English Premier League concludes Matchweek 14 with two games. At 12:30 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network, Wolverhampton plays at Burnley as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2. Chelsea hosts West Ham United at 3 PM ET on NBC as a -1.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3.Monday Night Football features a rematch of the Steelers’ 36-10 victory at home over the Bengals on November 15th. Pittsburgh would go on to win two more games in a row for an 11-0 start. But the Steelers have since lost two games in a row after their 26-13 loss at Buffalo last Sunday night. Pittsburgh gained only 224 yards in that game, with the Bills outgaining them by 110 yards. The Steelers are currently the second seed in the AFC playoff race with their 11-2 record. A loss would drop them to the third seed in the AFC since they would lose the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Bills after their loss to Buffalo last week.Cincinnati lost their fifth games in a row with their 30-7 loss to Dallas last week as a 3-point favorite. The Bengals outgained the Cowboys by 37 net yards by holding them to just 272 yards. A 78-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first quarter helped Dallas overcome that edge to cruise to the victory in quarterback Andy Dalton’s return to Paul Brown Stadium.Pittsburgh is a 14-point road favorite with the total set at 40.5. ESPN broadcasts the game with the kickoff at 8:15 PM ET.

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NFL Monday Night Football: Bengals/Steelers Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Dec 21, 2020

Monday Night Football features a rematch of the Steelers’ 36-10 victory at home over the Bengals on November 15th. Pittsburgh was a  6.5-point favorite with an over/under of 45 in that game. That victory was the Steelers’ ninth victory in a row at the time. Ben Roethlisberger completed 27 of 46 passes for a season-high 333 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions to lead his team to the win. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow completed 21 of 40 passes for 213 yards with a touchdown pass in the losing effort. Pittsburgh would go on to win two more games in a row for an 11-0 start. But the Steelers have since lost two games in a row after their 26-13 loss at Buffalo last Sunday night. Pittsburgh gained only 224 yards in that game, with the Bills outgaining them by 110 yards. The Steelers are currently the second seed in the AFC playoff race with their 11-2 record. A loss would drop them to the third seed in the AFC since they would lose the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Bills after their loss to Buffalo last week.Roethlisberger completed 21 of 37 passes for 187 yards with two touchdown passes and two interceptions in the loss. The veteran is completing 66.2% of his passes this season for 3292 yards with 29 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.  Pittsburgh needed the eight-day break between games after playing three games in twelve days impacted by COVID-related rescheduling. The Steelers did not score more than 19 points in those three contests. Cincinnati lost their fifth games in a row with their 30-7 loss to Dallas last week as a 3-point favorite. The Bengals outgained the Cowboys by 37 net yards by holding them to just 272 yards. A 78-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first quarter helped Dallas overcome that edge to cruise to the victory in quarterback Andy Dalton’s return to Paul Brown Stadium.The Bengals’ Brandon Allen completed 27 of 36 passes for 217 yards with a touchdown pass in the losing effort. Allen got knocked out of the game with a knee injury that will keep him from starting tonight. Ryan Finley gets the start in his absence with Cincinnati down to their third-string quarterback with Burrow out the year with his leg injury. The former Boise State quarterback has completed 10 of 19 passes for a 52.6% completion percentage this season. He has thrown for 75 yards with no touchdown passes and two interceptions. In his two years in the NFL, Finley has completed 51 of 106 passes for a 48.1% completion percentage. He has 549 yards but just a 5.2 yards-per-attempt average. Finley has two touchdown passes and four interceptions. Cincinnati is 2-10-1 on the season, which is the third-worst record in the league. With the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars sharing 1-13 marks, the Bengals look destined to own the third pick in next spring’s NFL draft. Linebacker Logan Wilson joins Brandon Allen in being the two players out for this game for Cincinnati due to injury. Safety and kick returner Brandon Wilson is questionable but did practice on Saturday. Defensive lineman Geno Atkins became the tenth player earlier in the week to either go on Injured Reserve with his shoulder injury.Pittsburgh has one player out with guard Kevin Dotson dealing with a shoulder. James Conner is questionable with his quad. The Steelers have another six players either out the season or on Injured Reserve, including linebackers Bud Dupree and Devin Bush.Pittsburgh is a 14.5-point road favorite with the total set at 40 at BookMaker. ESPN broadcasts the game with the kickoff at 8:15 PM ET.

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NFL Sunday Night Football: Browns/Giants Preview

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Dec 20, 2020

Sunday Night Football on NBC features a game with playoff implications for both teams.Cleveland had their four-game winning streak snapped on Monday with their 47-42 loss at home to Baltimore as a 3-point underdog in one of the most exciting football games of the season. The Browns outgained the Ravens by a 493 to 385 yardage margin, but Lamar Jackson was able to outduel Baker Mayfield at quarterback.The loss left Cleveland two games behind Pittsburgh for first place in the AFC North. With a 9-4 record, they join Tennessee and Indianapolis for the top wildcard spot in the AFC. The Browns own the tie-breaker with both those AFC South teams after beating both of them earlier in the season. New York also had their four-game winning streak end last week with their 26-7 loss at home to Arizona as a 3-point underdog. The Giants managed only 159 yards in that game while allowing the Cardinals to rack up 390 total yards. Daniel Jones was back under center after missing the previous week with a hamstring injury. After getting sacked six times, Jones left the game with two separate injuries, which will keep him from starting tonight. Colt McCoy will be the starting quarterback for New York after leading them to victory two weeks ago against Seattle. The Giants are one game behind Washington for first place in the NFC East with their 5-9 record. Despite their recent winning streak, New York has scored only 24 combined points in their last two games and 43 combined points in their previous three games.Cleveland has scored over 40 points in two straight games. But the Browns defense has given up 82 combined points in their last two games and 107 combined points in their previous three contests. The Giants have a COVID outbreak that will keep offensive coordinator Jason Garrett from calling plays in this game. Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will be the play-caller tonight against the team he was the head coach for last season. Cornerback James Bradberry is also out for this game with COVID leaving New York without their best defensive back. The Giants have four players listed as questionable, including Jones with his hamstring and ankle injuries. Tight ends Evan Engram and Kaden Smith and offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler all participated in limited practice this week. Cornerback Darnay Holmes is out with a knee. New York has five other players either out the season or on Injured Reserve, including running back Saquon Barkley. Cleveland has two players out in offensive lineman Wyatt Teller and safety Andrew Sendejo. Tight end Austin Hooper is questionable with a neck injury, but he did participate in full practice to end the week. Tight end David Njoku is questionable with a knee and did not take part in practice this week. Cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson are questionable but did take part in limited practice. The Browns have five players out the season or on their Injured Reserve, including wide receiver Odell Beckham, cornerback Greedy Williams, and safety Ronnie Harrison.BookMaker lists Cleveland as a 6.5-point road favorite with the total set at 44. Kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET.

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

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Dec 20, 2020

The Sunday sports card continues Week 15 in the National Football League while featuring a full slate in college basketball and four matches in the English Premier League.Twelve games are on the docket in the NFL. Eight games begin the card at 1 PM ET. The national broadcast on Fox has Seattle traveling east to play Washington. The Seahawks are a 6.5-point road favorite with the total set at 43 (all odds from BetOnline). The primary game on CBS has San Francisco visiting Dallas with the 49ers a 3.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 45Three more games take place in the 4:05 PM ET to 4:20 PM ET window of afternoon games. The national game on CBS has Kansas City playing at New Orleans as a 3-point road favorite with the total at 52.5.The Sunday night game on NBC has Cleveland playing in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants at 8:20 PM ET. The Browns are a 6.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 44. The college basketball card begins at noon ET in the Big East, with Creighton visiting UConn on FS1 as a 3-point road favorite with a total of 150. The Bluejays rank 9th in the Associated Press poll. At 1 PM ET, Illinois plays at Rutgers on ESPN2 with the Fighting Illini a 2-point road favorite with an over/under of 143.5. In this Big Ten showdown of two teams ranked in the top-20, Illinois is 13th in the AP, while the Scarlet Knights rank 19th.Xavier hosts Marquette at 3 PM ET on FS1 as a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 142.5 in this Big East matchup. Northern Kentucky plays at home against Youngstown State at 3 PM ET on ESPN2 in a Horizon League contest. Seton Hall plays at home against Big East rival Providence at 4:30 PM ET on FS1 as a 3.5-point favorite with the over/under at 140. St. John’s hosts Georgetown in another Big East battle at 6:30 PM ET on FS1 as a 4.5-point favorite with the total at 156. The televised card concludes at 8:30 PM ET with Saint Louis visiting Minnesota on FS1 as a 2.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 146.The English Premier League continues Matchweek 14 with four matches. At 7 AM ET on the NBC Peacock app, Brighton and Hove Albion plays at home versus Sheffield United as a -0.75 goal line favorite with the total set at 2.25. Tottenham hosts Leicester City at 9:15 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -0.5 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.75. Manchester United plays at home against Leeds United at 11:30 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -0.75 goal line favorite with the total at 3.5. The final match is at 2:15 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network with Aston Villa playing at West Bromwich Albion as a -0.5 goal line road favorite an over/under of 2.75.

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

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Dec 19, 2020

The Saturday sports card features a full day of college football and college basketball action along with the start of Matchweek 13 of the English Premier League and two games in the NFL. The NFL Network’s double-header kicks off at 4:30 PM ET with Buffalo traveling to Denver to face the Broncos. The Bills have won six of their last seven games after they defeated Pittsburgh at home for Sunday Night Football last week by a 26-13 score as a 2-point favorite. Denver comes off an upset victory at Carolina last week as a 4-point underdog. Buffalo is a 5.5-point road favorite with the total set at 49 (all odds from BetOnline). The nightcap at 8:15 PM ET has Carolina visiting Lambeau Field to play Green Bay. The Packers have won three straight games after they beat Detroit on the road last week by a 31-24 score as a 9.5-point favorite. The Panthers have lost seven of their last eight games after getting upset at home to the Broncos. Green Bay is laying 9 points as the favorite with the over/under at 51.5.Fifteen games between FBS opponents are on the college football schedule. There were seven games canceled due to COVID issues with Sun Belt Conference Championship Game between Louisiana-Lafayette and Coastal Carolina after the Chanticleers experienced a COVID outbreak that left an entire position group unable to take the field. The Frisco Bowl between SMU and UTSA was also canceled. The remaining five canceled games include Vanderbilt/Georgia; Georgia Tech/Miami (FL); Arizona/California; Michigan State/Maryland; Michigan/Iowa; Florida State/Wake Forest.The Big Ten Championship Game kicks off the card at noon with Northwestern playing Ohio State at a neutral field at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes are 18.5-point favorites with a total of 55.5. The game is on Fox.The Big 12 Championship Game also starts at noon with a rematch between Oklahoma and Iowa State played on a neutral field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Sooners are 5.5-point favorites with the over/under at 58.5. ABC has the broadcast.Texas A&M plays at Tennessee at noon on ESPN as a 14-point road favorite with a total of 51. At 1:30 PM ET, Utah hosts Washington State as a 10.5-point favorite on FS1. Air Force visits Army at 3 PM ET as a 2.5-point road favorite with the over/under at 38.5.The ACC Championship Game is at 4 PM ET with the rematch between Clemson and Notre Dame on ABC at a neutral field at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Tigers are a 10-point favorite with a total of 59.5. The Mountain West Conference Championship Game starts at 4:15 PM ET between Boise State and San Jose State. This game will be played at the Spartans' temporary home field in Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Broncos are a 6.5-point favorite with an over/under of 56.5. Fox has the broadcast.At 5:30 PM ET, Penn State hosts Illinois on FS1 as a 15.5-point favorite with the total set at 53. UCLA plays at home against Stanford on ESPN as a 6.5-point favorite with an over/under of 59.5.The American Athletic Conference Championship Game is at 8 PM ET on ABC, with Tulsa playing at Cincinnati. The Bearcats are a 14-point favorite with the total at 45.The SEC Championship is also at 8 PM ET, with Alabama playing Florida on CBS at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide are 10-point favorites with an over/under of 74.5.The college football card concludes at 10:30 PM ET on ESPN with Arizona State playing at Oregon State. The Sun Devils are 7-point road favorites with the total set at 54.5.The college basketball card tips off at 11:30 AM on FS1, with Butler hosting Indiana in the first game in Crossroads Classic. The Hoosiers are 8-point favorites, and the total is 132.5. At noon ET, Gonzaga plays Iowa on CBS in a battle between the number one and number three ranked teams in the Associated Press poll. The Bulldogs are 4.5-point favorites with the over/under at 170. This game is being played on a neutral court at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Wisconsin hosts Louisville on ESPN2 at noon ET in a clash between the 23rd and 12th ranked teams in the AP poll. The Badgers are 5.5-point favorites, with the total at 131.5. At 2 PM ET, the first game of the CBS Sports Classic tips off between North Carolina and Kentucky on CBS. The 22nd ranked Tar Heels are 3.5-point favorites with an over/under of 141. Alabama hosts Western Kentucky at 2 PM ET on ESPNU as a 5.5-point favorite with the total at 153.5. Ole Miss travels to Dayton at 2:30 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a 3-point road favorite with an over/under of 132. The second game in the CBS Sports Classic takes place at 4:15 PM ET, with UCLA playing Ohio State. The Bruins are 3-point favorites against the 20th ranked Buckeyes, with the total set at 135. At 4:30 PM ET, LaSalle plays at home against Delaware on the NBC Sports Network as a 4.5-point favorite with an over/under of 133.5. The final nationally-televised game on the Saturday card takes place at 9 PM ET with Villanova hosting Saint Joseph’s on FS1. The 7th ranked Wildcats are 22-point favorites with the total set at 145.5.Matchweek 14 of the English Premier League has four matches on Saturday. Liverpool visits Crystal Palace at 7:30 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -1 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 3. At 10 AM ET, Manchester City plays at Southampton on the NBC Sports Network as a -1 goal line road favorite with the total at 3. Everton hosts Arsenal at 12:30 PM ET on NBC as a -0.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.5. At 3 PM ET on the NBC Peacock app, Fulham plays at Newcastle United in a pick ‘em match with the total at 2.25.

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