Articles

The NFL Landscape After Week 10

by Will Rogers

Monday, Nov 16, 2020

The NFL (and society in general), is learning how to play during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Now there's the hope of a vaccine that could be widely available by the time the 2021/22 season starts.It's been a strange season for many reasons. The landscape in the NFL continues to change from week to week.New England and Buffalo were evenly favored to win the AFC East before the season started, but the Bills have a lock on that spot after Week 10 at 7-3. Miami sits right behind at 6-3 and the Patriots are holding on at 4-5. Pittsburgh is 9-0. Should Big Ben Roehtlisberger be mentioned in the MVP talk?! Or at least as Bounce Back Player Of The Year? Regardless, the Steelers keep managing to find ways to win. Baltimore and Cleveland are both at 6-3 in the AFC North.The AFC South is down to two teams. Houston is 2-7 and Jacksonville is 1-8, but both Indianapolis and Tennessee are tied at 6-3. The Chiefs continue to hold down the top spot in the AFC West at 8-1, while Las Vegas isn't too far behind at 6-3. The Raiders won at Arrow Head a couple of weeks ago, and now the defending champs are in Las Vegas in Week 11 looking for vengeance.The NFC "Least" is the most interesting in my opinion, despite all of the teams struggling. Philadelphia leads at 3-5-1, while New York is right behind at 3-7. The Giants just beat the Eagles as well, so they have the leg up in the tiebreaker this season. Right behind them though is Washington and Dallas at 2-7. Funnily enough, any of these teams still have a mathematical shot at capturing the NFC East title after Week 10.Green Bay leads the NFC North at 7-2, with Chicago in second at 5-5. Minnesota and Detroit are both at 4-5. The NFC South is another competitive division. The Saints are 7-2 and the Bucs are 7-3. New Orleans has already won both games over Tampa Bay this season, meaning that the Saints are in the driver's seat at this point (depending of course on how fast Drew Brees can recover from injury, and how well Jameis Winston can play in relief.) The NFC West is another very interesting one, as all four teams still have a shot at winning the division. Arizona, LA, and Seattle are all at 6-3 (Seattle and Arizona play on Thursday night), while the 49ers are 4-6.A Closer Look At Week 10 "Against-The-Spread"Faves: 9-5 ATSHome fave: 6-3Fave -2.5 or less: 3-0Fave -6 or more: 3-2Double-Digit fave: 0-1Divison fave: 6-1For The Season ATSFaves: 66-79-1 ATSHome fave: 41-53 Fave -2.5 or less: 8-19Fave -6 or more: 31-29-1Double-Digit fave: 5-7-1Division fave: 22-28

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 16

by Larry Ness

Monday, Nov 16, 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: The NFL's Week 10 concludes with a MNF matchup between two NFC North rivals, as the Minnesota Vikings meet the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field at 8:15 ET on ESPN. The Vikings opened the 2020 season 1-5 but after a bye in Week 7, have beaten Green Bay and Detroit. In contrast, the Bears opened the season 5-1 but enter this contest off THREE straight losses and a bye looming in Week 11. Clearly, current form favors the Vikings but recent series history is on Chicago's side. Chicago head coach Mike Nagy is in his third season with the Bears and is 4-0 against the Vikings. In contrast Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins is 0-3 in three meetings with the Bears as a Viking (sat out meaningless Week 17 game in 2019), with Minnesota averaging just 12.0 PPG in those contests. Does this factoid figure into one's handicapping? Cousins is 0-9 in his career on Monday nights, which is the worst record of any QB in NFL history! The ball is in your court. Minnesota is favored by three points and the over/under is 43 1/2.There were ZERO games between ranked teams last week, so higher ranked teams remain 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS. As documented here each week, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results most of this season but we first saw a possible "regression to the mean" two weeks ago. Ranked teams went a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents from Nov 3-7 but still could NOT win more than 50 percent ATS, going 6-7-1. The numbers Y-T-D stood 82-22 SU (.788) but just 42-60-2 ATS (.412) as CFB began its latest week on Nov 10. However, when 'all the dust had settled' on Nov 15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That leaves the Y-T-D numbers at 94-23 SU (.803) and 53-62-2 ATS (46.1%).CFB highlights: Unfortunately, one of the most notable headlines/storylines of the past week was the fact that 15 games were postponed or canceled due to COVID-related issues. Top-10 teams No.1 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio St and No.5 Texas A&M all did not play on Saturday. Three more ranked teams were unable to play as well, No. 12 Georgia, No. 15 Coastal Carolina and No. 24 Auburn. As noted above, the lone ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent was then-No. 19 SMU, which lost 28-24 at Tulsa. Kudos to the Golden Hurricane who fell behind the Mustangs 21-0, before outscoring them 28-3 the rest of the way. So what else is new? Tulsa trailed 16-2 at UCF on Oct 3 but came back to win 31-26 and on Oct 30 at home, trailed East Carolina 17-3 before winning 34-30. Nothing to it!"Nothing to it" PERFECTLY describes Penn State's 2020 season. The Nittany Lions fell behind a winless Nebraska team 27-6 at the half and despite TWO chances late in the 4th quarter deep in Nebraska territory (when a TD and extra-point could have sent the game to OT), FAILED each time. Penn State's 30-23 loss drops them to 0-4 on the season. You may remember that Penn St was ranked No. 7 in the AP's preseason poll and now become just the FOURTH school in poll history to open in the top-10 and then start 0-4. The most recent time that occurred was back in 1984 with Pittsburgh but Arizona St did it in 1976 and Illinois in 1954. "We ARE Penn St!"All four top-10 teams won this week. No. 2 Notre Dame side-stepped a let down situation by winning 45-31 at Boston College, scoring 45-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1996. Ian Book has now attempted 204 passes without an INT and moved to 28-3 as Notre Dame's starting QB. The Fighting Irish are owners of a 14-game winning streak, the longest active among FBS teams. No. 6 Florida routed Arkansas 63-35, as QB Kyle Trask threw five TD passes in the first half. He has 28 TDs through six games. Heisman voters take note! No. 7 Cincinnati won 55-17 at home over East Carolina on Friday, extending its home winning streak to 19 straight. The Bearcats are allowing just 12.4 PPG on the season. No. 9 Miami, despite missing 13 players due to injury/illness (including four starters), eked out a 25-24 win at Va Tech. The 'Canes have now won back-to-back games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, after going 0-5 in that situation in 2019. No. 10 Indiana, playing as a top-10 team for the first time since 1967, routed Michigan St 24-0 at East Lansing. The Hoosiers defense held MSU to nine FDs, 191 total yards and forced four takeaways. Indiana is now 4-0 in the Big Ten since 1987.New AP poll: With so many top teams not playing, there was little change in the poll. Alabama (60 of 62 first-place votes) remains No. 1, Notre Dame is No. 2. Ohio St No. 3, Clemson No. 4 and A&M No. 5. Despite being idle, Clemson has now been among the AP's top-five for 50 consecutive weeks (streak began on 11/5/17), the third-longest of all-time. It's no surprise that Alabama owns the longest streak (68 straight was snapped last season), with the 2000-03 Miami Hurricanes second with 55 straight top-5 rankings. Indiana inched up one spot to No. 9 (highest since being No. 4 back in 1967) and when it plays No. 3 Ohio St this Saturday, it will mark the school's first-ever meeting of top-10 teams.The only school to drop out of the poll was No. 19 SMU, replaced by the school that beat them on Saturday, Tulsa (see above). The Golden Hurricane are ranked  (No. 25) for the first time since the final poll of 2010 (24th) and the last time Tulsa was ranked during the regular season was back in 2008. (at No. 19). "We are Marshall!" The Thundering Herd  wore all-black uniforms and the number 75 on its helmets to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people on Nov 14, 1970, on a flight home from a game at East Carolina. Marshall beat MTSU 42-14 and are 7-0 (one of 12 schools still unbeaten after playing three or more games!) and ranked 15th.Tuesday's Notes will touch on the opening of the new CFB week (more MACtion) but will concentrate on a recap of NFL Week 10.Good luck...Larry

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UFC 255 Preview

by Ben Burns

Monday, Nov 16, 2020

Say what you want about the rest of 2020 but it continues to be an exciting year for fight fans. Another two titles are up for grabs on Saturday November 21st, at the UFC Apex, in Las Vegas. The main event features flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo, defending his belt against Alex Perez. In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko goes for her fourth straight title defense.  Shevchenko, among the most dominant fighters out there, is an extremely heavy favorite. We're talking in the -1400 range, as of this writing. Obviously, I'm not about to suggest that kind of price. So, is it worth taking a shot on the huge underdog? Probably not. Maia (18-6-1) is no slouch, as she's capable on both her feet and on the ground. However, Shevchenko (19-3) is better in both areas. She's won seven of her past eight and has defended her belt three times, twice by KO. Maia's never faced anyone that hits this hard. By comparison, Figueiredo's -300, or so, price tag may look somewhat reasonable. It's still a little too rich for my blood though. I won with Figueiredo (19-1) in his last fight, as he took care of Joseph Benavidez in the first round. That victory came via submission, the seventh of his career. However, the flyweight champ is more known for his hands. He's got serious power for this weight class. Perez (24-5) has been fighting well and checks in off three straight wins. However, it should be noted that his lone UFC loss was by first round TKO, at the hands of Benavidez. It should also be mentioned that Figueiredo was originally supposed to fight Cory Garbrandt while Perez was to go against Brandon Moreno. Though both champions may be too expensive to bet, there are plenty of other enticing options on Saturday's card. Totals have yet to be released but there are some interesting matchups. The Brandon Royval / Brandon Moreno winner could find himself fighting Figueiredo (or Perez) next. Paul Craig vs. "Shogun" Rua should also be pretty good, given that the two fought to a draw last September. Enjoy and good luck! .... Ben Burns 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NFL Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Nov 16, 2020

The NFL Monday Night Football game on ESPN between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears is the main attraction on the Monday sports card.Minnesota has raised their record to a 3-5 mark with two straight victories. The Vikings defeated Detroit at home last week by a 34-20 score as a 3-point favorite. Minnesota had a +3 net turnover margin to help them win that game. Kirk Cousins completed 13 of 20 passes in the victory for 220 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Cousins is completing 65.6% of his passes for 1855 yards with an 8.9 yards-per-attempt average. He has thrown 15 touchdown passes, but his 10 interceptions are a source of concern. Cousins has also won only one of his ten career starts on Monday Night Football.Running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 206 yards on 22 carries to lead the Vikings to the victory against the Lions. Cook has 858 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns this season on 6.5 Yards-Per-Carry. Over his last five games, he has rushed for at least 135 yards five times while generation 745 yards over that span. Head coach Mike Zimmer has been frustrated by his defense that has allowed 29.3 points-per-game along with 412.9 yards-per-game this season. Minnesota has played seven rookies on defense, and they enter this game with their most experienced cornerback having only 21 games under his belt in his career. Yet the Vikings have allowed just 22 and 20 points in their last two games. Chicago started the year 5-1, but they have since lost three straight games after their 24-17 loss at Philadelphia last week as a 6.5-point underdog. Nick Foles completed 36 of 52 passes for 335 yards with two touchdown passes in the losing effort. Foles is completing 65.6% of his passes this season for 1746 yards in the seven games he has played this season. But he is averaging only 6.1 yards-per-attempt with ten touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Bears are scoring only 19.8 points-per-game this season, which is 29th in the NFL while averaging 317.8 yards-per-game. Their defense is keeping them in games as they are allowing only 21.1 points-per-game, which is the seventh-best mark in the league. Head coach Matt Nagy has relented on pulling double-duty as the play-caller on offense as he delegated those duties this week to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Chicago faces depletion at running back with David Montgomery out for this game as he continues through the concussion protocol. With Tarik Cohen out the season with his ACL tear, the Bears must resort to converted wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson along with the recent running backs from Oregon State in third-year pro-Ryan Nall and undrafted free agent Artavis Pierce on their depth chart. Nagy could elevate veteran Lamar Miller from the practice squad after he missed last season with a torn ACL.Bears’ wide receiver, Allen Robinson, is questionable with a knee injury. Nagy has said it is a possibility that center Cody Whitehair could be activated off the COVID list after the team has used three different centers in the last three weeks.BookMaker lists Minnesota as a 3-point road favorite with the total set at 43.5. Kickoff on ESPN is at 8:20 PM ET.

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Happy 100th Birthday, Wayne Thiebaud

by Al McMordie

Sunday, Nov 15, 2020

Today is the 100th birthday of Wayne Thiebaud, one of the world's best artists.  We routinely discuss sports and gambling on these pages.  Of course, life is much more than sports.  And one of my favorite passions is art.  I enjoy many kinds of art, but my favorite artist is easily Wayne Thiebaud.Most people know Thiebaud for his renditions of various foodstuffs like cakes, candy apples, gumball machines, and pies.  And his chosen subject matter has led to him being lumped into the pop art classification, alongside such artists as Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg.  But Thiebaud really belongs more to a classical tradition of painting.I recall seeing a retrospective of Thiebaud's work in 2001, in Washington, D.C., at The Phillips Collection.  Among my favorites at that show were his 1962 painting, Around the Cake, and his iconic 1963 painting, Cakes.  Fast forward 12 years to 2013 when my wife and I were planning our wedding.  We were researching wedding cake possibilities when we came across a Martha Stewart article.  Lo and behold, Caitlin Williams Freeman, then the pastry chef at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, had created a wedding cake (actually, 13 cakes) to precisely mimic Thiebaud's Cakes painting.  So, I gave Ms. Williams Freeman a call, and her team made us our wedding cakes!A few months after our wedding, we had the good fortune to be invited to a gala at the Laguna Art Museum, which honored the artist.  We were able to chat with Thiebaud and, of course, told him of our wedding cakes, which he truly enjoyed.Besides his well-known still-life paintings of confections, delicatessen counters, and the like, Thiebaud also paints figure studies (like his Football Player (1963) accompanying this blog post), abstract landscapes, San Francisco cityscapes, and Sacramento deltas.  And he even created California's famous Arts license plate (with its palm trees, ocean and setting sun), so 137,000 Californians drive around with a "Thiebaud" every day.Even though he's reached the century mark, he's still painting (and playing tennis) every day.  And, for those interested, there is a major retrospective of his work ongoing through January 3, 2021 at the Crocker Museum, in Sacramento, CA.  Next year, the exhibit will travel to the Toledo Museum of Art, in Toledo, OH; the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, in Memphis, TN; the McNay Art Museum, in San Antonio, TX; and the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, PA.  Among the paintings on display are the Crocker's own holdings, Pies, Pies, Pies (1961) and, one of my all-time faves, Boston Cremes (1962).Happy Birthday, Wayne!

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NFL Sunday Night Football: Ravens/Patriots Preview

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Nov 15, 2020

Sunday Night Football on NBC features two AFC powerhouses that are moving in the opposite direction.Baltimore won their fourth game in their last five after their 24-10 upset victory at Indianapolis last Sunday as a 1-point underdog. Quarterback Lamar Jackson completed 19 of 23 passes for 170 yards in the win while adding another 58 yards with a touchdown on the ground.Jackson made headlines during the week for commenting on the Rich Eisen Show that opposing defenses were calling out his plays. The numbers indicate that Jackson has not been as effective in the passing game this season. He has thrown for 1573 passing yards so far while completing 62.9% of his passes with a 7.1 yards-per-attempt average. Jackson has also thrown 12 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Last season, he completed 66.1% of his passes for 3127 yards with a 7.8 yards-per-attempt average. Jackson threw 38 touchdown passes last year to just six interceptions. Jackson has continued to be a threat with his legs as he has ran for 469 yards on a 5.9 yards-per-carry average with three touchdowns. Yet those numbers are not on pace for his rushing numbers last year either, as he gained 1206 yards on the ground last season with seven touchdowns and a 6.9 yards-per-carry average. This contest is the Ravens’ third game on the road in their last four games. However, head coach John Harbaugh’s team is comfortable playing away from home as they have won ten straight road games. They also have scored at least 20 points in 31 games in a row, which is the longest streak in the league. Baltimore has also forced a turnover in 21 straight, which is also the longest run in the NFL. The Ravens have 14 takeaway, which is fourth-best in the league. They lead the NFL with ten fumble recoveries. With their 6-2 record, Baltimore is looking forward to their rematch with Pittsburgh in the race to win the AFC North title.New England snapped a four-game losing streak on Monday with their 30-27 victory against the Jets in the Meadowlands. Quarterback Cam Newton played better this week. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 274 yards with two touchdowns on the ground. For the season, Newton has completed 68.1% of his passes for 1417 yards with a 7.4 yards-per-attempt average. He has added 314 rushing yards with eight touchdowns and a 4.6 yards-per-carry. However, Newton has thrown only two touchdown passes with eight interceptions. Newton has not thrown a touchdown pass since September, and he has five interceptions in his last four games. The Patriots have played only one team with a top-ten defense in that game against the 49ers where Newton only passed for 98 yards. His recovery from his bout with COVID may have played a role in that effort. Newton may have found a reliable target since that time with wide receiver Jakobi Meyers who caught 12 passes for 169 yards on Monday. Yet New England has turned the ball over 15 times already, with 11 of those giveaways coming from interceptions. Baltimore is without Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell who is dealing with a calf strain. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is doubtful with an ankle injury. Linebacker L.J. Fort is questionable with a finger injury that has limited his practice time this week. Linebacker Matthew Judon is also questionable with his calf injury, but he did take part in a full practice on Friday. Running back Mark Ingram also took part in the full Friday practice with him listed as questionable with the ankle injury that has kept him out the last few weeks. New England does not have a player listed as out nor doubtful for this game. Head coach Bill Belichick did list 17 players as questionable, including cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones, running back Damien Harris, and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.BetAnySports lists Baltimore as a 7-point road favorite with the total set at 43.5. Kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET.

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

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Nov 15, 2020

The Sunday sports card features the continuation of Week 10 of the National Football League, along with a rescheduled game in college football. California travels to UCLA for a college football game at noon ET (9 AM ET local time in an attempt to draw east coast viewers to the Pac-12). The Pac-12 rescheduled this game on Friday after positive COVID tests for both Arizona State and Utah led to the cancellation of the previously planned games for Saturday involving the Utes traveling to play UCLA and the Sun Devils hosting the Golden Bears. The Bruins opened up their season last week with a 48-42 upset loss at home to Colorado as a 6.5-point favorite. UCLA is now 7-18 under head coach Chip Kelly in his third year with the program. Kelly has 15 starters back from the team that finished 4-8. California will be making their 2020 debut in the fourth-year of head coach Justin Wilcox’s tenure. The Golden Bears finished 8-5 last year with a 35-20 victory over Illinois in the Redbox Bowl. Eighteen starters are back from that team. Cal is a 3.5-point road favorite with a total of 55.5 (all odds from BookMaker). FS1 broadcasts the game at noon ET.The NFL has 12 games scheduled for Sunday. Five games begin the card at 1 PM ET. The national game on Fox has Carolina hosting Tampa Bay, with the Buccaneers a 6-point road favorite with an over/under of 51.Another six games take place in the second window of afternoon games. The usual CBS games at 1 PM ET games moved to this time slot to accommodate their coverage of the final round of the Masters. The primary broadcast on CBS is at 4:05 PM ET, with Arizona hosting Buffalo. The Bills are a 2.5-point favorite with the total set at 56. The national game on Fox has the Los Angeles Rams hosting Seattle at 4:25 PM ET. The Rams are a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 54.5.Sunday Night Football on NBC features two AFC powerhouses that are moving in the opposite direction.Baltimore won their fourth game in their last five after their 24-10 upset victory at Indianapolis last Sunday as a 1-point underdog. Quarterback Lamar Jackson completed 19 of 23 passes for 170 yards in the win while adding another 58 yards with a touchdown on the ground.New England snapped a four-game losing streak on Monday with their 30-27 victory against the Jets in the Meadowlands. Quarterback Cam Newton played better this week. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 274 yards with two touchdowns on the ground. For the season, Newton has completed 68.1% of his passes for 1417 yards with a 7.4 yards-per-attempt average. He has added 314 rushing yards with eight touchdowns and a 4.6 yards-per-carry. However, Newton has thrown only two touchdown passes with eight interceptions. Newton has not thrown a touchdown pass since September, and he has five interceptions in his last four games. Baltimore is a 7-point road favorite with the total set at 43.5. Kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAA Football Preview

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Nov 14, 2020

The Saturday sports card features 33 college football games between FBS opponents. COVID issues led to the cancellation of the following 15 match-ups between FBS schedule for Saturday: Air Force at Wyoming; Auburn at Mississippi State; Memphis at Navy; Texas A&M at Tennessee; Alabama at LSU; Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State; Missouri at Georgia; Ohio State at Maryland; Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech; Rice at Louisiana Tech; North Texas at UAB; Coastal Carolina at Troy; California at Arizona State; Utah at UCLA. The Pac-12 has rescheduled California to play at UCLA at noon on Sunday due to the COVID complications impacting Arizona State and Utah.  Thirteen games kick off the college football slate in the noon to 3 PM ET window. Nine games take place at noon. On ABC, Indiana travels to Michigan State with the Hoosiers 7.5-point road favorites with the total set at 52 (all lines from BookMaker). The Fox game has West Virginia hosting TCU with the Mountaineers a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 45.5. Miami (FL) travels to Virginia Tech on ESPN with the Hokies 3-point favorites with a total of 68. Nebraska plays Penn State in Lincoln on FS1 with the Nittany Lions 3-point favorites and the over/under at 56. Middle Tennessee visits Marshall, where the Thundering Herd are 23.5-point favorites with a total of 55.5. At 2:30 PM ET on FS2, Fresno State travels to Utah State as a 10-point road favorite with the total at 52.5. Another ten games start between 3:30 PM ET to 6:30 PM ET. Seven games kick off at 3:30 PM ET. ABC broadcasts Notre Dame’s trip to Boston College with the Fighting Irish an 11-point road favorite with an over/under of 51. Arizona plays at home on Fox against USC with the Trojans 14.5-point road favorites and the total set at 67.5. Colorado visits Stanford on ESPN with the Cardinal 9.5-point favorites and the over/under set at 54.5. Southern Mississippi travels to Western Kentucky on the CBS Sports Network, with the Hilltoppers an 8-point favorite and a total of 45.5. At 4 PM ET, Baylor travels to Texas Tech as a 1-point road favorite with the over/under at 56 on FS1. New Mexico hosts Nevada at 6:30 PM ET on FS2 with the Wolf Pack a 17-point road favorite with the total set at 62.5.Nine games start in the 7 PM to 7:30 PM ET window. At 7 PM ET on Fox, Oregon is a 10.5-point road favorite as they travel to Washington State with an over/under of 56.5. ESPN has Florida hosting Arkansas with the Gators 17-point favorites with the total at 60.5. SMU visits Tulsa on ESPN2 as a 1-point favorite with the over/under at 64.At 7:30 PM ET, Michigan hosts Wisconsin on ABC with the Badgers a 5-point road favorite with the total set at 52.5. Central Florida hosts Temple on ESPNU as a 25.5-point favorite with an over/under of 76.Two games close out the Saturday card. At 10:30 PM ET on FS2, UNLV travels to San Jose State with the Spartans a 16-point favorite and the total set at 59. Washington hosts Oregon State at 11 PM ET on FS1, where they are a 14-point favorite with a total of 52.

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Ness Notes: Friday, Nov 13

by Larry Ness

Friday, Nov 13, 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."Philip Rivers (308 passing yards) outplayed Ryan Tannehill (147 yards) and Indy's top-rated defense shut out the Titans in the second half, leading the Colts to a 34-17 win Thursday night in the first game of Week 10. The Colts moved into a first-place tie with the Titans in the AFC South. Both teams are 6-3 and will meet again Week 12 at Indianapolis. Before getting to my NFL midseason update and Sunday preview, how about a shout out to Rivers? He entered the game with 61,358 passing yards in his 17-year career, needing just four yards to pass Marino. He finished the night 29-of-39 passing for 308 yards, putting him at 61,666 yards for his career. The only other QBs with more passing yards than Rivers are either in the Hall of Fame or will be first-ballot Hall of Famers at some point; Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and record-holder Drew Brees. Rivers is also just the SIXTH quarterback in league history to throw 400 career TD passes and for at least 60,000 passing yards for a career.AFC 2020 midseason update: The KC Chiefs won their final six regular season games in 2019 and then behind Patrick Mahomes and an offense that averaged 39.0 PPG, won three straight playoff games to capture the franchise's second-ever Super Bowl title (first came in the 1969 season). The Chiefs are 8-1 (6-3 ATS) through Week 9 of the 2020 season and this Mahomes 'kid' is proving he may just have a future in this league (2,687 passing yards with 25 TDs and one INT in 329 attempts / QB rating of 115.9). However, as Week 10 dawns, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers who are the NFL's lone team without a loss, opening 8-0 (6-2 ATS). Pittsburgh knows a little about winning Super Bowl titles (Steelers have won SIX) but the team entered 2020 off back-to-back non-playoff seasons. "Big Ben," coming off a season in which he had missed the final 14 games after elbow surgery, has rebounded nicely. He's completing 68.1% for 1,934 yards with 18 TDs and just four INTs (101.8 QB rating). Kudos also goes to the Pittsburgh defense, which is allowing 20.1 PPG (3rd) on 317.4 YPG (6th). Pittsburgh owns a two-game lead over the 6-2 Ravens, who went 14-2 in 2019. Speaking of defense, the Ravens are holding opponents to an NFL-low 17.8 PPG. Questions surround the Ravens this season, as they've failed to come through in losses to KC (31-20) and Pittsburgh (28-24), BOTH at home. QB Lamar Jackson has taken 'the heat' for those losses but with last Sunday's win at Indy, he matched Dan Marino's 25-5 record as a starting QB to open one's career (in the Super Bowl era). The AFC North owns the NFL best combined record of any division, going 21-10-1 (.672) and note that last-place Cincinnati (2-5-1), owns a 6-2 ATS record, same as 8-0 Pittsburgh.The only other NFL team with more than SIX wins is the Buffalo Bills, who are 7-2 but just 4-5 ATS. Looking closer, the team's ATS record should NOT be a surprise, as the Bills have outscored opponents by a meager NINE points on the season! Compare that to the NFL's two eight-game winners. KC owns a league-best plus-103 point differential, while Pittsburgh ranks second at plus-74 points. Still, Bills fans HAVE to be excited, as Buffalo owns a 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Dolphins (5-3) in the AFC East plus the post-Brady Pats are struggling at 3-5. New England has won 11 straight division titles (17 of the last 19) but Buffalo is 4-0 in division play so far, putting the team in a good position to capture its first AFC East title since 1995. As for the AFC South, the Houston Texans, who have won the division in FOUR of the last five years, are just 2-6. The Colts and Titans, who have already opened Week 10 play last night, are currently tied atop the division at 6-3 (see recap above).On to the NFC: San Francisco, Green Bay and New Orleans all went 13-3 in 2019. The 49ers and Packers earned the top-two seeds (via tiebreakers) and met in the NFC championship game, with the Niners crushing the Packers, 37-20 (the game was a no-contest, with San Francisco leading 27-0 at the half). The 49ers led the Chiefs 20-10 midway through the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl but KC 'exploded' for 21 points in a five-minute span to win by 11 points. Here in 2020, while the Packers and Saints each sit atop their respective divisions at 6-2, the injury-riddled 49ers are 4-5, which leaves them in last-place in the NFC West. The West owns a collective 20-13 (.606), second to only the AFC North's mark (see above), as Seattle's 6-2 mark claims the top-spot, while the Cards and Rams are just one game back at 5-3. The Packers are 1 1/2-games up on the 5-4 Bears in the North, while the Saints are just barely ahead of the 6-3 Bucs in the South, they are 3-0 in division play, including 2-0 against the Bucs! That leaves just the NFC East, which has reclaimed its one-time title as the "NFC Least" in 2020. None of the four teams own a winning record, as the division checks in with an NFL-worst 9-24-1 (.279) record. The 3-4-1 Eagles, who won the division at 9-7 in 2019, are again atop the division, followed by 2-6 Washington plus the 2-7 Cowboys and Giants. All four teams have been outscored by their opponents, with the division checking in with a collective minus-191 point differential (NFC West has the best point differential of any division at plus-144). NFC East teams are 14-20 ATS but it could be worse if not for the 2-7 Giants checking in at 6-3 ATS, somewhat mitigating the Cowboys' NFL-worst ATS mark of 1-8.Sunday's Week 10: The Chiefs (8-1 / 6-3 ATS) are on their bye week, as are the Cowboys (2-7 / 1-8 ATS), Falcons (3-6 / 4-5 ATS) and Jets (0-9 / 2-7 ATS). The NFL's lone unbeaten team, the 8-0 Steelers (6-2 ATS) will host the 2-5-1 Bengals, who despite their record, match the Steelers with a 6-2 ATS mark. "Big Ben" has not been able to practice this week (close COVID contact) but Pittsburgh is prepping as if he will play. Pittsburgh is favored by seven points and the over/under is 46 1/2. The SNF matchup features the 6-2 Ravens, playing at the 3-5 Pats. This would have been a 'classic' matchup in 2019 but "NOT so much" in 2020. Baltimore is favored by seven points and the over/under is 43 1/2. The 7-2 Bills are in the Arizona desert to play the 5-3 Cards, a game which features a QB showdown between Josh Allen (2,587 passing yards and a 19-5 TD/INT ratio plus 241 yards rushing with 5 TDs) vs Kyler Murray (2,130 passing yards and a 16-7 TD/INT ratio plus 543 yards rushing with 8 TDs). The Cards are favored by 2 1/2-points and the over/under is 56 1/2. 6-2 Seattle is hoping to extend its division lead over the 5-3 Rams in the NFC West when the teams meet in LA (Rams are a two-point choice and the over/under is 54 1/2). Lastly, the 49ers and Saints each went 13-3 in 2019 but it's a 'tale of two cities' in 2020, as the 4-5 Niners are in last-place in the NFC West, while the 6-2 Saints sit atop the NFC South after earning a season sweep of the Bucs with last Sunday's 38-3 rout. The Saints are favored by 10 points and the over/under is 49.Good luck...Larry

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAA Football Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Nov 13, 2020

Three games in college football headline the Friday sports card.Florida Atlantic travels to play Miami to play Florida International at 7 PM ET. The Owls have won two straight games to raise their record to 3-1 with their 10-6 victory over Western Kentucky as a 6.5-point favorite. Redshirt Nick Tronti completed just 7 of 16 passes for 109 yards in the defensive battle. The former Indiana transfer became the starting quarterback in August when a two-year starter, Chris Robison, was dismissed from the team.First-year head coach Willie Taggart inherited nine starters from Lane Kiffin’s group last season that finished 11-3 after their 52-28 victory over SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl. Taggart did not have the benefit of any spring practices given COVID after being terminated from his job at Florida State last year. The lone loss for Florida Atlantic was a 20-9 setback at Marshall three weeks ago. This contest begins a stretch of three-straight road games for the Owls.FIU returns to action after they last played on October 23rd, where they were upset at home by Jacksonville State by a 19-10 score as a 10-point favorite. The Panthers have had five games canceled due to COVID this fall. Redshirt freshman quarterback Stone Norton completed only 5 of 14 passes for 66 yards in the loss three weeks ago. FIU had the ball for only 17:44 minutes of that game. The Panthers have ten starters back from the team that finished 6-7 last year. They ended the year with a 34-26 loss to Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl in the third season under head coach Butch Davis. The former Miami Hurricanes’ head coach did not have the benefit of spring practices with this team because of COVID. Florida Atlantic is a 9-point road favorite with the total set at 41 (all odds from BetOnline). The CBS Sports Network has the broadcast at 7 PM ET.Minnesota host Iowa on a Friday night in a rivalry that goes back to 1891. Since 1935, these two teams have played for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. With both teams beginning their Big Ten seasons with 0-2 records before winning last week, this is a critical game for both of these programs. Iowa is just a few plays away from being 3-0 this season. They opened up with a 24-20 loss at Purdue before losing narrowly at home last week to Northwestern by a 21-20 score. The Hawkeyes earned their first win of the season last week with a 49-7 victory at home over Michigan State. Head coach Kirk Ferentz returned 12 starters in his twenty-second year with the program from the group that finished 10-3 last season after their 49-24 win over USC in the Holiday Bowl. Despite the disappointing start, Iowa still has designs on winning the Big Ten West to earn a shot at the Big Ten championship game. Minnesota returned 13 starters from the team that finished 11-2 with a 31-24 victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. Expectations were very high for head coach P.J. Fleck in his fourth year with the program. The Golden Gophers opened their season with a disappointing 25-point loss at home to Michigan. Minnesota then traveled to Maryland the next week, where they lost a nail biter by a 45-44 score. The Golden Gophers bounced back last week with a 41-14 victory at Illinois as a 7.5-point favorite. Junior quarterback Tanner Morgan was reliable under center by completing 17 of 27 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Morgan completed 66% of his passes last year for 3253 yards with 30 touchdowns while averaging 10.2 yards-per-attempt. Minnesota was led by junior running back Mo Ibrahim, who ran the ball 30 times for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Ibrahim has 571 rushing yards this season on 97 carries. His 190.3 rushing yards-per-game average leads the nation. The winner of this game remains alive to win the Big Ten West, while the loser will have to pick up the pieces to become bowl eligible to salvage their season. Iowa is a 3-point road favorite with a total of 58. FS1 has the broadcast starting at 7 PM ET.Cincinnati hosts East Carolina at 7:30 PM ET. The Bearcats won their first six games of the season after their 38-10 victory against Houston as a 10.5-point favorite last Saturday. Junior quarterback Desmond Ridder completed 17 of 27 passes for 162 yards with a touchdown and an interception to lead his team to victory. He also added 103 rushing yards with another three touchdowns from his 12 rushes. Fourth-year head coach Luke Fickell has 15 starters back from the team that finished 11-3 last season with a 38-6 victory over Boston College in the Birmingham Bowl. Cincinnati ranks seventh in the AP poll this week with aspirations of making the college football playoffs. The Bearcats are 27-point favorites with an over/under of 56. ESPN2 broadcasts the game at 7:30 PM ET.

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NCAA Saturday Night Football: Wisconsin/Michigan Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Nov 13, 2020

The Saturday night college football showdown on ABC involves two teams from the Big Ten battling two very different levels of adversity. Michigan has lost two games in a row after opening its season with an encouraging 49-24 victory at a ranked Minnesota team. But the Wolverines were flat the following week in hosting in-state rival, Michigan State, coming off an embarrassing upset loss at home to Rutgers. The Spartans left Ann Arbor with a 27-24 victory as a 23-point underdog. Perhaps still shellshocked from that loss, the Wolverines traveled to Bloomington last week to face an upstart Indiana team that had already upset Penn State. The Hoosiers dominated in a 38-21 upset victory as a 4.5-point underdog. That leaves Michigan returning home with a 1-2 record and searching for answers.What is happening to the Wolverines’ program in the sixth season under head coach Jim Harbaugh? Michigan returned nine starters from the team that finished 9-4 last season after getting pounded in their final two games against Ohio State and Alabama. Redshirt junior quarterback Dylan McCaffrey then left the program in the fall. Soon after, wide receiver Nico Collins and cornerback Ambry Thomas opted-out of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. Those two players were probably the top-two NFL prospects on the roster. The departures have left the Wolverines young and inexperienced. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Milton has not been the problem for this team. He is completing 60.7% of his passes after three games for 869 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging 8.1 yards-per-attempt. The 6’5", 245-lb signal-caller has also rushed for 102 yards with a touchdown in 25 carries. There was speculation that McCaffrey left the program because Milton had passed him on the depth chart in the summer, where he spent quarantine time practicing in Ann Arbor with a handful of teammates. Michigan lacked balance on offense last week as they ran the ball only 18 times for 13 yards. Yet falling behind by a 24-7 halftime score to the Hoosiers explains why the Wolverines abandoned their running game. Many of the problems with this team fall squarely on the decline of their defense. Defensive coordinator Don Brown’s unit allowed 20.7 points-per-game last season while holding their opponents to 307.2 yards-per-game, which ranked 11th in the nation. Michigan is allowing 29.7 points-per-game this year, with opponents generating 411.7 yards-per-game. The loss of Thomas has left the Wolverines inexperienced at both cornerback positions, which is where opposing offenses are taking full advantage. Michigan has allowed 665 passing yards in their last two games. Wisconsin's biggest challenge so far this season has been dealing with COVID. The Badgers convincingly won their opening game with a 45-7 victory against Illinois. With senior quarterback Jack Coan out indefinitely with a foot injury, redshirt freshman Graham Mertz stepped-up to complete 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards along with five touchdown passes in the victory. However, he tested positive for COVID the next day, which began a cavalcade of positive tests inside the program, which included sixth-year head coach Paul Chryst.The team has been idle the last two weeks, with games against Nebraska and Purdue canceled. Seventeen players and another 13 staff members have tested positive for COVID since the victory over the Fighting Illini, with four players still in quarantine as of Tuesday. Mertz has returned to practice this week, but he remains questionable to start due to what Chryst describes as dependent on his level of preparation for this game. Wisconsin returned 15 starters from the team that finished 10-4 last season after a 28-27 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers have been a trendy CFB playoff semifinal pick given their relatively easy path to the Big Ten championship game. Those heightened expectations assumed that Coan would eventually return to the field under center (although Mertz is the highest-rated quarterback recruit in program history). Wisconsin now faces the additional hurdle of playing at least six regular-season to be even eligible to play in the conference championship game given Big Ten rules in-place this season.Michigan is outside the top-25 rankings for the first time since the end of the 2017 season. Wisconsin ranks 13th in the latest AP poll. The Badgers dominated the Wolverines at the line of scrimmage last year in a 35-14 victory in Madison as a 3-point favorite. Wisconsin is a 4.5-point road favorite at BetOnline, with the total set at 54. The ABC broadcast begins at 7:30 PM ET.

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NCAA Friday Night Football: Minnesota/Iowa Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Nov 13, 2020

Minnesota host Iowa on a Friday night in a rivalry that goes back to 1891. Since 1935, these two teams have played for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. With both teams beginning their Big Ten seasons with 0-2 records before winning last week, this is a critical game for both of these programs. Iowa is just a few plays away from being 3-0 this season. They opened up with a 24-20 loss at Purdue before losing narrowly at home last week to Northwestern by a 21-20 score. The Hawkeyes earned their first win of the season last week with a 49-7 victory at home over Michigan State. Head coach Kirk Ferentz got his team back-to-basics against the Spartans by rushing the ball 41 times for 226 yards. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras threw the ball 89 times in his first two career starts before completing 15 of 27 passes last week for 167 yards with a touchdown. Iowa is scoring 29.7 points-per-game while averaging 386.0 yards-per-game. The Hawkeyes’ defense and special teams broke open the game last week. Holding a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, Iowa’s special teams extended that lead with a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Hawkeyes’ defense then scored on a 54-yard interception return to go into halftime with a commanding 35-0 lead. Iowa played their best defensive game of the season last week with three interceptions, two sacks, and five quarterback hurries. The Hawkeyes are allowing only 17.3 points-per-game along with just 315.0 yards-per-game. Ferentz returned 12 starters in his twenty-second year with the program from the group that finished 10-3 last season after their 49-24 win over USC in the Holiday Bowl. Despite the disappointing start, Iowa still has designs on winning the Big Ten West to earn a shot at the Big Ten championship game. Minnesota returned 13 starters from the team that finished 11-2 with a 31-24 victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. Expectations were very high for head coach P.J. Fleck in his fourth year with the program. The Golden Gophers opened their season with a disappointing 25-point loss at home to Michigan. Minnesota then traveled to Maryland the next week, where they lost a nail biter by a 45-44 score. The Golden Gophers bounced back last week with a 41-14 victory at Illinois as a 7.5-point favorite. Junior quarterback Tanner Morgan was reliable under center by completing 17 of 27 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Morgan completed 66% of his passes last year for 3253 yards with 30 touchdowns while averaging 10.2 yards-per-attempt. Minnesota was led by junior running back Mo Ibrahim, who ran the ball 30 times for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Ibrahim has 571 rushing yards this season on 97 carries. His 190.3 rushing yards-per-game average leads the nation. Minnesota is scoring 36.3 points-per-game while averaging 444.3 yards-per-game, which is the top mark in the Big Ten West. However, the Gophers’ defense has been a work-in-progress after losing five of their top six tacklers from the group that ranked tenth in the nation last year by allowing only 306.6 yards-per-game. Minnesota is allowing 480.0 yards-per-game this season along with 36.0 points-per-game. The winner of this game remains alive to win the Big Ten West, while the loser will have to pick up the pieces to become bowl eligible to salvage their season. BetAnySports has Iowa as a 3.5-point road favorite with a total of 58. FS1 has the broadcast starting at 7 PM ET.

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