Articles

NFL Sunday Night Football: Bills/Steelers Preview

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Dec 13, 2020

The Sunday night game on NBC features two AFC teams looking to make deep runs in the playoffs. The Steelers and the Bills are also playing on a short week after both competed on Monday.Pittsburgh lost their first game of the season last week in their 23-17 upset loss at home to Washington as a 5.5-point favorite. The Steelers blew a 14-0 first-half lead in that game to lose to the Football Team. The 23 points that Washington scored was the most points that the Steel Curtain has allowed since the 24 points Baltimore put up in Week 8.Offensive woes held Pittsburgh back on Monday. They turned the ball over twice on downs from failed fourth-down conversions. They also failed to score from the Washington 1-yard line on five separate occasions. The Steelers also dropped another seven passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh leads the NFL with 34 dropped passes this season. Roethlisberger completed 33 of 53 passes for 305 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The veteran is completing 66.9% of his passes for 3105 yards with 27 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. Roethlisberger has thrown 53 and 51 passes in his last two games, but after their first loss on Monday, relying less on the Steelers’ passing game appears likely. Pittsburgh expects to get back both running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey from injuries for this game to provide a shot in the arm to their rushing attack. Buffalo has won five of their last six games after they upset San Francisco on the road in their temporary home field in Glendale, Arizona, Monday night in their 34-24 victory. Josh Allen earned AFC Player of the Week honors by completing 32 of his 40 passes for 375 yards with four touchdown passes. The third-year pro is converting 69.9% of his passes for 3403 yards with 26 touchdown passes and eight interceptions, and he has added 322 yards with another six touchdowns with his legs. Allen leads an offense that is scoring 27.8 points-per-game while averaging 378.8 yards-per-game, which ranks eighth and tenth in the league. The Bills' defense has taken a step back this season as they are allowing 25.5 points-per-game along with 375.4 yards-per-game, which rank 18th and 21st in the NFL.Buffalo will be without safety Jaquan Johnson who is out with an ankle injury. The injuries for Pittsburgh are more significant with cornerback Joe Haden out with a concussion and inside linebacker Robert Spillane out with a knee injury. Neither team has any other players on their injured list.The Steelers remain two games ahead of Cleveland in the AFC North. Their 11-1 record is tied with Kansas City as they battle for the top seed in the AFC playoffs. The Bills are 9-3, which places them one game ahead of Miami in the AFC East.BetAnySports lists the Bills as a 2-point favorite with the total set at 49. The kickoff on NBC is at 8:20 PM ET.

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Ness Notes: Saturday, Dec 12

by Larry Ness

Saturday, Dec 12, 2020

This is a special Saturday edition of my Ness Notes column, which is always available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 14: Home teams have struggled all season, having gone 95-95-1 (.500) SU, while going 89-100-2 (47.1%) ATS through 13 weeks. Home dogs are 10-47 (.213) SU but 36-29-2 (55.4%) ATS. Week 13 games averaged 48.8 points with six going over, eight under and one push. There have now been 93 overs, 94 unders and five pushes. Week 14 began Thursday with the Rams easily beating the Pats 24-3 in LA, as home teams got off to a winning start. Will it hold? Let's take a look at Sunday's card.I will start at the top and bottom. The Jets found yet another easy to lose in Week 13, when Raiders QB Carr completed a 46-yard TD pass with FIVE second left in the game for a 31-26 win. The 0-12 Jets have now matched their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. Not far behind the Jets are the 1-11 Jaguars, who lost their 11th straight game 27-24 in OT at Minnesota (Jacksonville upset the Colts 27-20 in Week 1 but are winless ever since). At the 'top of the food chain' the Steelers finally got beat, falling 17-12 at home to Washington on Monday night. The 1972 Dolphins' perfect 17-0 season remains safe.Let's start in the AFC where the North-leading Steelers and the West-leading Chiefs are both 11-1. Pittsburgh currently owns the tiebreaker, giving them the No. 1 seed. The 9-3 Bills (one game up on the 8-4 Dolphins in the East) are the No. 3 seed and the 8-4 Titans are tied with the Colts atop the South at 8-4 but own the tiebreaker which gives them the No. 4 seed. The 9-3 Browns (read that again slowly to make sure!) own the No. 5 seed and the Dolphins own the No. 6 seed (and final wild card spot). Lurking are the 8-4 Colts, plus the 7-5 Raiders and Ravens.Over in the NFC, let me remind all that in 2019, the 49ers, Packers and Saints all finished 13-3 with San Francisco, Green Bay and New Orleans earning the 1-2-3 seeds, respectively. The defending NFC champions 49ers are all but officially eliminated from the 'playoff 'picture' in 2020, with their 5-7 record. Staying with that theme, San Francisco's 5-7 record would be good enough to be tied for first in the NFC East. Last season's NFC East champs (Eagles) are currently 3-8-1, while the 5-7 NY Giants (winners of FOUR straight) and 5-7 Washington (has won three straight) are tied atop the NFL's worst division. The Giants currently own the tiebreaker, so the G-Men currently own the No. 4 seed. As former head coach Bill Parcells once famously opined, "You are what your record says you are!" Hey Bill, the Giants are 5-7 and currently own a higher seed than the 8-4 Seahawks and 7-5 Bucs. Any thoughts? As for me, I'll paraphrase  Vinnie Barbarino, "I'm so confused!" Returning to the top of the NFC, the Saints are 10-2 (have won NINE in a row!), one game better than the 9-3 Packers. The No. 3 seed belongs to the LA Rams and although the 8-4 Seahawks can match the Rams at 9-4 with a win over the Jets, the Rams would still own the tiebreaker. Seattle is currently the No. 5 seed, with the 7-5 Tampa Bay Bradys holding down the No. 6 seed. Lurking behind the the Bucs are the 6-6 Vikings, who are 5-1 after a 1-5 start, and the 6-6 Cards, who are 1-4 after a 5-2 start.From the "who'da thunk it" department: The two NO. 1 seeds from 2019 (14-2 Baltimore and 13-3 San Francisco) may BOTH miss the postseason in 2020. The Pats are almost sure to NOT win the AFC East for the first time since 2008 and may well miss the postseason for just the SECOND time in the last 18 seasons. In contrast, the 9-3 Bills have a good chance at winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995 and the 9-3 Browns (it's STILL hard to say that!) could just make the postseason for the first time since 2002 (can you say Tim Couch?).Good luck...Larry

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

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Dec 12, 2020

The Saturday sports card features a full day of college football and college basketball action along with the continuation of Matchweek 12 of the English Premier League. Thirty-three games between FBS opponents are on the college football schedule. There were 11 games either canceled due to COVID issues: Michigan/Ohio State; Oklahoma/West Virginia; Miami (OH)/Bowling Green; Ohio/Kent State; Texas/Kansas; Purdue/Indiana; Washington/Oregon; Cincinnati/Tulsa; Mississippi/Texas A&M; Georgia Tech/Miami (FL); Utah State/Colorado State.Fifteen college football games take place in the noon ET to 3 PM ET window. Ten games kick off the card at noon ET. Utah travels to Colorado on Fox as a 1.5-point road favorite with the total set at 48 (all odds from BetOnline). Penn State hosts Michigan State on ABC as a 14.5-point favorite with an over/under of 46.5. Alabama visits Arkansas as a 32-point favorite with a total of 68. Northwestern plays at home against Illinois on ESPN2 laying 14 points with the over/under at 40. Nebraska takes on a visiting Minnesota as a 10-point favorite with a total of 60.5.At 2:30 PM ET, Buffalo hosts Akron as a 33-point favorite with the over/under at 58.5 on the CBS Sports Network. Army plays at home against Navy at 3 PM ET on CBS as an 8-point favorite with the total set at 37.5.Another eight games kickoff between 3:30 PM ET to 6 PM ET. At 3:30 PM ET, Miami (FL) plays at home against North Carolina as a 3-point favorite with a total of 70.5. Wisconsin travels to Iowa as a 2.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 41.5 on FS1. At 4 PM ET, California visits Washington State as a 1-point favorite with the total at 53.5. Boise State plays at Wyoming at 6 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network as a 9.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 47.Six games take place between 7 PM ET to 8 PM ET. On ESPN at 7 PM ET, Florida hosts LSU as a 23-point favorite with the total set at 68.5. TCU plays at home against Louisiana Tech on FS1 as a 21-point favorite with an over/under of 50.5. At 7:30 PM ET, USC visits crosstown rival UCLA on ABC as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 63.5.A final four games start between 10 PM ET to 11 PM ET. At 10 PM ET, BYU hosts San Diego State on ESPN2 as a 16.5-point favorite with an over/under of 47. Stanford visits Oregon State at 10:30 PM ET on ESPNU as a 2.5-point road favorite with a total of 52.5. Fresno State travels to New Mexico on FS1 as an 11.5-point favorite with the over/under at 58.The college basketball card tips off at 11 AM ET, with Florida State hosting Florida on ESPNU as a 2.5-point favorite with the total set at 140. At noon ET, Kentucky plays at home against Notre Dame on CBS as a 7-point favorite with an over/under of 143.5. The opening game of the Holiday Hoopsgiving quadruple-header at the State Farm Center in Atlanta has South Florida playing Wofford on ESPN News as a 3.5-point favorite with the total at 133.5.Syracuse visits Boston College at 1 PM ET on ESPNU as a 4-point road favorite with an over/under of 147.At 3 PM ET, the second game in Atlanta has Mississippi State playing Dayton on ESPNU as a 3-point favorite with a total of 133.5. Saint Louis hosts Evansville on the NBC Sports Network as a 23-point favorite with an over/under of 131.5. At 5 PM ET, VCU plays at home against Old Dominion on the NBC Sports Network as a 7-point favorite with a total of 137. The third game in Atlanta tips off at 5:30 PM ET on ESPN, with Memphis playing Auburn as a 7-point favorite with the over/under at 144.5. Illinois travels to Missouri at 8 PM ET on ESPNU as a 3-point road favorite with the total at 144.5.Four matches take place in the English Premier League. At 7:30 AM ET, Wolverhampton hosts Aston Villa as a -0.25 goal line favorite with the total set at 2.5. Newcastle United plays at home against West Brom at 10 AM ET as a -0.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.25. At 12:30 PM ET on NBC, Manchester City visits Manchester United at Old Trafford as a -0.75 goal line favorite with a total of 2.75. Chelsea travels to Everton at 3 PM ET as a -0.75 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3.

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Big 10 Football Report - Week 8

by ASA, Inc.

Friday, Dec 11, 2020

WISCONSIN @ IOWA (-3 OPEN to +2 CURRENT) – Saturday, December 5th  WISCONSIN – The Badgers offense is struggling and that’s an understatement.  They aren’t necessarily having problems moving the ball, they just are not putting points on the board.  With their 14-6 loss at home vs Indiana last week, Wisconsin has now scored a grand total of 13 points over their last 8 quarters of football.  This from an offense that scored 94 points in their first 2 games this season.  For the 2nd consecutive game, they outplayed their opponent rather drastically on the stat sheet but lost the game.  Versus Indiana the Badgers were +125 total yards, +53 rushing yards, and +10:00 minute time of possession.  Wisconsin had 9 offensive possessions in the game, crossed midfield into Indiana territory on 7 of those possessions, and scored 6 points.  The last 2 games they’ve been in their opponent’s territory 15 times and they have 1 TD and 2 FG’s to show for it.  They continue to be extremely thin at WR which is causing problems in the passing game, especially the big play.  They haven’t had any.  QB Mertz completed only 2 passes of more than 20 yards the entire game and averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt.  They were without starting WR Davis once again (he’s out for this game as well) but the other starter Pryor returned for this game.  However, Pryor left the game in the 2nd half with an injury so his status is up in the air for Saturday.  The defense was great.  They held IU to just 217 total yards in just 4.0 YPP.  They have now held their last 2 opponents to 480 total combined yards and 31 combined points and lost both games.  IOWA – Iowa just keeps rolling.  In what we considered a dangerous game for them @ Illinois with Wisconsin on deck, the Hawkeyes were shaky early.  Iowa (-13.5) was down 14-0 midway through the 2nd quarter but then scored 35 unanswered points to take the 35-21 win.  They have now won 5 consecutive games after starting the season 0-2.  It was the first time the offense topped 400 yards since their game vs Michigan State back on November 7th.  Over the last 4 games Iowa has averaged 35 PPG and topped 400 yards once.  The Hawks are now 2nd in the Big 10 in scoring at 32 PPG behind only OSU despite ranking 9th in the league in total offense.  That speaks to their efficiency on offense and the turnovers they’ve created which have really been key during this winning streak.  They are now +9 TO margin on the season.  They have had a plus TO margin in all 5 of their wins this season.  Because of those takeaways, Iowa has been put in very favorable situations on offense with 14 of their 27 TD’s this season coming on drives of 52 yards or less.  The defense was a little sluggish early on, as was the offense, allowing 148 yards and 2 TD’s on the first 3 Illni possessions.  After that the Hawkeyes clamped down allowing only 125 total yards and 0 TD’s on Illinois next 7 possessions before giving up a late meaningless TD with 24 seconds remaining in the game on their final possession.        MOST RECENT MEETING – Last year Iowa traveled to Wisconsin as a 7.5 point underdog and nearly pulled the upset losing 24-22.  Iowa was down 8 points late in the 4th and scored a TD but the 2-point conversion failed giving them the 2 point loss.    POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Wisconsin has won 7 of the last 8 meetings with rival Iowa – Badgers are 5-3 ATS in those games.  The total on this game was set quite low at 44 (has dropped even further due to potential bad weather).  Not surprising as this has been a low scoring series with only 3 of the last 16 meetings topping 50 points.  MICHIGAN STATE @ PENN STATE (-14.5 OPEN to -14.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, December 5th  MICHIGAN STATE – MSU had the privilege of hosting back to back top 10 teams the last 2 weeks.  The first game went very well as they pulled off a 29-20 win over Northwestern as a 13.5 point underdog.  Last week the Spartans weren’t so fortunate as they were blasted by Ohio State 52-12.  The Buckeyes opened as a 24 point favorite and the number dropped to 22 when OSU announced they had 20+ players out due to covid protocol, including 3 starting offensive lineman.  It didn’t matter as the Spartans, who held Northwestern to 68 yards rushing the previous week, were shredded for 322 yards by the OSU running game.  Sparty trailed 28-0 at half and simply couldn’t get anything going offensively early on.  In fact, 6 of their first 7 possessions were 3 & outs and their other possession during that stretch lasted 4 plays.  Starting QB Lombardi threw a pick 6 in the 2nd quarter and was injured late in the first half.  He had only completed 5 passes at that point and was averaging only 3.0 yards per pass attempt.  His replacement Payton Thorne looked a little better leading MSU to 10 points in the 2nd half.  After the game HC Tucker was furious with his team’s undisciplined, sloppy play as they turned the ball over 4 times and had over 100 yards in penalties.  The up & down season for Michigan State continues this weekend @ Penn State.      PENN STATE – PSU lost their first 5 games of the season and we knew they were much better than that.  The eye test told us that along with the stats they were putting up in their losses.  After beating Michigan on the road last week, they went to Rutgers last Saturday and picked up their 2nd consecutive win 23-7 covering the 11 point spread.  It was a dominating performance vs an up and coming Rutgers team.  PSU controlled the stat sheet with +11 first downs, +176 total yards, and +165 yards on the ground.  HC Franklin is still rotating his QB’s Clifford and Levis, however the latter has been used strictly as a runner the last 2 games.  Levis, playing from the QB position, has run the ball 23 times for a combined 90 yards the last 2 games.   He hasn’t attempted a pass in the last 10 quarters.  Clifford has been throwing the ball but hasn’t put up huge numbers with just 163 & 133 yards passing the last two weeks.  However, he has limited his turnovers to just 1 in those 2 contests.  That’s a huge improvement from his 10 turnovers in the first 5 games.  PSU held a 17-0 halftime lead and the defense was stellar holding Rutgers off the scoreboard with a total of just 36 yards in the first half.  The Knights lone score came on a 36-yard drive for a TD following a PSU interception.  After last Saturday’s performance, the Nittany Lions now rank 2nd in the Big 10 in total offense and 2nd and total defense.  As we said, they are much better than a 2-5 team.     MOST RECENT MEETING – PSU was a 5.5 point favorite @ Michigan State last year and rolled to an easy 28-7 win and cover.  The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 28-0 lead early in the third quarter and neither team scored a point in the 4th quarter.  POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The favorite has covered 7 of the last 9 in this Big 10 series.  Penn State is just 3-8 ATS the last 11 times they’ve been a home favorite of 14 or more (dating back to November of 2017).    ILLINOIS @ NORTHWESTERN (-14 OPEN to -14 CURRENT) – Saturday, December 5th  ILLINOIS – The Illini jumped out to a 14-0 lead on Iowa last Saturday and it looked like they were on their way to a potential upset and a 3rd consecutive win.  They scored TD’s on 2 of their first 3 possessions and they were long drives of 75 & 70 yards.  After their 2nd TD they went 3 & out on 3 straight possessions and Iowa was able to cut the lead to 1 by halftime.  Iowa controlled the 2nd half scoring TD’s on 3 of their first 4 possessions on their way to a 35-21 win.  Starting QB Peters was great to start the game completing his first 7 passes while leading them to the 14-0 lead.  After that, Peters completed only 3 passes on his next 6 possessions with the Illini going scoreless and gaining only 47 yards on those 6 drives.  Peters was then pulled for back up QB Williams, a freshman, who actually led Illinois to a win at Rutgers when Peters was injured earlier in the season.  Williams wasn’t much better completing only 7 of his 16 pass attempts but he did run for 38 yards and led them to their final TD of the game.  The Illinois defense has been shaky all year ranking 13th in the league in total defense and 13th in YPP allowed.  They looked great early holding the Hawkeyes to just 45 yards over their first 4 drives.  After that, it went south quickly with Iowa gaining a whopping 380 yards over their final 7 possessions on 7.4 YPP.  The Illini are banged up on defense especially at linebacker where they finished the game with only 3 scholarship players after a few players went down during the game.  NORTHWESTERN – The Cats had their game with Minnesota cancelled last week due to Gopher covid issues.  They may have needed an extra week off after their previous performance which was a 29-20 loss @ Michigan State as a 13.5 point favorite.  Northwestern entered that game in East Lansing with a perfect 5-0 record and had the inside track to the Big 10 West title.  MSU jumped on them early and led 17-6 at halftime.  A normally stout Wildcat defense allowed MSU, the worst rushing team in the conference, to run for 195 yards on 47 carries.  They rallied for a 20-17 lead early in the 4th quarter, however after the TD that gave them the lead, Northwestern had negative 17 yards on their final 5 possessions on the way to their 1st loss of the season.  That’s the same MSU team that lost 52-12 vs OSU, 24-0 vs Indiana, and 49-7 vs Iowa, three of the other better teams in the conference.  After watching film on the loss, HC Pat Fitzgerald made it clear that his team “didn’t take our fundamental brand of football at the line of scrimmage with us to East Lansing” and it cost them the win.  He made it a point to stress that during their unplanned bye week.  The Wildcats have a lot to play for because their game vs Illinois is a big time rivalry.  However, they have already locked up the Big 10 West crown so win or lose, Northwestern will be playing in the Big 10 Championship game the following week completing their worst to first journey after finishing in last place in 2019.    MOST RECENT MEETING – Northwestern entered last season’s finale @ Illinois with just a 2-9 record.  The Cats were a 6.5 point underdog and topped the Illini 29-10.  NW outrushed Illinois 378 to 14 in the win.  POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Since 2000, Northwestern has covered 70% of their meetings with Illinois (14-6 ATS).  The Cats are just 7-13 ATS (35%) in all games as a double digit favorite since September of 2013.   RUTGERS @ MARYLAND (-8 OPEN to -7.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, December 5th  RUTGERS – After their big come from behind win @ Purdue the previous Saturday, Rutgers crashed back down to earth with a 23-7 home loss at the hands of Penn State.  It was the 14th straight time the Scarlet Knights have lost to the Nittany Lions.  HC Schiano was aggressive right from the get go in this one going for it on 4th and 1 from their own 45 yard line on Rutgers opening possession.  They were stuffed on that attempt and PSU scored to take a 7-0 lead 5 plays later.  That set the tone for the first half as Rutgers had just 12 yards in the first half following that opening possession and they were down 17-0 at the break.  They did get starting QB Vedral back for this one after he missed the Purdue game with an injury.  It didn’t make much difference as the Knights were outgained 381 to 205 and Vedral had just 113 yards passing on 30 attempts for only 3.8 yards per attempt.  After rushing for 176 yards on 52 carries vs Purdue, the Knights were shut down vs Penn State with just 83 yards on 32 carries.  The offense couldn’t get anything going against the Nittany Lions with only one drive of more than 36 yards the entire day.  It was the first time this season that Rutgers was held under 20 points and they were averaging over 30 PPG entering Saturday’s contest.        MARYLAND – Maryland just wants to play a damn game.  With last week’s cancellation of their game @ Michigan, the Terps have played a grand total of ONE game since November 7th with 3 of their last 4 games getting cancelled.  Their most recent game was a 29-11 loss @ Indiana on November 28th.   The Terps came into that rolling offensively scoring 80 points and tallying over 1,000 yards in the previous 2 games combined vs Penn State & Minnesota.  However, due to covid issues they had a 21 day break between games and it showed.  They only scored 11 points on 300 total yards (4.9 YPP) in their loss @ Indiana on November 28th with their lone TD coming with just 1:30 remaining in the game.  The Terps now have an 0-24 record vs Big 10 ranked opponents since joining the league in 2014.  Starting QB Tagovailo came in having thrown 6 TD’s and just 1 interception his previous 2 games but really struggled vs IU completing only 47% of his attempts and was intercepted 3 times.  The defense played arguably the best game of the year.  Before IU QB Penix exited late in the 3rd quarter due to an injury they had limited him to just 6 completions.  After allowing 988 total yards in their first 2 games of the season, the Terp defense seems to have settled in giving up just 340 to Penn State and 349 to Indiana over their last 2 contests.  Not only did Maryland have a long layoff, but they had 23 players unavailable vs Indiana including 4 starters on offense and 2 key players in their defensive backfield.  One positive is they should be rested and healthy for this game.  However, how do they perform having played only 1 game in the last 35 days!       MOST RECENT MEETING – Maryland was a 14 point chalk @ Rutgers last year and crushed the Scarlet Knights 48-7.  The Terps scored 3 TD’s of 80 yards or more in the win.   POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Maryland has won and covered 4 of the last 5 meetings between these two.  Rutgers has actually pulled 2 upsets this year as an underdog beating Michigan State and Purdue outright.  Prior to this season they had only one upset (outright win) as an underdog the last 24 times they were getting points.  MINNESOTA @ NEBRASKA (-8.5 OPEN to -10.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, December 5th  MINNESOTA – The Gophers had to cancel their last 2 games, November 28th @ Wisconsin and Dec 5th vs Northwestern.  Because of a covid outbreak, they paused team activities on November 24th and did not resume to a normal practice schedule until Sunday, Dec 7th.  Sunday was their first padded practice since their win over Purdue way back on November 20th.  The team did some conditioning last week leading up to their first full practice.  Even though it looks like they’ll be able to play on Saturday, they will have 20+ players out for this game that are within the 21 day minimum the Big 10 put in place for players that have tested positive.  One player we know will be out the remainder of the year is Minnesota’s top WR Bateman who opted out during their 2 week break to concentrate on preparing for the NFL.  The Gophs step into this one with a 2-3 overall record with wins over Purdue & Illinois and losses vs Michigan, Maryland, and Iowa.  The offense ranks 3rd in the conference at 405 YPG and 4th in scoring putting up 30 PPG.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  The defense ranks dead last in the conference in total defense, YPP allowed, scoring defense, 13th in rush defense, and 13th in sacks.  The most telling defensive stat is their 7.7 YPP allowed.  Every time the opponent snaps the ball, they are averaging almost 8 yards vs this defense.  That’s insane.  They rank dead last nationally in that category behind the likes of Akron, UMass, UNLV, and Vanderbilt.  They also rank last in the nation in yards per rush allowed at 6.8.  Only 6 teams in the entire country allow more than 6 YPC and those teams are Bowling Green, Kent, UNLV, UMass, and Arizona along with the Gophers.      NEBRASKA – The Huskers went into Purdue last week and pulled off a 37-27 win as a 2 point underdog.  They jumped quickly on the Boilers and pushed out to a 17-3 lead at the end of the 1st quarter and 27-13 at halftime.  Purdue did cut the lead to just early in the 4th but the Cornhuskers were able to hold on for their 2nd win of the season.  Starting QB Martinez played his best game of the season throwing for 242 yards while completing 76% of his passes (23 of 30).  He also ran for 45 yards.  Since getting benched in the Illinois game a few weeks ago, Martinez has completed 41 of his 50 pass attempts over his last 2 games vs Iowa & Purdue.  He got some help in the run game this week as RB Mills rushed for 80 yards.  While that may not seem like a big deal, Nebraska 2 leading rushers on the season are their back up QB McCaffrey (364 yards) and starting QB Martinez (268 yards) so anything they can get from their running backs they’ll take.  Saturday marks just the 2nd time in 7 games that Nebraska is a favorite.  The first didn’t go very well as they were a 17 point chalk vs Illinois and lost outright 41-24.  They laid an egg in that game after beating Penn State a week earlier.  The coaches have been stressing that situation this week to make sure they don’t let down again after upsetting Purdue last Saturday.  However, the Huskers haven’t been great at putting together 2 game win streaks in conference play.  The last time they won back to back Big 10 games was November of 2018.  Prior to that it was September of 2017.      MOST RECENT MEETING – Minnesota was favored by 7.5 points at home last year and embarrassed Nebraska 34-7.  It was actually worse than the final score indicated as the Gophers were up 34-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter and took their foot off the gas after rushing for 274 yards in the first 3 quarters alone (322 for the game).  POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The Huskers are just 2-7 ATS as a favorite since the start of last season.  If this line stays at -10 or higher, Nebraska is just 3-10 ATS their last 13 games as a double digit favorite.  Since joining the league in 2011, Nebraska is 6-11 ATS as a double digit favorite in Big 10 games.

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Ness Notes: Friday, Dec 11

by Larry Ness

Friday, Dec 11, 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." New England breezed to a 45-0 romp over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium but found out quickly that the stadium's co-tenants, the LA Rams, are NOT the Chargers! Rookie RB Cam Akers scored on a one-yard TD run 3:39 into the game and went on to rush for a season-high 171 yards (think the Rams miss Gurley?), while QB Jared Goff threw a TD pass and ran for a TD in LA's 24-3 win over the Pats. Cam Newton "stunk out the joint" once again, passing for just 119 yards (BTW he passed for 69 yards in the 45-0 win over the Chargers) threw for just 119 yards, was sacked FOUR times and had one INT, which turned into a "Pick-Six!" He was replaced by Jarrett Stidham but after that game Belichick emphatically said, "Cam's our QB," cutting off the question to give his answer. The Rams are now 9-4, a half-game ahead of Seattle in the NFC West (which hosts the 0-12 Jets on Sunday), while the Pats fell to 6-7. The Pats' playoff chances aren't officially 'dead' but they're close! My NFL Week 14 preview will be available in a "special" Saturday edition of Ness Notes (NFL-only report).CBB: The only two ranked teams in action on Thursday were No. 23 Arizona St and No. 24 San Diego St and the two programs met last night in Tempe. San Diego State was playing on the road for the first time this season but pulled away in the second half for an 80-68 win to move to 5-0 on the season. The Aztecs lead the nation with 13 straight victories on the road. The Sun Devils were the higher ranked team (23 to 24), so that leaves higher ranked teams 8-5 SU but 5-8 ATS in games between ranked opponents. There were no games between ranked and unranked opponents on Thursday, so that Y-T-D mark stands at 71-9 (.888) SU and 44-34-2 (56.4%) ATS for ranked teams vs unranked opponents. There are no games between ranked teams on Friday but FIVE involving ranked teams playing unranked opponents. All games involve teams in the AP's top-11. In order of rank it's No. 3 Iowa (4-0) hosting Iowa St, No. 5 Kansas (5-1) hosting Omaha, No. 8 Creighton (3-1) hosting Nebraska, No. 9 Villanova (4-1) visiting Georgetown and No. 11 West Va (4-1) home to North Texas. A quick pointspread update notes that Iowa is 3-1 ATS and favored by 14 over Iowa St, Kansas is 1-4 ATS and favored by 24 points over Omaha, Creighton is 2-2 ATS and favored by 14 over Nebraska, Villanova is 3-2 ATS and favored by 11 1/2 over Georgetown and West Va is 3-2 ATS and favored by 14 1/2 over North Texas. My next CBB update will be featured in Monday's Notes.CFB: Lots to get to regarding the CFB weekend but first, a quick thought on two Friday games. The Arizona/Arizona State rivalry is one of the longest football rivalries in the nation. The winner receives the Territorial Cup, created 121 years ago for the 1899 champion between schools in Arizona and which the NCAA has certified as the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. However, the Territorial Cup did not change hands as a regular part of the competition until 2001. In this "Year of COVID"  both schools will be looking for the first wins of 2020. The 0-2 Sun Devils have only played twice, the fewest of any FBS program that isn't sitting out this pandemic-impacted season, and Arizona is 0-4 and has lost a school-record 11 consecutive games, with 10 of the defeats coming by double-digit margins. No wonder an 0-2 ASU team is an 11 1/2-point road favorite. Then there is 6-1 Nevada playing 5-0 San Jose St in a MWC showdown. This marks the second consecutive home game San Jose State was forced to relocate, after the team's matchup with Hawai'i on Saturday became a road game. Following their 35-24 victory over the Rainbow Warriors, the Spartans flew to Las Vegas, where they have spent the week practicing. Tonight's game will be held at Sam Boyd Stadium, the longtime home of UNLV, which has also turned into a de facto home stadium for New Mexico this season. The Lobos were also forced to relocate because of restrictions related to the pandemic. The winner between San Jose State (-1) and Nevada will play in the MWC championship game on Dec 19.AP poll and CFP standings: The top-seven schools did not change in the latest AP poll (Dec 6). Alabama was a unanimous No. 1 for the third straight week. Notre Dame, with its 16-game winning streak (longest among all FBS teams) is No. 2, Ohio St No. 3 and Clemson No. 4. Texas A&M is No.5, Florida No. 6 and Cincinnati No. 7. BYU had been No. 8 but its 22-17 loss at then-No. 14 Coastal Carolina dropped the Cougars to No. 14. Coastal Carolina is up to No. 11, with four schools dropping out of the top-25 and four entering or reentering. Out are No. 15 Marshall with its 'ugly' 20-0 home loss to Rice, No. 19 Oklahoma St is out for the first time this season plus Pac 12 underachievers No. 21 Oregon and 23 Washington also fell out (more on this duo, later). North Carolina (20th) and Texas (23rd) are back in, while Colorado (21st) is in for the first time since 2018 and Buffalo (24th) for the first time in school history!The CFP standings are the only rankings that will affect the bowls and of course, the 'Final Four.' Nothing changed on Dec 8 at the top, with the top-six matching the AP's top-six, with the exception being Clemson at No. 3 and Ohio St at No. 4. BYU's loss has the Cougars down at No. 18, so there will be no more whining by the ESPN commentators regarding "underappreciated" BYU. 8-0 Cincinnati (No. 8) remains the highest-ranked Group of 5 school but the Bearcats better not lose, as 10-0 Coastal Carolina is up to No. 11. That's a wrap on the polls, so let's move on to Saturday.As always, using the AP rankings, I note games between top-25 opponents and also games between ranked and unranked teams. I will do the same today and for those looking for the SU & ATS numbers Y-T-D for these two categories, see Wednesday's Notes. No. 7 Cincy was supposed to play at No. 18 Tulsa but the game was canceled. That leaves just two top-25 matchups, No. 19 Iowa at home against No. 25 Wisconsin and No. 9 Miami-Fl hosting No. 20 North Carolina. Wisconsin is a two-point road favorite and Miami-Fl is a three-point home favorite. FIVE ranked teams lost games on Saturday to COVID, as No. 3 Ohio St, No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 12 Indiana and No. 20 Texas had games canceled, while No. 5 Texas A&M had its game postponed. That leaves nine games between ranked and unranked opponents still "good to go" (fingers crossed), including No. 1 Alabama at Arkansas and No. 6 Florida home to LSU. Alabama and Florida are already locked into the SEC championship game but with the Tide favored by 32 points and Florida by 23, no one expects a 'slip-up.'Of the seven other games between ranked and unranked opponents, No. 11 Coastal Carolina's at Troy and then plays ULL in the SBC title game. The Chanticleers can't control the outcome of the AAC title game between Cincy and Tulsa, but if the Bearcats lose, a 12-0 Coastal Carolina team would likely move past Cincy as the highest ranked Group of 5 team. Coastal Carolina is favored by 13 1/2-points. No. 21 Colorado is 4-0 and will host Utah at 12 ET. If the Buffs win (Colorado is favored by 2 1/2-points), the pressure would be on No. 16 USC to beat crosstown rival UCLA and claim the Pac 12 South title (Trojans are favored by 2 1/2-points).The winner of the Pac 12 South will meet Washington in the Pac 12 championship. COVID-19 has "wreaked havoc" on college football this season and on Thursday, the Washington at Oregon game was canceled due to COVID issues with Washington. I won't question the veracity of Washington but Oregon and its fans have to be VERY unhappy, as if Oregon had beaten Washington, the Ducks would be the North champs. Washington would have claimed the North title with a win as well but how "sweet it was" for the Huskies that a canceled game gave them the North title. Then again, this MAY not be over. It is not yet clear if Washington will have enough available players to play in next Friday's championship game. Should the Huskies be unable to play, it is not a given the Ducks would play for the title. If both USC and Colorado finish undefeated, it's possible the conference could change its rules to pit the undefeated teams against each other, noting that the Colorado-USC game earlier this season was canceled because of issues the Trojans had with the virus. Wouldn't that be something?After all, a conference "changing its rules" would be NOTHING new. The Big Ten has botched its COVID response since the jump and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren has been the subject of great controversy. Not a SINGLE living person (nor anyone who has already passed) was surprised that when Michigan canceled its Dec 12 game at Ohio St on Tuesday (meaning Ohio St would not meet the minimum of six games played) the "powers that be" found it their hearts to rewrite the rules, allowing Ohio State's 5-0 record to be good enough for them to play Northwestern next Saturday. An Ohio St win over Northwestern (Buckeyes have already been established as a 21-point favorite) will just about guarantee that Ohio St would make the 'Final Four' and the Big Ten would get the $6 million plus payday that comes with it! ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, that was never even a consideration in the Big Ten's decision to 'take a mulligan!'Don't forget, I'll have a "special" NFL-only edition of Ness Notes on Saturday.Good luck...Larry

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IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship Preview

by Sean Murphy

Friday, Dec 11, 2020

The 2020-21 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship gets underway on Christmas Day (provided all teams can get through the Covid protocols and ice full squads prior to that), helping fill the void for hockey bettors until the NHL makes its long-awaited return in mid-January (that's been thrown around as a possible start date anyway). Group A features defending champion (and tournament host) Canada along with Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany. Group B has last year's tournament runner-up Russia, Sweden, USA, Czech Republic and Austria. Here's how the odds shake out entering the tournament.Canada -130USA +375Russia +500Sweden +650Finland +725Czech Republic +2000Switzerland +5000Slovakia +5500Germany +7500Austria +10000It should come as no surprise that I'm picking Canada to take home its second straight Gold Medal as it ices a 'Dream Team' - essentially the fourth time it has done so in tournament history (three times previously due to NHL labor issues). Yes, we're being asked to pay a tariff to back the tournament favorite but that price might actually look cheap as this tournament goes on.The Canadians certainly land in the softer of the two groups, with only Finland likely to pose much of a challenge. While that can sometimes hurt teams as they enter the knockout stage of the tournament, here I believe it helps Canada with most of the players having not seen real game action in months. It should give them a chance to ease into things and ultimately ramp up leading into the quarter-final round, with the game against Finland coming on the final day of the group stage on New Year's Eve. Team Canada's roster is absolutely loaded with depth and talent, particularly on the blue line where this tournament is often won and lost. Canada's top defensive pairing is likely to feature two returning players from last year's golden squad, Bowen Byram and Jamie Drysdale. Byram, a first-round pick in this year's NHL draft, could very well be the best all-around player in the tournament. Drysdale made last year's squad as a 17-year old and should take a big leap forward as a cornerstone on the blue line this year. Up front, Canada is brimming with talent. Kirby Dach will lead the group after being loaned from the Chicago Blackhawks, who he played a full season with in 2019-20. As far as forwards go, only Patrick Kane saw more ice time than Dach in the 'Hawks brief playoff run in August - a testament to just how high Chicago is on the young forward. Dylan Cozens was a big factor in Canada's Gold Medal victory last January and is primed to contend for the title of 'best forward' in this year's tournament as well. You can go up and down the list - Canada simply has no holes up front (as evidenced by the fact that it was forced to cut first-round NHL draft pick Hendrix Lapierre on Thursday). If you're looking for a potential dark horse winner I would suggest Finland at a +725 return. With Covid concerns swirling and a number of teams already missing some key players due to the protocols in place, this is certainly a tournament where anything could happen - within reason of course. Finland has excellent pedigree in this tournament, often rising up to take the Gold Medal when you least expect it (it has taken the gold on five occasions). There's no question it will be a 'tough out' and we're being offered a generous price to back it in advance of puck drop. 

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NCAA Friday Night Football: Nevada/San Jose State Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Dec 11, 2020

The college football nightcap Friday is on the CBS Sports Network at 10 PM ET with a spot in the Mountain West Conference championship game at stake. Nevada faces off against San Jose State with the Spartans designated as the home team at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. San Jose State has relocated to Las Vegas, given Santa Clara County ordinances prohibiting contact sports given COVID concerns. They are temporarily sharing Sam Boyd Stadium as their home along with New Mexico who is also dealing with local prohibitions of contact sports. The Spartans raised their record to a 5-0 mark with their 35-25 win at Hawai’i last week. Running backs Tyler Nevens and Kairee Robinson combined to rush for 263 yards. Nick Starkel completed only 11 of his 23 passes of 167 yards, but he did toss two touchdown passes to one interception. The former Texas A&M and Arkansas quarterback is completing 66.2% of his passes for 1147 yards with 11 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He leads an offense that is scoring 30.4 points-per-game and averaging 419.2 yards-per-game. The strength of this Spartans’ team in head coach Brent Brennan’s fourth year with the program is their defense. San Jose State is 12th in the nation by allowing only 17.0 points-per-game and the 347.2 yards-per-game they are giving up is 30th in the country. The Spartans have registered 15 sacks in their five games. This team did catch perhaps two lucky breaks with their games against Fresno State and Boise State canceled because of COVID issues. Those teams have respective 3-2 and 4-1 winning records on the season.Nevada is a game behind in the loss column from San Jose State with a 6-1 mark after they defeated Fresno State last week by a 37-26 score. Sophomore quarterback Carson Strong completed 23 of 39 passes for 354 yards with five touchdown passes and two interceptions to lead the Wolf Pack to the victory. Nevada won that game despite giving up 599 yards, including 485 yards in the air. While the Spartans have evolved into a physical running team, Starkel did passes for 467 yards against New Mexico in October. Strong is completing 69.5% of his passes for 2327 yards with 21 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. He leads an offense that is scoring 31.3 points-per-game while averaging 442.1 yards-per-game. The Wolf Pack are ninth in the nation by averaging 334.4 passing yards-per-game. Nevada is allowing 21.9 points-per-game along with 361.1 yards-per-game. Their lone loss was at Hawai’i by a 24-21 score.The winner of this game will play in the Mountain West Conference championship game next week. San Jose State will host the game at Sam Boyd with a win. The Spartans still advance with a loss in this game if Boise State loses to Wyoming tomorrow. Nevada would host that game in Reno. The Wolf Pack plays Boise State if both those teams win this week.San Jose State opened as the favorite, but line movement at BookMaker now has Nevada as a 1.5-point favorite with the total at 59.

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NCAA Friday Night Football: Arizona/Arizona State Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Dec 11, 2020

The Friday night game on ESPN features a battle for the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. Arizona State and Arizona have played for the Territorial Cup since 1899. The winner of this year’s incarnation of this game will also earn their first victory of this abbreviated season. Arizona State has only played two games this year, which is the fewest for any team that did not forego the season given COVID concerns. They had not played for three weeks given COVID cancellations before taking the field last week in a 25-18 upset loss to UCLA. Head coach Herm Edwards conceded his team started slowly given the layoff. The scoreboard validated that assessment as the Sun Devils trailed the Bruins by a 17-0 margin before scoring 18 of the final 25 points. Arizona State opened their season with a 28-27 loss at USC in a game where the Sun Devils surrendered two touchdowns in the final three minutes to lose that contest. This team returned twelve starters from the group that won their final three games last season for an 8-5 season that culminated with a 20-14 win against Florida State in the Sun Bowl. Jayden Daniels completed 21 of 35 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the loss to UCLA. The sophomore quarterback has completed 32 of 58 passes for just a 55.8% completion percentage for 359 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Daniels is adjusting to a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Zak Hill. While Arizona State did have seven spring practices, the disruption of the fall practice routine has not been ideal. The Sun Devils have struggled to stop the pass as they rank 118th in the nation by allowing 286.5 passing yards-per-game. Starting defensive backs, Jack Jones and Aashari Crosswell, were suspended to begin the season, and Crosswell has since opted-out for the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. Arizona has lost eleven games in a row with their 0-4 start to this season. Ten of those losses have been by double-digits to firmly place head coach Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat in the third year with the program. The Wildcats lost at home to Colorado last week by a 24-13 score. Losing quarterback Grant Gunnell to an injury on the first snap in their game with UCLA two weeks ago has not helped matters. The sophomore completed 62.5% of his passes last season in his freshman season with 1239 yards on 155 attempts with nine touchdown passes and only one interception to raise expectations for this year. He is questionable with his shoulder injury for this game.Freshman Will Plummer has completed 36 of 67 passes in his absence of 305 yards. He has thrown three interceptions without a touchdown pass. He has not been helped by an offensive line that has allowed 4.25 sacks-per-game, which is the fourth-worst in the nation. Arizona is struggling to complete drives as well, as they rank 109th in the nation red zone offense. Arizona surrendered 407 yards on the ground to the Buffaloes last week. They are second-to-last in the nation by allowing 273.5 rushing yards-per-game.Arizona State has won the last three games in this rivalry after they defeated the Wildcats on November 30th of last season by a 24-14 score. BetAnySports lists the Sun Devils as an 11.5-point favorite with the total set at 56. The ESPN broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

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

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Dec 11, 2020

The Friday sports card features three games in college football as well as a light card in college basketball and the opening match in Matchweek 12 in the English Premier League.The college football card begins at 6 PM ET with UTEP playing at North Texas. The Charlotte/Marshall contest was canceled after injuries and COVID issues with the Thundering Herd, which left them without enough players at key positions. The Utah/Colorado game scheduled for 9:30 PM ET was moved to Saturday at noon after Michigan/Ohio State was canceled. UTEP takes the field for the first time since November 14th when they lost to UTSA by a 52-21 score, which lowered their record to a 3-4 mark. North Texas fell to 3-5 on the season with a 42-31 loss at home to Louisiana Tech as a 1-point underdog. The Green Mean host this game as a 10-point favorite with the total set at 64 (all odds from BetOnline). The Friday night game on ESPN features a battle for the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. Arizona State and Arizona have played for the Territorial Cup since 1899. The winner of this year’s incarnation of this game will also earn their first victory of this abbreviated season. Arizona State has only played two games this year, which is the fewest for any team that did not forego the season given COVID concerns. They had not played for three weeks given COVID cancellations before taking the field last week in a 25-18 upset loss to UCLA. Head coach Herm Edwards conceded his team started slowly given the layoff. The scoreboard validated that assessment as the Sun Devils trailed the Bruins by a 17-0 margin before scoring 18 of the final 25 points. Arizona has lost eleven games in a row with their 0-4 start to this season. Ten of those losses have been by double-digits to firmly place head coach Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat in the third year with the program. The Wildcats lost at home to Colorado last week by a 24-13 score. The Sun Devils are an 11.5-point favorite, with the total set at 55.5. The ESPN broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.The college football nightcap is on the CBS Sports Network at 10 PM ET with Nevada playing San Jose State with the Spartans the designated home team at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. San Jose State has relocated given local county ordinances prohibiting contact sports given COVID concerns. The Spartans raised their record to a 5-0 mark with their 35-25 win at Hawai’i last week. Nevada is a game behind with a 6-1 mark after they defeated Fresno State last week by a 37-26 score. The winner of this game will play in the Mountain West Conference championship game next week.The college basketball card involves four games on national television. At 5 PM ET on ESPNU, Charlotte hosts Appalachian State as a 3.5-point favorite with the total at 131.5.Three more nationally-televised games take place at 7 PM ET. Kansas plays at home against UMKC as a 24-point favorite with an over/under of 131.5. Villanova travels to Georgetown as an 11.5-point road favorite on FS1 with the total at 142.5. Iona plays at Fairfield on ESPNU as a 3.5-point favorite with the over/under at 135.5. Matchweek 12 of the English Premier League starts on Friday, with Leeds United hosting West Ham United at 3 PM ET as a -0.25 goal-line favorite with the total at 3. The NBC Sports Network has the broadcast.

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Dec 10

by Larry Ness

Thursday, Dec 10, 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."CBB: No. 4 Michigan St was supposed to play at No. 18 Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last night but the game was canceled. That leaves higher ranked teams 8-4 SU and 5-7 ATS in games between ranked opponents. Three games between ranked and unranked opponents were postponed or canceled on Wednesday but six such games were played, highlighted by No. 2 Baylor finally playing its home opener. It marked the first game for the Bears since a much-anticipated showdown against No. 1 Gonzaga was called off only 90 minutes before tipoff Saturday, and after expected home-opening opponent Nicholls State had virus issues like the Bulldogs. The "replacement" was the Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks, who beat Baylor 59-58 the last time the teams had met (in 2018) and who broke Duke's 150-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents with an 85-83 OT win last November when Duke was the nation's top-ranked team. Stephen F Austin went 28-3 last season, winning its final 15 games before the 2019-20 campaign came to a sudden stop during conference tournament week and the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the virus. Add in a 3-0 start this season and the Lumberjacks owned an 18-game winning streak. So much for that! Baylor had not played since beating Illinois 82-69 on Dec 2. However, Baylor jumped out to a 38-22 advantage at halftime and didn't miss a beat following the intermission, as five Bears scored in double digits as Baylor cruised to an 83-52 win.The other five ranked teams in action against unranked opponents also won making it a 6-0 sweep (4-2 ATS). Y-T-D, ranked teams are now 71-9 (.888) SU and 44-34-2 (56.4%) ATS vs unranked opponents. It's a 'light' day of action in Thursday college hoops and the lone game scheduled between ranked and unranked teams was No. 1 Gonzaga hosting Southern but it's been canceled. However, there is a matchup of ranked opponents, as No. 23 Arizona St (3-1) will host No. 24 San Diego St (4-0). The Aztecs visit Tempe having entered the AP poll for the first time this season on Monday, after opening unranked despite the fact that last season's team opened 26-0 and was 30-2 when the season was shut down for the virus. San Diego State has been ranked in the AP top-25 in 16 of the last 18 polls dating to last season. Brian Dutcher spent 18 seasons as an assistant to Steve Fisher (first at Michigan and then at San Diego St) and won 22 and 21 games in his first two seasons before last year's 30-win one. However, while he likely couldn't be "picked out of a lineup," that's NOT the case for ASU head coach Bobby Hurley, who starred for a Duke team which won back-to-back national championships (1991 and 1992) and is part of the Hurley legacy of coaches. This is Hurley's sixth season at ASU and he's led the team to an overall 93-69 (.574) record in his first five with two NCAA appearances which have produced ZERO tourney wins. The Sun Devils are favored by three points.NFL Week 14 kicks off with Thursday Night Football from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles when the 6-0 NE Patriots visit the 8-4 LA Rams (8;20 ET on FOX/NFL Network). The Patriots have won FOUR of their last five, including a 45-0 'spanking' over the Chargers last Sunday. That game was played SoFi Stadium and New England head coach Bill Belichick and his team celebrated that triumph by staying in Los Angeles and working out at UCLA as opposed to making a pair of cross-country flights, as the Pats are right back in SoFi Stadium on Thursday night to face the Rams. Arizona, the LA Rams and Seattle were all 6-3 and tied atop the NFC West entering Week 11 but as Week 14 dawns, the Rams and Seahawks are tied at 8-4 (Rams currently own the tiebreaker), while the Cards have fallen off the pace at 6-6.The Rams are favored by five points and the over/under is 44 1/2.COVID has wreaked havoc on the CFB schedule and I will push my CFB preview to Friday and then do a "special" Saturday edition of Ness Notes to cover NFL Week 14.Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Saturday Night Football: USC/UCLA Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Dec 10, 2020

The Saturday night game on ABC features the Battle for Los Angeles between USC and UCLA, with much on the line for the Trojans. A victory for USC would clinch their spot in the Pac-12 conference championship game on December 18th. Even if Colorado is tied with the Trojans with an unbeaten record in conference play, USC advances from the second-tie breaker (after head-to-head since these two teams did not play this season) with their additional victory against Pac-12 South opponents. A win on Saturday would also raise the Trojans' record to 5-0, which would be the first time they started a season with at least five straight victories since the 2006 season. USC will be playing on a short week after they defeated Washington State on Sunday night by a 38-13 score. Kedon Slovis completed 25 of 32 passes for 287 yards with five touchdown passes and no interceptions in the win. The sophomore is completing 72.1% of his passes for 1257 yards with ten touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Slovis leads an offensive attack that is 17th in the nation by averaging 313.6 passing yards-per-game. The Trojans are scoring 33.3 points-per-game while averaging 424.5 yards-per-game. USC holds its opponents to 21.8 points-per-game along with 358.5 yards-per-game. Clay Helton’s team is second in the nation with a +1.5 net turnover margin per game. UCLA raised their record to 3-2 last Saturday with their 25-18 upset victory at Arizona State as a field goal underdog. The win gave the Bruins a better than .500 record for the first time since October 21st, 2017. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson returned to the field for the first time in three games after being out with COVID. The three-year starter completed 18 of 24 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also rushed for another 49 yards with a touchdown. Thomson-Robinson is completing 57.8% of his passes for 691 yards in his three games with eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions. He has also rushed for 210 yards with a 5.8 yards-per-carry average with another three touchdowns.  UCLA is 16th in the nation by averaging 227.6 rushing yards-per-game. The Bruins are scoring 32.6 points-per-game while averaging 430.6 yards-per-game. They are holding their opponents to 24.7 points-per-game along with 373.0 yards-per-game. UCLA has held three of their last four opponents to 18 points or less. Their two losses were by six points at Colorado and three points at Oregon (without Thompson-Robinson).Thompson-Robinson passed for 367 yards with three touchdowns against USC last year while rushing for another 64 yards with a touchdown on the ground. Yet he was bested by Slovis, who passed for 515 yards with four touchdowns to lead the Trojans to a 52-35 victory on November 23rd. USC has won 16 of the last 21 meetings between these city rivals. BetAnySports lists USC as a 2.5-point road favorite with the total set at 62. The ABC broadcast begins at 7:30 PM ET.

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

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Dec 10, 2020

The Thursday sports card features action in college basketball and college football along with the start of Week 14 in the NFL.Two games kick off Week 15 in college football. At 6:30 PM ET, Florida Atlantic plays on the road at Southern Mississippi. FAU had their four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 20-3 upset loss at Georgia Southern as a 2.5-point favorite. The Owls still have hopes to play in the Conference USA championship game with their 4-1 conference record (5-2 overall). They are tied with Marshall in the East Division but need the Thundering Herd to lose on Friday to Charlotte since they lost their head-to-head meeting with them earlier this season. First-year head coach Willie Taggart has a decision to make at quarterback after he benched freshman Javion Posey making his third start of the season last week after he was responsible for three turnovers. Junior Nick Tronti came on in relief but had little success in moving the offense. Southern Miss takes the field after the last playing on November 21st in a 23-20 loss to UTSA as a 9.5-point underdog. The Golden Eagles have lost four of their last five games to see their record dip to a 2-7 mark. The program did make the decision this week to hire Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall as their next head coach. Scotty Walden has served as the interim head coach since Jay Hopson resigned as head coach in early September. Walden is down to his third quarterback after Jack Abraham entered the transfer portal, and then Tate Whatley endured a shoulder injury in the game against the Roadrunners. Sophomore Trey Lowe gets the start under center.FAU is an 8-point road favorite with the total set at 43.5 (all lines from BetOnline). The CBS Sports Network has the broadcast.Georgia Tech hosts Pittsburgh at 7 PM ET. The Yellow Jackets have lost four of their last five games after their 23-13 loss at North Carolina State last Saturday as a 7-point underdog. Pittsburgh last played on November 28th in a 52-17 score at Clemson. The Panthers are -6.5-point road favorites with the over/under at 54.5.A double-header on FS1 highlights the college basketball card. At 8 PM ET, UMKC visits Minnesota with the Golden Gophers a 19.5-point favorite with the total at 137. The nightcap features San Diego State visiting Arizona State in a battle of two ranked teams. The Aztecs are 24th in the Associated Press poll, one spot behind the 23rd ranked Sun Devils. Arizona State is a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 145.The NFL Thursday night game on Fox is a rematch of Super Bowl LIII where the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams by a 13-3 score back on February 3rd, 2019.The Rams have won three of their last four games with their 38-28 win at Arizona on Sunday as a 2.5-point favorite. That victory, along with Seattle’s 17-12 upset loss to the New York Giants, placed head coach Sean McVay’s team in a tie for first place with the Seahawks with an 8-4 record. New England has won four of their last five games since November with their 45-0 victory at Los Angeles against the Chargers. The Patriots are still two games behind Miami along with Tennessee and Indianapolis, who all have 8-4 records to set the bar for the final spots in the AFC playoff hunt. The Rams are a 5-point favorite with the total set at 45. Kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET.

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