Larry Ness Sports Picks For Sale

Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • all NBA +$5,663 since Feb 8
  • 15-7 Situational Stunners in all sports s/Mar 17
  • NBA 10*s: 59% since Jan 24

Biography

Larry Ness was a fixture on TV and radio for 18 years, and is one of the most recognizable names in the history of sports handicapping.

Active since:  1982

Location:  Homosassa, FL

Larry Ness was a member of the original cast of Proline (began in 1985), the nation’s longest running pre-game handicapping show on the USA-TV network (also hosted Sports Desk on the same network from 1996-98).  Larry then joined the panel of The Winning Edge in the early 2000s.  Although well-known on TV for his expert game analysis and no-nonsense handicapping style, Larry may be best known for his radio work.  He hosted his own syndicated call-in radio show, Sports Central, which aired live from Bally's Casino in Las Vegas in the early-to-mid-90s, and was heard in more than 100 markets.

Achievements in handicapping:  Larry has achieved unparalleled success in his decades-long career.  But one of his favorite awards came in 1985, when he won The Castaways Pro Football Challenge Championship, then the most prestigious handicapping contest in Las Vegas.  Sports handicapping has always been (and will always be) a "What have you done for me lately" business.  Larry can't wait for NFL 2020, as he comes off back-to-back seasons (2018 & 2019) of going a combined 144-108-7, earning a profit of $22,458 at $100/unit (note:  from 2019 Week 4 thru the Super Bowl, Larry's top-rated NFL 10*s went 31-13, or 70.5% ATS).  After a great 2018 CFB season (73-52-1, +$13,592), Larry stumbled in 2019 but looks to "bounce back" in 2020 (he had earned a profit in FOUR of the previous five CFB seasons entering 2019).  When the 2019-20 NBA season was halted (68-54-1, +$9,071), Larry was well on his way to his FOURTH winning NBA season in five years.  Like with last year's CFB season, Larry had an "off year" in college hoops 2019-20 and is confident of a bounce-back this coming season.  Larry plays VERY selectively in the NHL and when play was halted in March, his "Big Plays" (defined as G.O.W, G.O.M. and "signatures") were 18-7 (72%) Y-T-D.  Will there be a 2020 MLB season?  Larry hopes so, as it's his "favorite sport to handicap" and he has earned a profit in SEVEN of the last 10 seasons.

Systems used for handicapping a game:  Fundamental and statistical analysis.  "I'm not typically a trend-and-system kind of guy," Ness says.  "I look at team strengths and weaknesses and compare them.  It’s an all-encompassing thing, and over 35-plus years, you get good at it."

Star Ratings:  9 and 10*s are considered "Best Bets."  All other plays are rated between 6 and 8*s, depending on strength and/or price.

Release Times:  Larry releases "daily sports" (MLB, NBA, NCAAB and NHL) on the day of the game.  His full card is almost always available by 10:00 ET (save Late-Breaking games).  In the FB season, Larry begins releasing plays as early as Tuesday.  His full CFB card is typically complete by Thursday (on Friday, at the latest) and his full NFL card will be mostly complete by Friday (definitely by Saturday at 3:00 ET).

37-Club Play:  It represents Larry's 37 years in the business and gets his highest star rating (10*s).  Expect no more than one of these plays per month, per sport, during the regular season.

Legend Play:  Larry's often been referred to as a Las Vegas legend and he's 'borrowed' the title for his other "signature play."  Larry's Legend Plays were previously available to only a select group of private clients but they are now available to all, via the internet.  Like his 37-Club plays, expect no more than one play per month, per sport (rated 10*s).

Game of the Month and Game of the Year Plays:  Always rated 10*s.

Las Vegas Insider:  Throughout his 37 years "in the business," Larry has become known as "the ultimate Las Vegas insider."  The contacts he's developed over more than three decades (on both sides of the 'counter'), are arguably "unmatched!"  He confers daily with his 'friends' and when "all the stars align on the same game," Larry releases an exclusive Las Vegas Insider (rated between 7 and 10*s).

Oddsmaker's Error Plays:  Larry uses this term with "great respect" (and not very often), as he counts among his very closest friends many of Las Vegas' most famous and respected sportsbook directors (past and present). However, when Larry feels "the line is significantly off," he'll release one of these "not to be missed" plays (rated 9 or 10*s).

Situational Stunners:  Larry's a fundamental handicapper at heart but he does pay attention to team and situational trends (especially in MLB).  When his fundamental handicapping and a strong trend or situation match up, he releases a Situational Stunner.  He began releasing these plays in MLB '09 and he's expanded them since to all sports (rated from 7-10*s, based on strength and/or price for moneyline sports).

Perfect Storm:  Larry just added these plays the last few years and his accompanying expert analysis makes these popular plays self-explanatory (typically rated 9 or 10*s but moneyline sports may be rated 7 or 8*s due to price).

Weekly and Weekend Wipeout Winners:  Larry added this self-explanatory moniker just a few years ago. They've become immensely popular and why not?  Who wouldn't want a game that has "blowout written all over it," supported by Larry's expert analysis (rated between 7 and 10*s, depending on strength and price).

Superstar Triple Play: Over the years, many of Larry's regular clients have clamored for more three-game reports.  You asked for it and Larry's responded.  Back in the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s, 900-numbers became "the rage."  While a panel member of Proline (see above), Larry created the Superstar Triple Play.  One call got you three Superstar Triple Plays (in a particular sport).  For almost a decade, anywhere from 1,500 to 3,500 callers responded each weekend, when Larry offered his famous "Superstar Triple Play" pitch on Proline.  Starting in 2009, Larry began going "Back to the Future!"  Look for 3-game reports this FB season on Saturday (college) and Sunday (NFL).  Get three plays on a single report from Larry (many will be TV games), the originator of the "Superstar Triple Play!"

Late-Breaking Plays:  Larry will always go back to take a "second look" at each day's card, after posting all his games.  When he finds something he missed the first time around, he'll release a Late-Breaking Play.  These plays are more prevalent in sports like baseball and basketball than football (typically rated at 8 or 9*s).

Quote: "No one works any harder and my work-product speaks for itself," Ness says.  "I have a no-nonsense style and my logic is easy to follow.  Anyone buying my plays will know exactly what I was thinking when I made the selection.  After 37 years, the Larry Ness brand is instantly recognizable and my analysis ranks with the best in the industry."

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Ness Notes: The Ides of April (NBA Playoffs a Month Out)

Thursday, Apr 15, 2021

It's April 15, better known as tax day (although it's been pushed back to May 15 in 2021), or using some literary license, "The Ides of April." The last day of the NBA regular season is scheduled for May 16. The No. 1 through No. 6 seeds in each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, while seeds 7-10 will be part of the NBA's new "Play-In" format. Any team that finishes worse than No. 10 will be in the lottery and since there is a chance for teams to finish with an uneven number of games played due COVID-19, the NBA will use winning percentage to determine the standings. There will be six total games involving eight teams as part of the play-in tournament. Those games will begin May 18 and end May 21, with the first round of the NBA playoffs tipping off May 22.Here's the set-up for the "Play-In" round. Game 1 has the No. 7 seed (by winning percentage) hosting the No. 8 seed  in each conference with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The losing team gets another chance in Game 3. In Game 2, the No. 9 seed will host the No 10 seed, with the winner moving on to Game 3. The loser is eliminated and enters the NBA draft lottery. The final spot in each conference will be determined when the loser of the No 7 vs. No 8 matchup will host the winner of the No. 9 vs No 10 matchup, with the winner securing the No. 8 seed in the postseason. The losers of the two Game 3s also enter the lottery. Recapping, the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages will have TWO opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot, while the teams with the ninth-highest and tenth-highest winning percentages need to win two straight games to advance. Got it?If the season ended (April 14), the "Play-In" matchups would be: In the Eastern Conference: Charlotte Hornets (No. 8) at Miami Heat (28-27) and Chicago Bulls (No. 10) at Indiana Pacers (No. 9). In the Western Conference: Memphis Grizzlies (No. 8) at Dallas Mavericks (No. 7) and Golden State Warriors (No. 10) at San Antonio Spurs (No. 9)The top-six seeds look like this. In the Eastern Conference: No. 1 76ers (38-17), No. 2 Nets (37-18), No. 3 Bucks (34-20), No. 4 Hawks (30-25), No. 5 Celtics (29-26) and No. 6 Knicks (29-27). In the Western Conference: No. 1 Jazz (41-14), No. 2 Suns (39-15), No. 3 Clippers (39-18), No. 4 Nuggets (35-20), No. 5 Lakers (34-21) and No. 6 Blazers (31-23). Random Thoughts: Will the NBA count an appearance in the "Play-In" tournament as having "made the playoffs?" The longest current playoff droughts belong to the Sacramento Kings (14), the Phoenix Suns (10) and the NY Knicks. The 22-33 Kings are currently 9 1/2-games back of the West's No. 6 seed, so a "Play-In" berth is their only chance and as the saying goes, "Slim just left town." I wonder if Sacramento fans ever wonder why the Kings fired Rick Adelman. He led the Kings to EIGHT consecutive playoff appearances, twice winning the Pacific Division (during the Kobe/Shaq era) with 61-and 59-win seasons. Sacramento's current playoff drought began the first season after Adelman's firing. As for the Suns, their 10-year playoff drought is OVER. Phoenix is 39-15 and its .722 win percentage is on pace to be the third-best in team history (2004-05 Suns were 62-20, .756). Only the 41-14 Jazz have a better record than the Suns this season and NO team owns a better ATS record than Phoenix (Suns are 35-19, or 65%). That leaves us with the Knicks and their seven-season playoff drought. At 29-27, the Knicks currently own the East's No. 6 seed, coming off a 21-45 record last year. The East's No. 4 through No. 8 seeds are tightly-bunched (separated by just 2 1/2-games) but New York is almost guaranteed a "Play-In" berth, as the Knicks are currently SEVEN games clear of the East's 'dreaded' No. 11 seed. I wonder how many know that the Knicks own the NBA's second-best ATS record of 34-21-1 (62%).Gregg Popovich's first full season as the Spurs' head coach was in 1997-98 and beginning with that year, he led San Antonio to 22 consecutive postseasons, while winning FIVE championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014). That remarkable streak came to an end in last year's pandemic-shortened season and "Pop" and his Spurs could miss for a second straight year here in the 2020-21 season. The Spurs are currently 26-27, which places them 10th in the West. Seeds 8 through 10 are tightly-bunched (separated by only ONE game) but the underachieving Pelicans (dreaded No. 11 seed) are just two games back of San Antonio. Earning a No. 6 seed (which would avoid the Play-In route), seems like a 'bridge too far' (Spurs are 4 1/2-games back of the Blazers) but San Antonio should qualify for the "Play-In" tourney, giving Pop a chance to "coach'em up"  and into a 7 or 8 seed.With the Spurs missing the playoffs last season, the current active leader in consecutive playoffs made is Houston, as the Rockets opened the current season having made EIGHT straight NBA postseasons. However, that streak is O-V-E-R. James Harden left OKC and signed with the Rockets prior to the 2012-13 season and eight consecutive playoff appearances followed. The previous three seasons Harden has led the NBA in scoring but in NONE of his eight seasons, was he and his ever-changing group of cohorts able to get the Rockets into the NBA Finals (just two, Conference Finals appearances). Harden pouted and 'held his breath' early this season until the Rockets sent him to Brooklyn and Houston currently sits 14-41. That's the NBA's worst record and for good measure, the Rockets also own the NBA's worst ATS mark of 18-37 (33%).Portland and Toronto each entered the 2020-21 season with SEVEN consecutive playoff appearances, The 31-23  Blazers are currently the West's No. 6 seed and need to hold off the 30-24 Mavs to avoid falling into the "Play-In" tournament, As for Toronto, the Raptors 'fall from grace' has been dramatic this season. Toronto won the NBA title in 2019 and even in last year's pandemic-shortened season (without Kawhi), entered last year's playoffs with the NBA's second-best overall record of 53-19 (a half-game better than the eventual champion LA Lakers). Toronto is currently 22-34 (No. 11 seed), which leaves them 7 1/2-games back of the East's No. 6 seed (last guaranteed playoff berth). The Raptors' ONLY chance for postseason success will be getting into the 7-10 "Play-In" field. Toronto is just ONE game back of the No. 10 seed (Bulls) but is FIVE games back of the No. 9 seed (Pacers). Toronto will need to catch the Bulls first (doable) but then win two consecutive road games to earn the No. 8 seed. The Clippers are securely in the West's playoff field, so maybe the Raptors can 'rent' Kawhi for two games, if they promise to send him back to LA after that?I'll check back in on the 'state of the NBA union' on May 3.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: "And then there were Four!"

Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021

The 2021 NCAA Tournament got underway back on March 18 with 68 teams, eight of whom played in the "First Four" to cut the field of 64. The main question entering the tourney was "Could the 26-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs (the AP's No. 1 team since the preseason) win SIX straight games and match Bobby Knight's 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers and go 32-0 to finish an unbeaten season and win the national title?" Only four schools have won a national title while also going unbeaten. The list includes San Francisco (1956), North Carolina (1957), UCLA (1964, 1967, 1972, 1973) and Indiana (1976). Spoiler alert! The "little school from Spokane" has reached the Final Four for just the second time in school history and is now just TWO wins away from completing a "perfect season!" However, before looking a little closer at this season's Final Four, let me begin where I left off with my previous Ness Notes back on March 26.The NCAA defines an upset as a team seeded five spots or lower than their opponent. The 2021 tourney set a record with 12 such "upsets" BEFORE a Sweet 16 game had been played. Double digit seeds set a record by winning 14 games in the 2016 tournament (no counting First Four contests) and after four days of 1st and 2nd round games, that figure has been matched at 14. Heading into the Sweet 16 and then the Elite 8, favorites were 31-20 (.608) and 22-29 ATS (43.1%) and that's only because favorites went 7-1 SU & ATS on the final day of the Round of 32.Sweet 16 favorites went 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS but two more double digit seeds won, No. 12 Oregon St over No. 8 Loyola-Chicago and No. 11 UCLA over No. 2 Alabama. That extended the all-time tourney record to 16 wins by double digit seeds in 2021 and UCLA's win added another "upset win" (now 13 and counting). The Elite 8 was composed of three No. 1 seeds (Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan), a No. 2 seed (Houston), a No. 6 seed (USC) plus double digit seeds UCLA (11) and Oregon St (12). When all the "dust had settled," the favorites would go 3-1 but 2-2 ATS. No. 1s Gonzaga and Baylor won and covered but No. 1 Michigan was upset by UCLA 51-49, giving the 2021 tourney its 17th win by a double digit seed and its 14th "upset win." I didn't forget about the Houston/Oregon St game which was won by the Cougars, 67-61 (OSU covered). The Beavers' season ended in the Elite 8, as this year's team failed to make the school's third-ever Final 4 appearance (most recent came back in 1963). However, Oregon St (picked to finish last in the Pac-12 standings at the start of the season) sure quieted its critics (and made its bettors VERY happy) by going 14-1 ATS over its final 15 games. Speaking of pointspreads, here's how the 2021 tourney stands entering the Final 4. Favorites are 40-23 SU (.634) but 29-34 ATS (46.0%). I guess it's somewhat ironic that the "longest shot" in the Final 4 field is UCLA (11-seed), which just happens to be the most-honored program in NCAA basketball history. This is UCLA's 50th tournament appearance and the Bruins are in their 19th Final Four. UCLA has won 11 national titles but as everyone knows, 10 of those came under the legendary John Wooden (from 1964-1975). UCLA's 11th title came in 1995. UCLA is just the FIFTH 11th seed to reach the Final 4, joining LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011 (like UCLA, advancing with FIVE wins after playing in the First Four) and Loyola-Chicago in 2018. None of the previous 11-seeds have won their semifinal matchups and with UCLA's opponent being Gonzaga, 11-seeds are staring a 0-5 record right in the face. Then again, as noted above, this HAS been a tournament of upsets and NO conference has accomplished more than the Pac 12 in 2021.UCLA scored the eighth Pac-12 upset in this year's tournament, setting a March Madness record since the tournament expanded to include 64 teams in 1985. The previous high-water mark for a conference was seven upsets, which the Big East and the SEC did in 1985 and 1986, respectively. The Big Ten may have placed NINE teams in this year's "Big Dance'' but only Michigan reached the Sweet 16, as the conference which placed FOUR teams in the AP's final top-8, went a collective 8-9 SU & ATS. Meanwhile. UCLA, Oregon St, USC and Oregon have gone 12-3 SU & 13-2 ATS. Maybe, the Bruins are not yet done.Houston is hardly a 'longshot' but the Cougars join UCLA as one of two non-No. 1 seeds in the 2021 Final Four. However, Houston is the first team to ever reach the Final Four by getting to play four double-digit seeds in a single tournament. The Cougars beat No. 15 Cleveland State, No. 10 Rutgers, No. 11 Syracuse and No. 12 Oregon State. The win over the Beavers gives Houston a 6-0 all-time record in the Elite Eight, the most wins without a loss by any program since the round began in 1951. However, NONE of the previous five Houston Final Four teams emerged with a national title. If Houston's luck were to change in 2021, the Cougars would become just the THIRD non-power 5 conference school to win the title since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985  (Houston plays in the AAC). Louisville (playing in the now-defunct Metro Conference) beat Duke 72-69 to win the 1986 title and UNLV (playing the Big West) won in 1990 by routing Duke 103-73. I'm sure Kelvin Sampson wishes Duke could be his team's opponent in the title game on Monday if the Cougars were to get past Baylor in Saturday's semifinal matchup.Speaking of Baylor, let's hear a shout out to Scott Drew. He took over a devastated Baylor program in the 2003-04 season and since 2007-08, has turned the Bears into one of the best programs in the country. Baylor won the NIT in 2013 and had made eight NCAA tourney appearances (26-4 last season would have made nine) entering this season.  Baylor won the first-ever Big 12 regular-season title this season, the first league championship since the Bears won the SWC regular season in 1950. This is Drew's ninth NCAA appearance with the Bears and Baylor reached the Sweet 16 for the FIFTH time in the last 12 years. The Elite 8 appearance was his third with Baylor and now it's his first Final Four appearance. Baylor opened the season No. 1 behind Baylor but COVID-19 nearly derailed Baylor's dream season, with the Bears being forced to pause for three weeks in February. A 17-0 record before the pause was quickly tarnished with a 13-point loss at Kansas in their second game back. Baylor then lost again in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament, but here the Bears are in the Final Four for just the THIRD time in school history (1948 and 1950).The last Final Four team left to discuss is Gonzaga, which enters 30-0, having won all but ONE game this season by more than double digits. Mark Few took over at Gonzaga for the 1999-2000 season and has led the Bulldogs to 21 NCAA tourneys in his 22 seasons (exception being last year, when March Madness was canceled). At 30-0, Gonzaga became the first Division I program to win 30-plus games for FIVE straight seasons. Gonzaga was 31-2 last year, 33-4 in 2019, 32-5 in 2018 and 37-2 in 2017, when Gonzaga made its only other Final appearance, losing in the championship game to North Carolina. Gonzaga was just 12-12-2 ATS entering the "Big Dance" but is 4-0 ATS so far. The Zags beat Norfolk St by 43 points (as a 33-point favorite) and then covered its next three games with an average winning margin of 17.7 points, while laying an average of just over 12 points.Odds as of Wednesday night have Baylor favored by five points over Houston and Gonzaga favored by 14 points over UCLA (note: largest Final 4 favorite since 1985). Enjoy the final three games of this year's 'Dance!'Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: From Sweet to Elite to Final 4 (Mar 27-30)

Friday, Mar 26, 2021

With the 2021 Masters coming up April 8-11, we'll often hear Jim Nantz say "A tradition unlike any other." The saying has even been trademarked by Augusta National and now adorns tournament merchandise. With deference to Nantz and The Masters, I think it's more than fair to 'borrow' that phrase and call the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, "A tournament unlike any other." For starters, this year's tournament has been contested at a number of notable venues throughout Central Indiana, including Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the NFL's Colts), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (home of the NBA's Pacers), Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana University’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and Purdue University’s Mackey Arena. Each of the six 2021 NCAA Tournament venues has a storied history that goes beyond college basketball. No time to recap, so you'll trust me (the check's in the mail).The First Four was contested on Thursday March 18 and we got an early preview of things to come. The lone favorite to win was Drake, which edged Wichita St 53-52. As the tourney was down to 64 teams and headed for the First Round (March 19 and 20), favorites were 1-3 SU & 0-4 ATS. 32 games were scheduled last Friday and Saturday but as all know, VCU was forced to forfeit its Saturday game to Oregon due to COVID issues. Over the other 31 games, favorites would go 19-12 SU but just 12-19 ATS. No. 1 seeds won all four games against their 16th-seeded opponents (now 143-1 all-time), although they were just 2-2 ATS. In all, NINE double-digit seeds won SU in the first round, including No. 15 Oral Roberts (just the 9th 15-seed to win an opener), No. 14 Abilene Christian, two No. 13 seeds (North Texas and Ohio U), a No. 12 seed plus two No. 11 and two No. 10 seeds.Moving to Sunday, favorites went just 3-5 SU and 2-6 ATS, As the second round got set to complete 'Day 2' on Monday, favorites were only 22-17 SU (.564) and a 'money-burning' 14-25 ATS (35.9%). The tourney's fifth day saw No. 7 seed Oregon (+5) beat No. 2 seed Iowa 95-80 and the refrain was, "Here we go again." However, favorites would go 7-0 SU & ATS in the day's final seven games. As all teams took a four-day break before beginning Sweet 16 play on Saturday (March 27), favorites sit 29-18 (.617) and 21-26 ATS (44.7%).OK, so why have I called this "A tournament unlike any other?" Consider the following factoids. The NCAA defines an upset as a team seeded five spots or lower than their opponent. A new record has already been set this year with 12 such "upsets" and there hasn't been a Sweet 16 game played yet. That's hardly all. Double digit seeds set a record by winning 14 games in the 2016 tournament (no counting First Four contests) and after four days of 1st and 2nd round games, that figure has been matched at 14, with FOUR of those double digit seeds reaching the Sweet 16. For the record, the list includes No. 15 Oral Roberts and No. 12 Oregon St plus No. 11 seeds Syracuse and UCLA. Upset possibilities typically become limited at this stage of the tournament but there are three among the eight Sweet 16 games. No. 15 Oral Roberts faces No. 3 Arkansas, plus both No. 11 seeds are 'in play,' Syracuse against No. 2 Houston and UCLA against No. 2 Alabama. This should grab your attention. The combined seeds in this year's Sweet 16 add up to 94, eclipsing the record of 89 set back in 1986. Seeding began back in 1979 (anyone remember Bird vs Magic?). There was no tourney last year but in 2019 (UVa's championship season), the combined seeds of Sweet 16 teams added up to just 49! One tourney apart, it's gone from 49 to 94, a numerical palindrome.All No. 1 seeds won in the first round but Illinois was 'bounced' in the second round by 8th-seeded Loyola-Chicago. The good news for No. 1 seeds (Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan) is that they've gone 97-23 (.808) in Sweet 16 games and for those who advance to the Elite 8, those teams have gone 57-40 (.588). No. 2 seeds still in it are Alabama and Houston and No. 2 seeds are 64-25 (.719) in Sweet 16 games but the winners are just 29-35 (.453) in Elite 8 games. Checking in on the double digit seeds, No. 11 seeds (Syracuse and UCLA this tourney) have won just EIGHT of 22 Sweet 16 games but of the eight that have advanced to the Elite, HALF (four) have made the Final Four. Oregon St is a No. 12 seed and it's NOT good news that of the previous 20 teams seeded No. 12 to make the Sweet 16, just ONE has advanced to the Elite 8. The 2002 Missouri Tigers are the only 12-seed to ever make the Elite 8, where they lost 81-75 to No. 2 Oklahoma. Not for nothing but Quin Snyder was Missouri's head coach that season. Anyone know what he's doing these days? 15th-seeded Oral Roberts is the 'longest shot' still in the tourney, as the Golden Eagles join the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (pretty close nicknames, right?) as the only two No. 15 seeds to make the Sweet 16. That "Dunk City" team lost 62-50 to No. 3 Florida.The seven other teams comprising the Sweet 16 are No. 3 Arkansas, No. 4 FSU, two No. 5s in Creighton and Villanova, No. 6 USC, No. 7 Oregon and No. 8 Loyola-Chicago. Of seeds 3 through 8 making the Sweet 16, the seed with the best winning percentage is the No. 8 seed, going 8-5. Of the eight Sweet 16 winners, FIVE advanced to the Final Four and THREE to the championship game. The Kansas Jayhawks of 1988, led by Danny Manning and coached by the infamous Larry Brown, won it all beating Oklahoma 83-79! Seeds 3 through 7 have done very poorly in Sweet 16 games, going a combined 90-166 (.352). No. 5 seeds (watch out Creighton and Villanova) own the worst record among the aforementioned group, going 9-38 (.191). However, of the nine that advanced to the Elite 8, SEVEN made the Final 4. However, a No. 5 seed has NEVER won the national championship.This tournament began with no Duke or Kentucky in the field for the first time since 1976. The 1975-76 season was also memorable because it's the last time a team entered the tourney No. 1 AND unbeaten to go on and capture the title (Bobby's Knight's Hoosiers). This season the Gonzaga Bulldogs have a chance to match that feat and do so right in the "heart of Indiana'' (Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis). No. 1 seeds have won 22 titles since 1979, while No. 2 seeds have claimed five titles and No. 3 seeds have won four titles. As noted, one No. 8 seed has won a title and a No. 5 seed has never won one (see above for both examples). One No. 4 seed has won (Arizona in 1997), one No. 6 seed won (Jimmy V's 1983 NC State team) and one No. 7 seed won (UConn in 2014).Enjoy the rest of March Madness.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Feb 19 NBA "State of the Union"

Friday, Feb 19, 2021

The 2020-21 NBA season tipped off on December 22, meaning we are just about two full months into the current season, which consists of a 72-game schedule, not the usual 82-game one. The NBA All Star break is rapidly approaching, as the first half of the season ends March 4. The All Star break will last from March 5-10 (All Star game will be played Mar 7 in Atlanta), with games resuming on March 11. The NBA trade deadline is Mar 25 and the regular season ends May 16.A Play-In Tournament will run from May 18-21 with the following format. The seventh and eighth seed in each conference will play each other for the seventh spot in the playoffs. The ninth and 10th seed teams will play each other for a chance to play the loser of the seven/eight game. The winner of that final matchup will get the eighth spot in the playoffs. The playoffs are scheduled to start May 22 and run through July 22. So where are we as of Feb 19? Glad you asked.Starting in the West, which features the league's three-winningest teams. Back on Opening Night (Dec 22), the Clippers and Lakers met in Staples Center with the Clippers beating the defending champs by the score of 116-109. The Staples Center co-tenants were expected to be the West's top teams this season and the Lakers are 22-8 (.733) overall while owning the NBA's best road record (13-3). The Clippers check in at 21-9 (.700), just one game back of the Lakers. The Clippers own a slight edge over the Lakers in point-differential, leading with a plus-6.8 PPG average to the Lakers' plus-6.5. The Clippers are 17-13 ATS, while the Lakers check in at just 14-16. Each team owns a pair of Superstars. For the Lakers it's LBJ (25.9-8.2-7.9) and A.D. (22.5 & 8.4) and for the Clippers, it's Kawhi (26.7-5.9-5.0) and Paul George (24.4-6.2-5.5). No one will be surprised that LBJ hasn't missed a single game (he's averaging 34.6 minutes at age 36) but the health status of the remaining three will have a lot to do with how the two LA teams fare the rest of the way. A.D, has already missed seven games for the Lakers and just last night had his injuries reevaluated by team doctors and the word is he will be out four weeks. Kawhi has already missed seven games and George 10. Both are listed as out for Friday's game with the Jazz (more in a bit), Kawhi with a leg injury and George with a foot injury. Only time will tell.The second half of ESPN's Friday doubleheader will feature the Clippers hosting the Utah Jazz. The teams just met Wednesday night at Staples Center, with the Jazz routing the Clippers (minus Kawhi and George) 114-96. Utah has 'quietly' built a juggernaut in Salt Lake City in the 2020-21 season. The Jazz ended last season by blowing a 3-1 lead in the Opening Round of last season's playoffs to the Denver Nuggets and after eight games of the current season, Utah was just 4-4. However, "look at them now!" Wednesday's win over the Clippers was Utah's 20th win in its last 21 games (19-2 ATS). NINETEEN of the team's 20 wins in its current streak have come by double digits, giving the Jazz the league's best overall record (24-5, .828), it's best ATS record at 22-7 and the league's top point-differential (plus-9.6 PPG). Guards Donovan Mitchell (24.2-4.4-5.1) and Mike Conley (16.5 & 5.8 APG) plus center Rudy Gobert (14.2 & 13.4) are All Star quality players, while Jordan Clarkson (18.2) will surely be in the running for Sixth-Man-of-the-year. Then there is Quin Snyder, who may be the best NBA head coach no one has really ever heard about.Moving over to the Eastern Conference, I'll start with a trio of disappointments. The Miami Heat entered last season's playoffs as the East's No. 5 seed but made it all the way to the Finals, before falling to the Lakers in six games. Miami went a MONEY-MAKING 16-5 ATS in the postseason but a check of the current standings (through Feb 18) show the Heat at 12-17, leaving them a half-game out of the top-10 (see above for the "Play-In" format). What's more, last postseason's MONEY-MAKERS are the current season's MONEY-BURNERS, as Miami owns the NBA's worst ATS record at 9-18-1. The Toronto Raptors won the 2019 NBA title and last season, even after Kawhi left for the Clippers, the Raptors' 53-19 regular season record was second to only Milwaukee's 56-17 mark (more on the Bucks coming). Toronto opened the season 2-8 but have rebounded somewhat (12-7 its last 19) but remain a sub-.500 team with a 14-15 record. The Boston Celtics were considered a real contender to win the Eastern Conference and opened 8-3 but Boston is currently just 14-14 (6-11 since its fast start) and word around the league is that the Celtics are mulling trade options as the deadline approaches.While the West's top-three teams all own winning percentages of .700 or better, the East's top-three teams are the 19-10 (.655) Philadelphia 76ers, the 19-12 (.613) Brooklyn Nets and the HUGELY disappointing 16-13 (.552) Milwaukee Bucks. I don't know what to make of the Bucks. Milwaukee was 60-22 in the 2018-19 regular season and 56-17 in last year's pandemic-shortened one but flopped in the playoffs both times. The Bucks haven't looked 'right' all season but won FIVE straight (also 5-0 ATS) to open February and sat 16-8. However, the Bucks have followed by losing FIVE in a row (also 0-5 ATS) and despite owning the East's best point-differential (plus-6.5), what should we make of a team that's seen its winning percentage drop from .748 the last two seasons, to .552 this season (Bucks are just 13-16 ATS).The 76ers own the East's best overall record on the strength of the team's 12-2 home record (Sixers are 7-8 on the road). Embiid's a load' when he plays (he's missed six games), averaging 29.7 & 10.8, while PF Harris (20.8 & 7.7) and PG Simmons (15.2-8.3-8.0) form an excellent trio That said, Philly's point-differential is a sorry plus-2.9 and the 76era are 14-14-1 ATS. Many questioned Steve Nash taking over in Brooklyn as its head coach (no previous experience) but all-in-all, he seems to be doing a pretty good job. Then again, he does have three future HOF players on his roster. K.D.'s health continues to be a question, as Durant (29.0-7.3-5.3) has missed 12 of the team's first 31 games (and counting) plus Kyrie (27.7-4.7-5.6) will NEVER win teammate of the year honors. He's missed 10 of Brooklyn's 31 games, as well. Then there's James "No Ring" Harden, who has averaged 24.2-8.2-11.7 in his 17 games with the Nets, after he 'pouted' his way out of Houston. Fact is, the Nets are 12-5 since Harden arrived (were 7-7 without him) and are currently on a five-game winning streak SU & ATS. It's not a stretch that the Nets just could be the East's best team. However, it's still a LONG way to May 16 (end of the regular season). Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Feb 10 CBB 'State of the Union'

Wednesday, Feb 10, 2021

The latest AP poll was released Monday afternoon and for the 12th straight week, Gonzaga was No. 1 and Baylor No. 2 (note: The AP rankings have been a basketball staple since the 1948-49 season). That was hardly a surprise nor was the fact that Kansas dropped out of the top-25, having lost FIVE of its previous seven. While it was not a surprise, it sure was noteworthy. Bill Self's Kansas team was ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll after last season's shutdown. However, despite losing key players like PG Dotson (18.1-4.1-4.0) and the 6-10 Azubuike (13.7 & 10.5), this years' team opened No. 6 in the preseason poll. Kansas lost its season-opener to No. 1 Gonzaga but heading into its Jan 12 game at Oklahoma St, the Jayhawks were 10-2 and still ranked No. 6. However, a 75-70 loss at Stillwater was the beginning of Kansas losing those five of seven games, falling to 12-7 (6-5 in Big 12).The Jayhawks began their top-25 streak on Feb 2, 2009. Their decade-plus of dominance, which began the season after winning the national championship, included 10 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles, five conference tournament titles, two more Final Four trips and a runner-up finish in 2012. Kansas run of consecutive top-25 appearances at 231. As fate would have it, Kansas played Monday night and was hosting Oklahoma St, which was the team that began the Jayhawks' run of FIVE losses in seven games (see above). The Cowboys (12-5 / 5-5 Big 12) entered Monday's game having just entered the AP poll for the first time this season earlier in the day at No. 23. It marked Oklahoma St's first ranking under head coach Mike Boynton (he's in his fourth season at Norman) and was the school's first top-25 ranking since Feb of 2015. Playing its first game as an unranked team in 12 years, Kansas responded by beating Oklahoma St 78-66! Kansas has a home game with Iowa St on Thursday and then plays the Cyclones in Ames on Saturday. Considering that Iowa St is 2-11 overall (0-8 in the Big 12), one wonders if a 3-0 week would be enough to get Kansas back in next Monday's rankings. My bet would be yes. As for Oklahoma St, the Cowboys host Kansas St (5-16 / 1-11 Big 12) on Saturday and a win may not be enough for them to stay in the top-25 "Come Monday" (there HAS to be Jimmy Buffet fans out there!).Gonzaga was 31-2 when last season was shut down and finished second in the AP's final poll, behind No. 1 Kansas (28-3). However, Gonzaga was the AP's No.1-ranked team and has NEVER looked back. With Kansas' 231-week streak over, the Bulldogs' run of 90 consecutive top-25 rankings becomes the longest-active run. Gonzaga also owned the nation's longest-active winning streak at 22 in a row as it entered Monday's game with BYU in Provo, while also having recorded 15 straight double-digit victories! However, the Cougars owned the distinction of being the last team to beat Gonzaga. The date was Feb 22, 2020, the site was the same as Monday's venue (Marriott Center) and the final score was BYU 91 and Gonzaga 78. Deja vu? There wasn't much suspense in this one, as the Bulldogs started quickly and never trailed in stretching the nation's longest active winning streak to 23 games with an 82-71 victory, the team's 16th straight win by double digits. That said, while Gonzaga is 19-0 this season, the Bulldogs remain a sub-.500 team ATS at 8-9-2.No. 2 Baylor is the nation's only other unbeaten team at 17-0 but unlike Gonzaga, checks in a MONEY-MAKING 13-4 ATS. However, the news wasn't all good for the Baylor basketball program. The school announced Monday that it would be postponing three more games, in accordance with Big 12 Conference men's basketball interruption guidelines. Baylor had already postponed two games vs TCU this past Saturday and a road tilt at Oklahoma scheduled for this week. Now, the Bears will also miss their next three games vs Texas Tech on Feb 13, at West Virginia on Feb 15 and vs West Virginia on Feb 18. Following the postponements, the Bears will have just three Big 12 games on their schedule, although it's expected the conference will attempt to reschedule the postponed games. For now, Baylor's next scheduled game is Feb 20 vs Oklahoma State.It's just another reminder that we are still stuck in "The Year of COVID," Here's another. ESPN's Joe Lunardi released his latest Bracketology on Tuesday morning and noted for the record, the following. "The 2020–21 college basketball season is unique. All involved — coaches, players, administrators, media, fans — can expect postponements, cancellations and adjustments to the normal cycle of games and the postseason. This includes the NCAA tournament, which is under the largest microscope after the abrupt end to the 2019–20 season. The 2021 tourney is on schedule, albeit at a single site, but it would be foolish to proceed without pandemic contingencies." In addition to the standard 68-team NCAA projections, Bracketology now includes 48-team and 16-team versions. The truth is there is no way to know at this point what Selection Sunday will bring, so all bases must be covered by these rules. Also for the record, the top-four regional seeds were Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan and Ohio St. That's the same order as the AP's top-four, with 13-1 Michigan moving up to No. 3 in Monday's poll (from No. 4) and 15-4 Ohio St up to No. 4 (from No. 7). 13-5 Illinois moved up to No. 6 on Monday (from No. 12) and gives the Big Ten THREE teams in the top-six (seven in the top-25). The Big 12 has six teams in the top-15, led by No. 2 Baylor and No. 7 Texas Tech (14-5). The other four are No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 13 Texas, No. 14 West and No. 23 Oklahoma St, for now (see above re: OSU). Texas is in a free-fall, having lost THREE straight and FOUR of five and I'm not quite sure how (why?) the Longhorns are ranked as high as they are.Falling out of the top-25 along with Kansas were No. 21 UCLA, No. 22 Florida and No. 25 Drake. Drake entered the rankings for the first time since the 2007-08 season on Feb 1 with a 16-0 record. However, after extending their start to 18-0, the Bulldogs lost 74-57 at Valparaiso (Crusaders are just 7-12 on the season) on Saturday and dropped out. "Movin' on up (in)" were 15-3 USC at No. 20 (last ranking was back in Dec of 2017), 17-3 Loyola-Chicago (last ranking was back in the 1984-85 season), 12-5 Oklahoma St at No. 23 and 11-6 Rutgers at No. 25. Let me comment on two of the "new entries." Rutgers opened the season 6-0 and was ranked No. 11 in the Dec 21 poll but lost SIX of seven, including FIVE in a row. However, a four-game winning streak has them back in at No. 25. The fact that NONE of those wins came over a ranked opponent didn't seem to matter much to the voters. That has to frustrate Belmont of the OVC, as the Bruins are 20-1 and have won 17 straight (tied with Baylor for 2nd-longest active winning streak) since losing back on Dec 5. Winthrop (Big South) falls into a similar category, having opened its season 16-0 and had won 21 straight going back to the end of last season before losing 57-55 at home to UNC-Asheville on Jan 29. The Eagles will finally get back on the court this coming Thursday and Friday, after a near two-week break. Winthrop will play back-to-back nights at Radford, which is 13-7 but 12-2 in league play (Eagles are 13-1). One last thing, before getting to a Tuesday and Wednesday update. It was noted above that Loyola entered Monday's poll for the first time since the final poll of the 1984-85 season and some may say hey, I remember the Ramblers' dramatic run to the Final Four in 2018. However, that team may have made the Final 4, but it never cracked the top-25 that season.Tuesday recap: In the Big 12 (SIX top-25 teams), No. 7 Texas Tech lost 82-71 at home to No. 14 West Va, while No. 13 Texas barely edged Kansas St 80-77 in Manhattan. The Wildcats are just 5-16 overall (1-11 in the Big 12) and I'll go back to an earlier thought and ask again, why is Texas ranked so high? How the mighty have fallen. Duke opened as the AP's 9th-ranked team but Tuesday night Notre Dame rallied to defeat Duke 93-89 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, delivering another blow to the Blue Devils' NCAA Tournament aspirations. Duke (7-8, 5-6 ACC) has now lost three games in a row, including two at home across a four-day period (Duke is now under .500 for the first time since 1999!).Then there is Kentucky, another NCAA 'Blue Blood.' The Wildcats opened as the nation's No. 10 team in the AP's preseason poll but Arkansas made two free throws with 4.3 seconds left to give the Razorbacks an 81-80 win at Kentucky. It was the first win for Arkansas over Kentucky since Feb 27, 2014. Kentucky fell to 5-13 (4-7 in the SEC) with its fourth straight loss. An NCAA tourney without Coach K and Coach Cal? It's looking like a VERY real possibility. That's NOT all. Wednesday preview: Three top-10 teams are on the road on Wednesday. The trio includes No. 8 Houston at USF, No. 9 Virginia at Georgia Tech and No. 10 Missouri at Ole Miss. The surprise team in this trio is Missouri. Houston was coming off three seasons of 27, 33 and 23 wins (pandemic-shortened) and opened 17th in the AP's preseason poll (highest preseason ranking since the 83-84 team opened No. 3). UVa had won an average of 29.7 wins per season, capping that six-year run by capturing the national championship in 2019. The Cavs were not able to defend their title in 2020 when COVID forced the NCAA to shut down the season (Cavs finished 23-7). As for Missouri, Cuonzo Martin began his fourth season with the Tigers in November and was coming off seasons of 15-17 and 15-16. Missouri's 13-3 record this season has come out of nowhere. I noted earlier that Rutgers re-entered the rankings at No. 25 on Monday and Wednesday will play at No. 15 Iowa, which enters having lost FOUR of its last five.Closing thought regarding Monday's AP poll.  Kentucky is the winningest program in NCAA history, followed by Kansas, North Carolina and Duke, while UCLA ranks 7th in wins. The last time Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA were all unranked was 1961!Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: G.O.A.T. vs G.O.A.T in Waiting

Friday, Feb 05, 2021

I was born in 1953 and while my boyhood hero was Johnny Unitas, the QB who set the standard for "winning championships" during my personal "Wonder Years,' was Green Bay's Bart Starr. Starr led the Packers to NFL titles in 1961 and 1962, then suffered a two-year 'drought,' when the Bears won in 1963 (George Halas' last championship team) and the Jim Brown-led Cleveland Browns won in 1964 (Browns haven't won an NFL championship since!).  Starr and the Packers were back to winning another title in 1965 and followed with NFL titles in 1966 and 1967. Green Bay's 1966 and 1967 seasons were capped off by the Packers winning the first two Super Bowls, giving Starr FIVE titles in a seven-year span. Was he a better QB than Johnny U? I doubt many (if any) would say that but those five rings in seven years speak VOLUMES!Tom Brady gets set to participate in his 10th Super Bowl, having won SIX of his previous nine tries. In the Super Bowl era, Bradshaw and Montana have each won four Super Bowls but when Brady earned his SIXTH Super Bowl title, it was Starr's record of five NFL titles that he broke. Let's start with Brady's regular season numbers. He's got 230 wins as an NFL starter, 44 more than the 186 wins owned by Farve and Peyton Manning, who are tied for second-best. 17 QBs have won at least 100 regular season starts and only THREE own winning percentages of better than .700.  Peyton (186 wins) owns a .702 winning percentage and Montana (117 wins) has a winning percentage of .713. As for Brady, his winning percentage is a mere .769! Moving to the postseason, Brady's 33 playoff wins are more than double his nearest competitor, as Montana owns 16 postseason victories. Only NINE other QBs have as many as 10 postseason wins. Bradshaw (4 Super Bowl wins), Elway (2) and Peyton (2) have 14 playoff victories. Big Ben (2) and Favre (1) have 13 wins, postseason wins while Aikman (3), Wilson (1) and Staubach (2) have 11. Who am I leaving out? The legendary Joe Flacco with 10 postseason wins, four coming in Baltimore's run to a Super Bowl 47 win. Returning to winning percentages, Brady's 33-11 (.750) is again tops, followed by Terry Bradshaw (14-5, .737) and Troy Aikman (11-4, .733) . Montana falls just short of "The 700-Club" at 16-7, .696.You want to argue that Jim Brown or Jerry Rice deserve to be ranked No. 1 all-time among NFL players, you can make that case (go for it!). However, love him or hate him, I don't see how anyone can seriously argue against Brady being the G.O.A.T. when one is discussing QBs in NFL history. So what's all this talk about a "G.O.A.T. in Waiting?" Quoting Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame for those too young or without cable TV), "Let me submit for your approval" the name Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes played just one game as an NFL rookie (in a meaningless Week 17 contest) but 'exploded' on the NFL scene in 2018 with 5,097 passing yards, 50 TD passes and just 12 INTs (QB rating of 113.8). He was named the NFL's 2018 MVP and led KC to an AFC championship showdown with New England, which the Chiefs lost in OT (at KC) to the Brady-led Patriots. Mahomes threw for 4,031 with 26 TDs and 15 INTs (105.3 QB rating) last season and more importantly, to a 31-20 Super Bowl win over the 49ers. Mahomes threw for 4,740 yards in the 2020 season with 38 TDs and six INTs (108.2 QB rating) and has the Chiefs back in the Super Bowl again. Before going any further, let's look at the start of Mahomes' regular season career.He made one start in his rookie season (a win) and has made 45 starts the last three seasons. His record is 38-8 (.826) with 114 TD passes and 24 INTs (108.7 rating). How does that compare with Brady's first-three seasons as a starter (2001-03). Brady didn't make a start in his rookie season of 2000 (attempted THREE passes) but took over early in the 2001 season after Bledsoe got hurt. Brady never gave up the starters job. Brady would go 34-12 (.739) as a starter with a much more modest TD-to-INT ratio of 69-38 (see above for Mahomes' TD/INT ratio). Brady's highest QB rating in his first three seasons was 86.5, compared with Mahomes 108.7 three-year average. Brady did lead the Pats to Super Bowls wins in 2001 and 2003 (missed the postseason with a 9-7 record in 2002), building his incomparable postseason record (see above) by starting 6-0. For the record, Brady won a THIRD Super Bowl title in his fourth season (2004) and won his first 10 postseason starts, before losing 27-13 at Denver in the 2005 playoffs' Divisional Round. I guess one could look at Brady's Super Bowl record and say after a 3-0 start, he's just 3-3 in his last six Super Bowl appearances but c'mon!!Getting back to Mahomes. He wins the comparison between the two QBs over their respective first three regular seasons but he will need to beat Brady and the Bucs on Sunday to match Brady's two Super Bowl titles in his first three seasons. As noted, Brady missed the playoffs in his second full season but then won it all again in his fourth. So, in Brady's 9-0 run to his first three postseasons, he averaged 216.8 YPG passing with 11 TDs and just three INTs. Mahomes has one more game left to complete his first three postseasons and will enter Sunday's game 6-1 as a playoff starter (lone loss to Brady's Pats in 2018) but again, has much gaudier stats than Brady had in a comparable span. Mahomes has averaged 293.4 YPG passing in his seven postseason starts, throwing 17 TD passes with just two INTs in 252 attempts. His QB rating is 109.8! I mentioned earlier that just three QBs have  postseason winning percentages of better than .700. Brady's tops at .750 and his QB rating is 89.9, Aikman is second at .733 and his QB rating is 88.3 and Bradshaw is third at .737 and his QB rating is 83.0. In his modest seven-game playoff career so far, Mahomes' winning percentage is .857 pending Sunday's and again, his QB rating is 109.8, FAR above the competition.Mahomes could sure use a win over Brady on Sunday, as a SEVENTH Super Bowl win for Brady seems an unreachable target. What's more, it would make Brady 2-0 in playoff showdown with Mahomes and who knows what Brady's plan for the future is? Is this last meeting between the two? Mahomes has had a spectacular start to his career and seems to be with the perfect team and perfect coach. That said, let me remind all Andy Reid fans that before Mahomes lined up as his starting QB, Reid's postseason record stood at 11-13 and just one Super Bowl appearance (a loss to Brady and the Pats in the 2004 season), including a 1-4 record with the Chiefs. However, Reid's become a much SMARTER coach with Mahomes at QB (6-1).  Mahomes talent is undeniable and he's a worthy choice to fill the role of "G.O.A.T. in Waiting" but staying healthy and 'good fortune' will likely define his career. In case you don't remember, Brady's first three Super Bowl wins came by exactly THREE points. His fourth win came in a four-point win over Seattle when Pete Carroll made one of the stupidest play calls in Super Bowl history. His fifth win came in the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history, as the Falcons led 28-3 in the third quarter, only to lose 34-28 in OT. Win No. 6 came in a 'snooze-fest' over the Rams 13-3, a game that was tied 3-3 entering the fourth quarter.One last thing (I rarely leave well enough alone)...Otto Graham entered Northwestern in 1940 on a basketball scholarship but football soon became his main sport. After a brief stint in the military at the end of World War II, Graham played for the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League (the precursor to today's NBA) in the 1945-46 season. The Royals won the championship that season. However, Paul Brown (the founder of the Cleveland Browns and its head coach) signed Graham to play QB for the Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) for the start of the 1946 season. The league featured two, four-team divisions (East and West). The Browns would win the West at 12-2 that season and then beat the East champs (NY Yankees, yes that's right) 14-9 to capture the first AAFC championship over. Graham's 1946 NBL and AAFC titles made him the first person to have won championships in two of the four major North American sports (neither Brady nor Mahomes can match that!).The AAFC would exist for four years (1946-49) and Graham led Cleveland to a championship in all FOUR seasons of that league's existence. The Browns joined the NFL in 1950 and went on to win the NFL championship that year when they beat the LA Rams 30-28. Graham and the Browns were "just getting started," as the newcomers from the "upstart league" would play in SIX straight NFL championship games (1950-55). The Browns lost 24-17 to the Rams in 1951, to the Lions 17-7 in 1952 and 17-16 to the Lions (again) in 1953. However, the 'third time was the charm' for Graham and the Browns in 1954, beating the Lions 56-10. Graham was talked out of retirement in 1955 for ONE last season and he capped his career with a 38-14 championship game win over the Rams in 1955.Doing the math, Graham led the Browns to 10 straight championship games (four in the AAFC and six in the NFL), winning SEVEN! A check of the NFL record book reveals that Graham's statistical accomplishments have long been surpassed in the modern era but he still holds the NFL record for career average yards gained per pass attempt (8.63) plus owns the highest career regular season winning percentage of any NFL starting QB at .810 (57-13-1). His record in AAFC and NFL postseason games is 9-3 (.750), which matches Brady's postseason winning percentage mark (see above) heading into Super Bowl 55.10 seasons, 10 championship games and SEVEN championship game wins. Is he the G.O.A.T.? Has anyone ever known long-time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to be wrong about anything? He once called Graham "as great of a quarterback as there ever was." My opinion? I will say this much. Graham sure earned his nickname of "Automatic Otto!"Enjoy Super Bowl 55...Good luck, Larry

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Ness Notes: The Super Bowl (A Look Back)

Tuesday, Feb 02, 2021

The AFL and NFL announced that the two leagues had agreed to a merger on the evening of June 8, 1966. Under the agreement, the leagues maintained separate regular-season schedules for the next four seasons (from 1966 through 1969) and then officially merged before the 1970 season to form one league with two conferences (AFC and NFC). An AFL/NFL championship game would begin at the completion of the 1966 season (AFL champ vs NFL champ) through the 1969 season, then would continue beginning in the 1970 season with the AFC champ meeting the NFC champ.The first championship game between the AFL and NFL was played on January 15, 1967 at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers (the name Super Bowl was not adopted until SB III). Vince Lombardi's Packers beat Hank Stram's Chiefs 35-10. Green Bay beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14 the following season but then Namath and the NY Jets shocked the football world with their 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts on January 12, 1969 (1968 season). The final Super Bowl before the official merger was played on January 11, 1970, when Hank Stram's Chiefs beat Bud Grant's Vikings 23-7.While the Chiefs played in two of the first four Super Bowls, they didn't make a "return engagement" until last season. The Chiefs took on the SF 49ers last January and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the franchise's only Super Bowl victory with a 31-20 win (trailed 20-10 midway through the fourth-quarter). Entering championship Sunday of the current season (January 24, 2021), the defending champions Chiefs were set to host the Buffalo Bills in the AFC's title game, while the Packers were set to host the Bucs in the NFC. The Chiefs and Packers were both three-point favorites and if the two No. 1 seeds had won, it would have set up a rematch of the very first Super Bowl. The Chiefs held up their end with a 38-24 victory over the Bills but the ageless Tom Brady led the Bucs to a 31-26 upset of the Packers, ruining a KC/GB 'reunion!' However, I doubt the NFL, the media or the fans are upset with a Tampa Bay/Kansas City Super Bowl, a showdown between the "G.O.A.T." (Tom Brady) and the "G.O.A.T. in Waiting," Patrick Mahomes. In fact, that will be the title of my next article, posted on Friday. The established NFL won the first two Super Bowls but the upstarts from the AFL evened it at two-all with wins by the Jets and Chiefs. The first post-merger Super Bowl was after the 1970 season and over the next 11 seasons, AFC teams won NINE of the 11 Super Bowls. However, there is a caveat. The Baltimore Colts (Super Bowl V winners) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (winners of four Super Bowls in six seasons from 1974-1979) were two of three NFL teams that had agreed to move from the "Old NFL" to the AFC, not remain in the NFC. The third franchise to move to the AFC (from the NFL) was the ever-lovable Browns, who are still waiting for that franchise's first-ever Super Bowl appearance, no less a Super Bowl win.Traditional NFL fans may just question if those FIVE Super Bowl wins by the Colts and Steelers (as AFC teams) deserve an asterisk. However, there can be NO doubt about the NFC's dominance over the AFC from Super Bowl 16 through 31. In that 16-year span, NFC teams won 15 of the 16 Super Bowls, as only the then-Los Angeles Raiders broke through with a 38-9 win over Washington in SB 18 (1983 season). Following that win by the Raiders, NFC teams won 13 straight Super Bowls, with 11 coming by double digits. The exceptions were San Francisco's 'John Candy' SB 23 win 20-16 over the Bengals (hope readers get it) and the NY Giants' SB 25 "Wide-Right" 20-19 win over the Bills (sure all will get that reference!). The other 11 wins in that 13-0 run by the NFC saw an average margin of victory of 17.6 PPG.The AFC has had the better of it since ending the NFC's 13-0 run when the Broncos beat the defending champion Packers 31-24 in SB 32. Entering Sunday's game, the AFC has captured 15 of the last 23 Super Bowls, with the Patriots accounting for SIX of those wins during that span. New England's six titles puts them in a tie with Pittsburgh, while San Francisco and Dallas have each won five Super Bowls. Only NINE franchises have won at least three Super Bowls, meaning the Chiefs can make it 10, if they can repeat as champs. However, only SEVEN franchises have won consecutive Super Bowls, one of which (Pittsburgh) has accomplished it twice. The most recent team to win back-to-back Super Bowls were the Patriots, who beat the Panthers (2003 season) and then the Eagles (2004). Of course, Brady was New England's QB for those back-to-back wins but some may not remember that Andy Reid was Philadelphia's head coach when the Eagles lost 24-21 to the Pats in SB 39. He'll be on the sidelines for KC come Sunday, looking to join an elite group of head coaches to have won consecutive Super Bowl titles. That group includes Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Noll (did it twice!), Jimmy Johnson, Mike Shanahan and Bill Belichick. Think I missed one? Think again. The 49ers won back-to-back Super Bowls (23 & 24) but while Bill Walsh was the team's head coach in the first, George Seifert had taken over the following season when Walsh retired after earning a third Super Bowl titleCheck back Friday for my Brady vs Mahomes article. Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday Jan 27

Wednesday, Jan 27, 2021

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."Handicapping is a 365 day a year job. Sometimes, one just needs a break.  I'll be back with the next edition of Ness Notes on Monday Feb 1.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Jan 26

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2021

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; The new AP poll was released on Monday and for the 10th consecutive week, 15-0 Gonzaga was No. 1 and 14-0 Baylor No. 2. Villanova got back on the court last week for the first time since Dec 23 and remains No. 3 with a 10-1 record. Cracking the top-5 for the second time in his first two seasons as Michigan's head coach, Juwan Howard's 13-1 Wolverines are ranked No. 4. However, Michigan's rise comes on the heels of the school announcing a two-week pause in all sports activities due to concerns about a new COVID-19 variant believed to spread at a higher rate. That has led to the postponement of the Wolverines' next four games through at least Feb. 11. It remains to be seen how much their ranking will fluctuate during that time. Florida State can relate, as the Seminoles fell out of the poll from No. 25 in the midst of having three straight January games postponed. However, FSU's won FOUR straight games since returning (THREE by double-digit margins) and re-entered the poll Monday at No. 16. Rounding out the top-10 are 11-2 Texas (No. 5), 13-1 Houston (No. 6), 12-3 Iowa (No. 7), 10-2 Virginia (No. 8), 13-3 Alabama (No. 9) and 11-4 Texas Tech (No. 10). Let's hear it for the Tide, who have won NINE in a row and jumped from No. 18 to No. 9, the school's highest ranking since January 2007. Missouri moved up to No. 12 (from 19th), while joining FSU as new to the current poll were No. 24 Oklahoma and No. 25 Louisville. Falling out were No. 20 Clemson (see Monday's Notes regarding the Tigers' collapse), No. 21 Oregon and No. 23 UConn. Kansas remained ranked for the 230th straight week (longest-active streak by far) but the Jayhawks have lost THREE straight for the first time since 2013. Kansas checks in at No. 15 (?) but fell out of the top-10 for the first time in two years. Tennessee lost twice, falling from No. 6 to No. 18 and  Illinois (No. 8 in the preseason) is ranked 19th (??), despite its 10-5 record.15-0 Gonzaga (just 7-7-1 ATS) and 14-0 Baylor (11-3 ATS) are joined by two 'over-looked' schools, which remain unbeaten and unranked. Winthrop (Big South) is 15-0 and owns a program-record 20 straight wins (Gonzaga has won 19 straight), while Drake (MVC) is not only 13-0 but is 11-0 ATS! FIVE schools (with 10-plus wins) have just one loss. The list includes No. 3 Villanova (10-1), No. 4 Michigan (13-1) and No. 6 Houston (13-1) but also 16-1 Belmont (OVC) and 13-1 Boise St (MWC). Note that Drake will play at 9-1 Missouri St (which is 7-1 ATS, itself) tonight. (Bulldogs are favored by  3 1/2-points).There was just one game between ranked opponents on Monday, as No. 10 Texas Tech lost 88-87 at No. 11 West Va. Both teams held double-digit leads and lost them. West Virginia trailed 75-63 with 7:11 to go but Miles McBride drove for a leaning bank shot with 5.9 seconds to go, allowing the Mountaineers to escape with the one point wins. Higher ranked teams are now 29-17 (.630) SU but just 21-25 (45.7%) ATS on the season. There are FIVE ranked teams in action on Tuesday, with No. 5 Texas (11-2) hosting No. 24 Oklahoma (9-4). The Longhorns have not played since Jan 16, when their shorthanded squad (because of COVID-19) overwhelmed Kansas State 82-67 at home. Texas' ensuing two games, at Iowa State and at TCU, were postponed because of COVID-19 and player availability protocols among the Cyclones and Horned Frogs, respectively. Oklahoma heads to Austin with plenty of momentum after a 75-68 home win over then-No. 9 Kansas on Saturday. The Sooners have won their last three games overall but have lost their last three road games, at then-No. 6 Kansas, at No. 2 Baylor and at Xavier. Texas is favored by 4 1/2-points. No. 19 Alabama will put its nine-game winning streak on the line when it hosts 5-9 Kentucky ('Bama is favored by seven points). No. 18 Tennessee (down from No. 6) will look to break a two-game slide when it hosts 9-7 Mississippi St. The Vols are favored by  9 1/2-points and when head coach Rick Barnes was asked to explain his team's back-to-back losses by a collective 35 points, replied "We have turned the ball over 36 times, and you can't do that" The man has a point! Last but not least, No. 22 St Louis (7-1) takes the court for the first time since Dec 23 when it hosts 8-4 Dayton (Billikens are favored by nine points).NBA: The Lakers improved to 10-0 on the road this season with a 115-108 win at Cleveland on Monday night. The East's top record still belongs to the 12-6 Philadelphia 76ers but they lost 119-104 at Detroit. The Celtics got Jayson Tatum back (hadn't played since Jan 8, missing four games) at Chicago and he scored 24 points in a 119-103 Boston win (Celtics are 10-6). The Nets improved to 11-8 by beating Miami 98-85, for a second time in three days. The Heat made the NBA Finals last season but currently are 6-10. The season tipped off back on Dec 22 and Monday's games concluded FIVE full weeks of play. Here's a five-week "look-back!"The Lakers' 14-4 record is a league-best, although they are a more modest 10-8 ATS. That said, their plus-9.8 point differential is also an NBA-best. The Lakers' Staples Center co-tenants, the Clippers, have won SEVEN straight and check in at 13-4 (10-7 ATS). The Clippers will play tonight in Atlanta against the 8-8 Hawks but Kawhi Leonard and Paul George did not join the team on its flight to Atlanta, as both were ruled out on Monday due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. With no Kawhi or PG, the Hawks are favored by five points. The Utah Jazz own the NBA's longest active winning streak at EIGHT in a row (also 8-0 ATS) and will host the 8-10 NY Knicks on Tuesday at 12-4. In this 'Year of COVID,' the Jazz have started the same five players in each of their 16 games (amazing!). Utah is favored by 11 1/2-points. In the early going, the Lakers, Clippers and Jazz have seemed to establish themselves as the West's top-echelon. At the other end of the spectrum, the 6-10 Kings, the 5-10 Pelicans and the 4-12 Timberwolves are all playing sub-.400 basketball. Is it notable that the Pelicans, led by 'Zion the Magnificent,' are winning one-third of their games? Over in the East, I noted above that 12-6 Philadelphia owns the best record but very little separates the conference's top-five (just 1 1/2-games between No. 5 and No. 1), as Boston and Milwaukee are 10-6, Indiana is 10-7 and Brooklyn is 11-8. The Bucks have sure NOT looked like the team that's owned the NBA's best regular season record in each of the last two years but they can't be dismissed after just 16 games. I guess the 76ers and Celtics will be near the top of the East standings for most of the season, health permitting. The 'wild card' is the Nets, after Harden forced a trade from Houston. Harden produced  a triple-double in his Brooklyn debut (32-12-14) and through six games (Nets are 4-2), is playing 40.2 minutes, averaging 23.0-7.3-11.3. KD is averaging 30.4 PPG on the season and since Harden's arrival, has averaged 32.2 PPG (missed one  of the six games to 'rest'). Everyone's favorite teammate, Kyrie Irving, has graced the Nets by returning these last four games. He averaged 37.5 PPG in back-to-back losses to the Cavs but 22.0 PPG and 5.5 APG in two wins over Miami (see anything in those numbers?). Speaking of Miami, the Heat made the NBA Finals against the Lakers in the Orlando 'bubble,' ending their postseason by going 14-7 SU and with a playoff-best 16-7 ATS record. However, the current edition of Miami looks nothing like last summer's team, going just 6-10 SU and 6-9-1 ATS. In fact, just two teams in the East own a worse record than the Heat, the Pistons and Wizards. Detroit is a NBA-worst 4-13 but a respectable 9-7-1 ATS. Then there is 3-9 Washington. The Wizards got back on the court Sunday night for the first time since beating the visiting Phoenix Suns 128-107 back on Jan 11. Head coach Scott Brooks and the Wizards were simply happy to be back on the court but the San Antonio Spurs used their depth to beat Washington 121-101. The Wizards are back in action tonight, when they visit the 6-9 Rockets. Houston is favored by 3 1/2-points. Russell Westbrook returned to the court on Sunday, for the first time in more than two weeks due to a left quadriceps injury. He finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes. That got me thinking (always a frightening proposition). Remember the 2011-12 season when KD, Westbrook and super-sub Harden made the NBA Finals with OKC? I'll make it part of my Wednesday Notes, along with some "thoughtful commentary" on Aaron Rodgers.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Jan 25

Monday, Jan 25, 2021

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL: Super Bowl is set and while it's not a rematch of the first-ever Super Bowl (Kansas City/Green Bay), one would be hard-pressed to argue against the fact that this is going to be one of the most-anticipated matchups of all-time. Tom Brady left New England and Bill Belichick in his rearview mirror and while the Pats failed to win the AFC East for the first time since 2008 by going 7-9 (Belichik's only other losing season in New England came in his first season with the Pats in 2000), Brady led one of the NFL's biggest losers (Tampa Bay) to its second-ever Super Bowl. Sunday was NOT a vintage Brady performance, as he passed for 280 yards with three TDs but also threw three INTs, all coming on THREE consecutive possessions, after the Bucs led the Packers 28-10 early in the third quarter. Rodgers threw for 346 yards with three TDs and one INT (had a QB rating of 101.6 to Brady's 73.8) but the Tampa Bay D sacked Rodgers (the likely MVP) FIVE times. The Bucs never trailed in snapping Green Bay's seven-game winning streak but were aided by a strange (I'm being kind here!) decision from Packers head coach Matt LaFleur with just over two minutes remaining in a 31-23 game. After three straight incompletions had the Packers facing fourth-and-goal from the 8, the Packers elected to kick a field goal to get within five. Green Bay NEVER saw the ball again in the 31-26 loss. LaFleur can explain all he wants but there was NO excuse. However, I want to point out this. Imagine if the Packers had been a SIX-point dog? You think you wouldn't heard cries of a "FIX" coming from every direction? Let's face the facts. Coaches and players (in ALL sports) often make "INCONCEIVABLE" choices (a shout out to Princess Bride fans) just like our politicians, on a regular basis!Brady is now off to his 10th Super Bowl (six wins in his first nine tries), where the G.O.A.T. will take on the defending champion Chiefs, led by Patrick Mahomes who many (most?) believe is the "G.O.AT. in waiting!" Mahomes left last week's win over the Browns in the 3rd quarter with a concussion and he wasn't cleared to play until Friday. The Bills led 9-0 after one quarter but all will remember that Kansas City fell behind by double digits in all THREE of its postseason wins last season. It was "deja vu all over again," as the Chiefs would outscore the Bills 38-6 to take a commanding 38-15 lead by the mid-4th quarter. Mahomes threw for 325 yards with three TDs and zero INTs, giving him an 15-0 TD-to-INT ratio in his six career playoff home contests. Brady becomes the first QB to play a Super Bowl on his team's home field, as the Bucs will face the Chiefs at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium on Feb 7. That's never happened in 54 previous games. However, the G.O.A.T and his team are early three-point underdogs to the "G.O.A.T. in waiting" and the defending champion Chiefs. The over/under is 56. CBB (Fri-Sun recap):There were just three top25 matchups over the last three days (all on Saturday. The higher ranked teams had a bad run of it, as No. 6 Tennessee lost 73-64 at home to No. 19 Missouri, No. 10 Wisconsin (which allowed 52 and 53 points its previous two games) lost 74-62 at home to No. 15 Ohio St and while No. 11 Creighton won 74-66 at home to No. 23 UConn, the Huskies covered by a half-point! Higher ranked teams are now 29-16 (.644) SU but just 21-24 (46.7%) ATS on the season. The nation's top-two teams were in action on Saturday, as No. 1 Gonzaga moved to 15-0 (but just 7-7-1 ATS) by beating Pacific 95-69 and No. 2 Baylor to 14-0 (11-3 ATS) with an impressive 81-66 win at Oklahoma St.While it was smooth sailing for the Bulldogs and the Bears, 11 other ranked teams were in action on Saturday vs unranked teams and were able to go just 5-6 SU plus combined for a money-burning 3-8 ATS mark. The highest-ranked team to lose was No. 9 Kansas, which lost 75-68 at Oklahoma. The Jayhawks are now 10-5, having dropped three consecutive games for the first time since 2013. Kansas has been ranked for 229 consecutive weeks and while the Jayhawks won't drop out of Monday's new poll, their season is sure headed in the WRONG direction. Also losing on Saturday were No. 16 Va Tech, No. 17 Minnesota, No. 20 Clemson, No. 21 Oregon and No. 24 UCLA.The Maryland/Minnesota and Clemson/Florida St games deserve special mention. The Terps are just 3-6 in the Big Ten this season but all THREE wins have come on the road against ranked teams. Maryland's three road wins have come at Wisconsin, at Illinoi and now at Minnesota. Wisconsin was ranked 6th, Illinois 12th and Minnesota 17th at the time of each win. Maryland becomes the first team to have such success on the road while being unranked in the last five seasons. The Terps are now the first Division I program to have three or more top-17 road wins in the same season as an unranked team since Wisconsin did so 2015-16, It's also the first time in program history that Maryland has won three road games against ranked teams. As for Clemson, the Tigers were 9-1 (and ranked No. 12) after a 74-70 win over NC State on Jan 5. The Tigers then had a forced 11-day break (COVID) and returned to the court on Jan 16 at home, only to lose for an 11th straight time to UVa, 85-50. The Tigers followed with an 83-65 loss at Ga Tech and then Saturday's 80-61 loss at FSU. Clemson was allowing 57.6 PPG in its first 10 games (was 5th-best in the nation at the time) but in its three straight losses, has allowed 82.7 PPG. Teams can often lose their 'shooting touch' after a layoff but I don't remember a team losing its ability to play defense! Monday's card features a game between No. 12 Texas Tech (11-4) at No. 14 West Va (10-4) but the only other ranked team in action will be No. 13 Virginia (13-2) at home against 9-4 Syracuse. This will be Texas Tech's first game since Jan 16 after both of the Red Raiders' scheduled matchups last week were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols at TCU and Iowa State. West Virginia just returned from a two-week pause on Saturday with a 69-47 road victory at Kansas State. Prior to the shutdown, the Mountaineers lost two of three games, all decided by four points or fewer. West Va is favored by  1 1/2-points. Syracuse's win against No. 16 Virginia Tech on Saturday was its first against a ranked opponent in more than a year (last was a 63-55 overtime win at Virginia on Jan 11, 2020). The Orange get a chance to win at Charlottesville again tonight but note that Virginia is riding a six-game winning streak and has won 14 consecutive ACC games dating back Feb 8, 2020.  UVa is favored by seven points. The new AP poll comes out Monday afternoon and will be one of the features of Tuesday's Notes. NBA: The season tipped off back on Dec 22 and Monday's games will conclude FIVE weeks of play. My Tuesday Notes will take a five-week "look-back." Sunday highlights were the Clippers winning their SEVENTH in a row to match the Lakers at 13-4 for the league's best record in the league. The Celtics snapped a three-game slide with a 141-103 win over the Cavs and the Bucks ended a two-game skid with a 129-114 win over the Hawks. The Wizards got back on the court last night for the first time since beating the visiting Phoenix Suns 128-107 back on Jan 11. Head coach Scott Brooks and the Wizards were simply happy to be back on the court but the San Antonio Spurs used their depth to beat Washington 121-101 on Sunday night (Wizards). It also marked Russell Westbrook's return to the court in more than two weeks due to a left quadriceps injury. He finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes. Remember the 2011-12 season when KD, Westbrook and super-sub Harden made the NBA Finals with OKC? As part of Tuesday's NBA report, I'll delve into a "Where are they Now" comment?It's a busy 10-game NBA card on Monday. The 13-4 Lakers will try to keep their perfect 9-0 road record in tack with a visit to Cleveland to play the 8-8 Cavs (LA is favored by 10 1/2-points). The East's top record belongs to the 12-5 Philadelphia 76ers, who are in Detroit for a second straight night to take on the Pistons. Detroit owns the NBA's worst record (3-13) but is 8-7-1 ATS. Philly is favored by  6 1/2-points. The 9-6 Celtics are hoping that Jayson Tatum (26.9 PPG) can play tonight, as he hasn't played since Jan 8 after being placed in the league's COVID-19 protocol. The Bulls welcome Boston to Chicago with a 7-9 record but also happen to own the NBA's best ATS mark at 11-5 (Jazz are also 11-5). Boston is favored by four points.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Jan 22

Friday, Jan 22, 2021

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."Just two ranked teams were in action on Thursday, No. 4 Iowa home to 8-6 Indiana and No. 24 UCLA at Cal. Iowa took a 37-31 halftime lead but with Iowa still ahead 53-44 midway through the second half, Indiana rallied to tie the score at 53 with a 9-0 run, then took control of the game by limiting the Hawkeyes to just three FGs over the game's last 12 minutes. Luka Garza led Iowa with 28 points plus Joe Wieskamp added 16 & 12 but the Hawkeyes, who came in averaging 92.2 PPG, were held to 69 points while shooting just 38.1 percent from the floor, including 21.7 percent from the three-point line in a 12-point loss. UCLA opened the season as the AP's 22nd-ranked team but lost its season-opener 73-58 at San Diego St. However, the Bruins moved back into the top-25 last Monday (at No. 24). The Bruins were able to push back on Cal's bid for an upset by edging the Golden Bears 61-57 in Berkeley. UCLA was held to 17 points under its average points per game but beat Cal for the EIGHTH straight time and remained undefeated in the conference at 8-0 while improving to 12-2 overall with a 61-57 win.The only Friday game involving a ranked team is No. 7 Michigan (12-1) at 11-5 Purdue. Michigan started the season with 11 consecutive victories before falling 75-57 at Minnesota last Saturday but routed Maryland 87-63 in a game they never trailed on Tuesday. The win came even though Michigan's leading scorer Hunter Dickinson (15.7 PPG) only took three shots and scored three points. The Boilermakers welcome Michigan to Mackey Arena on a current four-game winning streak that began when they rallied from 17 points down against Michigan State back on Jan 8. The Boilermakers have outscored opponents by a combined 39 points in the second half over the last four games. Purdue's 6-10 Trevion Williams (15.4 & 9.5) has scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games, averaging 19.3 PPG in that stretch. Michigan is favored by 4 1/2-points.Looking ahead to the weekend, there will be three games between ranked opponents, all being contested on Saturday. No. 6 Tennessee (10-2) is home to No. 19 Missouri (9-2), No. 10 Wisconsin (12-3) is home to No. 15 Ohio St (11-4) and No. 11 Creighton (10-4) is home to No.23 UConn (7-2). The nation's top-two teams will also play on Saturday. No. 1 Gonzaga (14-0 / 6-7-1 ATS) is home to 5-2 Pacific and No. 2 Baylor (13-0 / 10-3 ATS) will play at 9-3 Oklahoma St. Higher ranked teams are 27-15 (.643) SU but just 21-21 (50.0%) ATS on the season. I'll check back on CBB in Monday's Notes.NBA: LeBron James scored a season-high 34 points to help keep the Los Angeles Lakers undefeated on the road this season with a 113-106 win against Milwaukee. The Lakers made 19 of 37 (51.4 percent) on threes, extending their franchise-best road start to 8-0 (Lakers are an NBA-best 12-4). In the TNT nightcap, Donovan Mitchell scored a season-high 36 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 129-118 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Salt Lake City. The Jazz have now won SEVEN in a row (longest active streak) using a 19-2 run over a 4 1/2-minute 3rd-quarter surge that gave Utah a 96-80 lead.ESPN features a Friday doubleheader, opening with 8-5 Boston at 10-5 Philadelphia at 7:35 ET. These teams met Wednesday in Philly, with Embiid's 42 points leading the way to a 117-109 win (Sixers outscored the Celtics 31-17 in the 4th quarter). Boston has lost two straight after a five-game winning streak and the 76ers are 8-1 at home. Boston's Tatum has been out due to COVID-19 protocols but head coach Brad Stevens said Tatum has a "50-50 chance" of playing Friday. Philly is favored by  4 1/2-points. The second game features the 7-7 Nuggets at the 8-5 Suns at 10:05 ET. Denver center Nikola Jokic is averaging a triple-double 14 games into a 72-game schedule (25.1-11.4-10.0), as the Nuggets play the Suns both tonight and Saturday in Phoenix. Friday will be the third game for Phoenix after having three postponed due to contract-tracing concerns after playing the Washington Wizards on Jan 11. It will also be the second game against the Nuggets this season, as the Suns won 106-103 in Denver on New Year's Day. Suns are favored by one point.The 11-4 Clippers can match the Lakers at 12-4 with a home win over the 6-7 Thunder (Clippers are favored by 13 points). The Bulls may be just 6-8 but they own the NBA's best pointspread record (10-4 ATS), as they play at the 6-8 Charlotte Hornets (Hornets are favored by 3 1/2-points). The 5-9 Raptors own the league's worst ATS record (4-10) and are home to the 6-7 Heat (Raptors are favored by 2 1/2-points). The league's two-worst teams are also in action tonight, as the 3-11 Pistons are home to the 4-9 Rockets (Pistons are favored by 3 1/2-points) and the 3-10 Timberwolves are home to the 7-7 Hawks (Hawks are favored by six points).NFL: I'll do a special NFL-only Ness Notes on Saturday (preview of AFC and NFC champions games), with the latest update on Patrick Mahomes. Philip Rivers 'obit:' The San Diego Chargers coveted Eli Manning and wanted to select him with their first round pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. However, after Manning indicated before the draft that he would not sign with them, the Chargers agreed to a draft day deal with the NY Giants. San Diego selected Manning first, then traded him to New York for Rivers, taken by the Giants fourth, plus draft picks. Rivers was one of 17 QBs taken in the 2004 draft, along with Manning and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger Rivers announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending a 17-year career with the Chargers 16) and Colts (one). Eli and "Big Ben" each own two Super Bowl rings but while Rivers has had a prolific career, he leaves without a Super Bowl title (more later).Rivers walks away as an eight-time Pro Bowler. His 63,440 passing yards ranks fifth behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, plus his 421 passing TDs ranks fifth behind the same foursome. One HAS to admire his 240-game streak of regular season starts, as it ranks second to only Favre's 297 among QBs. He made the playoffs in a modest SEVEN of his 17 seasons but never advanced past the Conference Championship and his lone trip there was in the 2007 season at New England (lost). That said, it's hard to argue his impact with the Chargers' franchise. The Chargers were 35-77 in the seven years prior to his arrival but 76-36 in the seven years after, while winning the division in each of his first FOUR seasons as the starter. Is he a Hall-of-Famer? Consider this. Just two QBs in the Super Bowl era have made the Hall of Fame without playing in a Super Bowl, Warren Moon and fellow Charger Dan Fouts. Then again, Joe Namath is in the Hall of Fame because he won a single Super Bowl, albeit one of the most famous of all-time. However, Namath made just 129 starts in his 13-year career, going 62-63-4 as starter. His career completion percentage is a pathetic 50.1% and he threw 173 TD passes against 220 INTs. Beauty is ALWAYS in the eye of the beholder.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 21

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

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: There were FOUR games between ranked opponents last Saturday but there has been just ONE since, when No. 2 Baylor beat No. 9 Kansas 77-69 on Monday. That result made higher ranked teams 27-15 (.643) SU but just 21-21 (50.0%) ATS on the season. The next meeting between ranked opponents won't come until Saturday. Four ranked teams played Wednesday, including top-10 teams No. 8 Houston and No. 10 Wisconsin. The Cougars easily avenged their lone loss of the current season by routing Tulsa 86-59 to move to 12-1. As for the now 11-3 Badgers, they beat Northwestern 68-52, as the Wildcats have now gone 0-6 SU & ATS since entering the AP poll back on Dec 28 at No. 19. It was a bad night for the other two ranked teams, as No. 11 lost 74-70 at home to Providence and No. 20 Clemson was blown out for a second straight game, 83-65 at Georgia Tech (lost 85-50 at home to UVa last Saturday). Just two ranked teams are in action on Thursday, 12-2 Iowa (No.4) home to 8-6 Indiana and 11-2 UCLA (No. 24) at 7-8 Cal. Iowa is averaging 92.2 PPG (2nd in the nation), led by the nation's leading scorer, Luka Garza (26.9 PPG on 62.5% shooting, including 47.9% on threes). The Hawkeyes are favored by 10 points. UCLA opened the season as the AP's 22nd-ranked team but lost its season-opener 73-58 at San Diego St. However, the Bruins are 11-1 since that loss and have opened 7-0 in the Pac 12 for the first time since the 1993-94 season. UCLA has SIX players averaging at least 10 PPG and visits Berkeley having beaten Cal SEVEN straight. The Bruins are favored by nine points.NBA: It was a busy 10-game Wednesday schedule, with ESPN airing a doubleheader. Philly won 117-109 at home over Boston, behind Embiid's 42 points. The Sixers now own the East' best record at 10-5 (had opened the season 7-1). The Suns won the second game, 109-103 at the Rockets. Other notable results were the Nets losing 147-135 in double-OT at Cleveland, as Kyrie scored 37 points in his first game since Jan 5. How will the Harden, KD and Kyrie 'triplets' play out? The Clippers routed the Kings 115-96 to join the Lakers at 11-4 (best record in the league). The NBA's two-worst teams lost, Detroit 123-115 (OT) in Atlanta to fall to 3-11 and Minnesota 97-96 at home to the Magic to fall to 3-10. Troubling news comes with the NBA postponing Friday's Washington Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks game. Bradley Beal said the Wizards were "fighting the league" on playing the game with only eight players available and six others sidelined by the league's health and safety protocol. It's the 17th NBA game postponed this season because of the league's health and safety protocols and the SIXTH consecutive Wizards game to be called off.  I guess the good news is that it's 3-8 Washington, NOT the Lakers, Clippers or Bucks.Speaking of the Lakers and Bucks, the two square off tonight in Milwaukee in the first game of TNT's doubleheader at 7:35 ET. The defending champion Lakers have LBJ & A.D. and are tied for the NBA's best record (11-4) with the Clippers. They also own the league's best point differential (+10.1). The Bucks have had the NBA's best regular season record the last two seasons & Giannis has won back-to-back MVP awards. Milwaukee is 9-5 and has the NBA's 2nd-best point differential (+9.8). The second game tips at 10:05 ET, as the 5-8 Pelicans are in Salt Lake city to take on the 10-4 Utah Jazz, who own the longest current winning streak at SIX in a row. The Jazz opened 2-2 but are 8-2 over their last 10 games, averaging 111.9 points, 49 rebounds, 24.7 assists, 5.3 steals and 6.6 blocks per game while shooting 47.5% from the floor Their opponents have averaged 104.1 points on 43.2% shooting. Milwaukee is currently a one-point choice over LA and Utah is favored by seven points over New Orleans.NFL: How did the Bills and the Chiefs reach the AFC Championship Game? Buffalo QB Josh Allen did not have a big day against the Ravens (206 passing yards / one TD) and the Bills ran for just 32 yards but the Buffalo D held Baltimore's running game in check. Then, with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter and Buffalo up 10-3 and Baltimore threatening to tie the score, CB Taron Johnson literally "stole the show." He picked off Lamar Jackson and returned it 101 yards for a TD. His interception return matched George Teague's INT return in Green Bay's 28-24 win over Detroit in a wild-card playoff on Jan 8, 1994. Speaking of 1994, the Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week's victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason game since the same year. WRs Diggs and Brown each had eight catches (Diggs caught Allen's lone TD pass). The Bills head to KC on an EIGHT-game winning streak and have won 11 of 12 (lone loss was the result of that 'Hail Mary' miracle at Arizona in Week 10). Patrick Mahomes hadn't played in 21 days (since the Chiefs clinched the AFC's top seed in Week 16) but thee Chiefs began their postseason defense of last year's Super Bowl title by scoring on each of their FOUR first-half possessions while generating 293 yards to build a 19-3 halftime margin. Mahomes completed 11 of his first 12 passes and was 19 of 25 for 233 yards by halftime. He also rushed for a 1-yard TD, making him the first player since the 49ers' Steve Young in 1995 with three straight playoff games with TDs on the ground and through the air. He has also thrown 15 TD passes without an INT in his five career playoff home games! Mahomes was KO'd from the game in the third quarter and the Chiefs had to hold on for a 22-17 win. KC becomes the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference title games. I'll give the latest update on his condition (he's currently in the NFL's concussion protocol) in my Friday preview.I'll preview both championship games in Friday's Notes plus weigh in on the retirement of Philip Rivers.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 20

Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021

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: Tuesday's schedule had no scheduled games between ranked opponents but did have SEVEN games between ranked and unranked opponents, including three from the AP's top-10. No. 3 Villanova took the court for the first time since Dec 23 and eked out a 76-74 win over Seton Hall. The Wildcats returned from a 27-day break but the Pirates gave them all they wanted. Seton Hall snapped a 17-game road losing streak to Villanova with a 70-64 victory last February and again gave the Wildcats fits (game-winning FT came with 1.9 seconds remaining). No. 6 Tennessee lost 75-49 at Florida, despite the Gators missing three of their top players. The Vols fell to 10-2 by shooting 29.3 percent from the floor and 3 of 18 from three-point range. Tennessee ranked third in the NCAA in scoring defense (57.2 PPG) but the 75 points the Vols gave up were the most on the season. No. 7 Michigan bounced back from its first loss of the season (75-57 at Minnesota last Saturday) with an easy 87-63 win over Maryland. The four other ranked teams went 3-1 SU & ATS (all seven were 5-2 SU & 4-3 ATS), with the other loser being No. 15 Ohio St 67-65 at home to Purdue. No. 18 Alabama (now EIGHT straight wins), No. 19 Missouri and No. 22 Illinois all won and covered.Wednesday again has no top-25 matchups (higher ranked teams are 27-15, .643 SU but just 21-21, 50.0% ATS this season) and COVID concerns have postponed SEVEN games involving ranked teams vs unranked ones, including one top-10 team (No. 5 Texas). Two top-10 teams are in action, No. 8 Houston (11-1) is home to Tulsa (8-4), looking to avenge its lone loss of the season when the Cougars lost 65-64 at Tulsa back on Dec 29. Houston is favored by 12 points. No. 10 Wisconsin (10-3) is home to 6-6 Northwestern. The Wildcats opened 6-1 (3-0 in the Big Ten) when it beat Ohio St 71-70 back on Dec 26. Northwestern entered the AP poll at No. 19 on Dec 28 but the Wildcats have since gone 0-5 SU & ATS. The Badgers are favored by  11 1/2-points. Two more ranked teams are in play, No. 11 Creighton (10-3) at home vs 7-6 Providence and No. 20 Clemson (9-2), coming off an 'ugly' 85-50 home loss to UVa on Saturday, visiting Atlanta to play 6-3 Georgia Tech. Creighton is favored by nine points and Clemson by 1 1/2-points.NBA: Just two games last night, as the disappointing Nuggets beat the Thunder 119-10 to even their record at 7-7. The Jazz won 118-102 at home over the Pelicans to move to 10-4, extending their winning streak to SIX in a row (league-high). It's a busy 10-game Wednesday schedule, with ESPN airing a doubleheader. 8-4 Boston is at 9-5 Philadelphia at 7:05 ET and 7-5 Phoenix is at 4-8 Houston at 9:35 ET. The Celtics own the East's best record, while Philly is tied with Milwaukee for the second-best mark. Both teams are dealing with COVID protocols and injuries. The 76ers are favored by 4 1/2-points. The Suns jumped out to a 5-1 start but have lost FOUR of their last six, while the Houston roster is still in flux due to injury. Guard John Wall (knee) remains sidelined. Forward Danuel House Jr. (COVID protocols) and guard Dante Exum (calf), who was acquired along with Oladipo last week, are also out. Guard Sterling Brown (right leg) is questionable to play after missing the past two contests. Phoenix is favored by 5 1/2-points.The NBA's two-worst teams are also in action, as the 3-10 Pistons are at the 6-7 Hawks, while the 3-9 Timberwolves are home to the 6-8 Magic. As I noted in Tuesday's Notes, the T-wolves have a minus-10.1 PPG differential, the ONLY team losing by an average of double digits. Interestingly enough, Minnesota is 5-7 ATS (not bad), while Detroit actually owns a winning ATS record of 7-5-1. The Pistons are a five-point road dog and the T-wolves are a 3 1/2-point home dog. The 10-4 LA Clippers have won four straight and a win tonight at Staples Center over the 5-9 Kings would allow the Clipps to match the Lakers' NBA-best record of 11-4. LA is favored by 10 1/2-points. NFL: How did the Packers and Bucs reach the NFC Championship Game? The Packers scored on each of their first five series and led the Rams 25-10 early in the third quarter. When all was said and done, the Rams' top-rated defense (had allowed 18.5 PPG on just 281.9 YPG) was shredded for 32 points on 484 yards, allowing 28 FDs (GB was 8 of 12 on 3rd downs). Rodgers threw for 296 yards with two TDs and no INTs (108.1 QB rating) plus had a one-yard TD run. His TD run was the first by a Packers QB in a playoff game at Lambeau Field since Bart Starr's winning sneak in the Ice Bowl against Dallas on Dec 31, 1967. The Green Bay defense held the Rams to just 244 yards, allowing LA to convert just 2 of 8 third downs (0-1 on 4th down). Green Bay has now won SEVEN in a row, holding its opponents to 18.4 PPG during that stretch.Tom Brady and the Bucs' offense turned three of four Saints turnovers into TDs and Tampa Bay beat the Saints 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday night at New Orleans. The Saints had beaten the Bucs in BOTH regular season meetings, 34-24 at home in Week 1 and then 38-3 at Tampa in Week 9. Two of those TDs came on short passes to WR Mike Evans and RB Leonard Fournette. Then, after an interception by LB Devin White, Brady drove the Bucs to the one-yard-line, from where he scored himself with 4:57 left to virtually ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game but his first in the NFC. Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards with two TD passes and that TD run. The 30-20 Tampa Bay win resembled more of a defensive struggle, as the Bucs had a modest 316 total yards and the Saints had just 294. However, unlike in his previous two meetings with the Saints (five INTs and six sacks), Brady was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.The Packers reached the NFC championship game for the fourth time in seven seasons as they chase their first Super Bowl berth in a decade (2010 season). It will be their first NFC title contest at Lambeau Field since hosting for the 2007 season, when they fell to the New York Giants 23-20 in overtime. Rodgers was on Green Bay's roster during that 2007 season backing up Brett Favre. Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl (the Bucs are hoping for just their SECOND Super Bowl appearance) in a showdown with Rodgers. I'll recap how the Bills and Chiefs reached the AFC championship game in Thursday's Notes and then preview both games in Friday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Jan 19

Tuesday, Jan 19, 2021

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: Let's start with the latest AP poll, released Monday afternoon. Gonzaga and Baylor opened No. 1 and No. 2 in the preseason poll and remained 1 and 2 for the NINTH straight poll. The same teams appeared in the top-five, as 8-1 Villanova remained No. 3, despite not playing since Dec 23. 12-2 Iowa leapfrogged 11-2 Texas, as the Hawkeyes are now No. 4 and the Longhorns are No. 5.  10-1 Tennessee is up to No. 6 (from 10th), while 11-1 Michigan held on to the No. 7 spot despite getting crushed 75-57 at Minnesota. Rounding out the top-10 are 11-1 Houston at No. 8, 10-3 Kansas at No. 9 and 11-3 Wisconsin at No. 10. 9-2 UVa jumped five sports to No. 13 and 11-3 Alabama went from unranked to No. 18 on the strength of a seven-game winning streak. Illinois opened 8th in the preseason and is lucky to still be ranked (No. 22) with its 9-5 record. Duke has played just EIGHT games and at 5-3, fell out of the top-25, ending the second-longest active streak of consecutive rankings at 91. Gonzaga is now second at 87, while Kansas was ranked for the 229th straight week. UCLA opened No. 23 in the preseason poll but lost its opener at SD State. However, at 11-2 overall (7-0 in the Pac 12), the Bruins are back at No. 23. Speaking of teams NOT meeting expectations (like Duke, currently unranked), we have preseason No. 10 Kentucky at 4-8, preseason No. 13 Michigan at 8-4, preseason No. 16 North Carolina at 8-5 and preseason No. 18 Arizona St at 4-6.Monday saw No. 2 Baylor move to 13-0 with an 77-69 home win over No. 9 Kansas, which fell to 10-4 (bye-bye top-10 ranking next Monday Jayhawks). However, Baylor didn't cover as an 8 1/2-point favorite, as Kansas threw in a "meaningless," bank-shot 3-pointer at the buzzer. In games between ranked opponents, the higher ranked team is 27-15 (.643) SU but just 21-21 (50.0%) ATS. The lone ranked team in action against an unranked foe on Monday was No. 23 UConn, which lost 74-40 at home to a St John's team that entered just 7-7. Tuesday's schedule has no scheduled games between ranked opponents but does have SEVEN games between ranked and unranked opponents, including three from the AP's top-10. No. 3 Villanova is hopeful of taking the court tonight at home vs 9-5 Seton Hall, for the first time since Dec 23. The Wildcats are favored by nine points. No. 6 Tennessee is 10-1 and will travel to Florida to play the 6-4 Gators (Vols are favored by seven points) and No. 7 Michigan, off its first loss of the season, is home against 8-6 Maryland (Wolverines are favored by 10 points).NBA: Monday was MLK Day and the league featured a busy NINE-game schedule, including a TNT tripleheader. I doubt there was much interest in Memphis beating Phoenix 108-104 (except to bettors of that game) but the Bucks/Nets and Warriors/Lakers game got most people's attention. The East's two-best teams (my opinion) went toe-to toe with Kevin Durant making the go-ahead three-pointer with 36 seconds left in a 125-123 Brooklyn win. Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, while Durant finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists to give the Nets their FOURTH straight victory. Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Milwaukee, which had its four-game winning streak stopped. Middleton added 25 points (but missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer) and Jrue Holiday had 22. The defending champion Lakers welcomed the Warriors to Staples Center with the league's best record (11-3) and on a five-game winning streak but Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors rallied from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Lakers 115-113. LeBron James' three-pointer gave the Lakers a 97-83 advantage early in the fourth before the Warriors battled back. They trailed 106-97 with 5:52 remaining before going on a 15-2 run that gave Golden State its first lead. LBJ had a chance to win it at the end but missed a three-pointer at the buzzer as the Lakers had their five-game winning streak snapped. According to Stats LLC, it is the first time in 284 home games that James and his team took a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter and lost in regulation. Just another night in the NBA.Four weeks in, the Lakers still own the NBA's best record at 11-4 but the Clippers are hot on their trail at 10-4, after four straight wins. The Jazz have won five straight and are now 9-4. Utah's five-game winning streak is now the longest active in the NBA, tied with, of all teams, the Memphis Grizzlies (just 7-6 on the season). Boston's 8-4 record tops the East, although the 9-5 Bucks own the league's second-best point differential at plus-9.8 PPG (Lakers are No. 1 at plus-10.2), while Boston's is only plus-1.3. The Nets have now won FOUR in a row and at 9-6, own the 4th-best point differential at 5.6 PPG (Clippers are 3rd-best at 6.3 PPG). Charlotte opened 6-2 but has now lost SIX straight (longest-active streak), although 3-9 Minnesota and 3-10 Detroit have the league's two-worst records. The T-wolves have a minus-10.1 PPG differential, the ONLY team losing by an average of double digits. Interestingly enough, Minnesota is 5-7 ATS (not bad), while Detroit actually owns a winning ATS record of 7-5-1. Following that, it should surprise no one that the league's best ATS record (10-4) belongs to the 6-8 Chicago Bulls. And so it goes...Wednesday's Notes will feature a first-look at the NFL's Championship Sunday, the first week of the NHL and more.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Jan 18

Monday, Jan 18, 2021

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The NFL's Super Wild Card weekend saw home teams go 2-4 SU and 2-4 ATS and until that 'explosion' in which the Browns beat the Steelers 48-37, the first five wild card games averaged a very modest 43.6 PPG. Three of the first five went over (counting Ind/Buf as an over, with that total closing 50 1/2 and ending 51). Obviously, Cle/Pit went over, making four overs and two unders for the weekend, as games averaged 50.5 points.The Division Round saw home teams bounce back to go 2-0 SU & ATS, as the Packers beat the Rams 32-18 and the Bills beat the Ravens 17-3. However, it was the road teams that went 2-0 ATS on Sunday, as the Browns lost 22-17 at the Chiefs (but covered) and the Bucs avenged two regular season losses to the Saints by winning 30-20 in New Orleans. Doing the math, home teams were 3-1 SU but 2-2 ATS and the four games averaged a modest 40.3 PPG, as ONLY the Rams/Packers game went over the total. The playoff numbers so far show home teams 5-5 SU and 4-6 ATS, while there have been five overs and five unders.The AFC and NFC championship games are set for Sunday, with Tampa Bay at Green Bay kicking off at 3:05 ET on FOX and Buffalo at Kansas City at 6:40 ET on CBS. The early lines show Green Bay favored by 3 1/2-points (over/under is 51) and Kansas City favored by three points (over/under is 54). Thursday's Notes will feature the NFC (how the teams got here and a preview) and Friday's Notes will cover the AFC.CBB: (Fri-Sun recap): Friday saw just one ranked team in action, as No. 9 Wisconsin bounced back from an embarrassing 77-54 loss at Michigan on Tuesday, to win 60-54 at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have now lost FIVE of six games since opening 6-0 and climbing as high as No. 11 in the AP poll back on Dec 21. Saturday featured FOUR games between ranked opponents and the higher ranked teams lost THREE of them. The exception was No. 2 Baylor upping its record to 12-0 with a 68-60 win at No. 15 Texas Tech. Losing for the FIRST time this season was No. 7 Michigan, which saw its 10-0 start to the season end with a THUD, falling 75-57 at No. 23 Minnesota (note: Gophers are 11-0 at home!). No. 12 Clemson was routed at home 85-50 by No. 18 Virginia but maybe that shouldn't have been a surprise. After all, UVa has now beaten the Tigers 11 straight! Finally, it was No. 14 Illinois losing 87-81 at home to No. 21 Ohio St, as the Illini fell to 9-5. Will they still be ranked in Monday's newest AP poll? Not only did three of the higher ranked teams lose to the lower ranked ones on Saturday (1-3 SU & ATS), we also saw the six ranked teams in action vs unranked ones go 1-5 ATS! No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 4 Texas and No. 10 Tennessee won but failed to cover, while No. 17 Missouri broke that trend with a win and cover at Texas A&M. No. 8 Creighton and No. 16 Louisville both lost OUTRIGHT.Sunday saw all three ranked teams win (No. 5 Iowa, No. 11 Houston and No. 20 Va Tech), with only the Hokies failing to cover. Doing the math, ranked teams vs unranked opponents went 8-2 SU but just 4-6 ATS. Games between ranked opponents now stand at 26-15 (.634) SU but just 21-20 (51.2%) ATS in favor of the higher ranked team. There is just one game between ranked opponents on Monday, as No. 2 Baylor (12-0) will host No. 6 Kansas (10-3), Baylor is a money-making 10-2 ATS (compared to Gonzaga's 6-7-1 ATS mark), including 5-0 SU & ATS in the Big 12 with a MOV of 18.6 PPG. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are just 2-2 (1-3 ATS) after a 9-1 start to the season. Pending the AP's latest poll (announced this afternoon), there are two ranked teams in action on Monday facing unranked opponents. Louisville is currently No. 16 and will host 7-2 Florida St, but the Seminoles very likely will be ranked come tip-off (not sure Louisville will be). The other game is No. 25 UConn (7-1), which will surely remain ranked before hosting 7-7 St John's. Baylor is favored by 8 1/2-points, Louisville by 2 1/2-points and UConn by seven points.NBA: It's MLK Day and the league features a busy NINE-game schedule, including a TNT tripleheader. It starts with 7-4 Phoenix (-5) at Memphis (5:05 ET), followed by 9-4 Milwaukee (-2.5) at 8-6 Brooklyn (7:35 ET) and wraps up with Golden St visiting the 11-3 LA Lakers (-8.5) at 10:05 ET. Not sure there is much interest in the Suns/Grizzlies game but the Bucks at the Nets will have everyone's attention. Milwaukee has won SEVEN of eight (averaging 119 PPG) and owns the East's best point-differential at plus 10.7 PPG. James Harden's Brooklyn debut (on Friday) saw him score 32 points, add 14 assists and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes (it was his 47th career triple-double). Kevin Durant sure didn't seem to mind 'sharing the stage' with Harden, as he scored a season-high 42 points. The Lakers have won FIVE in a row and continue to own the NBA's best record (11-3) and just recently passed the Bucks for the NBA's top point-differential (plus-11.0). Tuesday will begin the NBA's fifth week and Ness Notes will take a look back at the first month.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Saturday, Jan 16

Saturday, Jan 16, 2021

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." This is a special Saturday NFL-only Ness Notes edition.Last Saturday and Sunday was called the NFL's Super Wild Card weekend, as there were SIX games as opposed to the usual four. Home teams went 2-4 SU and 2-4 ATS and until last Sunday night's 'explosion' in which the Browns beat the Steelers 47-38, the first five wild card games averaged a very modest 43.6 PPG. Three of the first five went over (counting Ind/Buf as an over, with that total closing 50 1/2 and ending 51). Obviously, Cle/Pit went over, making four overs and two unders for the weekend, as games averaged 50.5 points. Before getting to each of this weekend's games (NFL's Division Round), let me note something about the eight starting QBs. Baker Mayfield is 25, a few months older than Patrick Mahomes, making him the 'graybeard' among the four starting QBs in the AFC 25. Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen are both still only 24 years old. This is in HUGE contrast to the NFC, where the youngest QB Jared Goff (at 26), is older than all four AFC starting QBs. However, he's 11 years younger than Rodgers (37), 16 year younger than Brees (42) and 17 years younger than Brady (43). Not sure what that is worth but I found it interesting. Let's get to the games. The LA Rams (No. 6 seed) will take on Green Bay (No. 1 seed) at Lambeau Field at 4:35 ET on FOX. Over in the AFC, it's a 'Battle of the Bs," as the Ravens (No. 5 seed) travel to Bills Stadium in Orchard Park to face the Bills (No. 2 seed) at 8:15 ET on NBC.The Rams started undrafted rookie QB John Wolford at Seattle last week due to Jared Goff's thumb injury but they beat the NFC West champion Seahawks by battering Russell Wilson and avoiding mistakes. The Rams allowed the fewest points (18.5 PPG) and total yards (281.9 YPG) during the regular season and allowed Seattle just 278 total yards and 11 FDs, while holding them to 20 points. Russell Wilson completed only 11 of 27 (40.7%) for 174 yards with two TDS, while throwing a "pick-6" and getting sacked FIVE times (QB rating of 72.1)! Wilson finished the regular season having completed 68.8% for almost 300 YPG with 40 TDs and just 13 INTs with a QB rating of 105.1.The Rams come to Lambeau to face Aaron Rodgers and a Green Bay offense that led the NFL in scoring at 31.8 PPG and also committed the fewest TOs (11). Rodgers was consistently GREAT in 2020, leading the NFL with 48 TDs, a 70.7 percent completion rate, a 121.5 passer rating, a league-tying-low five INTs. He's the overwhelming favorite to win the MVP award. WR Davante Adams is the first player in NFL history to have at least 100 receptions with 18 receiving TDs in a season, as he finished with 115 receptions and 18 TDs in just 14 games. Goff will start at QB for LA plus both DT Aaron Donald (ribs) and leading WR Cooper Kupp (knee) will play. Will offense prevail over defense? The Packers are favored by 6 1/2-points (over/under is 45 1/2).The Baltimore Ravens ended last season on a 12-game winning streak and entered the 2019 postseason 14-2 as the AFC's No. 1 seed. However, the Ravens lost 28-12 at home to the Titans as 10-point favorites. The Ravens drew the Titans again last weekend and fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter but dominated the rest of the way in winning 20-13. Lamar Jackson finally got his first postseason victory (0-2), running for 136 yards and a 48-yard TD while throwing for 179 yards. The Baltimore D held Tennessee to its fewest points all season and smothered 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry. Henry had run all over the Ravens with 328 yards rushing combined in the last two meetings but had his worst performance of the season, gaining only 40 yards on 18 carries. The Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 (Josh Allen set franchise records of 4,544 passing yards and 37 TDs) but entered their game with the Colts having lost their last SIX playoff contests since last winning a postseason game following the 1995 season. The Bills' 27-24 win over the Colts snapped that 0-6 postseason skid, winning their first playoff game since a 37-22 win over Miami on Dec 30, 1995. Allen passed for 324 yards with two TDs and zero INTs (121.6 QB rating), while leading the team in rushing with 54 yards and a TD. He's in just this third season but in two playoff games, has become only the FIFTH player since at least 1940 to score a touchdown rushing, passing and receiving in his playoff career (he scored on a 16-yard catch from John Brown in a 22-19 OT loss at Houston a year ago). Which is the 'hotter team? Buffalo enters on a SEVEN-game winning streak and has won 10 of 11, losing only at Arizona when Murray and Hopkins connected on that improbable "Hail Mary." That said, Baltimore has been playing with a win-or-done urgency since early December, following a 1-4 skid that dropped it to 6-5. The Ravens were depleted by a COVID-19 outbreak in a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh (but covered), before reeling off six consecutive wins and seven straight ATS wins. Buffalo is favored by 2 1/2-points and the over/under is 49 1/2.The Browns scored 14 seconds into their game at Pittsburgh last Sunday and led 28-0 at the end of the second quarter! Cleveland was without head coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for COVID-19, and assorted other coaches and players because of protocol related to the pandemic. The Browns had limited practice time NONE of that mattered. The Browns were playing their first playoff game since 2002 and walked away with the team's first playoff victory since beating the Pats on New Year's Day 1995 (1994 season), 48-37. However, as a reward Cleveland (No. 6 seed) will travel to Arrowhead Stadium (3:05 DET on CBS) to take on the defending champion KC Chiefs, who earned the AFC's No. 1 seed by going 14-2.Baker Mayfield matured this season and threw for 263 yards with three TDs and no interceptions last week in Pittsburgh. He has not thrown an interception in his last FIVE games. Cleveland averaged 148.4 YPG on the ground, the most for the franchise since 1978. Browns RB Kareem Hunt (841 yards) will face the Chiefs for the first time since they released him but the star RB is Nick Chubb, who is the first player since Miami's Mercury Morris in 1972 to rush for at least 1,000 yards (1,067) and score 12 TDs (he had 12) on 190 or fewer attempts. However, when one talks about offensive stars, Patrick Mahomes shines as bright as any. He was second in the NFL with 4,740 yards passing and fourth with 38 TD passes despite sitting out Week 17. Mahomes has 13 TDs and no interceptions in four postseason starts at Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire was fourth among rookies with 1,100 yards from scrimmage despite missing three games to injuries. Tyreek Hill was second among WRs with 17 total TDs this season and unanimous All-Pro TE Travis Kelce had 1,416 yards receiving in 15 games (catches), the most in a season by a TE in NFL history. KC is favored by 10 points (over/under is 57) and while the Chiefs were just 7-9 ATS this season, the Browns were only 6-10.The marquee matchup of the weekend will be a showdown between Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the two most productive passers in NFL history. The Tampa Bucs (No. 5 seed) visit the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints (No. 2 seed), the only team to have beaten Tom Brady twice in the same season. Drew Brees and the Saints ruined Brady's debut with the Buccaneers after 20 seasons in New England when they prevailed 34-23 in the season opener in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and they handed Brady the worst loss of his career when they completed the season-series sweep with a 38-3 rout in Tampa on Nov 8. Brady is 43 years old and Brees turned 42 on Friday. This will be the first time the two have met in the playoffs.Brady threw for 381 yards and two TDs in the Bucs' 31-23 win at Washington. It was his 42nd postseason start (31st win). However, it was his first not in a New England Patriots uniform and he led the Bucs to their first playoff victory since the 2002 season! Brees three for 265 yards (2 TDs / 0 INTs / 107.3 QB rating), RB Kamara returned to rush for 99 yards and WR Thomas caught five passes with a TD in the Saints' 21-9 win over the Bears. However, the defense was the star, holding Chicago to 11 FDs and 239 yards, 99 of which came on the game's final TD drive.The combined ages on game day of Brady and Brees will be 85, the highest in NFL history. The Bucs averaged 30.8 PPG (3rd) and New Orleans 30.1 PPG (5th) during the regular season but as noted above, the Saints dominated the Bucs in both regular season meetings. The stakes are much higher in this THIRD meeting, as the winner will earn a trip to the NFC Championship on Jan 24. The Saints are favored by three points (over/under is 52).Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Jan 15

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

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: There were no top-25 matchups in Thursday play and the only ranked team to play on Thursday was No. 1 Gonzaga, which hosted Pepperdine. The Waves were playing their first game after a 23-day layoff due to COVID-19 concerns but Pepperdine only trailed by a score of 43-39 at halftime. However, Gonzaga pulled away for a 95-70 win but a non-cover (Bulldogs closed as a 27 point favorite). The Bulldogs are 95-0 against West Coast Conference teams not named Saint Mary's or BYU since 2014 (note: BYU won 62-52 at St Mary's last night). Gonzaga is 13-0 SU but just 6-6-1 ATS on the season. However, the Zags have won 17 straight games and 46 straight at home (longest active streak).Joining Gonzaga as unbeaten teams which have played double digits in games are 13-0 Drake, 12-0 Winthrop, 11-0 Baylor (No. 2) and 11-0 Michigan (No. 7). Drake matches Gonzaga's win total but hasn't played since Jan 4 and its next game isn't scheduled until Jan 26 because of COVID issues. Winthrop moved to 12-0 by beating Longwood at home last night and will play Longwood at home again tonight. A second straight win over the 3-12 Lancers, would give the Eagles 18 straight wins, ONE more than Gonzaga (Winthrop is favored by 16 1/2-points). Talk of unbeatens naturally leads to a discussion of winless teams. Three schools remain winless after at least 10 games. South Carolina St is 0-13 (has lost 19 in a row), Idaho is 0-10 (11 straight losses) and Mississippi Valley St is 0-10. Chicago St is 0-9 but deserves mention because it ended last season on a 19-game losing streak, giving the Cougars 28 consecutive losses. However, Chicago St won't lose any more games this season, as the school suspended the remainder of its 2020-21 men's basketball season due to COVID-19 back on Dec 23.There are no top-25 matchups on Friday, but No. 9 Wisconsin will play at Rutgers. When the Badgers visited seventh-ranked Michigan on Tuesday, it looked like a great Big Ten contest but the Wolverines used a 36-3 run bridging the halves to rout the Badgers 77-54! 10-3 Wisconsin plays at Rutgers, which opened 6-0 and was ranked 11th in the AP, but has now lost THREE straight (and four of five), to fall to 7-4. Both teams badly need a win and I will note that the Scarlet Knights have gone 24-4 SU at "The RAC" (Rutgers Athletic Center) since the start of last season. Wisconsin is favored by three points. Higher ranked teams are 25-12 (.676) SU but just 20-17 (54.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. There are FOUR such meetings over the weekend, all on Saturday. No. 2 Baylor is at No. 15 Texas Tech, No. 7 Michigan is at No. 23 Minnesota, No. 12 Clemson hosts No. 18 Virginia and No. 14 Illinois is home to No. 21 Ohio State. I'll check back in with college hoops in Monday's Notes.NBA: Thursday's TNT doubleheader saw the short-handed Houston Rockets win 109-105 at the San Antonio Spurs. NONE of the players the Rockets received in the trade -- Victor Oladipo (from the Indiana Pacers), Dante Exum (from the Cleveland Cavaliers), and Rodions Kurucs (from the Brooklyn Nets) -- was in uniform on Thursday, forcing Houston to field a makeshift lineup that more than held its own. San Antonio led 99-90 with 4:39 to play but the Rockets outscored the Spurs 19-6 the rest of the way. Christian Wood (23.1 PPG and 10.1 RPG on the season) had 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. In the nightcap, Denver center Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, Jamal Murray had 17 points and nine rebounds, as the host Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 114-104. The Nuggets were missing two starters, Michael Porter Jr. (COVID-19) and Gary Harris (personal reasons). Jokic is averaging 24.2-11.2-10.4 through 12 games. Can he pull a Russell Westbrook? The Raptors were able to win 111-108 over the Hornets but were not able to cover. Toronto, just two years removed from an NBA title, owns the NBA's worst SU and ATS record so far in the current season (3-8 SU & ATS).ESPN is back in the doubleheader business on Friday, as the 6-4 Mavericks take a four-game winning streak into Milwaukee to face the 8-4 Bucks (7:35 ET), followed by the 4-6 Pelicans taking on the 10-3 LA Lakers at Staples Center (10:05 ET). The Bucks have won SIX of seven to reach 8-4 but are just 6-6 ATS. However, the team's plus-11.4 point differential is an NBA-best. Milwaukee is favored by 6 1/2-points. The defending champion Lakers own the NBA's best record but like the Bucks, are a modest 7-6 ATS. However, also like Milwaukee, LA owns the second-best point differential at plus-10.5. The Pelicans expect to play without Eric Bledsoe (eye), Zion Williamson (health and safety protocols) and Lonzo Ball (knee). LA is favored by 10 points. The Chicago Bulls may be just 4-7 but they own the NBA's best ATS record at 8-3. The Bulls visit OKC to play the 5-6 Thunder, who are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS at home! The game is a pick'em.I spent too much time on CBB and the NBA, so I'll offer an NFL-only Saturday edition of Ness Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 14

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021

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 Texas was at home to No. 15 Texas Tech in the lone Wednesday game involving ranked opponents. Texas scored 48 points in the first half (10-point lead) against a team allowing just 58.0 PPG but while the Longhorns led almost the entire game, Tech's Mac McClung made a long jumper with THREE seconds left to give No. 15 Texas Tech a 79-77 win, ending the Longhorns' 4-0 start in the Big 12. That 4-0 start in Big 12 play was Texas' best since the 2010-11 season when it began league play with 11 straight wins. Higher ranked teams are now 25-12 (.676) SU but just 20-17 (54.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. Three ranked teams, No. 16 Louisville, No. 18 Virginia and No. 21 Ohio St, all won and covered vs unranked opponents.Thursday's play was supposed to include four ranked teams meeting unranked opponents (no top-25 matchups were scheduled) but THREE were postponed due to COVID. The list includes No. 5 Iowa, No. 11 Houston and No. 22 Oregon. Still on the schedule is No. 1 Gonzaga (12-0) hosting 4-5 Pepperdine. The top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of only THREE undefeated college basketball programs in the top-25 and they've steamrolled their first three WCC opponents, winning 85-62, 86-69 and 116-88. Saturday's 116-88 win at Portland saw Joel Ayayi log the first triple-double in program history (12-13-14) points. Pepperdine hasn't beaten the Zags since 2002 (a span of 39 games!) and hasn't won at Gonzaga since 1998. Gonzaga has won 45 straight at home (longest active streak) and is favored by 25 1/2-points. Pepperdine on the moneyline?NBA: The big news Wednesday was the Rockets sending James Harden to the Nets in a blockbuster four-team trade that also involves the Pacers and Cavaliers, completing the unhappy star's exit from Houston and setting up a potential superteam in Brooklyn. That's assuming Kyrie feels like playing. The details of the trade are all over the net and TV. ESPN featured a Wednesday doubleheader, as the Nets were in MSG to take on the Knicks (Nets won 116-109, as Kyrie missed again) and the nightcap featured the Pelicans in LA to face the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Paul George added 27 and the Clippers defeated the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 111-106. The Pelicans were missing starters Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe but still covered. The Lakers won easily at OKC 128-99 and upped their NBA-best record to 10-3.TNT features a doubleheader on Thursday, as the Rockets are at the Spurs (7:35 ET) and the Warriors are at the Nuggets (10:05 ET). Not sure who will suit up for 3-6 Houston but note that the Spurs return home off a 4-1 road trip and are now 6-5. The Warriors are 6-5 on the season, after playing SEVEN straight at home (4-3 SU & ATS). The Nuggets 'exploded' out of the gates last season at 12-2 but enter this game just 5-6. The Spurs are favored by seven points and the Nuggets by five. Also playing on Thursday is the NBA's worst team, the 2-8 Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are 'home' (actually in Tampa) to host the 6-6 Hornets and are favored by NINE points (Toronto is 3-7 ATS!).Closing CFB thoughts: It was just a formality (no more split national champions these days with the CFP in place) but the AP released its final poll for the 2020 season on January 12 and Alabama was No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Clemson, Texas A&M and Notre Dame. The preseason poll came pretty close, as Clemson was No. 1 (finished third), Ohio State was No. 2 (finished 2nd) and Alabama was No. 3 (finished 1st). NINE of the AP's final top-10 entered the season ranked somewhere in the AP's preseason top-25, with the exception of Northwestern. The Wildcats were coming off a 3-9 season but went 7-2 and grabbed the No. 10 spot in the final poll. Overperforming were Cincinnati (No. 20 to open the season) and Iowa St (No. 23). The Bearcats finished 9-1 and ranked No. 8 and the Cyclones finished 9-3 and ranked No. 9.10 schools were ranked in the preseason top-25 but finished 'out of the money.' Three of them were in the top-10! No. 6 LSU (defending champs) finished 5-5, No. 7 Penn St finished 4-5 and No. 9 Oregon wound up 4-3. Joining Penn St in opening the season ranked but finishing sub-.500 were No. 25 Tennessee (3-7), No. 16 Michigan (2-4) and No. 19 Minnesota (3-4). There were also 10 schools unranked which finished the year ranked. BYU ended 11-1 and ranked No. 11, Indiana 6-2 and ranked No. 12, Coastal Carolina 11-1 and ranked No. 14, ULL 10-1 and ranked No. 15, Liberty 10-1 and ranked No.17, Miami-Fl 8-3 and ranked No. 22, Ball St 7-1 and ranked No. 23, San Jose St 7-1 and ranked No. 24 and Buffalo 6-1 and ranked No. 25. TWO schools each from the MAC, the SBC and from the Independents made the final top-25. Sports fans and bettors alike were VERY lucky to see the 2020 CFB season 'survive!"Friday's Notes will preview the NFL's Division Round games.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 13

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

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: There were two top-25 matchups in Tuesday's play (No. 2 Baylor home to No. 13 West Va was postponed), No. 7 Michigan hosting No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 19 Duke playing at No. 20 Va Tech. Juwan Howard's Michigan team is "for real," as it overwhelmed No. 9 Wisconsin with a 36-3 outburst spanning the two halves and rolled to a 77-54 victory at Ann Arbor. Michigan's lead topped out at 40 points midway through the second half and maintained sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 6-0. The Duke/Va Tech contest marked the first ACC game this season with both teams holding national rankings at the time of the game. Duke was playing only its second road game of the season and Virginia Tech opened an 18-point lead in the first half. Duke climbed within 64-59 with less than eight minutes remaining but the Hokies held on for a 74-67 win. Two top-10 teams were scheduled to play last night but No. Tennessee had its game at Vandy postponed. No. 6 Kansa played at unranked Oklahoma St and lost 75-70.No. 4 Texas (10-1) is home to No. 15 Texas Tech (10-3) in the lone Wednesday game involving ranked opponents. Texas returns home off a thrilling 72-70 win at then-No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday in which Andrew Jones hit the game-winning three-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining. Texas continued its best start in Big 12 play since the 2010-11 season, when it began league play with 11 straight wins. Higher ranked teams are 25-11 (.694) SU but just 20-16 (55.6%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. Texas is favored by 2 1/2-points. Three ranked teams are in action against unranked opponents. 8-1 Louisville went from unranked to No. 16 in Monday's poll and will play at 3-3 Wake Forest (Cardinals are favored by eight points). 7-2 Virginia is ranked 18th and is home to 3-7 Notre Dame (Cavs are favored by 9 1/2-points points), while 9-3 Ohio St is back in the top-25 at No. 21, after a one-week absence. The Buckeyes will host 6-4 Northwestern, which comes in on a three-game slide. Ohio St is favored by eight points.NHL: The league announced that 27 players had confirmed positive COVID-19 tests during training camps, which concluded Tuesday.  Seventeen of those players were members of the Dallas Stars, who shut down their training facilities last Friday after an outbreak. Dallas' first three games -- at Florida on Thursday and Friday and at Tampa Bay on Sunday -- have been postponed. The defending Western Conference champions are now tentatively set to open at the Lightning on Jan. 19 in a Stanley Cup Final rematch. Wednesday's Opening Night features a tripleheader on NBCSN: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (5:30 ET), Chicago at defending champion Tampa Bay (8:00 ET) and St Louis at Colorado (10:00 ET).NBA: More news comes from the NBA, which postponed four games this week because of COVID-19 issues, including three that involved the Boston Celtics. Along with Celtics, the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls are all dealing with significant issues in fielding the required eight players because of positive tests and contact tracing. The Lakers beat the Rockets 117-100 last night (2nd win in three nights at Houston) to up their NBA-best record to 9-3. ESPN features a Wednesday doubleheader, as the 6-6 Nets are in MSG to take on the 5-6 Knicks at 7:35 ET (Nets are favored by 5 1/2-points). The nightcap is at 10:05 ET In LA, as the 4-5 Pelicans take on the 7-4 Clippers (LA is favored by 7 1/2-points). Speaking of LA, the Lakers are "back at it" again tonight in OKC, where they are favored by eight points over the 5-5 Thunder.LSU 2019 vs Alabama 2020 comparison moved to Thursday's Notes with NFL Division Round preview set for Friday.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Jan 12

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

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."CFB: LSU's 2019 national champions (15-0) were called "a team for the ages" and many (most?) college football experts declared Joe Burrow's LSU squad "the greatest offense of all time." However, just one year later, the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide stated "their case" for that title with a 52-24 romp over Ohio State Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium. Nick Saban won a record SEVENTH title, saying "Move over Bear Bryant," who won six. SIX of Saban's national championships have come during his 14 seasons at Alabama (all six in the last 12 years), with his first title coming at LSU back in 2013. I want a day to reflect and Wednesday Notes will feature my Alabama/LSU comparison.CBB: The AP's latest poll was released Monday afternoon and for the EIGHTH consecutive week, it's Gonzaga (now 12-0) at No. 1 and Baylor (11-0) at No. 2. The Bulldogs got all but one of the 64 first-place votes, with one holdout ranking the Bears at No. 1. Maybe that voter is looking at Baylor's 9-2 ATS mark, compared to Gonzaga's 6-5-1 one? The only change in the top-10 was Michigan (10-0) moving up to No. 7 (from No. 10). 8-1 Villanova hasn't played since Dec 23 but remained No. 3, 10-1 Texas stayed at No. 4 and 11-2 Iowa remained at No. 5. 9-1 Clemson made a big jump, moving up SEVEN spots to No. 12, while 8-1 Louisville went from unranked to No. 16.  9-3 Ohio St is back in at No. 21 after a one-week absence and 6-1 UConn moved into the top-25 (at No. 25) for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Falling out were No. 15 Rutgers (on a three-game slide), No. 23 Michigan St and No. 25 Florida St.Playing as a ranked team for the first time in four seasons, UConn survived in Chicago with a 60-53 win over DePaul. The Huskies played a second straight game without James Bouknight (No. 2 scorer in the Big East at 20.3 PPG), UConn held DePaul scoreless over the final 4:27 of the game in a closing 8-0 run. Looking ahead to Tuesday's action, the Big Ten has seven teams in the AP's latest poll, including THREE in the top-10. TWO of those teams play each other tonight, as No. 7 Michigan (10-0) hosts No. 9 Wisconsin (10-2) in Ann Arbor. The only other top-25 matchup is No. 19 Duke (5-2) at No. 20 Va Tech (9-2). Michigan is favored by 3 1/2-points and Duke is favored by 1 1/2-points. Higher ranked teams are 24-10 (.706) SU but just 19-15 (55.9%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. Two other top-10 teams are in action, as 10-2 Kansas (No. 6) is at 8-3 Oklahoma St (Jayhawks are favored by 12 points) and 9-1 Tennessee (No. 10) is at 4-5 Vandy (Vols are favored by 12 1/2-points).NBA: The 2020-21 season tipped off back on Dec 22, so we are three weeks in. Some COVID issues have arisen lately and as I've said since sports returned back on July 23, "fingers crossed." The 76ers opened 7-1 but have lost THREE in a row. Philly is now 7-4 and tied with Milwaukee, a half-game behind East leader Boston (7-3). As noted last week, the Bucks own the NBA's best point-differential at plus-11.8, so there is every indication that the Bucks will win the East for a third straight season. The defending champion Lakers own the NBA's best overall record at 8-3 and at plus-8.3 PPG, rank second to Milwaukee in point differential. Just behind the Lakers are the 7-4 Clippers and Suns. It's all still VERY early but the 2-8 Raptors have shown few signs of looking anywhere close to the team that won the NBA title two seasons ago and had the NBA's second-best regular season record during last year's regular season. Toronto's just 3-7 ATS, tied for worst with the 5-5 Nuggets, who are also 3-7 ATS. Who has the NBA's best ATS record? Naturally, it's the 4-7 Chicago Bulls at 8-3 ATS!Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Jan 11

Monday, Jan 11, 2021

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 Update (Fri-Sun). There were just TWO games between ranked opponents the last three days, as No. 4 Texas won 72-70 at No. 14 West Va on Saturday and No. 5 Iowa won 86-71 at home over No. 16 Minnesota on Sunday. The Longhorns trailed for most of the game and didn't retake the lead until the final seconds. Texas would score the final SEVEN points of the game, avenging last year's 38-point loss at West Virginia. Luka Garza, the nation's leading scorer at 27.6 PPG, scored 33 points in helping Iowa beat Minnesota, avenging a 102-95 overtime loss to the Gophers on Christmas Day. Higher ranked team are now 24-10 (.706) SU but just 19-15 (55.9%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. There were 14 games featuring ranked teams and unranked opponents and the ranked teams went 11-3 (.786) SU but a more modest 8-6 (57.1%) ATS. No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor won handily but despite scoring 116 points, Gonzaga failed to covered as a 32 1/2-point favorite. Gonzaga is 12-0 but just 6-5-1 ATS, while 11-0 Baylor is a money-making 9-2 (81.8%) ATS. There are no ranked teams in action on Monday and later this afternoon the AP will release its latest poll. Recap in Tuesday's Notes. Also on Tuesday, I'll check in on the NBA, three weeks into its 2020-21 season.It's 7-0 Ohio State vs 12-0 Alabama in the CFP Championship Game Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens (8:00 ET on ESPN). The Buckeyes advanced with a DOMINATING 49-28 win over Clemson on Jan 1 in the semifinals. Ohio St QB Justin Fields threw for 385 yards and six TDs, while RB Trey Sermon ran 31 times for 193 yards, as the Buckeyes avenged last season's 29-23 semi final loss to the Tigers. The Clemson defense had NO answer for Fields and the Ohio St offense, as the Buckeyes reeled off 28 unanswered points to take a 35-14 halftime lead. Mac Jones threw four TD passes, three to WR DeVonta Smith, plus RB Harris 'hurdled' his way to 125 rushing yards, as top-ranked Alabama rolled to a 31-14 victory over fourth-ranked Notre Dame to reach the CFP title game for the FIFTH time in the system's seven seasons (won in 2015 and 2017). Alabama scored on its first THREE possessions and seemed to get 'bored' after taking a 28-7 lead in the third quarter (won 31-14).Justin Fields has some VERY sore ribs (broken?) but there's VERY little doubt he will be under center for this game. He's completed 73.4% for 1,906 yards (remember, just seven games) with 21 TDs and six INTs. WRs Wilson (40 catches / 16.8 YPC/ 5 TDs) and Olave (42 catches / 15.7 YPC / 7 TDs) are terrific, while TE Ruckert has just 12 catches but FIVE have resulted in TDs. RB Sermon enters off running for 331 yards in the Big Ten championship game vs Northwestern and following with 193 yards against Clemson.Mac Jones completes 77.0% of his passes for 4,036 yards with 36 TDs and just four INTs, giving him a nation's best QB rating of 203.0. DeVonta Smith (105 catches / 15.6 YPC / 20 TDs) is considered the best WR in the nation and Nick Saban announced that WR Jaylen Waddle (25 catches / 22.3 YPC / 4 TDs in four games) has been cleared to return to practice and could play in this game. RB Harris can't match Sermon's heroics of the last two games but ran for 1,387 yards on 6.1 YPC with 24 TDs on the season.Both offenses seem 'unstoppable,' as Ohio St averages 42.5 PPG (8th), while Alabama averages 49.7 PPG (2nd). Both defenses are strong with Ohio State allowing 21.0 PPG and Alabama 19.5 PPG. However, the Alabama defense has really 'found itself,' after a poor start. The Crimson Tide allowed 28.8 PPG through their first four games but just 14.1 PPG over their last eight. Note, that includes them giving up 46 points to Florida in the SEC title game. Eliminating that game and the Tide allowed just 9.6 PPG over SEVEN of their last eight! Alabama is favored by 8 1/2-points and the over/under is 75.It was called the NFL's Super Wild Card weekend, as there were SIX games as opposed to the usual four. Home teams went 2-4 SU and 2-4 ATS and until Sunday night's 'explosion' in which the Browns beat the Steelers 47-38, the first five wild card games averaged a very modest 43.6 PPG. Three of the first five went over (counting Ind/Buf as an over, with that total closing 50 1/2 and ending 51). Obviously, Cle/Pit went over, making four overs and two unders for the weekend, as games averaged 50.5 points.The No. 1 seeds were the only teams to get a bye in this season's expanded format and both No.2 seeds (Buffalo and New Orleans) advanced. Buffalo were AFC East champions for the first time since 1995 and hosted their first playoff game since 1996 on Saturday. The Bills' 27-24 win over the Colts snapped an 0-6 postseason skid, winning their first playoff game since a 37-22 win over Miami on Dec 30, 1995. The Saints beat the Bears 21-9, holding Chicago to 11 FDs and 239 yards, 99 of which came on the game's final drive. It ended with a 19-yard TD pass on the game's final play with no extra-point try (mattered to some).However, both No. 3 seeds and No. 4 seeds lost at home. In the NFC, No. 3 Seattle never played with the lead against the Rams and was 2 of 14 on third downs. It was Seattle's first home playoff game in four years was a 'disaster, as the Seahawks saw their 10-game home playoff win streak snapped. The Rams allowed just 278 total yards and 11 FDs. LA had QB issues (Wolford was KO'd and Goff was far from healthy) but after a a terrific season, Seattle's Russell Wilson completed 11 of 27 for 174 yards, while throwing a "pick-6" and getting sacked FIVE times!Over in the AFC, let me start with this. Pittsburgh's "Big Ben" threw for 501 yards and four TDs, leading the Steelers to 38 points. However, the Steelers were NEVER in the game. The Browns scored 14 seconds into the game and led 28-0 at the end of the second quarter! Cleveland was without head coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for COVID-19, and assorted other coaches and players because of protocol related to the pandemic. The Browns had limited practice time NONE of that mattered. The Browns were playing their first playoff game since 2002 and walked away with the team's first playoff victory since beating the Pats on New Year's Day 1995 (1994 season). Think that's a big deal? Try this. It was the team's first playoff win on the road since Dec 28, 1969! The Steelers opened the 2020 season 11-0 but then lost FOUR of five, before Sunday' 48-37 loss to the Browns. Both No. 4 seeds also lost but neither result was a surprise. The No. 5 Bucs closed as a 10-point favorite at No. 4 Washington (7-9 record) and won 31-23, as Tom Brady threw for 381 yards and two TDs. It was 'old hat' for TB 12, who made his 42nd postseason start (31st win). However, it was his first not in a New England Patriots uniform and he led the Bucs to their first playoff victory since the 2002 season! However, Brady's counterpart made quite an impression. Taylor Heinicke made just his second pro start and first in the playoffs in place of injured starter Alex Smith. He was signed in early December to the practice squad and threw for 306 yards (one TD) and ran for 46 yards (one TD).Baltimore was as hot as any NFL team down the stretch, closing 5-0 SU & ATS while outscoring opponents on average, 37.2-to-17.8 PPG. The Ravens had lost in the 2019 playoffs at home to Tennessee 28-12 and also 30-24 (OT) at home in Week 11, but were 3 or 3 1/2-point favorites at No. 4 Tennessee. The Ravens fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter but dominated the rest of the way in winning 20-13. Lamar Jackson finally got his first postseason victory (0-2), running for 136 yards and a 48-yard TD while throwing for 179 yards. The Baltimore D held Tennessee to its fewest points all season and smothered 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry. Henry had run all over the Ravens with 328 yards rushing combined in the last two meetings but had his worst performance of the season, gaining only 40 yards on 18 carries. The Ravens snapped a string of 21 straight games lost by the franchise in either the regular season or playoffs when trailing by 10 or more. Can we rename them the "Comeback Kids?"My first look at the Division Round games will come in Wednesday's Notes and a final preview in Friday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Jan 8

Friday, Jan 08, 2021

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: There are no matchups between ranked opponents on Thursday but FIVE games between ranked and unranked ones. No. 1 Gonzaga (10-0) hosted 9-2 BYU, No. 5 Iowa (9-2) was at Maryland, No. 8 Wisconsin (9-2) was home to Indiana, No. 12 Illinois (8-3) was at Northwestern and No. 17 Oregon (8-1) was at Colorado. Oregon was the lone ranked team to lose, as the Ducks lost at Colorado, ending their eight-game winning streak. BYU had not played since Dec. 23 and it showed. No. 1 Gonzaga promptly opened a 23-2 lead and led by as much as 32 points in a 17-point victory (closing line was 17 points!). No. 5 Iowa rolled at Maryland but No. 8 Wisconsin needed two OTs to win 80-73 at home vs Indiana (non-cover). No. 12 Illinois was down 43-28 at the half at Northwestern but made 16 of 31 shots in the second half in a dominating 53-13 performance. Northwestern did not make a single field goal in the final seven-and-a-half minutes!Ranked teams went 4-1 SU but 2-2-1 ATS. No top-25 matchups on Friday (higher ranked team are 22-10, .686 SU but just 17-15, 53.1% ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D) while ranked teams are now 142-28 (.844) SU but only 92-85-3 (52.0%) ATS when taking on an unranked foe. No. 3 Villanova was scheduled to play at Marquette but the Wildcats have postponed all games until a Jan 15 date at UConn. No. 23 Michigan St has won back-to-back Big Ten games after opening 0-3 in league play for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The Spartans welcome the 7-5 Purdue Boilermakers to Breslin Center on Thursday, where they are favored by 4 1/2-pointsNBA: In the first game of Thursday's TNT doubleheader, the Nets were without Kevin Durant due to COVID-19 safety protocols and also played without Kyrie Irving, who sat out due to unspecified personal reasons. No problem. Brooklyn beat Philadelphia, which entered with an NBA-best 6-1 record, 122-109. However, the bigger story may be that Seth Curry returned a positive test for the coronavirus, which the team learned of near the start of  the game. The Sixers are staying overnight in New York and will commence contact tracing Friday morning, sources said. The team will do a new round of testing Friday in accordance with the NBA's health and safety protocols. "Fingers crossed." In the nightcap, the Mavs went toe-to-toe in Denver against the Nuggets, prevailing 124-117 in OT. Doncic had 38-13-9 for Dallas and Jokic 38 & 11 for Denver. No national TV cameras were around to see the Spurs win 118-109 at the Lakers, snapping LA's four-game winning streak. How about those Spurs? They won Tuesday night at Staples Center as well, 116-113 over the Clippers. ESPN features a doubleheader on Friday, as the Hornets are in New Orleans to take on the Pelicans at 7:35 ET (Pelicans are favored by 6 1/2-points). Then at 10:05 ET from San Francisco, it's the Clippers at the Warriors with LA favored by  six points. The defending champion Lakers look to bounce back from last night's home loss to the Spurs when they host the 4-5 Chicago Bulls. LA is favored by 10 points and I'm using the Lakers as "free play" in the game. In researching the game I noticed this. SIX Chicago Bulls are averaging double digits in points and ALL six are 1st round picks (quite remarkable). View my free pick for all the details. Sunday's NFL Wild Card games: ABC/ESPN will televise the first of three NFL wild card games at 1:05 ET, as the 11-5 Ravens (No. 5 seed) are in Nashville to take on the 11-5 Titans (No. 4 seed). The then 14-2 Ravens were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs last season, losing 28-12 at home to the Titans as 10-point favorites, as Derrick Henry ran for yards. These teams met in Week 11 of the 2020 season (again in Baltimore) and even with that playoff revenge, the Ravens blew a 21-10 third-quarter lead in a 30-24 OT loss. The Ravens were just 6-5 after their Week 12 loss to Pittsburgh but would go on a 5-0 SU & ATS run to finish 11-5 and earn the AFC's No. 5 seed. The Titans battled the Indy Colts all season long for the AFC South title but clinched the division (via a tiebreaker) with a 41-38 win at Houston in Week 17. Derrick Henry rushed for a career-high 250 yards and became the eighth player in NFL history to eclipse 2,000 yards in a season, in Tennessee's Week 17 win. Baltimore's Lamar Jackson became the first QB in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in multiple seasons in Baltimore's 38-3 win at Cincinnati in Week 17. Jackson rushed for 97 yards on 11 carries to give him 1,005 yards for the season. The Ravens finished with 404 rushing yards, which was the fourth most by a team since 1950. Is the THIRD time going to be the charm for Baltimore vs Tennessee? Baltimore is favored by three points and the over/under is 54 1/2.CBS will carry the 8-8 Chicago Bears (No. 7 seed) visiting New Orleans to face the 12-4 Saints (No. 2 seed). The Saints beat the Bears 26-23 in overtime at Chicago back on Nov 1, Alvin Kamara had 163 yards from scrimmage, including a 20-yard run to set up Wil Lutz's winning FG. The NFL schedule makers gave the New Orleans Saints a break by scheduling this game on Sunday, not Saturday. Had the Saints been scheduled to play on Saturday, Kamara would not have been eligible to return after testing positive for COVID-19. As ALL will remember, Kamara tied an NFL record with six TDs in a victory over Minnesota on Christmas Day. Mitchell Trubisky will NEVER be mistaken for Drew Brees but since he regained his starting position, he has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,495 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. Chicago has averaged 30.2 PPG in that stretch, even after the 35-15 loss to Green Bay last Sunday ended a four-game streak of scoring at least 30 points. Trubisky's return has also seemed to rejuvenate Chicago's running game. The Bears were averaging 78.2 rushing yards before Trubisky returned to the lineup but they are averaging 144.2 rushing yards since. New Orleans is favored by 10 points and the over/under is 47.The Browns clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2002 with a 24-22 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, snapping the NFL's longest current playoff drought. Pittsburgh had clinched the AFC North and a playoff spot in Week 16, so they rested Ben Roethlisberger. Mason Rudolph got the start and completed 22 of 39 passes for 315 yards with two TDs and one INT. Now, one week later, the third-seeded Steelers (12-4) and sixth-seeded Browns (11-5) will "do it all over again" Sunday night in Pittsburgh (NBC at 8:15 ET). Mayfield  (26 TDs and 8 INTs for a 95.9 QB rating) and "Big Ben (65.6% for 3,803 yards with 33 TDs and only 10 INTs in 15 games) each had excellent seasons but while Cleveland running game comes in averaging 148.3 YPG on the ground (3rd-best), Pittsburgh's running game ranks last in the NFL (84.4 YPG). The defensive edge clearly goes to Pittsburgh, which allows 19.5 PPG (3rd) on 305.8 YPG (3rd), while the Browns are allowing 26.2 PPG. The Steelers have dominated this series dating back to 2004 (Big Ben's rookie year) with a 28-5-1 SU record! However, this is NOT your father's Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh is a six-point favorite (over/under is 47 1/2).Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 7

Thursday, Jan 07, 2021

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."Wednesday CBB: The lone top-25 matchup on Wednesday was No. 10 Michigan hosting No. 16 Minnesota. Michigan's freshman center Hunter Dickinson scored a career-high 28 points and the Wolverines shot 56.9 percent from the floor while holding the Golden Gophers to 32.4 percent shooting. Michigan pounded Minnesota 82-57. The now 11-0 Wolverines should get consideration to be ranked higher in the AP Top-25 with SEVEN teams ahead of them that have at least one loss, including FOUR with two setbacks. Saturday's game vs Penn St has been postponed, so Michigan is next scheduled to play on Tuesday, Jan 12 at home vs current No. 8 Wisconsin, one day after the new poll is released. SEVEN Wednesday games featured ranked and unranked opponents, as the ranked teams went 6-1 SU but only 3-4 ATS. The lone SU loser was No. 19 Va Tech, which lost by two points at Louisville but did cover. Checking in on the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team going 22-10 (.686) SU but just 17-15 (53.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents, while ranked teams are 148-27 (.846) SU but only 90-83-2 (52.0%) ATS when taking on an unranked foe.Thursday CBB: There are no matchups between ranked opponents on Thursday but FIVE games between ranked and unranked ones. No. 1 Gonzaga (10-0) will host 9-2 BYU, No. 5 Iowa (9-2) is at Maryland, No. 8 Wisconsin (9-2) is home to Indiana, No. 12 Illinois (8-3) at Northwestern and No. 17 Oregon (8-1) is at Colorado. BYU is the last team to defeat Gonzaga, recording a 91-78 victory on Feb. 22, 2020 in Provo. The Bulldogs have won 14 straight since that loss and are favored by 17 points. Iowa averages 92.7 PPG (5th in the nation) and Luka Garza's 27.5 PPG leads the nation. Maryland (6-5 / 1-4 in Big Ten) seems ill-equipped to pull off the upset. We'll see. Iowa is favored by 5 1/2-points. The Badgers haven't played since New Year's Eve, as their scheduled game against Penn State on Sunday was postponed due to coronavirus issues with the Nittany Lions. The last time out, Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 71-59 by holding the Golden Gophers to 31.3 percent shooting. Wisconsin is favored by eight points.NBA Update: The 76ers won a 141-136 shootout with the Wizards, starving Bradley Beal's 60-point effort. Philly owns the NBA's best record at 7-1 (5-3 ATS). At the 'bottom of the barrel,' the Suns moved into a tie with the Lakers for the West's best record (6-2 SU & ATS) with a 123-115 win over the badly struggling Raptors. Toronto owns the NBA's worst record at 1-6 (also 1-6 ATS). It's a TNT doubleheader on Thursday, with 7-1 Philadelphia visiting 4-4 Brooklyn at 7:35 ET. The 76ers are a 1 1/2-point favorite. The nightcap is Dallas at Denver (10:05 ET), two teams that are both off to disappointing 3-4 starts. Denver is favored by 2 1/2-points. The defending champion Lakers are 6-2 (4-4 ATS) and looking to break a tie with the 6-2 Suns for the West's best record when they host the 3-4 Spurs. LA is favored by 6 1/2-points.NFL Wild Card games (Saturday): The 11-5 Colts (No. 7 seed) will be in Buffalo to take on the 13-3 Bills (No. 2 seed) at 1:05 ET on CBS). The Colts are led by veteran QB Philip Rivers who is in his first season with the Colts but this contest could also be his last, either with the team or for his career. As for Buffalo QB Josh Allen set franchise records of 4,544 yards and 37 TDs as well as helping provide a new identity to a rising team that posted the franchise's best victory total since 1991 The Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 but enter this game having lost their last SIX playoff contests since last winning a postseason game following the 1995 season. Buffalo is favored by 6 1/2-points (over/under is 51).Up next, it's the 10-6 Rams (No. 6 seed) and the 12-4 Seahawks (No. 3 seed) meeting for a third time this season in Seattle at 4:40 ET on FOX. The teams split their two meetings this season, with Los Angeles winning 23-16 on Nov 15 at home (Week 10), while the Seahawks 'returned the favor' with a 20-9 win in Seattle (Week 16). Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay was asked whether he had a timetable to determine his starting QB and replied, "Yeah," he said. "Saturday at 1:39." Jared Goff suffered a fractured right thumb in a 20-9 loss at Seattle on Dec.27 and had surgery the following day. John Wolford replaced Goff last weekend against Arizona, helping the Rams clinch a playoff berth with an 18-7 victory. Wolford completed 22 of 38 passes for 231 yards and rushed for a team-high 56 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for 200 and rush for 50 in their debut. Seattle has no QB concerns with Russell Wilson (4,212 yards / 40 TDs / 13 INTs) plus two excellent WRs in Lockett (100 catches / 10 TDs) and Metcalf (83 catches / 10 TDs). LA's defense ranks 1st in scoring (18.5 PPG) and first in total D (281.9 YPG) but Seattle's defense has allowed just 15.0 PPG over it's last seven games. Seattle is favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 42 1/2. Saturday's final contest finds the 11-5 Tampa Bay Bucs (No. 5) visiting 7-9 Washington (No. 4 seed) at 8:15 ET on NBC. Six-time Super Bowl-winning QB has led the Bucs to their first playoff appearance since 2007 and he and the Bucs draw Washington, which was able to 'earn' a playoff spot by winning the NFC 'Least' with a sub-.500 record. Brady's had an excellent season (4,633 yards with 40 TDs and 12 INTs). He's thrown for at least 341 yards in FIVE of the last seven games, with 20 of his franchise-record 40 TDs coming in that span. Washington was once 2-7 but ended the season on a 6-1 run, including going 5-1 with Alex Smith as its starting QB. More notably, Washington's defense has allowed just 14.9 PPG over it's regular season-ending 6-1 run. The Bucs are favored by 8 1/2-points and the over/under is 45. There have been FOUR teams to enter the postseason with a sub-.500 or 8-8 record since 2002 (when the NFL expanded to 32 teams) and ALL four won their first playoff game.Friday's Notes will preview Sunday's three games.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 6

Wednesday, Jan 06, 2021

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."As a freshman, DeVonta Smith caught the game-winning pass in overtime of the 2018 College Football Playoff title game against Georgia (note: it was the 2017 season), as the iconic play was coined, "2nd-and-26!" Smith captured college football's most prestigious award last night, becoming the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991. Smith beat out three other finalists, all of whom were QBs; Alabama's Mac Jones, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Florida's Kyle Trask. Smith won the award with 477 first-place votes to finish with 1,856 points. Lawrence was second with 222 first-place votes and 1,187 points. Smith was CFB's best wide receiver and its most accomplished overall player, leading the FBS in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,641) and receiving TDs (20). Some may be surprised to learn that he's just the THIRD player in Alabama's storied football history to capture the Heisman. For all his wins (323) and national championships (six), Bear Bryant never coached a Heisman winner. Nick Saban has coached all three of 'Bama's Heisman winners, as Mark Ingram won in 2009 and Derrick Henry in 2015. Saban has already matched Bear's six national titles and is it a 'sign of things to come' to note that Alabama won national titles in each of the previous two seasons in which one of its players won the Heisman? CBB: There was just one game between ranked opponents, as No. 15 Rutgers visited No. 23 Michigan St. Rutgers forced 18 turnovers (had 13 steals) but shot 30.5% overall (including 3 of 12 on threes) plus made just 6 of 17 FTs. MSU ended the game on a 17-5 run and won 68-45. Is Izzo's team back on track? The Spartans opened 0-3 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2001-02 season. FIVE ranked teams met unranked opponents and went 4-1 SU but just 1-4 ATS. The lone SU loser was No. 13 Missouri getting beat badly 78-63 at Mississippi St. Updating the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team going 21-10 (.677) SU but just 16-15 (51.6%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents, while ranked teams are 142-26 (.845) SU but only 87-79-2 (52.4%) ATS when taking on an unranked foe.Wednesday's CBB: The lone game between ranked opponents is No. 10 Michigan hosting No. 16 Minnesota. Michigan is 9-0 and the only other teams from major conferences without a loss, Gonzaga and Baylor, hold the top-two spots in the AP rankings. Also note that two other Big Ten schools, Iowa and Wisconsin (both 9-2), are still ranked above Michigan in the AP poll (Iowa is No. 5 and Wisconsin is No. 8). The Wolverines are favored by 7 1/2-points. SEVEN ranked teams are in action tonight against unranked opponents, including three top-10 teams. No. 2 Baylor (-12) is home to Oklahoma, No. 7 Creighton (-5) hosts Seton Hall and No. 9 Tennessee (-8.5) is home to Arkansas. Note that both the Vols and Razorbacks lost for the first time this season last Saturday but while 7-1 Tennessee is ranked in the AP's top-10, 9-1 Arkansas is unranked. One last thing. No. 21 Duke has played just five games (3-2) and will take the court for the first time Duke since a 75-65 victory at Notre Dame back on Dec. 16. The Blue Devils canceled all non-conference games after the ND contest but then also saw ACC games vs Pittsburgh and at Florida State postponed. Duke will host Boston College tonight (hopefully) and is listed as a 12-point favorite.NBA Update: The season just passed its two-week mark yesterday (season tipped Dec 22). The defending champion Lakers have won FOUR in a row and are atop the West with a 6-2 record (just 4-4 ATS). LA also owns the West's best point-differential (plus-10.0), always a great indicator of the strength of a team. Sitting at 5-2 are the Phoenix Suns, who are off to the team's best seven-game start since the Suns opened 6-1 in 2009-10, the last time the franchise made the postseason. Remember the Suns' 8-0 SU & ATS performance in last season's Orlando 'bubble?' It may just have been a sign of things to come. FIVE teams which made last season's Western Conference postseason are currently sub-.500. Portland, Dallas and Denver have all opened 3-4, while Houston is 2-3 and OKC 2-4. Note: Portland currently owns the No. 8 seeded in the West.Moving to the East, the Philadelphia 76ers are an NBA-best 6-1 (5-2 ATS). Orlando and Indiana check in at 5-2. Where's Milwaukee, the team with the NBA's best record in each of the previous two seasons? The Bucks have opened just 4-3 but beware, Milwaukee owns an NBA-best plus-13.5 point-differential. Recent 'dead beats' like the Knicks, Cavs and Hawks have all opened 4-3. I'll close with the Toronto Raptors, who were the 2019 NBA champions and last season, entered the postseason as the East's No. 2 seed with a 53-19 record, despite losing Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers as a free agent. Note that the Raptors' record last season put them just 2 1/2-games back of the Bucks and was a half-game BETTER than the West's No. 1 seed, and eventual NBA champion Lakers! How QUICKLY things can change. The Raptors lost Monday night to the Celtics at their temporary home in Tampa 126-114, falling to 1-5 SU & ATS. NFL Wild Card weekend previewed Thursday (Saturday games) and Friday (Sunday games). Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Jan 5

Tuesday, Jan 05, 2021

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."Jay Berwanger (Chicago) was the first Heisman winner in 1935 and LSU's Joe Burrow its most recent winner (2019). The 202 winner will be announced tonight at 7:00 ET (ESPN), nearly a month after its traditional ceremony date. There will also be no pomp and circumstance, just another casualty of "The Year of COVID." A trio of QBs, Mac Jones (Ala), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) and Kyle Trask (Fla) are joined by WR DeVonta Smith (Ala) as the four finalists. Lawrence was the preseason favorite but if he wins it, it would be more of a lifetime achievement award, as Jones and GTrask have had more prolific seasons. The betting favorite is WR Smith, who is arguably the most-talented player in the nation (pretty much the definition of the award, right?). He would be just the SEVENTH winner not to be a QB or RB. Results and commentary in Wednesday's Notes.CBB: The latest AP poll was released on Monday afternoon and the top-two spots remained the same for the SEVENTH consecutive poll (including the preseason poll). 10-0 Gonzaga maintained its No. 1 ranking (63 of 64 votes), while 9-0 Baylor stayed at No. 2, getting the lone remaining first-place vote. I can't confirm this but "I'm told," that Dabo Swinney voted the Bears No. 1 because after all, Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference, not a 'real' league like the Big 12. 9-1 Villanova is No. 3  but the Wildcats haven't played since Dec 23 and Monday announced it was postponing games scheduled for Jan 5, 8 and 13 due to COVID. The remaining members of the top-10 are No. 4 Texas (8-1), No. 5 Iowa (9-2), No. 6 Kansas (8-2), No. 7 Creighton (8-2), No. 8 Wisconsin (9-2), No. 9 Tennessee (7-1) and No. 10 Michigan (9-0). Dropping out of the top-25 were Big Ten schools Northwestern (19) and Ohio St (25), New to the poll are 8-1 Clemson, which is back in at No. 19 (tied with 8-1 Va Tech) and 7-1 St Louis at No. 23, making its first top-5 appearance since the 2013-14 season. Before catching up on the CBB "numbers' Y-T-D, let me add a few thoughts on the return of 'Shaka Ball' (now in Austin, Tx) and the early season success (for the second straight season) of Juwan Howard of "Fab-Five' fame at his alma mater, Michigan.The Longhorns owned just one previous win in 17 tries at Lawrence when they routed the Jayhawks 84-59 on Saturday, ending a 17-game conference win streak by Kansas. It marked the most lopsided defeat for head coach Bill Self in his 18 seasons coaching the Jayhawks and it matched the largest margin of defeat for ANY Kansas team in the 65-year history of the Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Other than that, it was "just another loss." Texas opened the season No. 19 in the preseason poll and entered the top-10 (at No. 10) back on Dec 21, its first top-10 ranking under Shaka Smart. Texas was up to No. 8 before the win at Kansas and the Longhorns are now No. 4, the school's first top-5 ranking since Feb of the 2011 season under head coach Rick Barnes (Barnes is currently at Tennessee and his Vols are No. 9). Juwan Howard was part of Michigan's famous or infamous "Fab-5" depending on one's point of view (I'll let others argue that one). However, Howard has surely surprised  most (all?) by 'exploding' out of the blocks for the second straight season, as Michigan's head basketball coach. The Wolverines won the Battle 4 Atlantis last season and reached No. 4 in the nation after a 7-0 start. However, Michigan would go 12-12 after that, ending 19-12 when the season was shut down. Michigan opened this season No. 25 in the AP's preseason poll but fell out, despite not losing. The Wolverines finally re-entered the poll at No, 25 on Dec 21, jumped to No. 16 on Dec 28 and Monday came in at No. 10. Way to go Juwan!Checking up on games played from last Friday through Monday night. There have been just four matchups of top-25 schools in that span, with the higher ranked team going 3-1 SU (lone loser was Kansas vs Texas) and 2-2 ATS. In games between ranked and unranked opponents, the ranked teams were 9-3 SU but just 6-6 ATS from Fri-Mon. Updating the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team going 21-9 (.700) SU and 16-14 (53.3%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents, while ranked teams are 138-25 (.847) SU but just 86-75-2 (53.4%) ATS when taking on an unranked foe.Tuesday's CBB: There is just one game between ranked opponents, as No. 15 Rutgers (+2) is at No. 23 Michigan St but five games between ranked and unranked foes. No. 4 Texas (-12.5) is home to Iowa St, No. 6 Kansas (-6) is at TCU, No. 13 Missouri (-2) is at Mississippi St, No. 18 Texas Tech (-16) is home to Kansas St and No. 19 Clemson (-5) is home to NC State.NBA two-week update in Wednesday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Jan 4

Monday, Jan 04, 2021

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 17 recap: As I always like to do, I'll start at the bottom. The Jacksonville Jaguars opened the 2020 season by upsetting the Indianapolis Colts 27-20 at home in Week 1 and proceeded to lose their next 15 games, capped by Sunday's 28-14 loss at Indy. It also deserves a mention that while the Jags finished with the NFL's worst record, their 7-9 ATS matches that of the 14-2 KC Chiefs, who finished with an NFL-best record but also a 7-9 ATS mark. As it so often is, the point spread is a great 'equalizer.' The win by the Colts allowed them to earn the NFL's seventh and final seed, despite the fact that they were one of four AFC teams to finish 11-5 (love those tiebreakers). The Colts have to consider themselves fortunate, as the NFL added a third wild card team for the 2020 season. Over in the NFC, the Chicago Bears lost 35-16 at home to the Packers but were able to get that 'lucky' No. 7 seed with their 8-8 record. The Arizona Cardinals 'fell flat' in LA against the Rams losing 18-7 and also finished 8-8 but lost to Chicago in a tiebreaker. Ok, let's now start at the top and work down.The KC Chiefs will open their defense of their Super title as the AFC's No. 1 seed and get the lone bye in the divisional round of the playoffs in two weeks. The 13-3 Buffalo Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 and got the AFC's No. 2 seed.  Pittsburgh opened the season 11-0 but finished 12-4. However, it was good enough for the AFC's No. 3 seed, while Tennessee's 41-38 win over Houston earned them the No. 4 seed, as the 11-5 Titans captured the AFC South division in a tiebreaker over the Colts. Baltimore finished the season on a five-game winning streak and at 11-5 earned the No. 5 seed, while the 11-5 Browns have the No. 6 seed, ending the NFL's longest postseason drought (last made the playoffs in 2002). Green Bay matched its 13-3 record from the 2019 season but unlike last season when the 49ers, Packers and Saints all finished at 13-3, the Packers have the NFC's top record and get the No. 1 seed and that opening weekend bye. The 12-4 Saints edged the 12-4 Seahawks (via a tiebreaker) to capture the No. 2 seed (Seattle is No. 3) and the No. 4 seed goes to 7-9 Washington, which won the NFC 'Least.' The TB 'Bradys' finished 11-5 and will make the franchise's 1st playoff appearance in 13 years. Brady had four TD passes giving him 40 on the season. Tampa Bay's first playoff game in 13 years could be a lucky 13, as Tampa Bay earned the coveted No. 5 seed, giving them a wild card matchup with 7-9 Washington. The LA Rams gutted out an 18-5 win at home with John Wolford at QB against Arizona, earning the No. 6 seed with a 10-6 record. I'll have much more on the wild card weekend matchups in Thursday's Notes (Saturday games) and Friday's Notes (Sunday games).FIVE of last season's eight division-winners failed to repeat in 2020, with only Baltimore (14-2 winner of the AFC North last year) making the expanded playoff field in 2020 at 11-5. No team fell harder than the Pats, who had won 11 straight AFC East titles (17 of the last 19) but finished 7-9 in 2020. San Francisco won the NFC West with a 13-3 record last season and led the Chiefs by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter of last year's Super Bowl (would lose 31-20), but finished an injury-ravaged 2020 season with a 6-10 record. Houston entered the 2020 season having won the AFC South FOUR times in the previous five years but finished 4-12, while the Eagles won the NFC East last season at 9-7, only to end the 2020 season at 4-11-1 (last in the NFL"s worst division). Minnesota was a wildcard team in 2019 (10-6) but will be sitting the postseason out in 2020, after a 7-9 season. With two extra playoff spots available in 2020, there are SEVEN teams in the current playoff field which sat out the 2019 postseason. In order of best records, that list includes Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Indianapolis in the AFC, as well as Tampa Bay, the LA Rams, Chicago and Washington in the NFC. The 'unluckiest' team to miss the 2020 postseason field has to be the 10-6 Dolphins, who tied the Buffalo Bills for the best ATS record among all 32 teams (Bills and Dolphins were both 11-5). In case anyone was wondering, the Dallas Cowboys ended the season with the league's worst ATS record at 5-11 (Cowboys were 6-10 SU). Home teams went 7-9 SU and 9-7 ATS, with home dogs going 3-7 SU but 7-3 ATS. The Week 17 games averaged 52.4 PPG with 10 overs and six unders. I'll calculate regular season Y-T-D numbers in Thursday's Notes.Tuesday's Notes will be a BKB-only edition, checking in on the new AP poll (released Monday afternoon) in CBB and games played from Friday-Monday. Tonight concludes the second week of NBA action (opened Dec 22) and I'll offer some early reflections.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Saturday, Jan 2

Saturday, Jan 02, 2021

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."This is a special NFL week 17 edition of Ness Notes but first, some thoughts on the CFP semifinals. Mac Jones threw four TD passes, three to WR DeVonta Smith, plus RB Harris 'hurdled' his way to 125 rushing yards, as top-ranked Alabama rolled to a 31-14 victory over fourth-ranked Notre Dame. Alabama scored on its first THREE possessions and seemed to get 'bored' after taking a 28-7 lead in the third quarter. It was another DISMAL performance by Notre Dame in a "big-time" bowl game, although Notre Dame bettors collected on a 'backdoor' cover with 56 seconds left. The 12-0 Crimson Tide move on to the CFP title game for the FIFTH time in the system's seven seasons (won in 2015 and 2017). Awaiting Alabama will be 7-0 Ohio St, the "11th-best" team in CFB according to seer Dabo Swinney! Trevor Who? Ohio St QB Justin Fields threw for 385 yards and six TDs, while RB Trey Sermon ran 31 times for 193 yards, as the Buckeyes avenged last season's 29-23 semi final loss to the Tigers in a DOMINATING 49-28 win. Don't blame Trevor (400 passing yards and two TDs) but the Clemson defense had NO answer for Fields and the Ohio St offense, as the Buckeyes reeled off 28 unanswered points to take a 35-14 halftime lead. No. 1 Alabama and 'No. 11' Ohio St will meet Jan 11 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Plenty of time to talk more about that game in the upcoming week.NFL Week 17: I always like to "start at the bottom" and this week's 'bottom' is shared by 1-14 Jacksonville Jaguars and the division that has EARNED its title of NFC 'Least' in the 2020. season. In a land far, far, away and in one that 'time has forgot,' the Jaguars opened the 2020 season with a 27-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts (Jags were a 7-point home dog). To say the least, those respective teams have taken a different path since that Week 1 meeting, as this long-awaited "rematch" is set for Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in week 17. The Jags have lost 14 straight entering this game but have already won the Trevor Lawrence (Justin Fields?) sweepstakes. General manager David Caldwell was fired, QB Gardner Minshew has been benched and head coach Doug Marrone could be gone soon, too. Marrone is just 12-35 since leading Jacksonville to the AFC championship game following the 2017 season. What more could the Jags expect of him? As for the Colts, they enter this game 10-5 and could still win the AFC South title if Tennessee loses at Houston, as we HAVE to assume the Colts can beat the Jags, right? However, an Indy win only gets them into the playoffs if they get help by a loss from either the Cleveland Browns (10-5), Baltimore Ravens (10-5), Miami Dolphins (10-5) or Tennessee Titans (10-5). Indy is favored by 14 points and the over/under is 49 1/2.There is ONE thing we are sure about in the NFC East and that is the division winner will finish with a losing record, making them the FIFTH team since the NFL-AFL merger to enter the playoffs with a losing record, and only the THIRD to do so during a 16-game season. However, there is one more thing we know and that is that the defending champion Eagles are the ONLY team in the division with NOTHING to play for on Sunday! The 6-9 Cowboys and 5-10 Giants meet at MetLife Stadium and the victor will keep its division title hopes alive for at least a few more hours. Both teams need a victory by the Philadelphia Eagles over the visiting Washington Football Team on Sunday night to clinch the crown. Talk about teams going in opposite directions. The Cowboys enter on a three-game winning streak and the Giants on a three-game slide Dallas is favored by 1 1/2-points and the over/under is 44 1/2.Neither Dallas nor New York can advance if Washington wins its SNF game at Philadelphia but the news that the Eagles are fielding a 'JV team,' with players opting out, sitting out because of COVID and others just plain injured. Then again, who knows? After all, the Jets are on a two-game winning streak? Who'da thunk that? Washington began the season by abandoning a controversial nickname and caps it by moving on from a controversial QB. A 7-9 record is "just good enough" in this year's NFC 'Least.' Washington is favored by 3 1/2- points and the over/under is 43 1/2.The oldest rivalry in NFL history features the 12-3 Packers visiting the 8-7 Bears. Green Bay can clinch a first-round bye and the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win or a tie against the Bears. The Packers can also get a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if the 11-4 Seattle Seahawks lose or tie against the San Francisco 49ers. As for Chicago, 'Da Bears can clinch an NFC playoff berth with a win but there also are two other pathways for the Bears to secure a postseason spot. They need 8-7 Arizona to lose at the 9-6 Los Angeles Rams OR, if the Bears and Cardinals each finish Sunday's games with tie scores. Wouldn't that be some 'Daily Double?' Green Bay is on a five-game winning streak and Chicago on a three-game run. The Packers are favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 50 1/2. The 8-7 Arizona Cardinals are on the road vs the Los Angeles Rams and win gets them in the playoff field. However, while the Rams are a game better at 9-6, the Rams need a victory or a Chicago Bears loss to the Green Bay Packers to make the playoff field. The bad news for LA is that QB Jared Goff is out with a thumb injury and WR Kupp tested positive for COVID-19. Arizona is favored by three points and the over/under is 40 1/2. Staying in the NFC West, 11-4 Seattle will play the 6-9 49ers in their 'home-away-from-home,' Glendale, Az. The Seahawks can still earn the NFC's top seed and a first-round bye with a victory but only with a loss by Green Bay at Chicago and a loss or tie by 11-4 New Orleans at 5-10 Carolina. Seattle is favored by seven points and the over/under is 46.Wrapping up the NFC, the 11-4 Saints (11-4) can clinch the overall No. 1 seed in the NFC if they win at Carolina along with a Seattle victory at San Francisco, as long as Green Bay loses at Chicago. It was hardly good news that Alvin Kamamra tested positive for COVID-19 and won't play here (playoff status is unknown). The Saints are favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 47. The 10-5 Tampa Bay Bradys are home to the Falcons and have already clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 13 years and are in great shape to host the sub-.500 winner of the NFC East as the No. 5 seed. Tampa Bay is favored by seven points and the over/under is 50 1/2.Back to the AFC, where the defending champions KC Chiefs (14-1) own the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 12-3 Buffalo Bills have already clinched their first division title since 1995 but a win over the visiting 10-5 Dolphins would lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. Miami needs a win in Sunday's regular-season finale at Buffalo to guarantee its first postseason berth since 2016. However, the Dolphins can also get into the playoffs with one loss by either the Browns, Colts or Ravens. Buffalo is favored by three points and the over/under is 42 1/2. The 10-5 Cleveland Browns will make the postseason with a win over the visiting 12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh already knows it will be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the postseason (a Buffalo loss and a Pittsburgh win gives the Steelers the No. 2 seed), which led head coach Mike Tomlin declaring this week that Ben Roethlisberger will get the week off (Mason Rudolph will get his first start of the year). Cleveland could still sneak into the playoffs with a loss (provided the right combination of other teams lose and/or win) but when the Browns haven't made the postseason since 2002, they surely don't want to be 'scoreboard watching.' Cleveland is favored by 9 1/2-points and the over/under is 41 1/2.The 10-5 Baltimore Ravens have won FOUR in a row and can 'punch their ticket' for a third straight trip to the playoffs with a win Sunday at 4-10-1 Cincinnati or if the Browns lose to the Steelers (12-3), or via a loss by the Colts to the Jaguars (1-14). Cincinnati has won two straight but beating the Ravens may be a 'bridge too far!' Baltimore is favored by 13 1/2-points and the over/under is 44. which has won two straight games. My final 'stop' is at NRG Stadium where the 4-11 Houston Texans host the 10-5 Tennessee Titans. The Titans currently sit atop the AFC South (win tiebreaker with the Colts) but with FIVE teams vying for four AFC playoff spots all sporting the same 10-5 record, there are no guarantees for the Titans. Tennessee is in if it wins but at this point, I'm too exhausted to look into what happens if the Titans lose. Maybe they can play Clemson? Tennessee is favored by 7 1/2-points and the over/under is 56.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Jan 1

Friday, Jan 01, 2021

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."Before getting to the bowls, let's take a quick "look back" on college hoops from Monday thru Thursday, then a quick "look ahead" to Saturday and Sunday. Higher ranked teams opened the week 15-7 SU but just 11-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams. Ranked teams were 119-19 (.862) SU but a more modest 74-62-2 (54.4%) ATS vs unranked opponents Y-T-D. There were just four games between ranked opponents the last four days (one each day) and the higher ranked team won and covered THREE of the four. The lone exception was No. 17 Michigan St losing 81-56 at No. 21 Minnesota. The Spartans have now lost their first three conference games for the first time since the 2001-02 season. That makes the higher ranked team 18-8 (.692) SU but just 14-12 (53.8%) ATS. There were 13 games the last four days with ranked teams playing unranked teams, with the ranked teams going 10-3 SU and 6-7 ATS. The losers were No. 6 Wisconsin losing at Maryland on Monday plus No. 5 Houston losing at Tulsa and No. 18 FSU losing at Clemson on Tuesday. Doing the math, ranked teams are now 129-22 (.854) SU but a much more modest 80-69-2 (53.7%) ATS.There are no ranked teams in action on Friday but it's a  BUSY Saturday and Sunday. There are four matchups of ranked teams on Saturday; No. 3 Kansas at No. 8 Texas, No. 10 Iowa at No. 14 Rutgers, No. 18 FSU at No. 20 Duke and No. 23 UVa home to No. 24 Va Tech. There are 11 ranked teams playing unranked opponents, including No. 1 Gonzaga (9-0) home to San Francisco and No. 2 Baylor (8-0) at Iowa St. Moving to Sunday, No. 16 Michigan (8-0) is home to No. 19 Northwestern and No. 21 N Minnesota is home to Ohio St. No. 5 Houston will play at unranked SMU (6-0) and No. 6 Wisconsin is at unranked Penn St. Monday's Notes will be all football with a CFB bowl recap) and NFL week 17 recap. I'll catch up with the new AP poll (released Monday) plus the Saturday and Sunday happenings in college hoops in Tuesday's Notes.Bowl Update: Heading into Tuesday's two bowl games, favorites are 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS and there have been four overs and six unders. Over the last three days (Tuesday-Thursday), favorites have gone 6-1 SU and 4-2 ATS, while SIX of the seven games have gone over. During the previous three days, there was only ONE meeting between a ranked and unranked opponent (using AP rankings) and one meeting between ranked opponents. OSU was ranked 21st in the CFP rankings but unranked in the AP, while Miami entered ranked 18th in both the AP and CFP. The Cowboys won 37-34 in Tuesday's Cheez-It Bowl. Wednesday saw the first of the New Year's Six bowls with 8-3 Florida and 8-2 Oklahoma squaring off in the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners are ranked 8th in the AP and Gators 10th, giving us just our second ranked vs ranked bowl game (Liberty/Coastal Carolina was the first). However, the game was marred by the fact that the Gators showed up with a JV-like version and got CREAMED, 55-20. New Year's Eve produced two competitive games, Mississippi St 28-26 over Tulsa and West Va 24-21 over Army, plus a Ball St 34-13 blowout of previously unbeaten San Jose St. The Miss St/Tulsa game was marred by an 'ugly' brawl at the end. Through 17 bowls, favorites are 13-4 SU and 11-6 ATS with 10 overs and seven unders. In the two games between ranked opponents, the higher ranked team is 1-1 SU and ATS and in the bowls with a ranked team playing an unranked opponent, the ranked team is 3-1 SU but just 1-3 ATS.The bowl season concludes (save the CFP national championship game set for Jan 11) with four games on Friday and Saturday. No two games are bigger than the national semifinal games played on Friday but we also have three of the remaining New Year's Six Bowl games being contested over the next two days.Only in "The Year of COVID" would the Rose Bowl (the first of two CFP semifinal games) be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It's No. 1 Alabama (11-0) vs No. 4 Notre Dame (10-1) at 4:00 ET. When the teams last met eight seasons ago in the BCS title game, Alabama scored the game's first 35 points in a 42-14 romp. Notre Dame's defense ranks 14th in allowing 18.6 PPG but down the stretch allowed 30-plus points in three of its last five games. How can that be good news when facing an Alabama team that topped 50 points six times and averaged 49.7 PPG (second-best nationally)? Alabama has scored 35 or more points in a major-college record 24 consecutive games since losing to Clemson 44-16 in the CFP title game to end the 2018 season, with the Crimson Tide going  22-2 during that stretch. Any surprise that Alabama is favored by 19 1/2-points? The over/under is 66.The second College Football Playoff Semifinal game is the Sugar Bowl between No.2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio St. This game will be contested in its familiar 'home,' at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans at 8:00 ET. While Alabama/Notre Dame may be a rematch from EIGHT seasons ago, Clemson and Ohio St is a rematch from a semifinal game from last season. Ohio St led 16-0 through the first 25 minutes of that game but Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne led a comeback that put the Tigers up 29-23. The Buckeyes drove to the Tigers' 23 with a chance to potentially win the game but Justin Fields was intercepted in the end zone with 37 seconds left in the game. Lawrence had 259 passing yards and a touchdown plus 107 yards and a rushing TD, while Etienne had 134 all-purpose yards and three TDs.According to Ohio St head coach Ryan Day, that loss has reverberated for nearly a year among the Buckeyes. "Fresh off of that game, it was right on our minds, and something that when we got back to work and winter workouts, January, February, it was right there for us," Day said Sunday. "Coming off that game, we just didn't get over it in one day. It took time. "There was even a sign with the score posted in the Buckeyes' weight room, an honor usually reserved for rival Michigan. Ohio St played just SIX games this season and some think the Buckeyes are NOT deserving of a 'Final 4' berth. One person, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, has been particularly vocal about that point.Swinney said he felt the six-game resume of Ohio State put the Buckeyes on a different playing field than many of the other contenders. Swinney backed up his feelings by ranking the Buckeyes No. 11 in the final coaches' poll of the season. In his own words. "I think any time you step in between the lines, the game of football, there's a lot that can happen. A lot," Swinney said. "I mean, heck, in 2017, we lost to a three-win or four-win Syracuse team and still went to the playoffs. So anything can happen. Guys can get hurt. There's a lot. So I think the fact that we're going to have 11 games as well as the SEC teams -- I mean, you look at Florida and Texas A&M and Alabama. I mean, these teams are going to have 11 games this year. It's incredible and I think the Big Ten had the same opportunity and they chose not to play, and I think the only reason they ended up playing is because of the leadership of the SEC and the ACC and the Big 12, and have demonstrated that we can do it and do it in a safe way. So it's been an unbelievably challenging season, that's for sure. Enough said. Ohio St has ALL the motivation but will that be enough? Clemson is favored by seven points and the over/under is 68 1/2.Cincinnati won the American Athletic Conference championship game in a squeaker (27-24 over Tulsa), to finish the regular season 9-0. After Notre Dame was soundly defeated by Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, there was talk that maybe the Bearcats were deserving of finishing among the top -our teams in the CFP. The 9-0 Bearcats finished No. 8. 10-1 Notre Dame (No. 4) and 8-1 Texas A&M (No. 5) finishing ahead of Cincy was not really a surprise but when the Bearcats also fell behind 8-2 Oklahoma (No. 6) and 8-3 Florida (No. 7) it became clear that the committee NEVER considered them a 'Final 4' option. As the top-ranked Group of 5 school, Cincy got a New Year's Six Bowl bid to the Peach Bowl (Friday at 12:00 ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta), where it will meet a 7-2 Georgia team that finished No. 9 in the final rankings. Georgia was the AP's preseason No. 4 team but the Bulldogs lost BADLY in both of their "biggest" tests in 2020, losing 41-24 at Alabama and 44-28 in Jacksonville to Florida. Yes, the Bearcats enter the game with a 'chip on their shoulders,' but DON'T make the mistake of thinking Georgia DOESN'T have anything to play for (prove) in this game. Georgia is favored by points 9 1/2-points and the over/under is 52 1/2.The last two New Year's Six Bowls are on Saturday. Up first is the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Az, between Oregon and Iowa St at 4:00 ET. When the pandemic-delayed Pac-12 season started, Oregon (AP preseason No. 9) was a co-favorite with USC to reach the title game. Both schools were only able to play five games but while USC went 5-0 (with THREE "close calls''), Oregon finished 3-2, second in the Pac-12's North Division behind Washington (3-1). The Ducks were scheduled to play Washington at home on Dec 12 but a COVID-19 spike in the Huskies' program caused Washington to cancel that game. That left Oregon 'out in the cold,' with the Huskies set to play the Trojans. However, the COVID situation in Seattle did NOT improve, so lo and behold, the Ducks replaced the Huskies in the championship game. In less than a week, Oregon went from understudy to center stage. Oregon made the most of the opportunity by defeating host USC 31-24 for the championship. The victory gave Oregon (25th in both the AP and CFP) the Pac-12's automatic berth to a New Year's Six game. Waiting for them will be 8-3 Iowa State (No. 10 CFP / No. 12 AP). The Cyclones lost their season opener at home to ULL but then won SEVEN of their next eight games, including a 37-30 home win over then-No. 18 Oklahoma and a 23-20 road win at then-No. 17 Texas (it was Iowa St's first win in Austin since 2010). The Cyclones have never won a championship in the Big 12 or their previous league, the Big Eight. Iowa State's last conference title came back in 1912 (MVC). Iowa State made its first-ever appearance in the Big 12 championship game on Dec 19 but couldn't beat Oklahoma second time, falling 27-21. Iowa St is favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 58.The bowl weekend concludes with the Orange Bowl from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, as 8-1 Texas A&M (No. 5 in both polls) takes on 8-3 North Carolina (No. 13 in the CFP and No. 14 in the AP). Texas A&M was one spot away from making its first appearance in the College Football Playoff. Instead, the Aggies will go to the Orange Bowl for the first time since a 1944 loss to LSU. However, it's a school-record 12th consecutive year in which Texas A&M is headed to a bowl, although it's the school's first appearance in a CFP-era New Year's Six bowl. As for North Carolina, it's the first time the Tar Heels have played in the Orange Bowl, with North Carolina making its first major bowl appearance since the 1950 Cotton Bowl. "Hanging over' this game is the fact that BOTH of North Carolina's RBs have opted out! Carter and Williams combined for 544 rushing yards in North Carolina's 62-26 rout of Mia-Fl in this very same stadium back on Dec 12. It set a Football Bowl Subdivision record for a twosome in a single game. We still could have a 'shootout' between North Carolina QB Sam Howell (27 TDs / 6 INTs) and his Texas A&M counterpart, Kelly Mond (19 TDs / 3 INTs). Texas A&M is favored by 7 1/2-points and the over/under is 65 1/2.A special NFL week 17 edition of Ness Notes is available on Saturday.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday Dec 31

Thursday, Dec 31, 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." Happy New Year to all, as I believe I speak for almost everyone in wishing "good riddance" to 2020! I can honestly say I'm thankful that both the NBA and NHL were able to complete their respective seasons plus MLB was able to survive a couple of significant COVID issues (Miami and St Louis) to give us a "Short but Sweet" season. The 2020 NCAAF season was surely a challenge for all involved (even us handicappers and bettors) but I don't know about you, but I never thought we'd get this much of the season completed. The NFL has done a GREAT job, as ALL 32 teams have played their 15 games through 16 weeks. Only Week 17 remains, as we '"cross our fingers" regarding the recent troubling news coming out of Cleveland and its COVID issues.On this New Year's Eve, I will take a break from Ness Notes on Thursday. I will preview the Jan 1st and 2nd bowl games on Friday (plus recap bowl numbers thru Dec 31) and then have a "special" Saturday edition of Ness Notes to cover NFL Week 17.Stay smart and safe tonight and through 2021. COVID is far from 'done with us!'Again, Happy New Year to all.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 30

Wednesday, Dec 30, 2020

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

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 29

Tuesday, Dec 29, 2020

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

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Ness Notes: Monday, Dec 28

Monday, Dec 28, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: NFL Week 16 concludes with the 11-3 Buffalo Bills visiting the 6-8 NE Patriots on ESPN/ABC at 8:15 ET. Something just doesn't seem quite right about that headline, does it? The Buffalo Bills are led by the right arm (and both legs) of QB Josh Allen, He had four TDs (two passing, two rushing) in a 48-19 win in Denver in Week 15. The performance allowed Buffalo to capture its first AFC East title since 1995 and land Allen his fourth AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor of the season. As for the Pats, who have essentially 'owned' the division since Bill Belichick brought his hoodie to their sideline, they are 'led' by former MVP Cam Newton, who may have 11 rushing TDs (Allen has eight) but has thrown just five TDs passes (Allen has 30) and 10 INTs, for a QB rating of 79.6 (Allen's is 104.2). Note that in the Week 8 meeting between these two teams (in Buffalo), the Pats were just a four-point underdog, losing 24-21 but winning ATS. However, in tonight's game at home in Foxboro, the Past are a seven-point home dog (over/under is 47). I'm taking a 'pass' off a 4-1 NFL Sunday which included a Game of the Year win on Pittsburgh (NEVER in doubt, right?). As I've talked about all season, this has been a 'crazy' NFL season. I'll recap Week 16 in Tuesday's Notes and will again feature a special Saturday edition of Ness Notes to preview Week 17 (all games will be played on Sunday, Jan 3).NBA: The 2020-21 NBA season opened after the shortest offseason in league history on Dec 22. The Clippers beat their Staples Center co-tenants 116-109 on Tuesday, 'spoiling' the Lakers' ring ceremony. The Clipps then avenged last season's 3-1 playoff collapse to the Nuggets with a resounding 121-108 win on Friday. However, the Clippers returned on Sunday for their home-opener against the 0-2 Mavericks and promptly got BLOWN-OUT, 124-73! You read that right. The Clippers trailed 77-27 at halftime, with their 50-point deficit being the largest at the break in the shot-clock era, which began in 1954-55. Nice to know the NBA is still the NBA we've always known. The Cavs, Magic and Pacers have all opened 3-0 in the East, while the Thunder are 1-0 in the West. Here's an idea. Why not realize that OKC is simply the West's "best team" and NOT make them play anymore games, while making them the West's No. 1 seed for the postseason. I'm pretty sure Ohio State football fans understand that logic! Unfortunately for the Thunder, the NBA didn't 'buy' my suggestion, as OKC will host the Utah Jazz tonight, as part of a five-game NBA card (no TV games). The linemakers also seem confused as to OKC's 'greatness,' as the Jazz are favored by 8 1/2-points on the road.CBB: It was a reasonably quiet Friday through Sunday in college hoops. There were two top-25 matchups, with No. 9 Wisconsin winning at No. 12 Michigan St on Friday and Gonzaga leaving little doubt about its No. 1 ranking with a 98-75 rout of No. 16 Virginia in Fort Worth, Tx on Saturday. Wisconsin's win was NO small deal as the Badgers had dropped 12 straight in East Lansing, with their last victory at Breslin Center coming back in 2004. Higher ranked teams are now 15-7 SU but just 11-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams. The last three days saw five games between ranked and unranked opponents, with ranked teams going 3-2 SU and ATS. No. 4 Iowa was upset in OT at Minnesota on Friday and No. 23 Ohio St lost at Northwestern on Saturday. Ranked teams are currently 119-19 (.862) SU but a more modest 74-62-2 (54.4%) ATS vs unranked opponents Y-T-D. The new AP poll will be released this afternoon but according to current rankings, Monday's CBB features No. 1 Gonzaga (-39.5) at home to Northern Arizona, No. 9 Wisconsin (-9) home to Maryland and No. 12 Michigan St (-2.5) at Minnesota. Gonzaga will obviously remain at No. 1 but Wisconsin should move up from No. 9. NO way Michigan St doesn't fall in the rankings (out of the top-25?) and I can't imagine Minnesota NOT moving into the poll for the first time this season. The new poll will be part of Tuesday's Notes.However, the focus of Tuesday's Notes will be the resumption of the bowl season (no games Sunday or Monday) and my NFL Week 16 recap.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Saturday, Dec 26

Saturday, Dec 26, 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."This is a special Saturday edition, featuring the college bowls and NFL Week 162020-21 Bowl season: We finally saw a bowl game in which the winner hadn't already been determined by the end of the third quarter in Friday's Camellia Bowl (note: It was the first NCAA bowl game played on Christmas Day since 2003). There was no scoring in the first quarter but Buffalo took a 10-0 lead in the second, before Marshall rallied to tie it at 10-all midway through the third quarter. However, neither team scored again until Buffalo put together a 13-play, 88-yard drive that ended with a Kevin Marks two-yard TD run with 1:09 left. Marks was subbing for the national leader in rushing yards per game, Jaret Patterson, and ran for 138 yards on 35 carries. Marshall was able to reach the Buffalo 20 with no timeouts but the drive was halted by back-to-back sacks on third and fourth down. Marshall opened 7-0 and was ranked as high as 15th in the AP poll but ended the season on a THREE-game losing streak. Favorites are now 5-2 SU & ATS to open the bowl season. The first three bowl games averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs were 2-1, not an expected 3-0. However, the last four bowl games have averaged just 36.3 PPG, with all going under. That makes it two overs and FIVE unders heading into Saturday's tripleheader.Saturday bowls: The only ranked team (I use the AP poll, not the CFP rankings) to have played so far was No. 13 BYU, which routed UCF 49-23 in the Boca Raton Bowl. However, two ranked teams will take the field (both from the Sun Belt), as No. 16 ULL (9-1) takes on 7-4 UTSA in the First Responder Bowl in Dallas at 3:30 ET on ABC. Tonight at 7:30 ET on ESPN, it's No. 9 Coastal Carolina (11-0) taking on 9-1 Liberty in the Cure Bowl. Saturday's third bowl is 5-6 Western Kentucky playing 5-4 Georgia St in the LendingTree Bowl from Mobile, Al at 3:30 ET on ESPN. Georgia St is favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 49 1/2. Let me comment on the two bowls featuring ranked opponents.ULL didn't get a chance to play for the SBC championship because of COVID issues in the Coast Carolina program. ULL opened the season with a 31-14 road victory against current No. 12 Iowa State and have the best 10-game record in school history. The Ragin' Cajuns have won the Sun Belt West division and played in a bowl game in each of head coach Billy Napier's three seasons. That success led to Napier being a candidate for coaching vacancies at South Carolina and Auburn, but ULL announced this week that Napier is staying put. ULL will face the UTSA Roadrunners, who are 7-4 in coach Jeff Traylor's first season. A victory over the Cajuns would be the first bowl victory for a school that is making just its second appearance in a bowl and it would tie the school-record for wins in a season. UTSA was originally scheduled to play SMU in the Frisco Bowl but that Dec 19 game was canceled due to COVID issues in the SMU program. The First Responder Bowl stepped in and invited the Roadrunners, who gladly accepted but had to wait five days to learn that ULL would be their opponent. and so it goes in the "Year of COVID." ULL is favored by 14 points and the over/under is 55 .The Liberty Flames have posted their best regular season in school history (9-1) and look to finish with a second consecutive bowl win against Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers have made history this year as well, completing the first unbeaten regular season in school and SBC history (8-0). These two both played in the Big South Conference (FCS) and have split their 14 meetings. The teams were scheduled to play on Dec 5 but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols and precautions in the Flames' program. The Flames beat Georgia Southern in last year's Cure Bowl and were the third FBS team to win a bowl in their first season at the top level. As for Coastal Carolina, the Chanticleers will make their first bowl appearance in school history. Liberty is 8-2 ATS on the season and enters on a SEVEN-game ATS winning streak, while Coastal Carolina is 8-2-1 ATS. It was Liberty with the COVID-related problems that caused the Dec 5 to be canceled and the Flames haven't played since a 45-0 shutout of UMass on Nov 27. However, it was Coastal with the COVID issue which canceled its SBC championship game vs ULL on Dec 19, less than 48 hours before the scheduled kickoff. A good old rivalry matchup from Big South days. Coastal is favored by seven points and the over/under is 59 1/2. Bowl season resumes Tuesday, after a two-day break.NFL Week 16: The New Orleans Saints and their RB Alvin Kamara had quite a Christmas Day on Friday. The Saints clinched their FOURTH straight NFC South title with a 52-33 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, who fell to 6-9 and saw their longshot wild card hopes vanish. The Saints are now 11-4 and while the 11-3 Packers do own the tiebreaker over the Saints, New Orleans is still 'alive' in the race for the NFC's No. 1 seed. RB Alvin Kamara ran for 246 yards in the game but that was secondary to him getting SIX rushing TDs, tying him with Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals in 1929 for the most in NFL history. He is only the FOURTH player to score six TDs of any kind in a game, joining Nevers, Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965). Kamara's 21 TDs this season are the most in a single season by any player in Saints history plus he now has 59 TDs in his career, the third most by a player in his first four seasons in the NFL, trailing only Hall of Famers Terrell Davis (61) and LaDainian Tomlinson (60), according to ESPN Stats and Information research.Week 16 continues with three Saturday games, the 9-5 Bucs at the 5-9 Lions, the 5-9 49ers at the 8-6 Cardinals and the 9-5 Dolphins at the 7-7 Raiders. The Lions and 49ers are already eliminated from postseason consideration but the other four teams are fighting for playoff position, or in the case of the Raiders, for their postseason season 'lives!' Six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady and the Bucs are a victory away from earning a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2007. Tampa Bay is favored by 10 points and the over/under is 54 1/2. Arizona (8-6) is trying for its fifth season sweep in the past six years over San Francisco (5-9), which lost to the Cardinals 24-20 in Week 1 and has lost six of its last seven games overall. The Cardinals are currently in the No. 7 and final spot in the NFC playoff race. They can clinch a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2015 if they win on Saturday and the Chicago Bears lose or tie against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday (note: Jags have lost 13 in a row). The Cards are favored by 5 1/2-points and the over/under is 48 1/2. The Dolphins can clinch an AFC wild-card berth if they win their final two games but the Dolphins are already assured of a winning season for just the second time since 2008. As for the Raiders, they have lost four of five following a 6-3 start and will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or a Ravens win. Miami is favored by 2 1/2-points and the over/under is 49. History buffs will be interested in the fact the Dolphins and Raiders last met in the playoffs following the 2000 season!Moving on to Sunday, I'll begin at the bottom (as always), then move to the top. The Jets ended a franchise-record 13-game losing streak with their 23-20 Week 15 win over the Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars now own the NFL's longest active winning streak at 13. The Jags beat the Colts 27-20 in Week 1 but 13 straight losses have followed. They host the playoff-hopeful 7-7 Bears on Sunday, in what could be described as a "must-win game" for Chicago's playoff chances but also a "must-lose" for Jacksonville, who are now in position to get the No. 1 pick of the 20121 Draft (presumably, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence). The Bears are favored by 7 1/2-points and the over/under is 47.'Jumping' to the 'top of the class,' the defending champion KC Chiefs are 13-1 and seem like a lock' to clinch the AFC's No. 1 when they host the 4-10 Falcons. KC has won NINE in a row but tends to play everyone down to the wire. They're the FIRST team in NFL history to win six straight one-score games, blowing big leads in some of them, rallying in others and going toe-to-toe in the rest. The Chiefs are just 7-7 ATS on the season and are favored by 10 1/2-points and the over/under is 53 1/2. Over in the NFC, 11-3 Green Bay has already clinched the NFC North title and can guarantee itself the NFC's No. 1 seed if it beats the 10-4 Titans and the LA Rams beat or tie 10-4 Seattle. However, Tennessee has plenty at stake as well, as the Titans can clinch a second straight AFC playoff berth with a victory. Tennessee also can earn a spot in the postseason with a loss by either Baltimore or Miami. The Titans can clinch their first AFC South title since 2008 if Indianapolis loses to Pittsburgh earlier Sunday and they beat Green Bay. The Tennessee/Green Bay is NBC's SNF contest at 8:20 ET. Green Bay is favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 54 1/2. Week 16 is jam-packed with plenty of other great matchups, with teams vying for playoff spots and positioning. I think it best to just recap the happenings in Tuesday's Notes, when all the 'dust has settled,'By the way, I am serving up my ONE & ONLY 10* NFL Game of the Year on Sunday.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Dec 25

Friday, Dec 25, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."2020-21 Bowl season: The "no drama" bowl season continued on Thursday in the New Mexico Bowl, which was moved from Albuquerque to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico. Hawaii turned a pair of first-quarter interceptions into TDs and took a 21-0 lead at the half. QB Chevan Cordeiro's had three first-half TD passes, one set up by his 52-yard run. RB Calvin Turner Jr. caught a 75-yard TD pass and when Houston had closed to 21-14, returned a kickoff 92 yards for a TD  "All the money" came in on Hawaii (Houston closed as a 7-point favorite, after opening as a 12-point choice) and it was 'right.' The final score was 28-14 (no scoring in the 4th quarter). Favorites are now 4-2 SU & ATS to open the bowl season. The first three bowl games averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs were 2-1, not an expected 3-0. However, Wednesday's two bowl games combined for just 76 points, as both stayed under and Thursday's final score of 42 was well below the closing total of 60. Two overs and four unders, so far. Friday's bowl game was previewed in Thursday Notes, if interested. The current line has Buffalo up to 5 or 5 1/2-point favorites (over/under is 54 1/2).It's a Christmas Day NFL game (4:30 ET on FOX/NFL Network) between the 6-8 Vikings and the 10-4 Saints in New Orleans. The Saints have lost two in a row (following a NINE-game winning streak) and are now ONE game behind 11-3 Green Bay. The Saints are tied with the 10-4 Seahawks but own the tiebreaker, currently allowing them to hold on to the No. 2 seed. The 6-8 Vikings are not officially eliminated from postseason play just yet but the team's playoff hopes are clearly on 'life support.' New Orleans is favored  by seven points and the over/under is 51. Saturday's bowls will be covered in a "special" Saturday edition of Ness Notes, along with a preview of Saturday and Sunday's NFL Week 16 gamesCBB: The NBA has 'owned' Christmas Day in recent years but the Big Ten has decided in this 'Year of COVID' to 'crash the party.' In fact, COVID sparked the move. Typically, the NCAA upholds a rule requiring three days off around Christmas but the organization waived the regulation as various teams remain on campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Big Ten hoops will play FOUR Christmas games that feature four ranked teams. The first game features a top-25 showdown between No. 9  Wisconsin (7-1) and No. 12 Michigan St (6-1) at East Lansing at 12:30 ET. The lone game without a ranked opponent in this Christmas 'grand slam' is 5-2 Maryland visiting West Lafayette to take on 6-3 Purdue. No. 19 Michigan (6-0) travels to Lincoln to play 4-4 Nebraska at 6:00 ET and No. 4 Iowa (7-1) visits Williams Arena in Minneapolis to take on 7-1 Minnesota. Wisconsin opened a small road favorite but early movement has Michigan as a two-point choice. Higher ranked teams are 13-7 SU but just 9-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams. In the two games featuring ranked teams vs unranked opponents, Michigan is an eight-point favorite at Nebraska and Iowa a 6 1/2-point road choice at Minnesota. Ranked teams are 116-17 (.872) SU but a more modest 71-60-2 (54.2%) ATS vs unranked opponents Y-T-D.It's its Christmas, it MUST be the NBA. The ESPN/ABC family has a Christmas Day Extravaganza with FIVE games, beginning at 12 noon ET with New Orleans at Miami and concluding with the Clippers visiting Denver at 10:30 ET to play the Nuggets. The Heat surprised almost all (surely Milwaukee fans!) by making it to the NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Lakers. However, the Heat were the NBA's best ATS team in last year's "bubble-based" playoffs, going 16-5 ATS. Miami is favored by 3 1/2-points. Speaking of Milwaukee, the Bucks are up next (2:30 ET), when they host Golden St. Milwaukee overcame a 17-point deficit entering the 4th quarter in their season-opener at Boston on Wednesday, only to lose 122-21, when Giannis short-armed a free-throw attempt that would have sent the game into OT. As for Golden St, I guess the best way to put it is, "these are not your father's Warriors." Milwaukee is favored by 10 1/2-points. The Kevin Durant-led Nets (Kyrie would say the Irving-led Nets) are in Boston to face the Celtics, where Brooklyn is a three-point road favorite. It's the second straight game in which Boston has been a home dog. It didn't turn out well for Milwaukee. Will Brooklyn fare better? The Lakers opened their title defense Tuesday night and lost at Staples Center to co-tenants, the LA Clippers. The Lakers celebrated their NBA title with a ring ceremony (often a jinx as I pointed in taking AND winning with the Clippers!), then trailed by as many as 22 points early on against the Clippers before rallying but eventually losing 116-109. As for the Mavs, Luka Doncic led the Mavericks to the playoffs last season to end the franchise's three-season absence but Dallas lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The Mavs opened their season Wednesday night but lost 106-102 to the Suns, who picked right up where they left off from last year's Orlando 'bubble' (Suns were 8-0 SU & ATS). LA is favored by 6 1/2-points.The  5-game game Extravaganza finally concludes with the Clippers visiting the 'Mile High City" to take on the Nuggets. Most should remember (surely the Clippers and Nuggets do) LA's stunning collapse in their second-round exit in last season's playoffs. The Clippers led the series 3-1 and had a double-digit lead in the second half of Game 5 but the Nuggets came back to win, and then rallied again in Game 6, before finishing the upset in Game 7. Knee-jerk says take the Clippers but they are off a BIG win over the Lakers, while the Nuggets are off a wild home OT 124-122 loss to the Kings in their season-opener. This ISN'T an easy business. The Clippers are a three-point road favorite.See you Saturday for that "special" edition of Ness Notes (Bowls and NFL, only). I'll catch up with CBB and the NBA on Monday.Merry Christmas...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Dec 24

Thursday, Dec 24, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." Bowl season continues: The "no drama" bowl season continued on Wednesday, as Georgia Southern took a 21-3 lead at the half over La Tech in the New Orleans Bowl, on its way to a 38-3 win. Eagles QB Shai Werts, who missed the final two regular-season games with a shoulder injury, ran for three TDs and threw for another. Louisiana Tech's bowl winning streak of six games was the longest active mark in the country but it came to a crashing halt! In the Montgomery Bowl, Memphis took an 18-0 halftime lead over FAU and went on to post a 25-10 victory. Brady White, a sixth-year senior who is the most productive passer in Memphis history, completed 22 of 34 for 284 yards and three TDs. The win was the first for Memphis since a double-overtime victory over BYU in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl. Memphis had been on a 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS run in its last eight conference championship or bowl games, so the win was 'sweet.' For FAU,  the result was 'sour,' as the Owls entered on a 6-0 SU & ATS run in conference championship or bowl games. Favorites are now 4-1 SU & ATS to open the bowl season. The first three bowl games averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs were 2-1, not an expected 3-0. However, Wednesday's two bowl games combined for just 76 points, as both stayed under (two overs and three unders through five bowls). Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bowls: The 2020 New Mexico Bowl will be played Christmas Eve (3:30 ET on ESPN) in Frisco, Tx (near Dallas). The game is normally played in Albuquerque, NM but was relocated from New Mexico due to that state's health guidelines regarding intercollegiate athletics and travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Heard that before? The Rainbow Warriors know all about appearing in bowl games the last two decades, with 11 appearances in that stretch. However, only ONE bowl appearance came in the 48 contiguous states, when a 12-0 Hawaii team played in and lost the 2008 Sugar Bowl (2007 season) 41-10 to Georgia (remember Colt Brennan?). Todd Graham is in his first season at Hawaii but has the Rainbow Warriors in their FOURTH bowl in the last five seasons. It's been a bumpy ride for teams all across college football but the Houston program is right up among the schools the virus has affected most. The Cougars had EIGHT games postponed, canceled or rescheduled due to COVID-19 issues. Between Nov 14 and this bowl game, Houston has played just one game, a 30-27 loss to Memphis on Dec 12. The Cougars, who despite an overall 3-4 record (3-3 American Athletic Conference), are headed to their SEVENTH bowl in the last eight seasons but the first under second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen. Houston is favored by 8 1/2-points and the over/under is 59 1/2.7-2 Marshall and 6-1 Buffalo have experienced similar football seasons. Marshall opened 7-0 and was ranked 15th in the AP poll when it lost 20-0 at home to Rice on Dec 5 as a 24 1/2-point favorite. The Thundering Herd then lost at home again in the C-USA championship game on Dec 18, 22-13 to UAB. Buffalo entered the AP top-25 for the first time in school history (at No. 23) on Dec 13 with a 6-0 record. However, the Bulls (-12.5) were upset in the MAC championship at Ford Field on Dec 18, 38-28. Both schools will be looking to amends when they meet in the Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Al) at 2:30 ET on ESPN. Individually, Marshall's freshman QB Grant Wells and Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson, each have something to prove as well. Wells threw FIVE interceptions in the shutout loss against Rice and then completed just 8 of 24 pass attempts in the Dec 18 loss to UAB. As for Patterson, after 301- and 409-yard games in consecutive weeks against Bowling Green and Kent State put him on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy race, he was held to 47 yards on 18 carries against Ball State. He injured his right knee and was limited during the second half but is expected to play. Buffalo is favored by five points and the over/under is 54. The NBA season opened Tuesday with a doubleheader and last night, the remaining 26 teams played 13 games. TNT could NOT have asked for a better contest, as the Celtics beat the Bucks 122-121. Boston dominated the first three quarters and entered the fourth quarter with a 101-84 lead. However, the Bucks led 120-119 in the game's final second when Jayson Tatum banked-in a three-pointer with .4 seconds left for 122-120 Boston lead. Giannis was fouled on an alley-oop try on the inbounds pass but after making the first free-throw, he short-armed the second, allowing the Celtics to win 122-121. ESPN televised a late game in which the Suns, who were a league-best 8-0 SU & ATS in the Orlando "bubble," beat Doncic and Mavs 106-102. A few other notable items were the Heat, who lost to the Lakers in six games in last season's Finals, losing their season-opener 113-107 at Orlando. Russell Westbrook served up a triple-double (21-11-15) in his Wizards debut but Washington lost 113-107 at Philly. The WORST news came out of Houston, where the Thunder/Rockets game was postponed. More troubling was the news that James Harden has been fined $50,000 by the NBA and ruled "unavailable" for Wednesday's game due to a violation of the league's COVID-19 protocols after the league reviewed video of him socializing mask-less at a club earlier this week. The season is only two days old!! No games on Thursday but the NBA (on ESPN/ABC) has a Christmas Day Extravaganza with FIVE games, beginning at 12 noon ET with New Orleans at Miami and concludes with the Clippers visiting Denver at 10:30 ET to play the Nuggets, who they blew a 3-1 lead to in last season's playoffs.Catching up with college hoops: Wednesday featured two games between ranked teams, No. 11 Rutgers (6-0) at No. 23 Ohio State (6-1) and No. 13 Creighton (6-2) at home vs No. 22 Xavier (8-0). Ohio State rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit and finally took the lead at 63-61, with 4:25 remaining. The Buckeyes pulled away for an 80-68 win, as THREE players had career highs in points; Duane Washington Jr. (22), E.J. Liddell (21) and Kyle Young (17). It was Rutgers' first loss. Although Creighton was the higher ranked team, Xavier invaded Omaha as the unbeaten one. Xavier took an early 17-5 lead but the Musketeers didn't score over the final 5:05 of the first half, as the Bluejays took a 36-34 edge into halftime. Creighton moved to 7-2 with the 66-61 win but didn't cover. Higher ranked teams are now 13-7 SU but just 9-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams.Three ranked teams, No. 5 Villanova, No. 8 Tennessee and No. 18 Illinois faced unranked opponents and all three won, although Tennessee didn't cover as a HUGE favorite. Most notable among the three was the Fighting Illini falling behind the Nittany Lions at Penn St 19-4 in the first five minutes but recovering to enter the half tied at 43-all. With the score 54-54 at the 13:38 mark, Illinois took complete control of the game to win, 98-81. Illinois recorded its highest point total in a Big Ten game since knocking off Northwestern 99-57 on March 8, 1995. Ranked teams checked in at 101-16 (.863) SU and 63-52-2 (54.8%) vs unranked teams at the start of the week. They have gone an impressive 15-1 SU from Monday-Wednesday but just 8-8 ATS. Doing the math, ranked teams are 116-17 (.872) SU but a more modest 71-60-2 (54.2%) ATS vs unranked opponents. No games in college hoops on Thursday but the Big Ten serves up a four-game 'Grand Slam' of contests on Christmas Day (see Friday's Notes). Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 23

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The bowl season opened Monday afternoon and after three games, we haven't seen much drama. Appalachian State led North Texas 35-14 at the half on its way to a 56-28 rout in the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl. Cam Peoples scored five TDs and rushed for a school-record 317 yards as his five rushing TDs tied a school record and he also matched a bowl record for ANY team for the number of rushing TDs. The 9-3 Mountaineers have now won ALL six bowls since joining the FBS. It was the most points they've ever scored in six all-time bowl appearances.Two more bowls followed on Tuesday, with Nevada jumping out to a 26-7 halftime lead over Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, on its way to a 38-27 win. Nevada QB Carson Strong (MWC Offensive Player of the Year) threw five TD passes (had 271 passing yards and no interceptions in 28 attempts), while the Wolf Pack's defense corralled EIGHT sacks and came up with THREE interceptions. BYU jumped out to a 21-0 1st quarter lead (led 35-10 at the half) in its 49-23 victory over UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl. QB Zach Wilson threw for three TDs and added two more on the ground, all by halftime! He went on to complete 26 of 34 passes for a Boca Raton Bowl-record 425 yards, as the Cougars amassed 434 of their 655 total yards before intermission. Appalachian St and BYU were favorites, while Nevada was a one-point dog. I'll keep tabs on how favorites do throughout the bowl season (2-1 SU & ATS start). The first three bowl games have averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs are 2-1, not an expected 3-0.Wednesday's bowl games feature 5-4 La Tech vs 7-5 Georgia Sothern in the New Orleans Bowl (3:00 ET) and 7-3 Memphis vs 5-3 FAU in the Montgomery Bowl (7:00 ET). Both games are carried by ESPN. La Tech's SIX-game bowl winning streak is the longest active mark for ANY team in the country but Georgia Southern is in its FOURTH bowl since moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision in 2014. The Eagles won postseason games in 2015 and 2018 before falling last year 23-16 to Liberty in the Cure Bowl. Both teams have injuries at the QB position and while Georgia Southern is averaging 262.4 YPG on the ground, La Tech averages just 97.7. Is that the deciding stat? We'll see. Georgia Southern is favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 48 1/2.Memphis was 12-1 when it made a New Year's Six bowl appearance in last year's Cotton Bowl. The Tigers 'hung around' but eventually lost 53-39 to Penn St. This Montgomery Bowl appearance vs FAU may feel like a 'step down' for Memphis but the Tigers just may feel as if they have something to prove, as a check of the record book reveals that Memphis is on a 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS run in its last eight conference championship or bowl games. Meanwhile, FAU is 6-0 SU & ATS in similar contests. Memphis is a nine-point favorite and the over/under is 52 1/2.NBA: After the shortest offseason in league history, the 2020-21 NBA season tipped off with Brooklyn routing Golden St 125-99 and the Clippers getting the better of the Lakers 116-109 in the 'Battle 4 LA.' Kevin Durant finished with 22 points in 25 minutes of his first official game since rupturing his Achilles tendon while playing for Golden State in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, as the Nets emphatically kicked off the Steve Nash era with a blowout win. Out West at Staples Center, the Clippers stayed in the locker room while the Lakers got their championship rings, then gave Tyronn Lue a "W" in his debut as the Clippers' head coach. Paul George scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half, while Kawhi Leonard added 26 points. It's a HUGE schedule in Wednesday night's NBA (13 games), as all teams will be off on Christmas Eve. TNT gets the Bucks/Celtics game from TD Garden (7:35 ET) and ESPN, after covering two bowl games, will pick up the Mavs at the Suns (10:35 ET tip). Milwaukee is favored by four points, while the Suns are a one-point choice over the Mavs.Catching up with college hoops: There were just three top-25 matchups from Friday through Sunday with the higher ranked team going 2-1 SU and ATS (then-No. 13 Illinois lost at then-No. 19 Rutgers on Sunday). In 12 games between ranked and unranked opponents, the ranked teams went 9-3 SU but just 4-8 ATS, including 0-4 ATS on Sunday. The Y-T-D numbers through Sunday looked like this. Higher ranked teams were 12-6 SU but just 9-9 ATS against lower-ranked teams. Ranked teams checked in at 101-16 (.863) SU and 63-52-2 (54.8%) vs unranked teams.The new AP poll was released on Monday and 4-0 Gonzaga stayed No. 1 (61 of 64 1st-place votes) and 5-0 Baylor (three votes) stayed No. 2. Iowa's 99-88 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday only dropped the 6-1 Hawkeyes one spot, while 7-1 Kansas moved up from No. 5 to No. 3. 7-1 Villanova came in at No. 5. 5-0 Houston, 7-1 West Va, 4-0 Tennessee, 6-1 Wisconsin and 7-1 Texas, rounded out the top-10. Is "Shaka Ball' finally working in Austin? Texas entered the top-10 for the first time since the 2014-15 season (pre-Shaka). Notable highlights/lowlights from the weekend were Rutgers  moving to 6-0 with a three-point home win over Illinois, as the Scarlet Knights are 'knocking on the door' of the top-10 at No. 11 (up from No. 19). Michigan St fell from No. 4 to No. 12  with an ugly 79-65 loss to Northwestern and preseason No. 8 Illinois, which had risen to No. 5, fell to just 5-3 on the season with a Sunday loss at Rutgers (the Illini are 'hanging in' at No. 18).There is just ONE bowl game on Thursday and NO games in either CBB or the NBA. That will allow me to 'catch up' with college hoops happenings from Mon-Wed and to preview the bowl weekend in Thursday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 22

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF capped NFL Week 15 with a shocker in Cincinnati. The Bengals entered on a FIVE-game losing streak (sat 2-10-1 on the season) but as a 14 1/2-point home dog, upset the Steelers 27-17. The Steelers' 11-0 start is officially a "thing of the past," as Pittsburgh was able to generate only 244 yards (12 FDs). The Bengals had just 230 yards (13 FDs), yet the game went over the low total of 40 1/2. (I had the over and it feels REALLY good to 'steal' one!). Before commenting on some Week 15 happenings, let's get to the weekly numbers. Home teams finished 8-8 SU and ATS for the week, with home dogs going 4-4 SU but 5-3 ATS. Week 15 games averaged 51.9 PPG but unlike in Week 14 when games averaged 48.0 PPG but just FIVE games went over the total, 10 games went over and just six stayed under. Y-T-D numbers available with Week 16's preview in Friday's notes.I like to start at the bottom and let's hear it for the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! Much like in last night's game, the Jets/Rams contest had little in the way of offense (Jets gained 289 yards and the Rams 303) but when a team breaks a franchise-record 13-game losing streak, who cares about how many yards the team gained. The 23-20 win ends any worries the Jets would match the 0-16 seasons of the Lions and Browns. The bad news for the Jets came in that the win may cost them the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft (expected to be Clemson's Trevor Lawrence). The Jags now own the NFL's longest active losing streak, as their 40-14 loss at Baltimore gives them 13 straight losses since the team's home-opening 27-20 win over the Colts. It also currently has them in line for the No. 1 pick. No one knows for sure if 'playing for the No. 1 pick' will play ANY part of how the Jags and Jets play these last two weeks. QAnon just may have an opinion on that!Staying in the AFC, Pittsburgh's loss drops them to 11-3, two games back of the 13-1 Chiefs (AFC West leader) and into a tie with the 11-3 Bills (AFC East leader). However, Buffalo's head-to-head win over Pittsburgh currently gives the Bills the No. 3 seed. The No. 4 seed belongs to AFC South leader 10-4 Tennessee, which owns the tiebreaker over the 10-4 Colts. The Colts (No. 6 seed) lose a tiebreaker to the 10-4 Browns for the No. 5 seed, while the 9-5 Dolphins own the tiebreaker over the 9-5 Ravens for the No. 7seed, and final playoff spot. The 7-7 Raiders are still not officially 'dead' but they are clearly on 'life-support.'Over in the NFC, the Packers' unimpressive 24-16 Saturday win over the Panthers moves them to 11-3 and with the Saints losing 32-29 to the Chiefs, New Orleans' second straight loss after NINE straight wins, moves Green Bay (NFC North leader) ONE game ahead of both the 10-4 Saints (NFC South leader) and 10-4 Seahawks (NFC West leader) for the No. 1 seed. The Saints own the tiebreaker over the Seahawks for the No. 2 seed and 6-8 Washington gets the No. 4 seed by virtue of being the "best team" in the NFC's "worst division." The 9-5 Rams own the tiebreaker and own the No. 5 seed over the 9-5 Bucs (No. 6 seed). The 8-6 Cardinals are the No. 7 seed (final playoff spot), although the 7-7 Bears and 6-8 Vikings are still 'alive.' Naturally, the 5-9 Cowboys and Giants are out of the wild card hunt but implausibly, they are still alive for the NFC's No. 4 seed, which goes to the winner of the NFC 'Least.' Can't make this stuff up. Again, NFL Week 16 preview set for Friday Notes.The bowl season opened Monday afternoon with Appalachian State (-21.5) overwhelming North Texas 56-28  to win the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl. Cam Peoples scored five TDs and rushed for a school-record 317 yards as his five rushing TDs tied a school record and he also matched a bowl record for ANY team for the number of rushing TDs. The 9-3 Mountaineers have now won ALL six bowls since joining the FBS. It was the most points they've ever scored in six all-time bowl appearances, though they've posted more than 30 points in each of those outings. Not a bad program located in Boone, NC. Two more bowls go Tuesday, as 6-5 Tulane meets 6-2 Nevada in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (3:30 ET on ESPN) and 6-3 UCF and 10-1 BYU (ranked in the AP) meet in the Boca Raton Bowl (7:00 ET on ESPN). Tulane and Nevada meet for just the second time, with the only meeting between the schools coming back in 1992 at the Superdome in New Orleans with Tulane winning 34-17. Tulane is favored by 1 1/2-points and the over/under is 56 1/2. UCF and BYU both have "something to prove" in tonight's bowl game and despite BYU's outstanding defense (14.6 PPG allowed ranks 3rd), it's hard not seeing this game as anything other than a "shootout!" The UCF offense averages 44.3 PPG (5th) on 585.6 YPG (5th), while BYU's offense is averaging 43.0 PPG (6th) on 512.2 YPG (8th). BYU is favored by six points and the over/under is 76 1/2. I'll have much more on the college bowl season in Wednesday's and Thursday Notes plus will catch up with Monday's and Tuesday's CBB news, as well.I'll conclude Tuesday's Notes with the opening of the 2020-21 NBA season. After the shortest offseason in NBA history, TNT will televise an Opening Night doubleheader. Up first is the Golden St Warriors visiting Barclays Center to take on the Brooklyn Nets (7:05 ET). Golden State struggled in the 2019-20 season and finished with a league-worst 15-50 record, after appearing in FIVE consecutive NBA Finals. The Warriors will square off with former teammate and current Net, Kevin Durant. Durant is playing his first regular-season game since rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, while playing for the Warriors. In the nightcap, the Lakers will open defense of their NBA title by hosting the Clippers (10:05 ET). Of course, both teams call Staples Center home. Most think that both the Clippers and Lakers improved their respective teams during the short offseason (we'll see). The Nets are favored by 7 1/2 points and the Lakers are favored by three points.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Dec 21

Monday, Dec 21, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: NFL Week 15 concludes with the Steelers looking to break a two-game losing streak (after an 11-0 start) with a MNF contest in Cincinnati (8:15 ET on ESPN) against the 2-10-1 Bengals. My NFL Week 15 recap will be featured in Tuesday's Notes but with the KC Chiefs moving to 13-1 with a win at New Orleans on Sunday and the Buffalo Bills moving to 11-3 with a Saturday win at Denver, the Steelers BADLY need a win here to move to 12-2. The Bengals should play "the perfect foil" but the Steelers can make a quick call to the Rams and ask how their game with the 0-13 Jets went on Sunday? Spoiler Alert, the Jets (+17) won 23-20 at the Rams, who fell out of first-place in the NFC West. The Bengals have scored just nine, seven and seven points in the three games since rookie QB Joe Burrow was lost for the season but also note that the Steelers have averaged only 18.0 PPG over their last three games, a 19-14 win over the COVID-ravaged Ravens plus back-to-back losses to Washington and Buffalo. Pittsburgh is favored by 14 1/2-points and the over/under is 40 1/2.Before getting to college football, here's a quick check on college hoops from Friday through Sunday. There were three matchups over the weekend that featured games between ranked teams. No. 1 Gonzaga beat No. 3 Iowa 99-88 and No. 12 Wisconsin beat No. 23 Louisville 85-48 on Saturday (both higher ranked teams covered). However, No. 13 Illinois lost 91-88 at No. 19 Rutgers on Sunday as a small road favorite. Then again, was it really an upset. The victory keeps the Scarlet Knights unbeaten so far this season at 6-0 and the team is now 23-2 SU since the start of last season at the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center). Higher ranked teams are now 12-6 SU but just 9-9 ATS on the season in ranked vs ranked contests. As for ranked teams playing unranked opponents, they went 9-3 SU but just 4-8 ATS Fri-Sun. No. 18 San Diego St lost its first game of the season on Friday (72-62 at home to BYU) and No. 15 Florida St lost its first game this season 86-74 at home to UCF on Saturday. This deserves a comment, as the Seminoles saw their 27-game home winning streak snapped, as well as a 41-game home winning streak at home against a non-conference opponent. No. 4 Michigan St was the third ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent this weekend when the Spartans lost 79-65 at Northwestern. Ranked teams are now 101-16 (.863) SU but a more modest 63-52-2 (54.8%) ATS against unranked opponents Y-T-D. There are no Monday matchups  between ranked opponents but FIVE ranked teams will host unranked foes, including No. 1 Gonzaga (4-0) at home vs Northwestern St and No. 2 Baylor (5-0) at home vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Both Northwestern St and Arkansas St come in with identical 1-7 records Should we issue an "Upset Alert?"CFB Weekend Recap: The AP released its final regular season poll about an hour before the CFP rankings came out and I'll start with that, as I've used the AP rankings all season-long in charting matchups between ranked teams and ones between ranked and unranked opponents. 11-0 Alabama remained an unanimous No. 1 for the FIFTH straight week, followed by 10-1 Clemson (AP's preseason No. 1) moving up to No. 2 (from No. 4) after impressively beating then-No.2 Notre Dame 34-10 (Fighting Irish lost for the first time this season to fall to 10-1). Ohio St remained at No. 3, after a less-than-impressive 22-10 win over Northwestern, giving the Buckeyes a 6-0 record (lost three games to COVID issues). 8-1 Texas A&M was No. 5, 9-0 Cincinnati was 6th, 6-1 Indiana 7th, 8-2 Oklahoma 8th, 11-0 Coastal at 9th (had its game with 9-1 ULL canceled due to COVID) and 8-3 Florida completed the top-10. The biggest falls were USC falling from No. 13 to No. 21 with a home loss to Oregon and Iowa State falling from No. 8 to No. 12 after losing to Oklahoma. No. 24 Buffalo dropped out of the poll by virtue of its 38-28 loss to Ball St, while Oregon (AP's preseason No. 9) got back in the poll at No. 25.Higher ranked teams entered the weekend 23-7 (.767) SU and 21-9 (70.0%) ATS in matchups of ranked opponents. However, in the five meetings between ranked opponents this weekend (all were conference championship games), the higher ranked teams went 3-2 SU (No. 2 Notre Dame lost to No. Clemson and No. Iowa St lost to No. 12 Oklahoma) but all FIVE failed to cover (0-5 ATS)! That makes the Y-T-D numbers sit at 26-9 (.743) SU and 21-14 (60.0%) ATS. Only two games between ranked and unranked foes got played (many cancelations), with No. 5 Texas A&M winning and covering at Tennessee and No. 13 USC losing at home to Oregon. The Y-T-D numbers stand at 135-33 (.804) SU and 84-82-2 (50.6%) ATS in favor of the ranked teams. That ATS number looks 'sad' but don't forget that through Oct 31 ranked teams were just 36-53-1 (40.4%) ATS against unranked opponents.CFP Rankings: Not sure how anyone could have reasonably been surprised as to how the final top-four came out. There was NO suspense regarding 11-0 Alabama being ranked No,. 1 (23rd time in CFP history, more than all other schools combined!) and Clemson coming in at No. 2 after it POUNDED Notre Dame. The committee had LONG ago made it clear that Ohio St was going to be a 'Final Four' team if the Buckeyes had played TWO games, so a 6-0 Ohio St team which had just won the Big Ten championship game was SURELY not going to fall out of the top-four. If there was ANY suspense to be had, it came over which school got the No. 4 spot, 10-1 Notre Dame or 8-1 Texas A&M? Jimbo Fisher can whine all he wants about going 8-1 in the SEC but his team was routed by Alabama (52-24) and didn't have a win over a top-notch team all season. If Fisher thinks a 31-20 win over Auburn counts, he has GOT to be kidding! The 6-4 Tigers lost 27-6 to Georgia and 42-13 Alabama plus for good measure, lost 30-22 at a South Carolina team that finished 2-8! Notre Dame did get the No. 4 spot and SHOULD have.My biggest takeaway from the rankings was that a two-loss Oklahoma team (No. 6) and a three-loss Florida team (No. 7) both came in ahead of 9-0 Cincinnati. The Bearcats finished in the top-20 in both scoring D (16.0 PPG ranked 8th) and total D (314.4 YPG ranked 13th) plus also finished 15th in scoring (15th) on 467.2 YPG (19th). The ONLY other school to accomplish that feat in 2020 is Clemson, which is headed to the CFP for a SIXTH straight year and has gone 79-6 (.929 ) SU since 2015. The CLEAR message that was sent is; "Group of Five schools need NOT apply" for a CFP 'Final Four' berth. The 2020 bowl season doesn't wait for anyone, as it kicks off today with 8-3 Appalachian St taking on 4-5 North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl from Conway, SC. ESPN airs it a 2:30 ET with the Mountaineers favored by 21 points (over/under is 68).There is so much on my plate right now with the NBA tipping off Tuesday, that I'll have much more on the bowls in Wednesday's and Thursday's Notes. With NFL Week 16 not beginning until Christmas, I'll have my NFL preview on Friday. That said, my closing thought is an 'ugly' reminder of how little respect given our military. I never served but my father fought in the Battle of the Bulge, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze star. By virtue of being a direct descendant (I've ridden my dad's coattails often), I'm an associate member of his Purple Heart Chapter here in Florida. I remain close with a number of the 'real' members and often attend meetings and conventions. Riddle me this. How is it possible  the "powers that be" could not find (rather, DEMAND) a bowl berth for a 9-2 Army team?I don't want to paraphrase, so I'll quote directly from an article written by ESPN reporter Adam Rittenberg. Here's the 'SAD' tale.The Black Knights had posted a 9-2 record, capped by Saturday's victory over Air Force that secured them the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Army had an agreement to play in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl against a Pac-12 opponent. By mid-afternoon Sunday, Army thought it would have the matchup secured. "OK, we should know something by 2:30,' but 2:30 came and went. 'We should know something by 3 o'clock,' but 3 o'clock came and went," head coach Jeff Monken told ESPN on Sunday night. "And then we started getting word that we were getting shut out." After a surge of Pac-12 teams opted out of bowl season and other teams, according to Monken, threatened to opt out if paired against Army, the Independence Bowl canceled its game and the Black Knights were left without a postseason destination. Monken and Army administrators informed the team following dinner at a 6:15 p.m. ET meeting. "We had guys in tears," Monken said. "We pulled off the biggest wins of these seniors' career, they just won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy back, that's going to be their legacy, and they're looking forward to playing in a bowl game one time together, before they go off in the United States Army, and we're sitting here telling them, 'Sorry, guys, you can't play.'"Thanks for your service!"Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Dec 18

Friday, Dec 18, 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."Thursday Night NFL: Las Vegas lost starting QB Derek Carr to a left groin injury suffered on a scramble late in the first quarter but Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, was outstanding in his Raiders' debut. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards (one TD / one INT) plus ran for a game-high 88 yards and a TD on nine carries. However, the Raiders' offense was NOT the problem last night. In the end, the Las Vegas D could not stop LA rookie QB Justin Herbert. Herbert barely stretched the ball into the end zone on a third-and-goal dive off left tackle with 1:29 remaining in overtime as the visiting Chargers won 30-27. Las Vegas lost for the FOURTH time in its last five games and its postseason hopes have all but 'expired.' The LA win snapped a NINE-game division losing streak with their second consecutive victory. Just as notable, Herbert (22 of 32 for 314 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs) tied the NFL rookie record for TD passes in a season. With two games remaining in 2020 he has 27, tying him with the Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield, who set the mark in 2018. That's not all. His 314-yard effort was his SEVENTH 300-yard game (or more), setting a rookie record. Philip Rivers is having a good year with the 9-4 Colts but it would be hard to argue against the premise that the Chargers have found a 'franchise' QB!CBB: We finally got a ranked vs ranked matchup on Thursday, as No. 5 Kansas visited Lubbock to take on No. 14 Texas Tech. It was the Big 12 opener for both schools, the earliest Big 12 opener for either team since the conference formed 24 years ago. Kansas led 29-26 at halftime but Texas Tech seemed to have control midway through the second half when it extended the lead to 46-39. However, the Jayhawks responded with a 10-0 surge and regained the lead with 7:18 remaining. The rest of the game went back-and-forth, until Kansas went up by a point with 13 seconds left. Jalen Wilson blocked a shot on the other end of the floor right before time expired to lift the Jayhawks to a 58-57 victory. There are no top-25 matchups on Friday, with the higher ranked team checking in at 10-5 SU but just 7-8 ATS on the season. There was just one Thursday game featuring ranked vs unranked opponents, as No. 9 Creighton won 94-76 at St John's. The Bluejays led throughout but the Red Storm pulled to within 52-50 with 14:25 left. However, Creighton then went on a 22-4 run! Ranked teams are 92-13 (.876) SU but a more modest 59-44-2 (57.3%) ATS against unranked opponents Y-T-D.There are three games between ranked and unranked ones on Friday with two top-10 teams in action. No. 8 West Va (6-1) is a top-10 team for the first time since January of 2018 and is home to 1-3 Iowa St plus No. 10 Tennessee (3-0) hosts 0-7 Tenn Tech. West Va is favored by 15 1/2-points and Tennessee by 28 1/2-points. Two undefeated top-25 teams were set to host games as well. Missouri, which entered the rankings for the first time this past Monday at No. 16, was scheduled to host Prairie View A&M but it's been canceled. No. 18 San Diego St (5-0) hosts a dangerous 6-2 BYU team. Remember, the Aztecs opened last season 26-0. The Aztecs have won the teams' last four meetings, including a road win last November. San Diego St is favored by 7 1/2-points.CFB's Championship Game weekend: COVID  strikes again! Coastal Carolina was coming off a 5-7 season but the Chanticleers are the lone FBS team to win 11 games so far in 2020 (11-0) and became the first SBC school to crack the AP top-10 this past Sunday at No. 9. Coastal was ranked No. 12 in the CFP rankings and with a win in the SBC title, had a reasonable chance to become the Group of 5's highest ranked IF, Tulsa could win at No. 9 Cincinnati (8-0) in the AAC title game. However, Saturday’s title game between Coastal Carolina and No. 19 Louisiana (9-1) has been canceled because an entire position group at Coastal Carolina had been exposed to a teammate who tested positive for COVID-19 and would be unable to play the game. I guess it's still possible a Cincy home loss to Tulsa would allow Coastal to leapfrog the Bearcats but that's less likely than if the Chanticleers had beaten ULL. It's also a blow to ULL, which beat now-No. 6 Iowa State to begin the season with its only loss coming in a 30-27 defeat to Coastal back on Oct 14. It becomes the first (and hopefully the ONLY) title game to be canceled. "Fingers crossed."There are THREE conference title games scheduled for Friday, the MAC, C-USA and the Pac-12. 5-0 Buffalo is No. 23 in the AP poll but unranked in the CFP standings and will take on 5-1 Ball State at Ford Field for the MAC title (7:30 ET). Buffalo is in the title game for the second time in three years after losing to Northern Illinois in 2018. Buffalo last won it in 2008 and Ball State’s last championship was in 1996. The Bulls are favored by 13 1/2-points. When the pandemic-delayed Pac-12 Conference football season started, Oregon (AP preseason No. 9) and USC (AP preseason No. 17) were the favorites to reach the title game. Both schools were only able to play five games but while USC went 5-0, Oregon finished 3-2, second in the Pac-12's North Division behind Washington (3-1). The Ducks were scheduled to play Washington at home on Dec 12 but a COVID-19 spike in the Huskies' program caused Washington to cancel that game. That left Oregon 'out in the cold,' with the Huskies set to play the Trojans on Friday night. However, the COVID situation in Seattle did NOT improve, so lo and behold, the Ducks will replace the Huskies in the championship game at LA's Memorial Coliseum (8:00 ET). USC is favored by three points. UAB is back in the C-USA championship game for the THIRD straight year, becoming the first C-USA program to accomplish such a feat. The Blazers won 27-25 at MTSU in 2018 and then lost last year at FAU, 49-6. UAB will again be the road team in 2020, as it travels to Huntington, West Va to take on Marshall's Thundering Herd at 7:00 ET. The Blazers are 5-3 on the season, with their 3-1 conference record being good enough to win the West. UAB lost 37-34 (2 OTs) at La Tech on Oct 31 but didn't play again until its 21-16 win at Rice on Dec 12, clinching the school's third straight division title. Marshall knows MORE than a little about Rice, as the Thundering Herd (which also saw games canceled due to COVID issues) was 7-0 when it hosted Rice on Dec 5 and shockingly lost 20-0 as a 24 1/2-point favorite. Marshall won the East with a 4-1 conference mark. Marshall has played in two previous C-USA title games, losing to Rice (there's that team again!) in 2013 but winning the following season against La Tech. Marshall is favored by points 4 1/2-points.With the cancelation of the ULL/Coastal Carolina game, that leaves SIX conference championship games on tap for Saturday, including FOUR of the Power-5 conferences. In order of start times, it's 6-1 Northwestern vs 5-0 Ohio St in the Big Ten at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and 7-2 Oklahoma vs 8-2 Iowa State in the Big 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, both kicking at 12 noon ET. In the ACC it's 9-1 Clemson and 10-0 Notre Dame set for 4:00 ET at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte and the SEC title game will feature 10-0 Alabama vs 8-2 Florida at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (8:00 ET). Wrapping up, 5-1 Boise State (-6.5) and 6-0 San Jose St meet at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas for the MWC title (4:15 ET) and note that Boise St has won all 14 lifetime meetings with San Jose St.  6-1 Tulsa will play 8-0 Cincinnati (-14.5) on its home field (Nippert Stadium, where the Bearcats have won 19 straight) at 8:00 ET for the ACC title.Power 5 championship games: The Buckeyes have had THREE of their last five games postponed due to COVID-19 issues but got a waiver to play in the championship game since it did not meet the original minimum six-game requirement to be eligible. Ohio State (No. 3 AP and No. 4 CFP) is playing for its FOURTH straight Big Ten title win and a "W" on Saturday would surely 'lock them into' a 'Final Four' spot. Ohio St is favored by 20 points. Speaking of streaks, Oklahoma has won FIVE consecutive Big 12 championships and will be eager for some revenge from its 37-30 loss at Iowa St back on Oct 3. The Cyclones are in their first-ever Big 12 title game and haven't won a football conference title since 1912, playing in the MVC. Iowa St has never won a conference title outright, having tied Nebraska back in 1912. The Sooners are favored by six points. In the ACC, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson (CFP rankings) square off in a much-anticipated rematch of Notre Dame's 47-40 double overtime win which was played back on Nov 7 in South Bend. It's hard to imagine BOTH schools won't make the 'Final Four' if Clemson wins but if Notre Dame wins, will Clemson be left out? Clemson is bidding for not only its SIXTH consecutive ACC title but also its SIXTH straight trip to the CFP as well. The Tigers are favored by 10 1/2-points. No. 1 Alabama (AP and CFP) is trying to secure a return to the College Football Playoff after missing out last season for the first time since the four-team postseason format began in 2014. The Crimson Tide may qualify even with a loss, since no other team in the SEC has fewer than two defeats. Florida likely squandered its chance to get into the playoff with a stunning setback to LSU last weekend, but the Gators are still in position to claim their first SEC title since 2008. This will be the 10th time the teams have met in the SEC championship game, with Alabama holding a 5-4 edge. However, the Crimson Tide have won the last SIX meetings against the Gators and Florida coach Dan Mullen is 0-9 in his career against Alabama's Nick Saban. Alabama is favored by 17 points.The final CFP rankings will be released Sunday at 12 noon ET and I will cover the 'fallout' in Monday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Dec 17

Thursday, Dec 17, 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."College hoops: There were again no games between ranked opponents on Wednesday but there were four games between ranked and unranked ones. No. 7 Villanova beat Butler 85-66 to move to 6-1,  No. 11 Texas (now 6-1) beat Sam Houston St, No. 20 Ohio St  lost at Purdue, falling to 5-1. No. 21 Duke, which opened No. 9 in the preseason poll, got a much-need 75-65 win at Notre Dame, after losing at home to Michigan St and Illinois (Blue Devils are just 3-2). Ranked teams were 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS on Wednesday against unranked opponents.We finally get a ranked vs ranked matchup on Thursday, as No. 5 Kansas (6-1) visits Lubbock to take on No. 14 Texas Tech (6-1). It's the Big 12 opener for both schools, the earliest Big 12 opener for either team since the conference formed 24 years ago. Kansas and Texas Tech  are two of the league's FIVE ranked teams and, because of a COVID-19 cancellation, their matchup is the only opener pitting two such teams against each other. Kansas has claimed 15 of the last 16 Big 12's regular season titles but is a small underdog here, as Texas Tech is favored by (higher ranked teams are 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS on the season). There is just one contest in which a ranked team is playing an unranked opponent. No. 9 Creighton (4-2, 0-1) blew a second-half lead Monday night to lose its Big East opener at home to Marquette 89-84, while St. John's (5-3, 0-2) suffered a 97-94 overtime setback Sunday at Georgetown. The Bluejays are favored by 7 points but note that St John's has opened 4-0 at home. Ranked teams are 91-13 (.875) SU but a more modest 58-44-2 (56.9%) ATS against unranked opponents Y-T-D.NFL Week 15 kicks off with a Thursday night game between the LA Chargers and the LV Raiders. The Chargers and Raiders are original members of the AFL, which began in 1960. The Raiders played in Oakland from 1960 through 1981, winning two Super Bowls. They moved to LA from 1982 through 1994 (won a third Super Bowl title), before returning to Oakland from 1995 through 2019. The Raiders are now based in Las Vegas. The Chargers spent their first season in LA but moved to San Diego the very next season, staying through 2016, when they moved back to LA and now share SoFi Stadium with the Rams. The Chargers do not own a Super Bowl title but the 1963 team which was 11-3 won the AFC championship game 51-10 over the Pats, was one of the best teams of the 1960s, AFL or NFL. CFL castoff Tobin Rote stepped in at QB and had one of the greatest WRs ever in Lance "Bambi" Alworth plus a RB duo that included Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln (note: Lincoln rushed for 206 yards on 13 carries, led the team with 123 yards in receiving on seven catches and completed a pass for 20 yards). For those of you too young to have seen it, you really missed something. Suggested reading: The Lost Super Bowls 1961-65 (A Fictional Scrapbook). Spoiler alert: Sid Gillman's 1963 Chargers beat George Halas' 11-1-2 Chicago Bears in that 1963 'Super Bowl.' Fast-forwarding to 2020, the 4-9 Chargers have been eliminated from the playoffs, while the 7-6 Raiders are currently on the wrong side of the playoff 'bubble' (9th, with only seven getting in). The Chargers may just have found a franchise QB in rookie Justin Herbert (66.3% for 3,467 yards with 25 TDs and 10 INTs) and Raiders QB Derek Carr is "on pace" for the best season of his career (68.2% for 3,343 yards with 24 TDs and 7 INTs / QB rating of 102.1). Las Vegas is favored by three points (over/under is 53 1/2).Week 15 also features two Saturday games, the 10-3 Bills at the 5-8 Broncos and the 4-9 Panthers at the 10-3 Packers. The Bills sit atop the AFC East (two-game lead over the 8-5 Dolphins), looking to win the division for the first time since 1995 (Buffalo is favored by six points and the over/under is 50). The 10-3 Packers currently own the NFC's No. 1 seed (own tiebreaker over the 10-3 Saints) and are favored by  8 1/2-points (over/under is 51 1/2). Moving on to some notable Sunday games, starting at the bottom (where else?) with the 0-13 Jets and 1-12 Jags, who have lost 12 straight since a Week 1 win over the Colts.The Jets have now lost a franchise-high 13 straight and are unlikely to win Sunday in LA against the Rams, who at 9-4 are in first-place in the NFC West only because they own the tiebreaker over the 9-4 Seahawks. The Rams are favored by 17 1/2-points and the over/under is 44. The Jags will be at the Ravens, who after going an NFL-best 14-2 in 2019, are currently 8-5, with the 8-5 Dolphins owning the tiebreaker which would give Miami the 7th and final playoff berth in the AFC. The Ravens are favored by 13 points and the over/under is 47 1/2. The defending champion KC Chiefs now own the league's best record at 12-1, after the Steelers have lost two straight, after an 11-0 start. The Chiefs are in New Orleans against the 10-3 Saints, who can pretty much be assured that the Packers will beat the Panthers, meaning a loss would put them ONE game back of Green Bay for the NFC's No. 1 seed with two games left PLUS the Packers owning the tiebreaker. The Chiefs own just one-game lead over the 11-2 Steelers for the AFC's No. 1 seed, with Pittsburgh playing the 2-10-1 Bengals in Cincinnati on Monday night. KC is favored by three points and the over/under is 51 1/2. Pittsburgh is favored by 13 points and the over/under is 40. SNF features the 9-4 Browns at the 5-8 NY Giants. The Browns are currently the AFC's No. 5 seed, as Cleveland looks to make the postseason for the first time since 2007. In a 'normal' year, the Giants' would be counting the days until the end of the regular season but thanks to playing in the NFC 'Least,' New York is just one game behind first-place Washington. The Browns are favored by five points (over/under is 43 1/2) but the Giants are hopeful that 6-7 Washington will lose earlier in the day to 9-4 Seattle, as Seattle is favored by five points (over/under is 44 1/2).Friday's Notes features CFB's Championship Game weekend.Good luck...Larry 

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 16

Wednesday, Dec 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."The fourth CFP rankings came out last night and not surprisingly, the top-five remained the same as it's been since the initial rankings were released back on November 24. It's Alabama's 22nd time at No. 1, which is more than DOUBLE the combined No. 1 rankings of all other schools, combined. Notre Dame and No.3 Clemson are set for a rematch in the ACC title game on Saturday, just the fourth-ever rematch in the same season between top-five schools. 5-0 Ohio St stayed at No. 4 and 7-1 Texas A&M at No. 5. The Buckeyes were No. 4 when the first rankings were released back on Nov 24 with a 4-0 record. However, while Ohio St has played just ONCE since then, it seems all but certain that the Buckeyes are a shoo-in for a 'Final Four' berth if they beat Northwestern on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game. Ohio St was NOT going to meet the required six games played to qualify for the Big Ten championship but not to worry, the Big Ten "had its back."  Much like Casablanca's Captain Renault was "Shocked, shocked that there was  gambling going on in Rick's Cafe Amercain," I needed to be "picked up off the floor" after hearing that the Big Ten "made an exception" for the Buckeyes. Who'da ever thunk it?8-2 Iowa St moved up to No. 6, as its season-opening 31-14 loss at home to ULL (as a two-TD favorite) seems to be all but forgotten by the committee, as if it NEVER happened in the 2020 season. The ESPN commentators seemed to be in agreement that Florida should have fallen further than just ONE spot (from No. 6 to No. 7) but just which teams did they think should be ranked ahead of them. Surely not No. 8 Georgia, which Florida 'spanked' 44-28 in Jacksonville, nor 8-2 Oklahoma, which has lost 38-35 at home to 4-6 Kansas St and 37-30 at Iowa St. I guess maybe they think 8-0 Cincinnati should be No. 7, where the Bearcats were before not playing playing since Nov 28 and falling to No. 9. Let's see a show of hands of people who would take Cincy at pick'em over Florida on a neutral field. The Bearcats are surely NOT worrying about sneaking into the 'Final Four' but do need to beat No. 23 Tulsa in the AAC title game. By the time the Bearcats take the field at 8:00 ET vs the Golden Hurricane, they'll know if current No. 12 Coastal Carolina has completed a 12-0 regular season by beating ULL (3:30 ET kick) in the SBC championship game. If the Chanticleers win, the Bearcats had better win as well, or they could find themselves no longer the highest ranked Group of 5 school. I'll have much more in Friday's Notes, which features a CFB weekend preview.CBB: There were no Tuesday games between ranked opponents (higher ranked teams are 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS) but there were FIVE games featuring a ranked team vs an unranked opponent.  FOUR of the five won (all covered), with No. 24 Clemson losing 66-60 at Va Tech. That was hardly much of a surprise, as although the Tigers had opened 5-0 SU & ATS, Va Tech was 4-1 (now 5-1) and had just fallen out of the top-25 (from No. 15) with a bad 75-55 home loss to Penn St. The Hokies closed as a two-point favorite.There are again no games between ranked opponents on Wednesday but there are four games between ranked and unranked ones. 5-1 Villanova was No. 3 in the preseason poll and is now No. 7 as it hosts Butler, which has played just one game. No. 11 Texas (5-1) hosts 3-4 Sam Houston St and No. 20 Ohio St (5-0) is at 4-2 Purdue. Last but not least is now No. 21 Duke (opened No. 9 in the preseason poll) visiting South Bend to face Notre Dame. Both schools are just 2-2, as Duke has already lost twice at home, to Michigan St and Illinois. Notre Dame opened 1-2 (lost to Michigan St and Ohio St), before Saturday's first-ever victory at Kentucky. Notre Dame built a 22-point halftime lead on Kentucky before hanging on for a 64-63 win, needing a defensive stop at the end. Villanova is favored by 13 points, Texas by 28 points and Duke is favored by four points. However, 5-0 and 20th-ranked Ohio St is a four-point dog at 4-2 and unranked Purdue. Ranked teams are 88-12 (.880) SU but a more modest 56-42-2 (57.1%) ATS against unranked opponents.My NFL Week 15 preview is set for Thursday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 15

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 14 recap: I think we all have a tendency to bemoan our "bad beats," while taking for granted our "lucky wins." That being said, I don't remember an NFL season (this is my 37th as a professional handicapper) with more 'fantastic finishes' and while I've had my share of 'bad beats' in 2020, I sure got a 'lucky' win last night with the Ravens. The Ravens and Browns will forever remain a great rivalry, as Art Modell moved the Browns out of Cleveland prior to the 1996 season to become the Baltimore Ravens, while the Cleveland franchise, after a three-year hiatus, returned in 1999 retaining the Browns name and history. Last night's game was a classic, with the Ravens prevailing 47-42. Baltimore entered the fourth quarter leading 34-20 but two lead changes and then a tie at 42-all with just 1:04 left, set up a bizzaro ending. I'll leave it at that, as you either watched it live or in replays via your cable outlet or device of choice. When all the 'dust' from Week 14 had settled, home teams were just 7-8 SU and 9-6 ATS (San Francisco again played a 'home game in Glendale, making it a neutral-site contest), while home dogs checked in at 3-6 and 4-5 ATS. The 16 contests averaged 48.0 PPG but just FIVE games went over the total, meaning 11 stayed under. Doing the math, home teams are 102-103-2 (.498) SU and 98-106-2 (48.0%) ATS. NFL totals have seen 98 overs, 105 unders and five pushes.We can always seem to count on the Jets for consistency and their 40-3 loss at Seattle gives them a franchise-record 13 straight losses (4-9 ATS). However, the Jets had better not slip up and win a game, because the Jags are 'right on their tail,' losing for the 12th straight time (Jags beat the Colts 27-20 in Week 1) in a 31-10 home loss to the Titans (Jags are 6-7 ATS). Speaking of ATS records, the Cowboys are an NFL-worst 3-10, while the Dolphins are an NFL-best at 10-3. Note that no other team is better than 8-5 ATS.Once upon a time the Steelers were 11-0 but a second straight loss (26-15 at Buffalo on SNF) has allowed the defending champion Chiefs to take over the NFL's best record (and No. 1 seed in the AFC) at 12-1. The Chiefs ended the 2019 regular season on a six-game winning streak and then won three postseason games on their way to winning the Super Bowl. Throw in 2020's 12-1 record and KC is a pretty 'sweet' 21-1 SU over its last 22 games. However, after going 8-0-1 ATS in 2019's finishing run of NINE straight wins, the 2020 Chiefs are just 6-7 ATS in going 12-1, the same point spread mark as the 1-12 Jags (see above). Need a more stark reminder that the NFL point spread is "the great equalizer?"The Saints entered Sunday with the NFL's longest-active winning streak (NINE in a row) but lost 24-21 at Philadelphia, as Jalen Hurts made his first NFL start. Hurts was 17 of 30 for 167 yards (one TD and zero INTs), while rushing for 106 yards on 5.9 YPC. Can you say Lamar Jackson? Is the "Wentz era" over in Philly? Coupled with Green Bay's less than impressive 31-24 win at Detroit, the Saints loss dropped them to 10-3 and tied with the Packers for the NFC's best record. However, with the Packers having won in New Orleans in Week 3 (37-30), Green Bay currently owns the NFC's No. 1 seed.NFL Week 15 kicks off on Thursday (Chargers at Raiders) plus also has two Saturday games, with the Bills at the Broncos and the Panthers at the Packers. I'll move my NFL preview to Thursday and my CFB preview to Friday. CFB updates from Monday: Oregon will replace Washington as the Pac-12 North representative in the conference championship football game on Friday. It was determined the Huskies would be unable to field the 53 scholarship players needed to play because of positive cases for COVID-19 and the related contact-tracing protocols. The Huskies were also below the required number for a specific position group. 3-2 Oregon will square off against 5-0 USC which moved up to No. 13 in the latest AP poll at the LA Memorial Coliseum (USC's home field). Another major development came with the NCAA Football Oversight Committee announcing Monday that Football Bowl Subdivision teams will be able to replace canceled bowl games after Dec 19 .These matchups must replace a previously scheduled bowl game and will have to feature teams from the originally contracted conferences AND these contests will have to be played prior to the conclusion of the calendar year. I'll comment on these developments plus the new CFP standings (which come out tonight) in Wednesday's Notes.The new college basketball AP poll came out Monday afternoon and the top-5 remained the same. No. 1 Gonzaga (54 first-place votes) and No. 2 Baylor (7) have been 1-2 in each of the four polls this season. The Bulldogs are 3-0 and haven't played since Dec 2, having had FIVE games postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Gonzaga is scheduled to face No. 3 Iowa in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this coming Saturday. Iowa is 6-0 and the owners of one first-place vote. The Bears announced last Saturday that they would pause team activities as well and are also scheduled to visit Kansas State this coming Saturday. 6-0 Michigan St is No. 4 and 6-1 Kansas is No. 5 (lone loss is to No. 1 Gonzaga).No. 6 Illinois fell to 13th after losing at Missouri with that Tigers win catapulting them into the top-25 at No. 16. Missouri was last ranked back in the 203-14 season. Joining the Tigers as 'newbies' to this week's top-25 are 5-0 Clemson at No. 24 and 6-0 Michigan at No. 25. The Wolverines were No. 25 preseason poll but dropped out in the first regular season poll (Nov 30) but I guess a 6-0 start gets them "back to where they started." Duke is just 2-2 and is down at No. 21 (was No. 10) and 4-2 North Carolina is ranked 22nd, down from No. 16     There were no Monday games between ranked opponents (higher ranked teams are 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS) but No. 9 Creighton hosted Marquette and No. 19 Rutgers opened Big Ten play with a game at Maryland. The Bluejays lost 89-84 at home, while the Scarlet Knights won 74-60. Both winning teams had HUGE second halves as Marquette outscored Creighton 54-40 and Seton Hall outscored Maryland 47-32. There are again no games between ranked opponents on Tuesday, although there are FIVE games featuring a ranked team vs an unranked opponent. No. 10 Tennessee (2-0) is home to 4-1 Appalachian St and is favored by 18 1/2 points. No. 12 Wisconsin (4-1) is home to 3-0 Loyola-Chicago and is favored by 8 1/2-points. No. 13 Illinois (4-2) is coming off a rollercoaster 11-day span (Dec 2-12) in which the Fighting Illini lost to No. 2 Baylor, won at then-No. 10 Duke and then lost their Braggin' Rights game at Missouri. Illinois welcomes 6-0 Minnesota to State Farm Center tonight as an eight-point favorite. No. 15 Florida St (3-0) hosts 2-2 Ga Tech and is favored by eight points plus No. 24 Clemson (5-0) has a real challenge playing at 4-1 Va Tech, where the Hokies are a one-point choice. Ranked teams enter Tuesday 84-11 (.884) SU but a much more modest 52-41-2 (55.9%) ATS vs unranked opponents.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Dec 14

Monday, Dec 14, 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: We're back to just one MNF game to conclude Week 14. The Cleveland Browns are looking to end a 17-season playoff drought after taking a big step in the right direction with last Sunday's 41-35 win at the Tennessee Titans, a team that played in last season's AFC title game. The 9-3 Browns welcome the hated-Baltimore Ravens to Cleveland on Monday night, a team that got a much-needed 34-17 win last Tuesday at home over the Cowboys. Baltimore opened the season 5-1 but had lost FOUR of its last five prior to the win over Dallas, dealing with inconsistent play and severe COVID-19 issues. Cleveland currently owns the No. 5 seed in the AFC, while Baltimore is 7-5 and out of the playoffs at the moment. However, a Baltimore win moves them into a tie with 8-5 Miami for the No. 7 seed (final playoff spot) plus would put them just ONE game back of the 9-4 Browns and Titans. The game kicks off at 8:15 ET on ESPN with the Ravens favored by three points (over/under is 45 1/2). Full NFL week 14 recap featured in Tuesday's Notes.CBB: Recapping the Friday through Sunday games, there was just one game between ranked opponents, with No. 15 West Va winning 87-71 at home over No. 19 Richmond. That leaves the higher ranked team at 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS in games between ranked opponents. There were 13 games between ranked and unranked opponents from Friday to Sunday and only ONE lost, No. 6 Illinois at Missouri (Tigers are now 5-0!) on Saturday, in what's called the Braggin' Rights series. After a 12-1 SU and but just a 7-6 ATS one from Fri-Sun, the Y-T-D record stands at 83-10 (.894) SU but a much more modest 51-40-2 (56.0%) ATS for ranked teams vs unranked opponents. Monday's card does not feature any ranked vs ranked games but there are two games in which a ranked team meets an unranked opponent. No. 8 Creighton (-7) will host Marquette and No. 21 Rutgers (4-0) will open Big Ten play with a game at 4-1 Maryland. The Terps are favored by 2 1/2-points. The new AP poll will be out Monday and I'll recap it as part of my Tuesday Notes.CFB recap: There were two top-25 matchups on Saturday, as No. 10 Miami was CRUSHED at home by North Carolina 62-26 and No. 19 Iowa handed No. 25 Wisconsin a THIRD straight loss 28-7 in Iowa City. The once-proud Miami defense allowed a school-record 778 yards, as North Carolina RBs Carter (308 yards) and Williams (236 yards) set a single-game record for most rushing yards in a game by a RB duo. As for Wisconsin, after scoring 45 and 49 points in opening 2-0, the Badgers have scored a total of just 20 points in three straight losses. Higher ranked teams are now 23-7 (.767) SU and 21-9 (70.0%) ATS in matchups of ranked opponents. There were 10 games featuring ranked vs unranked teams and ranked teams went 8-2 SU and 6-4 ATS. The SHOCKER was No. 6 Florida losing 37-34 at home to LSU, as a 23 1/2-point favorite. The other SU loser was No. 21 Colorado losing 38-21 at home to Utah. The Y-T-D numbers stand at 134-32 (.807) SU and 83-81-2 (50.6%) ATS in favor of the ranked teams.New AP poll: There were no changes in the AP's top-5 for the SIXTH straight week, as Alabama (a 52-3 winner at Arkansas) claimed unanimous No. 1 status for the FOURTH consecutive week. No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Ohio St, No. 4 Clemson and No. 5 Texas all held their respective positions with none taking the field. Naturally, Florida's loss dropped the Gators from No. 6 to out of the top-10 at No. 11. Florida's 'Final Four' aspirations are all but gone but adding insult to injury, Florida finds itself behind Georgia (now-No. 10), a team it beat 44-28 in Jacksonville. Cincy is No. 6, Indiana  No. 7, Iowa St No. 8 and Coastal Carolina moves into the top-10 at No. 9. It's a FIRST for a SBC school!This pandemic-ridden season has seen some "unfamiliar" names in the rankings and we can currently find ULL at No. 17, Tulsa at No. 20, Liberty at No. 22 and Buffalo at No. 23. Joining that list on Sunday was 6-0 San Jose St, as the Spartans check in at No. 25, the first time the school has been ranked since the final poll of the 2012 season. The CFP standings come out Tuesday night and I'll have MUCH more to say about CFB in Wednesday Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Saturday, Dec 12

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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Ness Notes: Friday, Dec 11

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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Ness Notes: Thursday, Dec 10

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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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 9

Wednesday, Dec 09, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 13: Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, back in action for the first time since Nov 22, threw for just 107 yards (two TDs) but also added 94 yards rushing (one TD) to lead the Ravens to a 34-17 win over the sad-sack Cowboys on Tuesday. The Ravens ended a THREE-game losing streak while rushing for 294 yards, as the Cowboys fell to 3-9 with their SIXTH loss in their last seven games  (Dallas is the NFL's worst pointspread team at 2-10). Carolina and Tampa Bay had byes in Week 13 (no more byes the rest of the way), so we had 15 games, although there was a rare neutral-site game (not in London or Mexico), as the Bills played the 49ers in Arizona due to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County. Home teams continued to struggle, going 5-9 SU and 4-10 ATS (home dogs were 1-3 SU and ATS). The Y-T-D numbers now reveal that home teams are 95-95-1 (.500) SU, while going 89-100-2 (47.1%) ATS. 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.College hoops: There had been just nine games between ranked opponents entering Tuesday (the higher ranked team was 6-3 SU and 4-5 ATS), which served up an impressive tripleheader of such contests. No. 3 Iowa was at No. 16 North Carolina and North Carolina's defense slowed Iowa center Luka Garza, folding him to 16 points (he entered averaging 34 PPG), ending his streak of 19 straight games scoring 20 points or more. However, he added 14 rebounds for his 24th career double-double and Garza saw THREE other players join him in double digits, led by Jordan Bohannon's 24 points. The Hawkeyes won (and covered) 93-80. No. 5 Kansas hosted No. 8 Creighton with Jalen Wilson scoring 23 points and adding 10 rebounds, hitting a go-ahead three-pointer for Kansas with 42 seconds remaining. Creighton's Marcus Zegarowski (the Big East's preseason P-O-Y) missed the last of three foul shots, allowing the Jayhawks to escape with a 73-72 win (no cover). Last but not least, No. 6 Illinois won 83-68 at No. 10 Duke. Illinois had lost 11 of 13 road matchups against top-10 opponents, with both wins coming in 1989 from the "Flyin' Illini" team that reached the Final Four. However, they had little trouble in this one, as the Blue Devils missed their first 12 three-pointers Duke had been 19-2 all time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, including 9-0 at Cameron. So much for that! Higher ranked teams are now 8-4 SU but 5-7 ATS in games between ranked opponents. No. 4 Michigan St was supposed to play at No. 18 Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight but the game was canceled.There were FOUR games between ranked and unranked opponents on Tuesday, with ranked teams going 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS. The SU loser was previously 4-0 and No. 15 Va Tech getting routed at home by Penn St. That leaves ranked teams 65-9 (.878) SU but a much more modest 40-32-2 (55.6%) ATS. There are SIX such games on Wednesday's schedule, most notably No. 2 Baylor hosting Stephen F Austin. The 3-0 Bears will play their home opener against the 3-0 Lumberjacks in Waco, Texas. Stephen F. Austin replaces Nicholls State, which saw its scheduled game versus Baylor called off due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Colonels' program. Baylor last played a week ago Wednesday, when the Bears posted an 82-69 victory over Illinois. Stephen F. Austin recorded its THIRD straight double-digit winning margin with a 97-79 victory over LSU Alexandria on Sunday. Baylor won't look past the Lumberjacks, who beat the Bears 59-58 the last time the teams met (Dec 18, 2018). If Baylor's memory does not go back that far, how about this? The Lumberjacks 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. The Lumberjacks became the first non-ACC school to beat Duke at Cameron since St. John's in February 2000. Baylor is favored by 23 1/2-points. CFB recap: Higher ranked teams entered last week 21-5 (.808) SU and 19-7 (73.1%) ATS in meetings between AP top-25 opponents in the college football season to-date. We saw just two such matchups last week, with No. 10 Indiana winning 14-6 at No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 8 BYU losing its first game of the season 22-17 at No. 14 Coastal Carolina. The Hoosiers won without starting QB Penix, relying on its defense, holding the Badgers to just two FGs. Indiana won at Camp Randall for the first time since 2001 and allowed the fewest points to a ranked opponent since 1993! No. 25 Liberty was supposed to play at No. 14 Coastal Carolina but after COVID-19 issues prevented the Flames from playing in the game, BYU jumped at the chance to add a game, hoping a win at a ranked opponent would give them some extra 'street cred!' So much for that. Coastal Carolina contained BYU's high-powered offense, holding the Cougars to just 17 points in the five-point win. The Chanticleers are now 10-0, the first team in SBC history to open a season 10-0. Higher ranked teams are now 22-6 (.786) SU and 20-8 (71.4%) ATS in matchups of ranked opponents.There were 17 games between ranked and unranked teams for the week, including the top-six schools in the AP and CFP rankings all in action. All six won and only Notre Dame failed to cover. Of the remaining 11 ranked teams, they went 7-4 SU and 6-5 ATS against their unranked opponents. The "Biggest Loser" was No. 15 Marshall, which lost 20-0 at home to a Rice team that entered having played just THREE games on the season. The not-so Thundering Herd were favored by 24 1/2-points and became the first team off to a 7-0 start (or better) to get shut out by a team with a losing record (Rice entered 1-2) since TCU did the same to Texas back in 1961! Also losing were No. 19 Oklahoma St 29-22 at TCU plus two overrated Pac-12 schools, No. 21 Oregon (21-17 at Cal) and No. 23 Washington (31-26 at home to Stanford). When the 'dust had settled,' ranked teams finished 13-4 SU and 11-6 ATS. Doing the math, ranked teams (when facing an unranked opponent) are now 126-30 (.808) SU, while 'climbing back' to .500 ATS at 77-77-2. I say 'climbing back' because through Oct 31 ranked teams were just 36-53-1 (.404) ATS against unranked opponents. The 'battle' resumes on Thursday, with just two weeks left in CFB's regular season.I'll push my discussion regarding the AP poll and latest CFP rankings to Thursday's Notes, when I preview the upcoming CFB weekend. NFL Week 14 preview set for Friday.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 8

Tuesday, Dec 08, 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 Steelers had a three-point win over Tennessee in Week 7, a four-point win over Baltimore in Week and then a five-point win over sad-sack Dallas in Week 9. Back-to-back blowouts over the Bengals (36-10) and the Jags (27-3) followed but then it was a five-point win over the COVID-riddled Ravens in Week 12. Last night in Week 13, "the clock struck 12" for Pittsburgh, which after opening a 14-0 lead over Washington, walked away with a  23-17 loss. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain alone as the lone team in the NFL's 101-year history to complete a perfect season (14-0 regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs, for 17-0). It was the THIRD straight win for Washington, which moved into a first-place tie with the NY Giants in the NFC East at 5-7. In the regularly scheduled Monday night game, Buffalo's Josh Allen threw TD passes to FOUR different receivers (he was 32-40 for 375 yards, his third-highest total of the season), as the 9-3 Bills held onto sole possession of first place in the AFC East with a 34-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Glendale, Az (49ers were forced from their facility in Santa Clara County by heightened COVID-19 restrictions). The defending NFC champs fell to 5-7 and remain in last place in the NFC West with just four games remaining.NFL Week 13 finally wraps up with the 3-8 Cowboys in Baltimore to face the HUGELY disappointing 6-5 Ravens (went 14-2 in last year's regular season). The Ravens have lost THREE straight and FOUR of their past five. The NFL Network reported Sunday that the team will activate reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson and have him start on Tuesday but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh declined to discuss it. The 3-8 Cowboys are the worst team in the NFL's worst division and at 2-9 ATS, own the NFL's worst pointspread record. That's a lot of "worsts" for head coach Mike McCarthy, who was expected to be "just the right coach" to get the talented Cowboys to "live up to their potential." So much for that. Baltimore is favored by 7 1/2-points and the over/under is 45 1/2.New AP poll in CBB: The top-three schools remained the same in the second regular season AP poll. Gonzaga, Baylor and Iowa are 1-2-3 with each opening 3-0. Wisconsin lost 67-65 at Marquette and fell from No. 4 to No. 13. Taking over at No. 4 is Michigan St (up from No. 8) and Kansas is up to No. 5 (from No. 7). The rest of the top-10 is Illinois, Houston, Creighton, Villanova and Duke. Falling out to the poll was No. 20 Kentucky (see Monday's Notes for more details) and No. 21. Both San Diego St and Louisville have opened 4-0 and entered the poll for the first time this season at No. 24 and No. 25, respectively. Here's a couple of head-scratchers. Tennessee opened No. 12 in the preseason and remains at No. 12, without having played a game (that changes tonight / see below). Then there is Michigan, which opened No. 25 in the preseason poll but despite opening 4-0, the Wolverines have been the last team left out in each of the last two polls.Mon CBB: No. 19 Richmond was the only ranked team in action on Monday and hadn't played since it beat then-No. 10 Kentucky on Nov 29. The Spiders had to cancel two games last week after a positive COVID-19 test within the program and they announced the matchup with the Terriers on Saturday. Richmond scored the first 11 points of the game but Wofford shot 55% after halftime and took its first lead with 4:32 remaining. Richmond won 77-72 but never came close to covering. We've had just nine matchups between ranked teams so far with the higher ranked team going 6-3 SU and 4-5 ATS in the first nine games. However, Tuesday serves up an impressive tripleheader of such contests, No. 3 Iowa is at No. 16 North Carolina, No. 5 Kansas hosts No. 8 Creighton and No. 6 Illinois is at No. Duke. Here's a closer look.No. 3 Iowa (3-0) will welcome No. 16 North Carolina (3-1) to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Luka Garza (34.0 & 9.7) has arguably been the best player in the nation so far but the Hawkeyes have yet to be challenged in romps over North Carolina Central, Southern University and Western Illinois. That leaves coach Fran McCaffery eager to see how his team fares against the Tar Heels. North Carolina won its first three games of the season before dropping a last-second 69-67 decision against No. 17 Texas in the Maui Invitational championship game on Wednesday (Longhorns won it with 0.1 seconds to play). Iowa's No. 3 ranking is the school's highest since it was also No. 3 in the 2015-16 season. The Hawkeyes are favored by 3 1/2-points. Creighton was ranked No. 11 in the AP's preseason poll (the highest in school history) and after a 3-0 start is up to No. 8 as the Bluejays visit No. 7 Kansas, which is 4-1. To say the least, this visit to Allen Fieldhouse will be a competitive upgrade for the Bluejays after being favored by between 21 and 32 1/2-points over North Dakota State, Omaha and Kennesaw State. In contrast, Kansas had played No. 1 Gonzaga and beaten then-No. 20 Kentucky. Kansas is favored by 4  1/2-points. In another ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, No. 5 Illinois will play at Cameron Indoor Stadium against No. 10 Duke. Both schools lost last week, as the Fighting Illinois fell 82-69 to No. 2 Baylor in Indianapolis, while Duke lost at home 75-69 to now-No. 4 Michigan State. Duke has been the dominant school in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, going 19-2. The Blue Devils have won EIGHT straight games as part of the series, while going 9-0 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is favored by 3 1/2-points.With Richmond's win but non-cover, ranked teams are 62-8 (.886) SU and 38-30-2 (55.9%) ATS when facing an unranked opponent.  There are FOUR games between ranked teams and unranked opponents on Tuesday. No. 12 Tennessee (-5.5) hosts Colorado, No. 15 Va Tech (-5) is home vs Penn St, No. 21 Rutgers (-4) is home vs Syracuse and No. 22 Ohio St (-5) is at Notre Dame. Tennessee deserves a quick mention as the Vols opened No.12 in the AP's preseason poll and have remained at No. 12 through the first two polls of the regular season despite having yet to play a game. Colorado is the fourth team to be slated as the opener for the Volunteers, who have had five overall games canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 issues with them or their opponents. The Buffaloes have been dealing with the same issues since opening 2-0. Colorado had to postpone its Pac-12 opener against Arizona State, then resumed and was scheduled to host Washington State on Saturday. Coronavirus issues with the Cougars forced a postponement Friday night. As for Tennessee, it canceled its game against No. 1 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic on Wednesday and Friday's game against Notre Dame. The Volunteers and the Buffaloes quickly adjusted and added this game. "Fingers crossed." Wednesday Notes will feature poll updates in CFB (AP and CFP), an NFL Week 13 recap, plus my daily look at college hoops.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Dec 7

Monday, Dec 07, 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 over the weekend: The biggest news was that Saturday's game between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor was postponed. Gonzaga proceeded with its matchup against Auburn, a 90-67 win, on Nov 27 after one player was held out due to a positive test and another also sat due to contact tracing. After that game, Bulldogs coach Mark Few said a staffer also had tested positive. Then, about an hour before tipoff of Saturday's Baylor-Gonzaga matchup, the teams released a joint announcement about the postponement of the game, saying they had mutually agreed to reschedule the contest after consulting with local officials in Indianapolis following Gonzaga's two positive tests. A more recent update is that Gonzaga will not return to action until Dec 15, which means the Bulldogs will cancel upcoming games against Tarleton, Southern, Northern Arizona and Idaho. Gonzaga is set to face No. 3 Iowa on Dec 19 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, SD. As I continue to say, "fingers crossed."Heading into the Friday-Sunday schedule there had been just eight games between ranked teams, with the higher ranked team going 5-3 SU but 3-5 ATS. In contests between ranked and unranked opponents, ranked teams go off to an impressive 51-5 (.918) SU start, while going 34-20-2 (63.0%) ATS. There was only ONE contest from Fri-Sun between ranked opponents and No. 12 Villanova (-1.5) outlasted No. 17 Texas 68-64 on Sunday afternoon in a Big 12/Big East Battle contest in Austin, Texas. Moving to games between ranked and unranked teams, there were seven such games on Friday, just two on Saturday and four on Sunday. Ranked teams went 11-2 SU but were only 4-9 ATS. The SU losers were notable. No. 4 Wisconsin struggled to find an offensive rhythm throughout the game (shot 37.5%) and lost 67-65 on a one-handed put-back at the buzzer by Marquette at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Friday. A real shocker came on Sunday, as No. 20 Kentucky's 79-62 loss at Georgia Tech marked the Wildcats' THIRD straight defeat and the first time they have started 1-3 since the 2000-01 season. Kentucky suffered a 76-64 home loss to an unranked Richmond team on Nov 29, before falling by three to No. 7 Kansas in Indianapolis at the Champions Classic last Tuesday. Georgia Tech had opened its season with losses to Georgia State and Mercer before Sunday's victory. The last time Georgia Tech had won a game against a ranked non conference opponent was Nov 21, 2006! There are no games Monday between ranked opponents (the higher ranked team is 6-3 SU and 4-5 ATS in nine such meetings this season) and only two games between a ranked team and an unranked opponent. No. 19 Richmond hosts Wofford (Spiders are favored by 12 1.2-points) and No. 21 Oregon is favored by 13 1/2-points in a home game against Eastern Washington. Adding in the Friday-Sunday numbers, ranked teams are 62-7 (.899) SU and 38-29-2 (56.7%) ATS when facing an unranked opponent.NFL: There is PLENTY to recap from NFL Week 13 like the 0-12 Jets finding yet another way to lose, while the Jags are right behind them with 11 straight losses. The 10-2 Saints have won NINE in row and maintain a one-game lead over the 9-3 Packers for the NFC's No. 1 seed. The Chiefs are 11-1, meaning the 11-0 Steelers can't afford to 'blink.' The Giants have won FOUR in a row and are a first-place team plus the Browns may just be "for real" at 9-3! My Week 13 recap will be featured Wednesday, after the week concludes with Tuesday's Cowboys/Ravens game in Baltimore. However, up first, it's a MNF doubleheader.The 8-3 Buffalo Bills and 5-6 San Francisco 49ers meet in MNF (8:15 ET on ESPN/ABC) at the home of the Arizona Cardinals, State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Az. The 49ers' home field is Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Ca and due to new COVID-related restrictions in Santa Clara County San Francisco's "home" games in Week 13 (Buffalo) and Week 14 (Washington) have been relocated to the Cardinals' home stadium. The Bills sit atop the AFC East but Miami's win on Sunday means that Buffalo needs to win here to stay one game up on the Dolphins. As for San Francisco, the defending NFC champs are currently in last place in the NFC West, although a win here would move them to 6-6 and into a tie with Arizona and Minnesota, just ONE game behind 7-5 Tampa Bay, which currently holds the NFC's final wild card spot. The 49ers are a one-point favorite and the over/under is 47 1/2.FOX will air 4-7 Washington at 11-0 Pittsburgh at 5:00 ET. This contest was originally scheduled for Sunday but was pushed back a day after Pittsburgh's game against Baltimore was postponed three times and finally played Wednesday because of COVID-19 issues. Washington has been off since a 41-16 win over Dallas on Thanksgiving, meaning it will have 11 days between games, compared with five days between games for Pittsburgh. Washington has won two straight games and its 3-2 'surge' has the team at 4-7. All Washington needs to do is beat the undefeated Steelers and it will tie the Giants atop the NFC East. Pittsburgh is favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 43 1/2.Monday is typically my CFB recap but I'm pushing it back to Tuesday.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday Nov 4

Friday, Dec 04, 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: There were no games between ranked opponents on Thursday and there are not any scheduled for Friday (higher ranked teams are 5-3 SU but 3-5 ATS when facing a ranked opponent). Four ranked teams were in action on Thursday against unranked opponents, No. 3 Iowa, No. 7 Kansas, No. 16 Va Tech and No. 25 Arizona St. All four won and three of the four covered, led by Iowa's 99-58 romp over Western Illinois. Luka Garza had 30 points in the first half and 'settled' for 35 points and 10 rebounds (he's averaging 34.0 & 9.7 on the season). Ranked teams are off to an impressive 51-5 (.918) SU start, while going 34-20-2 (63.0%) ATS when facing an unranked opponent. Friday will feature SEVEN games between ranked and unranked opponents, including FOUR top-10 teams. No. 4 Wisconsin (-4 1/2) will be on the road at Marquette, No. 6 Duke (-29) welcomes Bellarmine (?) to a fan-less Cameron Indoor Stadium, No. 8 Michigan St (-25 1/2), off its win at Duke, hosts Detroit Mercy and Creighton (-34) takes on Kennesaw St in Omaha. No. 15 Virginia, No. 17 Texas Tech and No. 21 Oregon are also on the court in Friday's action.Big news in CFB came our way on Thursday. The College Football Playoff selection committee made it clear in each of its first two rankings that BYU's weak schedule was keeping it outside the top-10. The Cougars play as an Independent and had planned a 2020 schedule which included three Pac-12 teams, two Big Ten teams and one SEC team (it was being touted as the strongest in the program's storied history). However, BYU had to build a schedule from scratch when the Big Ten and Pac 12 postponed their respective seasons in August and the SEC decided to play a conference-only schedule. What remained was a slate that did not have any Power 5 schools.  BYU's strength of schedule is currently No. 87 with only three wins against FBS teams over .500. BYU's athletic director Tom Holmoe felt a sense of urgency to try to quickly schedule another quality opponent and an "incredible opportunity" arose this week, when BYU was able to replace Liberty as Coastal Carolina's opponent on Saturday, after COVID-19 issues prevented the Flames from playing in the game. The game was put together at warp speed, as Holmoe said he first learned of Liberty's precarious position on Wednesday morning but it wasn't until Thursday morning that the game became official. 9-0 BYU is No. 8 in the AP poll but just 13th in the CFP standings and 9-0 Coastal Carolina is No. 14 in the AP and No. 18 in CFP. BYU can't possibly expect that a win at Coastal Carolina will vault them into 'Final Four' territory but a win and then a win Dec 12 against San Diego St could earn them one of the more lucrative bowl bids. Then again, I am reminded of that old proverb that says, "Be careful what you wish for!" BYU is favored by 10 points.The longest Week 12 in NFL history (began on Thanksgiving) finally ended this past Wednesday when the Steelers beat the Ravens 19-14. Home teams finished the week just 5-11 SU but 8-8 ATS, as home dogs contributed a 6-3 ATS mark. Home teams are barely over .500 for the season, entering Week 13 at 90-86-1 (.511) SU  but below .500 ATS (85-90-2 or 48.6%). Home underdogs have 'saved' home teams in 2020, going just 19-44 (.302) SU but 35-26-2 (57.8%) ATS. Week 12 games averaged 47.4 PPG with 10 of the 16 staying under. there have now been 87 overs, 86 unders and four pushes Y-T-D.The 4-8 Carolina Panthers and the 7-5 Tampa Bucs have byes this week, completing the bye weeks for NFL 2020. The other 30 teams (15 games) are all 'working' in Week 13, as all 32 teams will have played 12 games by week's end. There was no Thursday game to kick things off and the week has added a second MNF game (Washington at Pittsburgh) and a Tuesday game (Dallas at Baltimore) because of last week's Ravens/Steelers game being pushed all the way back to Wednesday.NFL Week 13: Let's start at the top and the bottom! The Pittsburgh Steelers are 11-0 and the New York Jets are 0-11. The Steelers will play the "early game" on Monday, when they host 4-7 Washington. Pittsburgh has an 8-3 ATS record to go along with its 11-0 start and ironically, will be facing another division leader in Washington. Yes, at 4-7, Washington (6-5 ATS) is tied with the Giants atop the NFC East, with last year's NFC East winner, Philadelphia, lurking at 3-7-1. You CAN'T make this up! Washington has been off since a 41-16 win over Dallas on Thanksgiving, giving them 11 days between games, compared with five days between games for Pittsburgh. However, Pittsburgh is favored by 8 1/2- points and the over/under is 42. The Jets have lost 11 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are now just ONE loss from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. The Jets will host the Las Vegas Raiders, who fell to 6-5 after suffering an ugly 43-6 loss in Atlanta. Las Vegas is in a battle with Miami, Indianapolis and Baltimore for the final two wild card spots in the AFC and just maybe, the 'schedule gods' did the Raiders a huge favor with a game against the Jets. Sam Darnold played for the first time since aggravating a right shoulder injury in a 35-9 loss to Kansas City back on Nov 1 and was 16-of-27 for 197 yards and was intercepted twice in the loss to the Dolphins. However, head coach Adam Gase said he will stick with him as the starter over veteran Joe Flacco. Why not? After all, Darnold hasn't thrown a TD pass in 19 quarters and his 64.0 QB rating is the worst among qualifying quarterbacks. The Raiders are favored by nine points and the over/under is 47.Only Pittsburgh has a better record than the defending champion Chiefs, who are 10-1 but just 6-5 ATS. Led by Patrick Mahomes (30 TD passes and just two INTs in 423 attempts / 115.5 QB rating). The Chiefs will welcome 4-7 Denver to Arrowhead Stadium for SNF.  I'm sure all are aware of what happened with the Denver QB situation last Sunday but it's likely that ONE of the four QBs with NFL experience will line up under center this Sunday. Will it really matter? The Chiefs are favored by 14 points and the over/under is 51. Battling for the No. 1 seed in the NFC are the 9-2 Saints and the 8-3 Packers. New Orleans has won EIGHT games in a row to take a 2 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay atop the NFC South and a one-game lead over Green Bay atop the conference. The Saints beat the Falcons 24-9 two weeks ago in Taysom Hill's first start at QB in place of Drew Brees. The Saints are favored by three points and the over/under is 45. The Packers are home vs the 3-7-1 Eagles, who will be rooting for Pittsburgh to beat Washington and for Seattle to beat the Giants, as well as trying to slow down Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. Rodgers is having a Mahomes-like season with 33 TD passes and just four INTs in 381 attempts. In fact, Rodgers' QB rating is the best in the NFL at 117.6. The Packers are favored by nine points and the over/under is 47 1/2.A number of other games of note are the 8-3 Browns at the 8-3 Titans (Tenn is favored by 5 1/2-points & the ov/un is 53 1/2) with Cleveland in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Can it really be? Tennessee leads the Colts by one game in the AFC South and is favored by points and the over/under is. The 7-4 Rams are at the 6-5 Cards (Rams are -3 & ov/un is 48), with both teams looking up at the 8-3 Seahawks in the NFC West. The Seahawks (-10 with an over/under of 47 1/2) host the 4-7 Giants, who as noted earlier, are in a three-way battle in the NFC East with Washington and Philadelphia. Oh, the drama.Good luck...Larry 

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Dec 3

Thursday, Dec 03, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The NFL finally completed Week 12, as the Ravens and Steelers took the field on Wednesday. A COVID-19 outbreak in Baltimore forced the NFL to push the game back three times; first from Thanksgiving to Sunday, then from Sunday to Tuesday, and eventually from Tuesday to Wednesday. The teams kicked off in the afternoon to not interfere with NBC's annual Christmas special at Rockefeller Center. Naturally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called it "a great game," although anyone watching "without blinders" may like Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin's assessment. He called it "junior varsity"-level play. RG III tried to "turn back the clock" but completed just 7 of 12 passes for 33 yards and threw first-quarter "pick-6." However, he did run for a game-high 68 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. The Ravens finished with just 219 total yards and 10 FDs but of course, earned the ATS win. Trace McSorley, one of 11 players promoted from the practice squad, came on for Griffith. With 3:30 left in the game, Baltimore had the ball at its own 16-yard line, trailing 19-7 (Ravens closed as a 10 1/2-point dog). Up until that point, McSorley had riddled the Pittsburgh pass D by completing 1 of 5 passes for seven yards. However, on 1st-and-10 from the Baltimore 30-yard line, he connected with Marquise Brown for a 70-yard TD with 2:58 to go for the 19-14 final. NEVER in doubt. My Week 12 recap and Week 13 preview will be featured in Friday's Notes.CBB: There had been just five meetings of ranked opponents entering Wednesday, with the higher ranked going 3-2 SU but 2-3 ATS. There were THREE games such games on Wednesday, including the nation's No. 1 (Gonzaga) and No. 2  (Baylor) teams playing in the Jimmy V Classic at Indianapolis. Gonzaga trailed No. 11 West Va by five at the half but outscored them 53-43 in the second half for an 87-82 win (ATS loss). Baylor led No. 5 Illinois by just one at the half but with FOUR players in double digits, outscored the Illini 51-39 in the second to win (and cover) 82-69. Think anyone will be interested in Saturday's showdown between Gonzaga and Baylor? No. 17 Texas blew a 16-point lead and fell behind No. 14 North Carolina late but won 69-67 on Matt Coleman's step-back jumper with 0.1 seconds left. It marked Texas' first Maui Invitational title in its fifth appearance, although I think the Texas players were aware that the game was played in snowy Asheville, NC. Higher ranked teams are now 5-3 SU but 3-5 ATS when facing a ranked opponent. There are no games between ranked opponents on Thursday.<p>No. 21 Oregon played its first game of the season against Missouri and No. 22 Florida  St also took the floor for the first time against an 0-3 North Florida team on Wednesday, while No. 23 Ohio St (2-0) was home to Morehead St. The Ducks lost 83-75 to Missouri (game was played in Omaha) but FSU and Ohio St both won and covered. In games between ranked teams and unranked opponents, ranked teams are off to an impressive 47-5 (.905) SU start, while going 31-19-2 (62.0%) ATS. Thursday will feature FOUR games between ranked and unranked opponents, including two top-10 teams being in action. No. 3 Iowa welcomes Western Illinois (playing its first game) to Iowa City at 2-0. Luka Garza, the nation's Preseason P-O-Y will likely not top his most recent performance, as he scored 41 points and made 14 of 15 FG attempts in last Friday's 103-76 rout of Southern. Iowa is favored by points. No. 7 Kansas is 2-1, after losing to No. 1 Gonzaga but beating St Joe's and No. 20 Kentucky, 65-62. I'm guessing that 3-0 Washburn does not have them worried. The Jayhawks are favored by points.CFB: The season has moved into December and there are only three games scheduled on Thursday (two) and Friday (one), with No. 20 ULL (8-1 / 6-1 SBC) visiting Appalachian St (7-2, 5-1) being the lone contest of note. Louisiana has already secured a spot in the conference championship game as the SBC-East champs, while Appalachian St's loss to Coastal Carolina (9-0 / 7-0) means it will not have a chance to defend its back-to-back SBC title game wins over ULL in 2018 and 2019. However, the Mountaineers are favored at home by 2 1/2-points. Moving ahead to Saturday, the ULL/App St game is one of 18 games between ranked and unranked teams, including SEVEN top-10 teams playing an unranked opponent. I'll get to those matchups in a bit but I'll start with Saturday's two games involving top-25 opponents (remember, I continue to use the AP rankings, not the CFP ones). No. 10 Indiana will be at No. 18 Wisconsin plus it's a showdown of 'Cinderella' teams when No. 14 Coastal Carolina (9-0) hosts No. 25 Liberty (9-1). Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. has a torn ACL and is done for the season for the 5-1 Hoosiers. Sophomore Jack Tuttle, a four-star recruit from San Marcos, Ca, transferred to Indiana from Utah before the start of the 2019 season and will get the start. Wisconsin averaged 47 points in wins over Illinois and Michigan but lost 17-7 at Northwestern in it's only other game this season. The 2-1 Badgers have had as many games canceled (three) as they've played. Wisconsin is favored by 14 points. As for Coastal Carolina vs Liberty, only the Flames' 15-14 loss at NC State has prevented this contest from being a 'battle of unbeatens.' Even so, this much-anticipated matchup has drawn ESPN's "College Football GameDay" show to Conway, SC. It's deserving, as Coastal Carolina is No. 18 in the current CFP standings and its No. 14 ranking in the AP poll is not only the highest in school history but also the highest-ever for any SBC team. As for the Flames, they are off to their most successful 10-game start to a season, breaking the previous best of 8-1-1 to start the 1979 season. Coastal Carolina is favored by 11 points. Higher ranked teams sit 21-5 (.808) SU and 19-7 (73.1%) ATS in meetings between top-25 opponents in the college football season to-date.Now to the 18 games between ranked and unranked teams. Ranked teams were 68-22 (.756) SU when taking on an unranked opponent but just 36-53-1 (.404) ATS through Oct 31. We were waiting for a "regressions to the mean" and got it in the first three weeks of November as ranked teams went 37-2 (.949) SU and 25-13-1 (65.8%) ATS. Ranked teams did go 8-2 SU in November's final week but were just 5-5 ATS. Doing the math, ranked teams (when facing an unranked opponent) are now 113-26 (.813) SU but still sub-500 ATS at 66-71-2 (48.2%). The top-six schools in the AP and CFP rankings are the same, except for Ohio St being No. 3 in the AP poll, while Clemson is No. 3 in the CFP standings. Here's a quick 'peek' at these six schools.No. 1 Alabama is at LSU on Saturday, a contest that originally was scheduled to be played Nov 14, but was postponed because LSU had a shortage of players due to COVID issues. LSU had a "season for the ages" in 2019, going 15-0 to win the national championship, while QB Joe Burrow won the Heisman. This year's LSU team is a 'mess' and enters 3-4 while Alabama is well, Alabama. The Tide are favored by  29 1/2-points. The Fighting Irish (9-0, 8-0 ACC) have already clinched a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game by virtue of a scheduling change this week and own the longest active winning streak among FBS teams at 15 in a row. 1-9 Syracuse visits South Bend with Notre Dame favored by 33 1/2-points.No. 3 Ohio St has played just four games and needs to play Saturday at Michigan St and Dec 12 at home against Michigan to meet the minimum six games to be eligible for the Big Ten title game. Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker is in his first season at East Lansing and while his Spartans are just 2-3, Michigan St has beaten Michigan 27-24 as a 21 1/2-point underdog and Northwestern 29-20 as a 13 1/2-point underdog. A third upset against Ohio St in this one (Buckeyes are favored by 23 1/2-points) and Ohio State plus the CFP committee will no longer need to worry about how many games the Buckeyes do or do not play! No. 4 Clemson (remember, No. 3 in the CFP) will play at Va Tech, coming off a 52-17 victory against Pitt in which QB Trevor Lawrence returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with COVID-19 and passed for 403 yards and two TDs. Clemson advances to the ACC title game against No. 2 Notre Dame, which beat the Tigers earlier this season, with a win. Clemson is favored by 22 points.No. 5 Texas A&M will play at Auburn and No. 6 Florida will play at Tennessee, as both SEC teams hope for one of the above teams to lose. A&M owns a 41-38 win over Florida but the Gators are in better shape, as they will almost assuredly get a chance at Alabama in the SEC title game. A win over 'Bama and it would be hard to keep Florida out of the 'Final 4.' Texas A&M is favored by seven points over Auburn, while the Gators are favored by 17 1/2-points over the Vols. Remember when Fla/Ten was a real rivalry? The Gators enter Saturday's contest having won 14 of the last 15 meetings with Tennessee.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 2

Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL: Baltimore is in the midst of one of the biggest outbreaks in professional sports, as the Ravens have had 10 straight days of positive tests as they prepare to play the undefeated Steelers in a game that has been postponed THREE times because of the outbreak. At least a dozen Ravens have tested positive, including reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Baltimore practiced early Tuesday and had two more positive COVID-19 tests before departing Tuesday. The Ravens arrived at their hotel in Pittsburgh later in the evening and as of now, the game is still on with the NFL looking to complete its longest Week 12 in history. Of note is that the game will kick off at 3:40 ET, as NBC wanted to keep its Prime Time schedule of The 88th Annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center intact.  When was the last time the NFL played "second-fiddle?" Pittsburgh originally opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite but as of Wednesday morning is favored by 10 points (over/under is 42 1/2).  My Week 12 recap and Week 13 preview of the NFL will be the featured topic of Friday's NotesCollege hoops: Entering Tuesday there have been just THREE games between ranked opponents, No. 1 Kansas beating No. 6 Kansas 102-90, No. 3 Villanova beating No. 18 Arizona St 83-74 and No. 14 Texas Tech losing to No. 17 Houston 64-53. However, Tuesday's slate featured two such matchups, as No. 6 Duke and No. 8 Michigan St (Coach K vs Izzo) squared off, as did No. 7 Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky. The Champions Classic has been played as a doubleheader at a neutral site in the past but COVID-19 has changed all that. The game between No. 8 Michigan State and No. 6 Duke game was switched to Duke's campus, with the Blue Devils agreeing to visit Michigan State next year, while No. 7 Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky will meet in Indianapolis. No. 8 Michigan State (+4) came back from an early nine-point deficit to beat No. 6 Duke 75-69 in the first game of the Champions Classic. It was Duke's third non-conference home loss since 2000 but second in the last two seasons after an 85-83 defeat to Stephen F. Austin last November. There were no fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium but that won't take away from the win said Tom Izzo (don't blame him). No 20. Kentucky (+4) used a 15-0 run to lead 17-5 at the midpoint of the first half against No. 7 Kansas but the Jayhawks closed within 35-29 by halftime. Kansas opened the second half on a 10-3 run to grab a 39-38 lead and won 65-62  despite shooting 29.9 percent for the game. No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 9 Creighton, No. 12 Villanova, No. 14 North Carolina, No. 15 Virginia and No. 17 Texas all beat unranked opponents, going 5-0-1 ATS. The Y-T-D numbers have higher ranked teams going 3-2 SU in matchups with fellow ranked opponents but 2-3 ATS. In games between ranked teams and unranked opponents, ranked teams are off to an impressive 45-4 (.918) SU start, while going 29-18-2 (61.7%) ATS. There are THREE games on Wednesday featuring top-25 teams, including the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams playing in the Jimmy V Classic at Indianapolis. The college basketball world expects No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor to meet in Saturday's championship game but both schools have work to do to make that happen. The 2-0 Bulldogs have beaten then-No. 6 Kansas and Auburn in the season's first week and will meet No. 15 West Va tonight at 7:00 ET. Let's hear it for Bob Huggins. Upon learning that Tennessee, Gonzaga's originally scheduled foe, had to vacate its spot in the event due to program concerns over COVID-19, Huggins reached out to his connections at ESPN, which has television rights to the Classic. "I thought, ‘What the heck, let's call ESPN,'" Huggins said. "So, I called some guys that I've known for a long, long time and said, ‘Can you work this out and get us in the Jimmy V to play Gonzaga?" Huggins got his wish. The programs haven't met since Gonzaga edged West Virginia 61-58 in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, en route to a berth in the national championship game. Gonzaga is favored by nine points . Tipping at 10:00 ET will be No. 2 Baylor (2-0) against No. 5 Illinois (3-0), as this contest marks the first meeting this season of top-5 opponents. The Bears are favored by 5 1/2-points. The third meeting of ranked opponents will feature two 3-0 teams in the Maui Invitational championship game, as  No. 14 North Carolina and No. 17 Texas. The fact that the Maui Invitational is being played in Asheville, NC, is all one needs to know about just how strange the 2020-21 college season is and will be. Texas is aiming for its first Maui Invitational title in five all-time appearances in the event. The best finish for the Longhorns had been a pair of third-place finishes, while. North Carolina is going for its FIFTH Maui Invitational title with its seventh appearance in the tournament final. The Longhorns are favored by one points. Two ranked teams have had games postponed or canceled due to COVOID issues (No. 12 Villanova and No. 19 Richmond) but three other ranked teams are in action against unranked opponents. No. 21 Oregon plays its first game of the season against Missouri and No. 22 Florida  St also takes the floor for the first time against an 0-3 North Florida team. No. 23 Ohio St (2-0) is home to Morehead St. CFP rankings: The top-seven teams remained unchanged in the second CFP standings of the 2020 season on Tuesday. Alabama remained No. 1 (20th No. 1 ranking which matches the total of all other schools).Notre Dame, owners of CFB's longest active winning streak (15) is No. 2 and Clemson, with Trevor Lawrence back on the field, remained No. 3. Ohio State held on to the No. 4 spot, even though the Buckeyes have played only four games. Ohio St canceled last Saturday's game at Illinois following an increase in COVID-19 cases within the program (including head coach Ryan Day) but remained ahead of one-loss Texas A&M (No. 5) and one-loss Florida (6-1). Ohio State remains the biggest "X factor" in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Buckeyes resumed team activities on Tuesday and are expected to play on Saturday at Michigan State. Here's the rub. Ohio St most likely will have play this week and next week (home to Michigan) to qualify for the Big Ten championship game. However, the College Football Playoff has set no minimum number of games played to be eligible for the playoff. It's just going to be up to the selection committee to figure out how many is too few. "There is a discrepancy sometimes between a team that plays eight or nine games and a team that's played three or four games and frankly that's a problem [in ranking teams],'' said Gary Barta, who is the committee chairman, as well as Iowa's athletic director.Cincinnati stayed at No. 7, Georgia is No. 8, Iowa St jumped into the top-10 at No. 9 and Miami took the top-10's final spot. 9-0 BYU (ranked No. 8 in the AP poll) remains on the "outside, looking in" at No. 13. The ESPN commentators all seem to think that BYU is being shafted but I just don't get it. No one can seriously believe BYU is anywhere near one of the nation's top-six teams, so what difference would it make if the Cougars were ranked say 9th or 10th? Riddle me this. Why did North Carolina move up two spots to No. 17, after getting shut in the second in a home loss to Notre Dame? Remember, the Tar heels have THREE losses. Anyone curious as to why USC, from the sad-sack Pac 12, is ranked No. 20? The Trojans needed back-to-back 'miracles' to win their first two games and is just 3-0. Anyone on the committee look at the Pac 12 standings and notice that USC's 3-0 start has come over three opponents that have yet to win a SINGLE game this season? How about Oregon at No. 23, despite losing at Oregon St? The CFP selection committee will release rankings Dec 8 and Dec 15, before unveiling its final list Dec 20.I'll close with a look at the highs (still unbeaten CFB teams) and lows (still winless teams) of CFB 2020. Three schools are at 9-0. Notre Dame (5-4-1 ATS) owns the longest active winning streak at 15, going 10-5 ATS. Coastal Carolina is 7-1-1 ATS in its 9-0 start, extending its winning streak to 10 in a row (7-2-1 ATS). BYU ended last season with back-to-back losses and rounds out this season's 9-0 teams (6-2-1 ATS). No. 1 Alabama is 8-0 (6-2 ATS) and along with 8-0 Cincy (5-3 ATS) has won nine in a row. Marshall is 7-0 (5-2 ATS) is the only other unbeaten team with more than five games played in 2020. Throw in four, 4-0 teams (Ohio St, Buffalo, San Jose St and Western Michigan) and we have 10 schools still unbeaten among ones having played at least four games. Checking in with the Pac 12, USC, Washington (moved into the CFP rankings Tuesday at No. 22) and unranked Colorado are all 3-0.Checking in our list of 'loveable losers,' there are 11 schools still winless among ones having played at least four games. UL-Monroe 'leads' the pack at 0-9 (3-6 ATS), giving the Warhawks 10 straight losses (4-6 ATS). Kansas is 0-8 SU and ATS (way to go Jayhawks!) and has lost 12 in a row (1-11 ATS). Vandy, 'the brains of the SEC,' is also 0-8 ((4-4 ATS) and has lost nine straight (5-4 ATS). Three schools are 0-5, New Mexico, FIU and UNLV. I listed New Mexico first because the Lobos have lost 14 in a row (5-9 ATS). That leaves five schools at 0-4, UMass (playing as an Independent) plus four schools from the MAC.UMass has been outscored in its four losses this season 161-12 but is somehow 2-2 ATS. The Minutemen are on an 11-game overall losing streak, going 3-7-1 ATS. I'll leave out THREE of the MAC schools which are 0-4, because Akron stand heads and shoulders over its fellow bottom-dwellers. The Zips own CFB's longest active losing streak, having lost 21 in a row, including going a money-burning' 4-17 ATS. Thursday Notes will preview the upcoming weekend.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 1

Tuesday, Dec 01, 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: As I noted in yesterday's notes, in normal times (we are FAR from that at the present moment), the Seahawks/Eagles MNF game in Philadelphia would close out Week 12 of the NFL. However, Sunday's game between the Ravens and Steelers was rescheduled to Tuesday and yesterday, got pushed back until Wednesday. We'll see what Tuesday's developments are. Getting back to football "on the field," Seattle beat Philadelphia 23-17, as the 8-3 Seahawks moved a game ahead of the LA Rams in the NFC West, while the 3-7-1 Eagles dropped into third in the NFC East after entering the weekend with the division lead. New York and Washington are tied atop the NFC 'Least' at 4-7. Will this sad-sack division give us a champ with a losing record? Seems likely it will, right?Back to the MNF game, Seattle turned the ball over on downs in Eagles territory on each of its first TWO possessions, including on fourth-and-goal the first time it had the ball. The Seahawks would go up 14-0 as Philadelphia went three-and-out on its first FIVE possessions against the Seahawks' league-worst defense, gaining a total of just FOUR yards. However, the Eagles drove 75 yards and scored with 12 seconds left in the half to close to 14-6 (naturally, missed the extra-point). It was 23-9 Seattle with the game winding down but the Eagles then drove 58 yards in just four plays, with Wentz completing a tipped Hail Mary pass from 33 yards out with 12 seconds left. Sanders then ran it in for two points, as the Eagles (plus-6 1/2) covered. Is it just me or has there been an inordinate number of similar ATS finishes in NFL 2020? With Bal/Pit now pushed to Wednesday (?), I will combine my NFL Week 12 recap and NFL Week 13 preview in Thursday's Notes.College hoops: The AP preseason poll was released back on Nov 9, with No. 1 Gonzaga (28 first-place votes and 1,541 total points) edging out No. 2 Baylor (24 first-place votes and 1,540 total points) for the top-spot. The AP's first regular season poll was announced Monday and Gonzaga extended its lead over Baylor (both schools have opened 2-0) by earning 57 first-place votes to Baylor's six (total points sit at 1,569 to 1,513). Preseason No. 3 Villanova (highest preseason ranking since 1995-96 season) fell to 12th with an 81-73 OT loss to Va Tech, while preseason No. 4 Virginia all the way to 15th, after a shocking 61-60 loss to San Francisco, as a 9 1/2-point favorite. 2-0 Iowa moved up to No. 3 (opened No. 5), matching its highest ranking since the 2015-16 team also reached No. 3, with preseason Player-of-the-Year Luka Garza averaging 33.5 PPG (on 86.2% shooting) with 9.5 RPG. 2-0 Wisconsin took over at No. 4 (up from No. 7) and 3-0 Illinois is No. 5, the school's first top-10 ranking since the 2004-05 team was ranked No. 1.The rest of the top-10 features 1-0 Duke at No. 6, 1-1 Kansas (loss came to Gonzaga) at No. 7, 2-0 Michigan St at No. 8 (up from 13th), 1-0 Creighton at No. 9 (up from 11th, which was the school's highest-ever preseason ranking) and 3-0 Houston at No. 10 (up from 17th after beating then-No. 14 Texas Tech). Kansas is the lone one-loss team in the top-10 but the Jayhawks have now been ranked for the 222nd consecutive time, breaking a tie with I+UCLA (from 1966-80) for the longest streak in NCAA history. For some perspective, I'll add that Duke owns the second-longest active streak with 85! Dropping out were No. 22 UCLA and No. 25 Michigan (let's blame Harbaugh for that, too!). Moving into the top-25 were 3-0 Va Tech (win over 'Nova helped) and No. 19 Richmond, whose 76-64 win at then-No. 10 Kentucky was the school's first-ever road win over a top-10 opponent. Speaking of Kentucky, that loss dropped them to No. 20. The current 2020-21 college basketball season opened last Wednesday (Nov 25), so Dec 1 makes it 'Day 7.' Entering Tuesday, there have been just THREE games between ranked opponents, No. 1 Kansas beating No. 6 Kansas 102-90, No. 3 Villanova beating No. 18 Arizona St 83-74 and No. 14 Texas Tech losing to No. 17 Houston 64-53. However, Tuesday's slate features two such matchups, as No. 6 Duke and No. 8 Michigan St (Coach K vs Izzo) square off, as do No. & Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky. The Champions Classic has been played as a doubleheader at a neutral site in the past but COVID-19 has changed all that. The game between No. 8 Michigan State and No. 6 Duke game was switched to Duke's campus, with the Blue Devils agreeing to visit Michigan State next year, while No. 7 Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky will meet in Indianapolis. Duke is favored by 3 1/2-points and Kansas by 4 1/2. The higher ranked teams are 2-1 SU and ATS so far in top-25 matchups. In games between ranked teams and unranked opponents, ranked teams are off to an impressive 39-4 (.907) start SU, while going 24-18-1 (57.1%) ATS. There are four such matchups on Tuesday, including No. 4 Wisconsin (-24.5) home to Green Bay and No. 9 Creighton (-19.5) taking on Omaha in a neutral-site setting among top-10 teams.Wednesday's Notes will review the second CFP rankings from Tuesday night plus I'll get to that look at the highs (still unbeaten CFB teams) and lows (still winless teams) of CFB 2020. Hopefully, I'll be able to preview the NFL's Baltimore/Pittsburgh game, as well. "Fingers crossed."Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 30

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: In normal times (we are FAR from that at the present moment), tonight's Seahawks/Eagles game in Philadelphia would close out Week 12 of the NFL. As it stands now, Sunday's game between the Ravens and Steelers has been rescheduled to Tuesday and would stand as the final game of the current week. However, here's the latest. The NFL canceled the Baltimore Ravens' practice for Monday morning. The Ravens are in the midst of one of the biggest outbreaks in professional sports with at least one positive test for the past eight days. Baltimore has officially placed 18 players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in the past week. As I've been saying all season, "fingers crossed." Getting back to MNF, the 7-3 Seattle Seahawks got some help on Sunday, as the Cards lost 20-17 in New England to the Pats and the 49ers upset the Rams 23-20 in LA. That drops the Rams to 7-4 and the Cards to 6-5. Seattle would move to 8-3 with a win. In stark contrast, Week 12 has NOT gone well for the Eagles, as Washington and the NY Giants both won 19-17, moving to 4-7. That means the 3-6-1 Eagles must win to inch back ahead of their two NFC 'Least' rivals. Kickoff is at 8:15 ET on ESPN  with Seattle favored by 6 1/2-points (over/under is 49). Looking ahead, I'll move my NFL 12 recap to Wednesday.CFB recap: the week began on Thanksgiving with a game few care about other than the people in Logan, Ut, who saw the Utah State Aggies win for the first time in 2020, 41-27 over New Mexico. The Aggies moved to 1-4 and New Mexico remained winless on the season at 0-5. NINE games were played on Friday, with FIVE ranked teams in action, including top-25 matchups (note: I will continue to use the AP rankings, not the CFP ones) between No. 2 Notre Dame at No. 25 North Carolina and No. 15 Iowa St at No. 20 Texas. Notre Dame won 31-17 (shut out high-scoring North Carolina in the second half) for its 15th straight win (longest among FBS teams). Iowa St edged Texas 23-20 (first win in Austin since 2010) and is now a near 'lock' to play in the Big 12 title game. No. 1 Alabama would rout No. 19 Auburn 42-13 in the Iron Bowl (Mac Jones threw five TD passes), as the higher ranked team won and covered the only three matchups of the weekend between top-25 opponents. Nothing surprising in those results, as higher ranked teams are now  21-5 (.808) SU and 19-7 (73.1%) ATS in meetings between top-25 opponents in the college football season to-date.Including Friday's game with No. 9 Oregon visiting Oregon St in the "Civil War" rivalry, 10 ranked teams met unranked opponents (note: six more were either postponed or canceled). Here's what I wrote in last Friday's Notes. 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. However, when 'all the dust had settled' from the week of Nov 10-15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (then-No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That trend continued in games from Nov 17-21, as ranked teams went 11-1 SU and a solid 8-4 ATS. That's a three-week run of 37-2 (.949) SU and 25-13-1 (65.8%) ATS. The Y-T-D numbers sat at 105-24 (.814) SU and 61-66-2 (48.0%) ATS. I opined, "Can (will) ranked teams finally go over .500 ATS after this Thanksgiving weekend?" The verdict is in and the answer is no. Ranked teams did go 8-2 SU but were just 5-5 ATS. The SU losers were No. 9 Oregon losing 41-38 at Oregon St and No. 11 Northwestern losing 29-20 at Northwestern. Doing the math, ranked teams are now 113-26 (.813) SU but still sub-500 ATS at 66-71-2 (48.2%). Of the six games canceled among the group of ranked vs unranked matchups, NONE had more ramifications than No. 3 Ohio St (No. 4 in the CFP standings) losing its game at Illinois. The Buckeyes are now 4-0 (have had two games canceled) and will HAVE to play their final two games or they will be ineligible for the Big Ten championship. What a development that would be.The new AP poll was released on Sunday The top-eight remained the same for the FOURTH straight week and to no one's surprise, Alabama got all 62 first-place votes for the second consecutive week. Alabama has now been ranked for 209 straight polls, tying the Florida Gators  *1990-2002) for the third-longest streak in CFB history. Florida State's 211 consecutive weeks (from 1989-2001) is up next but the Tide have a LONG way to go to catch Nebraska's amazing run of 348 weeks from 1981-2002. Remember when Nebraska football mattered? Oregon fell from No. 9 to No. 21, with Miami moving up to No. 9 (from No. 10) and Indiana moving back to No. 10 from No. 12. Washington is No.23 and ranked for the first time this season. No. 24 Iowa opened the season 0-2 but with four straight wins is back in after opening at No. 24 in the preseason poll. Taking the No. 25 spot is Liberty, after falling out last week after a 15-14 loss at NC State. No. 20 Texas, No. 22 Auburn and No. 25 North Carolina all dropped out. Auburn was ranked No. 11 in the preseason and rose to as high as No. 7 this season, Texas opened No. 14 in the preseason and got as high as No. 9 and North Carolina opened the season No. 18 but climbed as high as No. 5. NOT a good week for those programs.I'm pushing back my NFL Week 12 recap to Wednesday and will feature the highs (still unbeaten CFB teams) and lows (still winless teams) of CFB 2020. The first regular season AP poll of the 2020-21 CBB season will come out Monday and I'll comment on that plus check in on the comings and goings of the first six days of college hoops, so far.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Nov 27

Friday, Nov 27, 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."Thanksgiving recap: Detroit and Dallas traditionally host Thanksgiving games and yesterday, they sure allowed their 'guests' to walk away VERY happy! Detroit head coach Matt Patricia was said to be on the 'hot seat' entering this season and with his record falling to 13-29-1 in his tenure with the Lions, that seat is now likely 'on fire!' The Texans entered the season having won the AFC South FOUR times in the previous five seasons but Thursday's win will do little for them in 2020. Deshaun Watson had a big game, throwing for 318 yards with four TDs and no INTs in the 41-25 victory but Houston is just 4-7 on the season. Watson now has 15 TD passes without a SINGLE interception over his last six games but Houston has gone only 3-3 in that span.I guess we can no longer say "Hail to the Redskins" but I'll risk it to congratulate the Washington FB Team for moving into first-place in the sad-sack NFC East at 4-7, after its 41-16 win over the "How 'bout dem Cowboys!" One HAS to feel really good for Alex Smith, who is back after nearly losing his leg (AND life) to an injury just over two years ago. He had 390 passing yards in a loss to the Lions back in Week 10 but these last two games, while he's thrown for just 166 and 149 yards (two TDs / two INTS), Washington has won BOTH games. Kudos go to rookie RB Antonio Gibson who ran for 115 yards and three TDs vs Dallas, after gaining 94 yards in the win over Cincy. Plus, "How 'bout that Washington D?" It's allowed just 25 points the last two games on 259.5 YPG. Week 12 resumes Sunday and check out Thursday's Notes for a preview.The 2020-21 college basketball season tipped off on Wednesday and while there were no games between ranked opponents, 17 ranked schools played unranked opponents 16 of the 17 won, going an impressive 12-5 ATS. No. 22 UCLA (one FINAL reminder for me!) was the only loser, falling 73-58 at San Diego St. SIX top-10 schools played on Wednesday, as No. 3 Villanova,  No. 4 Virginia, No. 5 Iowa, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Illinois and No. 10 Kentucky all won, although 'Nova and Wisconsin failed to cover. Thanksgiving Day featured two top-25 matchups, the "marquee" one being Gonzaga, the nation's preseason No. 1 team, meeting No. 6 Kansas, which was the AP's No.1 ranked team in last year's "unfinished season." The Bulldogs opened a double-digit lead in the first half and while Kansa tied it up twice in the second half, Gonzaga used a 22-7 run to up 96-78 and win, 102-90. Returning players the 6-10 Timme (25 & 6) and the 6-7b Kispert (23 & 4) plus 6-4 freshman guard Suggs (24-4-8 in his first game), gave the Bulldogs THREE, 20-point scorers (Gonzaga shot 64.5% from the floor). The second top-25 matchup was No. 3 Villanova beating No. 18 Arizona St for the 2K Empire Classic title. No. 8 Illinois and No. 15 West Vs won and covered, giving ranked teams a 18-1 (.947) SU start to the season, while also going 14-5 (73.7%) ATS. Friday does not feature any top-25 matchups but NINE top-25 teams will play, including FIVE top-10 teams. No 1 Gonzaga plays Auburn (-18), No. 5 Iowa is home to Southern (-27), No. 6 Kansas meets St Joe's (-18), No. 7 Wisconsin is home to Arkansas-Pine Bluff (-34) and No. 8 Illinois is home to Ohio U (-17).The CFB weekend kicks off with NINE games on Friday, with FIVE ranked teams in action, including top-25 matchups (note: I will continue to use the AP rankings, not the CFP ones) between No. 2 Notre Dame (-5.5) at No. 25 North Carolina and No. 15 Iowa St (-1) at No. 20 Texas. Saturday will feature just ONE, top-25 matchup, as No. 1 Alabama (without head coach Nick Saban because of a positive COVID-19 test) hosting No. 22 Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl ('Bama is favored by 25.5). Higher ranked teams are 18-5 SU and 16-7 ATS in meetings between top-25 opponents in the college football season to-date. Beginning with No. 9 Oregon (-13) playing at Oregon St in the annual "Civil War" on Friday, there are 11 games featuring ranked teams playing unranked teams. Unfortunately, FIVE ranked teams had their games postponed or canceled. That group includes No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 14 Oklahoma at West Va, No. 18 Wisconsin at home to Minnesota, No 19 USC home to Colorado and No. 24 Tulsa at Houston. Top-10 teams that ARE playing unranked opponents include No. 3 Ohio St (-28) at Illinois,  No. 4 Clemson (-23.5) home to Pitt, No. 5 Texas A&M (-15) home to LSU, No. 6 Florida (25.5) home to Kentucky and No. 9 Oregon at Oregon St on Friday (see above).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. However, when 'all the dust had settled' from the week of Nov 10-15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (then-No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That trend continued in last week's games (Nov 17-21), as ranked teams went 11-1 SU and a solid 8-4 ATS. That's a three-week run of 37-2 (.949) SU and 25-13-1 (65.8%) ATS. The Y-T-D numbers are 105-24 (.814) SU and 61-66-2 (48.0%) ATS. Can (will) ranked teams finally go over .500 ATS after this Thanksgiving weekend?Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Nov 26

Thursday, Nov 26, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The 2020-21 college basketball season tipped off on Wednesday and just like in college football, COVID-19 issues will continue to force postponements and cancellations until a vaccine can be distributed. The final count was 32 games either canceled (27) or postponed (5). The most notable cancellation was No. 2 Baylor and No. 18 Arizona's tourney game being played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Three other ranked schools fell into that category as well, as No. 9 Duke and No. 20 Oregon postponed their respective games, while No.12 Tennessee canceled its game. However, Arizona St was able to quickly reschedule and played Rhode Island at the 2K Empire Sports Classic in Uncasville, Ct. ASU was one of 17 ranked schools to play on Wednesday and 16 of the 17 won, going an impressive 12-5 ATS. No. 22 UCLA (DON'T remind me!) was the only loser, falling 73-58 at San Diego St. SIX top-10 schools played on Wednesday, as No. 3 Villanova,  No. 4 Virginia, No. 5 Iowa, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Illinois and No. 10 Kentucky all won, although 'Nova and Wisconsin failed to cover. It's a busy Thanksgiving Day schedule and so far, just four games have been canceled. The "marquee" matchup is Kansas taking on Gonzaga at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Melbourne, Fl. Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the final poll of the unfinished 2019-20 CBB season and Gonzaga (which finished No. 2 Kansas) opens No. 1 in the AP's preseason poll this year (Kansas is No. 6). The game tips at 1:30 ET on FOX, with Gonzaga favored by four points. No. 3 Villanova and No. 18 Arizona St meet in the 2K Empire Classic, giving us the first two of what will be many meetings between ranked opponents throughout the season (Villanova is favored by 4 1/2-points). Two more ranked teams play on Thursday, No. 8 Illinois at home against Chicago St (Illinois is favored by 39 points) and No. 15 West Va at the Crossover Classic against VCU in Sioux Falls, SD (West Va is favored by 9 1/2-points).NFL Week 12 was scheduled to kick off with THREE games on Thanksgiving but COVID-19 had "other ideas." 10-0 Pittsburgh was expected to host 6-4 Baltimore Thanksgiving evening but that game has been moved to Sunday (fingers crossed). Going on as scheduled will be Detroit and Dallas hosting their annual Thanksgiving games. The Houston Texans entered the 2020 season having won the AFC South in FOUR of the previous five years but will visit Detroit with just a 3-7 record. The Lions check in at 4-6 and are almost guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the 18th time in the 21 seasons since 2000. The game kicks off at 12:30 ET on CBS, with Texans favored by three points (over/under is 51). Of note is the fact that Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is set to make his 10th career Thanksgiving Day start, which would tie Troy Aikman for the most in NFL history. Stafford is 4-5 in those starts and it may surprise some (it did me), that Aikman was just 5-5. Washington visits Dallas at 4:30 ET in a game televised by FOX. Washington and Dallas each enter the contest at 3-7 on the season but the winner will own first place in the cynically-named "NFC Least!" That is until Monday, when the 3-6-1 Eagles will have a chance to regain the division lead if they can upset the Seahawks. Dallas is favored by three points and the over/under is 46. Moving ahead to Sunday, let's start at the top and the bottom! The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-0 and New York Jets are 0-10. This marks just the SIXTH time in the Super Bowl era in which a team has opened 10-0 and another 0-10 in the same season. The most recent occurrence was back in 2011, when the Packers and Colts did so. Green Bay would go 15-1 but lose their first playoff game (at home to the Giants), while the Colts finished 2-14 in a season in which Peyton Manning never played because of a neck injury. Prior to the Steelers starting 10-0 this season, 17 teams have started 10-0 in the Super Bowl era. Of those teams, SIX won the Super Bowl (2009 Saints, 1998 Broncos, 1991 Washington, 1990 Giants, 1985 Bears and undefeated 1972 Dolphins). Of the 21 previous teams to start 0-10 in the Super Bowl era, just THREE ended up winless with the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns going 0-16 and the expansion 1976 Buccaneers losing all 14 games. Enough history.Baltimore won its final 12 games of the 2019 regular season to finish 14-2 but then got upset in its first playoff game, 28-12 at home by the Titans. The 6-4 Ravens are in real danger of missing the postseason in 2020, as they've fallen short in EVERY important game so far. Will that change here in Pittsburgh? The Steelers are favored by four points and the over/under is 45 . The NY Jets have lost 10 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are two losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. New York will host a 6-4 Miami team which comes in after seeing its five-game winning streak snapped last Sunday in a 20-13 loss at Denver. Miami is favored by seven points and the over/under is 44. The Steelers and Jets own the longest active winning and losing streaks in 2020, respectively. However, the 8-2 Saints opened the season 1-2, before winning their last SEVEN (just 4-3 ATS but have three straight ATS wins). The Saints will be in Denver to take on the 4-6 Broncos and are favored by six points (over/under is 43 1/2). The Jacksonville Jaguars upset the now 7-3 Colts 27-20 in Week 1 as a seven-point home dog but have since lost NINE in a row, going 3-6 ATS. The Jags host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team which is trying to navigate a COVID-19 outbreak. However, through it all, the Browns enter 7-3 and look as if they will have their first winning season since 2007 and could make the playoffs for the first time since 2003! Cleveland is favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 49 .Speaking of the 7-3 Indianapolis Colts, they will host the Tennessee Titans (also 7-3), with the winner taking the lead in the AFC South. The Colts just beat the Titans 34-17 at Tennessee in Week 10 and an Indy win would not only give them a one-game lead in the division but a 2-0 season sweep of their division rivals. The Colts are favored by three points and the over/under is 51 1/2. The defending champion KC Chiefs are 9-1 in 2020, as Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 3,035 yards with 27 TD passes and just two INTs in 374 attempts (both INTs have come against the Raiders).  Mahomes will lead the Chiefs, who have won 18 of their last 19 games (including 2019 playoff run), into Tampa for a game with the 7-4 Bucs. Tampa Bay has lost TWO of its last three games, with Brady looking more than a little shaky in the losses (five of his nine INTs have come in those games). The Bucs will have a hard time catching the Saints but even if they lose here, the good news is that after a Week 13 bye, they finish with games against Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit and Atlanta, again. NONE of those teams own a winning record. However, a win would put Tampa in very good shape in the NFC wild card race. Is this a showdown between the G.O.A.T and the future G.O.A.T? It may just be. KC is favored by  3 1/2-points and the over/under is 56. SNF features 5-5 Chicago at 7-3 Green Bay and MNF has 7-3 Seattle at 3-6-1 Philadelphia. The Packers are favored by 8 1/2-points (over/under is 45) and the Seahawks are favored by five points (over/under is 50). My Friday Notes will recap NFL and CBB action from Thanksgiving but mainly feature Friday and Saturday CFB games.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Nov 25

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The initial CFP standings of the 2020 season were released last night and there were no surprises in the top-four. 7-0 Alabama is No. 1, 8-0 Notre Dame No. 2, 7-1 Clemson No. 3 and 4-0 Ohio St  No. 4. That's the same top-four as both the current AP and Coaches' poll, with only a minor change. Ohio St is No. 3 and Clemson is No. 4 in both of those polls. Let me begin with this reminder. The first CFP rankings/standings began in 2014 and the first four teams in the initial rankings have NEVER all made it to the final four. Alabama earned the No. 1 spot in the CFP standings for the 19th time, more than double the amount of any other school. However, is that good or bad news for the Tide? Over the past FIVE seasons, NO team ranked No. 1 in the initial CFP rankings has gone on to win the national championship. As for Clemson claiming the No. 3 spot over Ohio St, which is No. 3 in both of the traditional polls, the Buckeyes may think they 'won' by avoiding that No. 3 spot. After all, NO team ranked No. 3 in the initial CFP standings has ever gone on to win the national championship.The "close but no cigar" spots of No. 5 and No. 6 went to 5-1 Texas A&M and 6-1 Florida, respectively. The Gators surely can't complain, as they lost at A&M 41-38 back on Oct 13. Florida is on a roll and if the Gators win their final three regular season games plus win the SEC title game (Alabama is the likely opponent), Florida will surely make the school's first-ever 'Final Four' appearance. Rounding out the top-10 are 8-0 Cincinnati at No. 7, 5-0 Northwestern at No. 8, 5-2 Georgia at No. 9 and 7-1 Miami-Fl at No. 10. The Bearcats are the highest ranked Group of Five team at No. 7 and made some history. Over each of the previous six years, the highest any Group of 5 team has been ranked in the initial standings was UCF's 7-0 team of 2018 at No. 12! If the Bearcats remain the highest-ranked Group of 5 team, they will get an invitation to a New Year’s Six Bowl. Is there a chance for Cincinnati to get into position to make the playoffs? Cincy would HAVE to finish 11-0 and would need the teams ahead of them like Clemson, Florida, and Texas A&M to finish with two losses.Speaking of two losses, how does Georgia come in at No. 9? The Bulldogs lost 41-24 at Alabama and 44-28 to Florida in Jacksonville. 9-0 BYU, ranked No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches' poll, came in at just at No. 14. The Cougars are led by QB Zach Wilson (74.3% for 2,724 yards with 26 TDs and just two INTS in 237 attempts), who owns the nation's top passer rating of 205.3. The Cougars are averaging 47.6 PPG and their nmargin of victory sits at a nation-best 33.7 PPG. Selection committee chairman Gary Barta, the AD at Iowa, told ESPN that BYU’s schedule was the key reason the Cougars were ranked so low. BYU’s schedule was decimated when the Pac-10, the Big Ten, and the SEC went to conference games only. BYU’s original schedule included Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, and Missouri but the Cougars were not able to put together a revised schedule in 2020 (on short notice) that included a Power Five team. BYU tried to hastily schedule a game with Washington for this Saturday, after the Huskies' Apple Cup game against Washington St was canceled but Washington decided to play a Pac-12 game with Utah. Who can blame Washington? BYU has had a terrific season but with only a home game with San Diego St on Dec 12 remaining, BYU's only realistic hope is to earn an at-large berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl.The 2019-2020 college basketball season was abruptly shut down back on Mar 12 but the 2020-21 season, with COVID-19 issues still very much looming, opens on Wednesday. The AP's preseason college basketball poll was released back on Nov 9 and Gonzaga barely edged Baylor for the No. 1 spot. Gonzaga held the No. 1 spot for four weeks last season and was 31-2, finishing No. 2 in the AP's final poll in a season that was never completed. The Bulldogs received 28 first-place votes and its 1,541 points was just ONE point clear of Baylor, which received 24 first-place votes after going 26-4 last season and finishing as the nation's 5th-ranked team. Villanova (24-7 last season) received 11 first-place votes and its No. 3 ranking is the school's highest preseason ranking since the 1995-96 season. Virginia, coming off back-to-back 30-win seasons (and a national championship in the 2018-19 season), got ONE first-pace vote after going 23-7 last season and is ranked 4th. Iowa went 21-11 last season (was ranked 25th in the final poll) but with the preseason player-of-the -year (Luke Garza) deciding to stay, the Hawkeyes will open the season ranked No. 5.Kansas was 28-3 when last season was called off due to COVID-19 but earned 63 of the 65 first-place votes to claim the No. 1 spot. The Jayhawks open the 2020-21 season as the nation's 6th-ranked team, followed by No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Illinois, No. 9 Duke and No. 10 Kentucky. Creighton checks in ranked No. 11, the highest preseason ranking in school history. Houston is ranked No. 17, its highest preseason ranking since the 1983-84 season. The Dayton Flyers went 29-2 last season (finished ranked No. 3) but will open the current season unranked. San Diego St went 30-2 last season (finished No. 6) but also opens unranked, as do Louisville (24-7 and ranked No. 14) and Seton Hall (21-9 and ranked  No. 15).Just like in college football, COVID-19 issues will continue to force postponements and cancellations until a vaccine can be distributed. At last count (this morning at 10:00 ET), 25 scheduled Wednesday games have been postponed (five) or canceled (20). The most notable cancellation was No. 2 Baylor and No. 18 Arizona's tourney game being played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Three other ranked schools fall into that category as well, as No. 9 Duke and No. 20 Oregon postponed their respective games, while No.12 Tennessee canceled its game. Top-10 schools that are playing on Wednesday include, No. 3 Villanova (-14) vs Boston College, No. 4 Virginia (-18.5) at home to Towson, No. 5 Iowa (-26) home to NC Central, No. 7 Wisconsin (-20.5) at home to Eastern Illinois, No. 8 Illinois (-29) vs NC A&T and No. 10 Kentucky (-25) home to Morehead St.With three NFL games scheduled for Thanksgiving, Thursday's Notes will feature my NFL Week 12 preview, with my college football preview moving to Friday.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Nov 24

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: Jared Goff outplayed Tom Brady last night, completing 39 of 51 passes for 376 yards with three TDs. WRs Robert Woods (12 receptions for 130 yards and one TD) and Cooper Kupp (11 receptions for 145 yards) brought their "A" games. Woods had a single-game high in 2020 for catches and Kupp matched his season-high (also had 11 catches in Week 9). Tom Brady completed 26 of 48 passes for a modest 216 yards with two TDs (both Goff and Brady had two INTs}. The two TD passes lifted Brady's career count to 566, allowing him to pass injured New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (565) for the most in NFL history. The Rams have now won THREE of four and at 7-3 are tied atop the NFC West with Seattle, while the Bucs have lost TWO of three and at 7-4 not only trail the 8-2 Saints by 1 1/2-games in the NFC South but also have lost BOTH meetings with New Orleans this season.NFL Week 11 recap and highlights: Let's start with the numbers. Home teams did well in Week 10 going 11-3 SU and 8-6 ATS (home dogs were 2-3 SU & ATS) and followed in Week 11 by going 9-5 SU and 9-5 ATS, as well (home dogs were 3-1 SU & ATS). Doing the math on the Y-T-D numbers, home teams are now 85-75-1 (.531) but they remain under .500 ATS at  77-82-2 ATS (48.4%). Home dogs are well below .500 at 17-37 (.315) SU but are a small money-maker in going 29-23-2 (55.8%) ATS. Week 10's 14 games averaged 45.7 PPG (down about 7 PPG from Week 9) and Week 11 games followed suit, averaging 45.5 PPG. A closer look reveals that SIX games averaged more than 50 PPG, while SIX others averaged under 40 PPG. THREE games totaled 60-plus points, while THREE others totaled 30 points or less. EIGHT of Week 11's 14 games stayed under the total and there have now been 81 overs, 76 unders and four pushes through 11 weeks.Week 11 highlights: Pittsburgh moved to 10-0 with a 27-3 win at Jacksonville. Pittsburgh's D is allowing the fewest points in the league (17.4 per) and leads the league with 38 sacks and 21 takeaways. Pittsburgh has had at least ONE sack in 67 straight games, two games shy of the all-time record of 69, set by the TB Bucs from 1999 thru 2003. Pittsburgh is 10-0 for the first time in franchise history and becomes the NINTH team this century to start that hot. Of the previous eight, only one (2009 Saints) won the Super Bowl. The NY Jets are the "yin" to Pittsburgh's 'yang," as their 34-28 loss to the Chargers dropped them to 0-10 on the season. The Jets have lost 10 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are two losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. In direct contrast to the Steelers, the Jets are now the NINTH team since 2000 to have opened 0-10 and of the previous eight, the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns are the only ones to finish 0-16.Russell Wilson's MVP candidacy has somewhat faded but he picked up his 93rd regular season win last Thursday, tying Peyton Manning for the most by a QB through his first nine seasons. Wilson also reached 30 TD passes for the FOURTH straight season, joining Brett Favre and Drew Brees as the ONLY QBs to do so in NHL history (not bad company). Two QBs made their NFL debuts as a starter on Sunday and BOTH won! Taysom Hill (not Winston) got the start for the Saints and completed 18 of 23 for 233 yards plus ran for 51 yards with two TDs, as New Orleans beat Atlanta 24-9. Carolina's PJ Walker started for an injured Teddy Bridgewater and completed 24 of 34 for 258 yards with one TD and one INT. However, with the Carolina defense 'throwing its first shutout' in five years, the Panthers broke a five-game losing streak in beating the Lions 20-0 (Detroit was held to just 10 FDs and 185 total yards).Sticking with the QB theme, the Chargers' Justin Herbert entered Sunday's game with the Jets as the first QB in the Super Bowl era to lose SEVEN of eight starts despite an overall passer rating exceeding 100.0. He shredded the Jets pass D for a career-high 366 yards, while throwing three TDs. He has completed 68.0% on the season for 2,699 with 22 TDs and six INTs (QB rating of 104.7). He's now become the first rookie in league history with at least a two TD passes in SEVEN consecutive games! Two "feel good" stories from Week 11 were Alex Smith and Andy Dalton. Just FOUR days after the second anniversary of an injury that threatened his life, Smith led Washington to a 20-9 win over Cincinnati. He had thrown for 390 yards the week before but the Washington lost to Detroit. Smith threw for just 166 yards vs the Bengals but the "W" had to feel VERY good. However, there was some sad news to come out of the Cin/Was game, as Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow (the No. 1 pick of the 2020 Draft), suffered a torn ACL and MCL. Returning to the "fell good" theme, Burrow's Cincinnati predecessor, Andy Dalton, coming off a bout with COVID-19, threw three TDs passes (game-winning TD pass came with 1:37 left), as the Cowboys upset the Vikings 31-28. It was Dalton's first win as Dallas' starting QB.A final shout to a pair of WRs. Keenan Allen of the Chargers has quietly had some career for the Chargers, garnering very little recognition. However, he set a Chargers single-game record with 16 catches against the Jets and is now one of only FIVE players with two games of at least 15 receptions. The other four are Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker and Jason Witten. Allen entered the 2020 season with 303 receptions his previous three seasons, with six TDs in each. He already has 81 catches through 10 games (on pace for 130) and six TDs. Then there is New Orleans' WR Michael Thomas. He set an NFL single-season record with 149 catches in 2019 but he's been hampered by injuries for MOST of 2020. However, he had NINE catches on Sunday and his career total now sits at 489 receptions, the MOST of any receiver in NFL history through his first five seasons! Don't look over your shoulder, Jerry Rice!Wednesday's notes will feature the first CFP rankings of 2020 (out tonight) plus the opening of 2020-21 college hoops season. With the NFL dominating the Thanksgiving landscape, I'll preview NFL Week 12 on Thursday, with my CFB preview moving to Friday.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 23

Monday, Nov 23, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 11: A detailed recap will be featured in Tuesday Notes but Week 11 was highlighted by Pittsburgh moving to 10-0 with a 27-3 win at Jacksonville, as the Jags have now lost NINE in a row. However, the Jets one-upped Jacksonville by losing 34-28 at the Chargers to fall to 0-10 to open the 2020 season. The Jets have lost 10 straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and they are two losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. Week 11 featured two overtime games, the Titans beating the Ravens 30-24 in Baltimore (no "playoff revenge" for the Ravens) and the Colts edging the Packers 34-31, after holding Green Bay to THREE points after halftime (GB led 28-14).MNF concludes with the Rams at the Bucs (8:15 ET on ESPN). The 6-3 Los Angeles Rams need a win to keep pace with the 7-3 Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and the 7-3 Tampa Bay Bucs need a win to stay just a half-game back of the 8-2 Saints in the NFC South. I'm "old school" and can remember the Rams beating the Bucs 9-0 at Tampa in the 1979 NFC championship game (can you say Chuck Knox & John McKay?). Fast-forwarding to 2020, the Bucs are favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 48 1/2.CFB recap: Unfortunately, I begin with the fact that 18 games were either postponed or canceled due to COVID-related issues. The list includes SIX ranked teams, as No. 4 Clemson, No. 5 Texas A&M (for the second straight week), No. 12 Miami-Fl, No. 15 Marshall, No. 21 Texas and No. 24 ULL. It hardly bodes well that San Diego St at Fresno St and Washington at Washington St (both scheduled for Friday), have already been canceled. There were three games between ranked teams in Week 12, all played on Saturday. The higher ranked teams had gone 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS in meetings between top-25 teams entering Saturday but only No. 3 survived on Saturday, edging No. 9 Indiana 42-35 (didn't come close to covering). In the other two matchups, No. 10 Wisconsin lost 17-7 at No. 19 Northwestern and No. 14 Oklahoma lost badly at No. 18 Oklahoma,41-13. Updating the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team 18-5 SU and 16-7 ATS in meetings between top-25 teams.Moving on to ranked teams vs unranked ones. 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. However, when 'all the dust had settled' from the week of Nov 10-15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (then-No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That trend continued in last week's games (Nov 17-21), as ranked teams went 11-1 SU and a solid 8-4 ATS. That's a three-week run of 37-2 (.949) SU and 25-13-1 (65.8%) ATS. The Y-T-D numbers are 105-24 (.814) SU and 61-66-2 (48.0%) ATS. Can (will) ranked teams finally go over .500 ATS after this Thanksgiving weekend?Recapping those three games between ranked teams, Ohio State QB Justin Fields looked 'human' for the first time in 2020, as did Ohio St's pass defense. Fields entered the game with as many TD passes as incompletions (11 each) but while he did throw for 300 yards with two TDs and a rush TD, we saw signs of mortality. He had more incompletions (12, going 18 of 30) than in his first three games combined plus threw THREE interceptions, after entering the game with ZERO in 83 attempts (he also was sacked FIVE times!). The Buckeyes were favored by three TDs but won by just SEVEN, as Indiana QB Pennix passed for 491 yards and five TDs. Ohio St did beat Indiana for the 26th consecutive time and won for the 18th straight time over a top-10 Big Ten opponent but the Buckeyes' run of 16 straight double digit wins in Big Ten play came to an end. Wisconsin redshirt freshman QB Graham Mertz 'exploded' on the scene by completing 20 of 21 passes while throwing five TDs in his college debut back on Oct 23 (45-7 win over Illinois). However, while Wisconsin routed Michigan 49-11 last Saturday, he threw for just 127 yards and against Northwestern's D on Saturday, was picked off THREE times. Northwestern moves to 5-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1996 (the year after the team's 1995 Rose Bowl trip). Oklahoma's Mike Gundy has led Oklahoma to a bowl game in each of the last 14 seasons (and will make it 15 straight in 2020) but he fell to 2-14 in the "Bedlam" series with Oklahoma, as the Sooners routed the Cowboys 41-13. No. 1 Alabama beat Kentucky 63-6 and has now scored 35-plus points in 20 straight games, the longest streak in FBS history. No. 6 Florida won 38-17 at Vandy (eighth straight game of 35-plus points) as Kyle Trask threw three TD passes and now has 30 in his first seven games, the first QB in SEC history to do so. No. 7 Cincy eked out a 36-33 win at UCF, as the Cincinnati defense held the Golden Knights to 359 yards (entered the game averaging 619.1 YPG). It's not easy to cover a 51-point spread but No. 8 BYU did just that, beating North Alabama 66-14 to move to 9-0. Some lowlights of the weekend were Penn St losing 41-21 at home to Iowa, as the Nittany Lions fell to 0-5 for the first time in school history (program began play back in 1887!) and Tennessee losing its FIFTH in a row (30-17 at Auburn) after a 2-0 start. The Vols opened 2019 at 2–5 start but won their final SIX games of the season, including a 23–22 comeback victory in the Gator Bowl against Indiana. The Vols opened 25th in the preseason AP poll and started 2-0 in 2020 and were up to 14th when they visited then-No. 3 Georgia on Oct 10. The Vols led 21-17 at the half "between the hedges" but would get shut out in the second half of a 44-21 loss. NOTHING has gone right since, as the team's five straight losses have all come by double digits. That's the first time that's happened in school history (FB program started in 1891).New AP poll: The AP poll began back in 1936 but unanimous No. 1 rankings are pretty rare, as it's happened just 80 times in poll history. However, 67 of those times have come since 1992 and it will come as no surprise that Alabama leads the way. The Crimson Tide received all 62 votes in Sunday's poll, claiming a unanimous No. 1 ranking for the 22nd time (most of any school), with 21 of those coming since 2012. Four ranked teams lost this past week but THREE lost to a ranked opponent, so there was little change in the current poll. In fact, the top-8 teams remained the same for the second straight week. Falling out of the top-10 were No. 9 Indiana (fell to No. 12 after losing to Ohio St) and No. 10 Wisconsin, which fell to No. 18 after losing at Northwestern. Miami-Fl moved to No. 9 (from 12) and Oregon to No. 10, up from No. 11. Northwestern jumped EIGHT spots to No. 11 with its first 5-0 start in the Big Ten since 1996. Coastal Carolina had a tough time vs Appalachian St (won 34-23) but moved to 8-0, falling just one spot to No. 16. However, the season's other 'Cinderella' team, Liberty, lost for the first time in 2020, 15-14 at NC State and fell out of the poll (was No. 21). Climbing back in at No. 25 was North Carolina, which back on Oct 11 was 3-0 and ranked No. 5. However, the Tar Heels will host No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday (Irish own the nation's longest-active winning streak at 14 in a row). Two other top-25 showdowns are No. 1 Alabama hosting No. 22 Auburn in the latest edition of the Iron Bowl (24th time both teams are ranked) and No. 15 Iowa St playing at No. 20 Texas. The Cyclones can clinch a spot in the Big 12 championship game with a win. The last time Iowa St WON a championship game was back in 1912, capturing the MVC championship.I noted above that the AP poll began back in 1936 but in reality, yesterday's poll is the last time in 2020 that it will be relevant. The first CFP rankings will be revealed Tuesday night and will take 'center stage' the rest of the way. Alabama, Notre Dame , Ohio St and Clemson are 1-2-3-4 in both current polls (Coaches' poll being the other), and it would hardly be surprising if that's the order we will see on Tuesday. Recap of the CFP rankings covered in Wednesday's Notes.Good luck...Larry 

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Ness Notes: Friday, Nov 20

Friday, Nov 20, 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."As my very favorite pop icon (the legendary Britney Spears) once opined, "Oops!... I Did It Again." Regulars know that I've charted games featuring ranked teams against unranked opponents all season (ranked teams opened the week 94-23, .803 SU but just 53-62-2, 46.1%  ATS) and the current CFB week features 13 such games. The first of those games was played last night, as No. 25 Tulsa (ranked for the first time since 2010) hosted Tulane. Tulsa opened the current season with a competitive 16-7 loss at then-No. 11 Oklahoma St but then ripped off FOUR straight wins. The Golden Hurricane fell behind the then-No. 19 Mustangs 21-0 last Saturday, before outscoring them 28-3 the rest of the way. So what else was 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! Well, "Oops!... Tulsa Did It Again!" Tulsa fell behind Tulane 14-0 last night but for the FOURTH time this season, erased a double-digit deficit. Third-string QB Davis Brin (1st and 2nd string QBs got hurt) ran for one TD and passed for two, including a 37-yard Hail Mary TD pass as time expired in the fourth quarter. The teams traded FGs during the first overtime and on the first possession of the second overtime, Tulane moved to the Tulsa 7-yard line but on third-and-goal, Michael Pratt was intercepted by Zaven Collins, who returned it 96 yards for the game-winning TD in Tulsa's 30-24 victory. The pointspread? It was anywhere from Tulsa favored by four to seven points, depending on when you played it! And the Over/Under ranged from 53.5 to 56 points.  So, for many bettors, this game -- which was 0-0 at halftime -- went OVER the total!  You just CAN'T make this stuff up! The NFL opened its Week 11 with a "Battle 4 First" in the NFC West between the Cards and Seahawks in Seattle. There was a three-way tie at the top of the division when the Cards and Seahawks kicked off last night. Carlos Hyde, back in action after missing three games due to a hamstring injury, rushed for a season-high 79 yards and a TD. Russell Wilson had  a season-low 197 passing yards but completed 23 of 28 with two TDS and zero INTs (119.8 QB rating). However, the 'game ball' should go to the Seattle defense, which held the Cardinals' top-ranked offense to 314 yards, more than 100 below their average (425.5). Arizona gained just 57 yards rushing after entering with a league-best average of 168.9 per game. Note that the Seattle defense entered the game allowing a league-high 448.3 YPG. The Seahawks broke a three-way tie atop the NFC West by moving to 7-3 (Cards are now 6-4), although the Los Angeles Rams (6-3) can join them atop the division by winning at Tampa Bay on Monday night (see Monday's Notes).Sunday's NFL: Let's start at the top AND the bottom. The NFL's only unbeaten team, the 9-0 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3 ATS), will play at the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags actually won their Week 1 game, upsetting the now 6-3 Colts 27-20 as a home dog, but have since lost EIGHT in a row. Maybe the Jaguars can build on a stretch in which they have lost their last two games by a combined six points or perhaps Pittsburgh could be peeking ahead to an AFC North showdown against Baltimore on Thanksgiving. Then again, maybe the Steelers are simply DUE for a loss. Pittsburgh is favored by 10 1/2-points and the over/under is 46. The 0-9 Jets (coming off a bye week) are surely "DUE for a win," as they travel to Inglewood, Ca for a game with the 2-7 LA Chargers. The Jets have lost nine straight games in the same season for the first time in club history and  they are three losses from matching their longest losing streak ever, a 12-game skid that bridged the 1995-96 seasons. As for the Chargers, all SEVEN of their losses this season have been by EIGHT points or less and more troubling, FOUR times they have blown leads of 16 points or more (are you kidding me?). Could this be the week the Jets break through? New York opened 0-6 ATS but is 2-1 ATS its last three, while after opening 5-1 ATS, the Chargers enter on an 0-3 ATS skid. LA is favored by 9 1/2-points and the over/under is  46.My Thursday recap cap touched on one division leader (Seattle) and I've just mentioned Pittsburgh, the leaders of the AFC North. Let's move on to the remaining division leaders, beginning in the AFC. SNF features a classic AFL rivalry, the Chiefs and Raiders. The defending champs are 8-1 and are coming off a bye to visit Las Vegas, where they will take on the 6-3 Raiders. The Raiders shocked the Chiefs 40-32 at Kansas City back in Week 5, as 11-point underdogs. The Raiders got crushed 45-20 at home by the Bucs in their next game but enter this contest on a 3-0 SU & ATS run.  Mahomes is completing 66.9% for 2,687 yards with 25 TDs and just one INT (115.9 QB rating) but Carr is not far behind, completing 69.3% for 2,56 yards with 16 TDs and just two INTs (107.4 QB rating). The Chiefs are favored by 7  1/2-points and the over/under is 57. The AFC East leading Buffalo Bills (7-3) are on their bye week, meaning the 6-3 Miami Dolphins can move into a tie atop the division with a win at 3-6 Denver. Miami has won FIVE straight (Tua is 3-0 as a starter) and covered each win by averaging 31.6 PPG during its current streak. Buffalo last won the AFC East back in 1995 and Miami last won it in 2008, going 11-5 a year after going 1-15! Miami is favored by 3  1/2-points and the over/under is 45. The Colts and Titans are tied atop the AFC South at 6-3 (will meet in Week 12) and BOTH have tough tests on Sunday. The Colts will host the 7-2 Packers (leaders of the NFC North), while the Titans will play at 6-3 Baltimore. Aaron Rodgers (67.8% for 2,578 yards with 26 TDs, three INTs and a QB rating of 116.4) leads a Green Bay offense averaging 30.8 PPG, while the Colts defense allows a league-low 290.4 YPG and a modest 19.7 PPG. The Colts are favored by two points and the over/under is 51. The Titans return to 'the scene of the crime,' which is the way the Ravens likely view this game. Lamar Jackson was league MVP in 2019, posting a 113.3 QB rating (36-6 ratio) while rushing for 1,206 yards (6.9 YPC / 7 TDs), which set a single-record for QBs. Baltimore set a single season record for team rushing yards and became the first team since at least 1950 to average 200-plus pass YPG (201.6) and 200-plus rush YPG (206) in the same season. The D was not quite in the class of the Ray Lewis era units but the Ravens ranked 3rd in points allowed (17.6 PPG) and 4th in yards allowed (300.6 YPG). However, the Ravens were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs last season, losing 28-12 at home to the Titans as 10-point favorites. In that game, Baltimore outgained Tennessee 530-to-300 in yards and 29-15 in FDs. Jackson passed for 365 yards and ran for 143 but coughed up THREE turnovers and was 0 of 4 on fourth down attempts. The Ravens will surely remember but they have 'flopped' in their biggest games so far in 2020 and Pittsburgh looms on Thanksgiving Day. Baltimore is favored by five points and the over/under is 49 1/2.Over in the NFC, I mentioned the North leader (Green Bay) just above and have also earlier set the stage in the NFC West. That leaves the NFC East and the NFC South. The 3-5-1 Eagles sit atop the NFC 'Least,' as their competition is the 3-7 NY Giants plus Washington and Dallas (both 2-7). Talk about being in the right place at the right time? However, the Eagles will be tested by a vastly-improved Cleveland Browns team that is 6-3 and eyeing a wild card berth in the AFC. The Browns are favored by three points and the over/under is 47 1/2. The New Orleans Saints have won SIX in a row and at 7-2, lead the 7-3 Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFC South by just a half-game. However, they own the important tiebreaker, having beaten the Bucs in BOTH regular meetings, including a 38-3 beatdown at Tampa in Week 9. It's 'lucky' Week 11 but the Saints will be without QB Drew Brees for an indefinite period of time due to rib and lung injuries. Visiting New Orleans on Sunday will be the 3-6 Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off a bye week and have turned things around after a 0-5 start with a 3-1 record under interim head coach Raheem Morris. This contest marks the first of two matchups between the Falcons and Saints in a three-week span, as the Saints will visit Atlanta for a Week 13 game. When Atlanta lost 23-16 at home to Carolina to fall to 0-5, head coach Dan Quinn was fired (should have been gone right after that INCREDIBLE Super Bowl collapse). The Falcons named Raheem Morris as interim head coach and the Falcons are 3-1 but with ANY luck would be 4-0 (lost to Detroit on the game's final play). Many will remember that the Saints went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater at QB in 2019 while Brees recovered from thumb surgery. Former Tampa Bay starter Jameis Winston is expected to replace Brees, although Taysom Hill could also take some snaps from center in addition to his usual reps at a variety of skill positions. The Saints are favored by 3  1/2-points and the over/under is 50.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Nov 19

Thursday, Nov 19, 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."NBA Draft: The NBA finally held its draft last night, some FIVE months later than it was originally scheduled. Surprisingly, the lottery (first 14 picks) played out without a SINGLE deal being made. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Georgia guard Anthony Edwards with the first pick, the Golden State Warriors took Memphis center James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick and guard LaMelo Ball followed as the third pick to the Charlotte Hornets. I'll get to the two guards in a minute but let me deal with Wiseman and the Warriors, first.Wiseman is a 7-foot-1 center who played only THREE games last season for Memphis because of eligibility issues and a 12-game suspension due to rules violations. The thought (hope?) is that he will be able to give Golden State a physical presence alongside Draymond Green in the Warriors' frontcourt. The Warriors fell to the bottom of the standings last season following FIVE consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, amid injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Just prior to the draft, Thompson suffered a right leg injury during a workout on Wednesday afternoon with several NBA players in Los Angeles. Thompson felt pain in the calf area when he landed on his leg, according to sources. The Warriors are worried it's possibly an Achilles tendon injury but are holding out hope it's not as serious and are determined to wait on the MRI results on Thursday morning. What a turn of events it would be if that MRI reveals real damage. Edwards led all Division I freshmen with 19.1 points per game last season and was the SEC Freshman of the Year and Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia's National Basketball League. Maybe it's just me but these two picks eerily remind me of the NBA's 2017 draft, when Washington's Markelle Fultz was that draft's No. 1 pick by the 76ers and UCLA's Lorenzo Ball was chosen No. 2 by the Lakers. Fultz was able to play just 33 games (15 starts) in his two years with Philly, averaging just 7.7 PPG and 3.4 APG while shooting 41.4%, including 26.7% on threes. Fultz was traded to Orlando and last season, played 72 games, making 60 starts. He upped his scoring 12.1 PPG and his assist total to 5.1 per, while shooting 46.5% (although he was still an 'ugly 26.7% on threes). Is that what one expects from the top player in a draft? As for Ball, he was also a major disappointment for the team that drafted him, before the Lakers traded him to New Orleans. Ball has developed into a solid NBA guard (his three-season averages are 10.7-6.1-6.6), who plays very good defense, but it's HIGHLY unlikely he will ever be the player Magic predicted he would be.Will Edwards and LaMelo Ball make it "deja vu all over again" in this latest NBA draft? As reported by Elias Sports Bureau, Edwards joins Fultz as the only players in the lottery era to go No. 1 overall coming from a program with a record of .500 or worse in his final college season. The Georgia Bulldogs went 16-16 (including 5-13 in the SEC) and would have NOT played in the NCAA Tourney if there had been one. If that does give one pause, how about the following comment attributed to Edwards earlier this week that he’s “not really into basketball?” LaMelo is the younger brother of Lonzo and is the NBA really ready for another constant daily press conference from 'Poppa LeVar?' LaMelo has had a winding road up to this point, playing in Lithuania and then Australia, before being chosen by Charlotte. Best of luck to both the T-wolves and Hornets but "color me skeptical!" On to college football. MACtion recap: With Buffalo and Kent St each winning on Tuesday to reach 3-0, it sets up a showdown on Nov 28 (Saturday after Thanksgiving) in which Buffalo plays at Kent St. The winner will move to 4-0 in what is just a six-game schedule in the MAC for 2020. The victor will have a near-stranglehold on the East Division title, owning a one-game advantage while also having the tiebreaker edge, with just two games left. Wednesday's results saw Ball St and Toledo each move to 2-1 with wins over Northern Illinois (31-25) and Eastern Michigan (45-28), respectively. In the MAC's "Game of the Week," Western Michigan rolled up 628 yards in snapping Central Michigan's seven-game home winning streak with a 52-44 win. QB Kaleb Eleby was just 12 of 20 but passed for 382 yards with five TD passes. WRs Eskridge (four catches for 212 yards with three TDs) and Hall (four catches for 110 yards with two TDs) were the beneficiaries of Eleby's outstanding game. However, my guess is the duo may say that they did have "something to do with it," as well. Western Michigan is now 3-0 in the MAC West (Broncos are averaging 50.3 PPG) and has beaten TWO of three schools (Central Michigan and Toledo) that sit at 2-1. The exception is Ball St which will get to host Western Michigan on Dec 12 (regular-season finale for both). However, the Broncos will host Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan the next two Saturdays, teams which are a combined 0-6. Meanwhile, Ball St has to play on the road at both Toledo and Central Michigan. Western Michigan is sure "lookin' good" as the MAC West's division winner.CFB Weekend: There will be three games between ranked teams this weekend, all of which will be played on Saturday (stay tuned). There will be 13 more games, featuring ranked teams against unranked opponents and as I noted in Monday's Notes, we finally saw the ranked teams in those matchups begin to assert themselves the previous two weeks. 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. However, when 'all the dust had settled' from the week of Nov 10-15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (then-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%) entering this week. The first of those 13 games  will go tonight, when Tulsa hosts Tulane. 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). Tulsa is favored by 6 1/2-points. There are four games on Friday but NONE involving ranked opponents. However, before moving on to Saturday, let's look at the latest COVID-19 disruptions. Ohio U at Miami-Ohio (Tuesday), Utah St at Wyoming (Thursday) and UAB at UTEP (Friday) were all canceled. As of Thursday morning, 11 Saturday games have been either postponed or canceled, including ranked schools No. 5 Texas A&M (for the second straight week), No. 12 Miami-Fl (moved to Dec 19), No. 15 Marshall, No. 22 Texas (moved to Dec 12) and No. 24 ULL. Fingers crossed that this represents the final list of games to be affected this weekend but that may be wishful thinking. Saturday games: The higher ranked teams have gone 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS when top-25 teams have squared off in 2020 and there are three such matchups this Saturday. No. 3 Ohio St welcomes 9th-ranked Indiana to Columbus. The Buckeyes have won their last 15 Big Ten games by double digits, while the Hoosiers own their highest ranking since being No. 4 back in 1967 and this game marks the school's first-ever meeting of top-10 teams. Ohio St is favored by 20 1/2-points. No. 10 Wisconsin has had two games canceled but have won the two games it has played, 45-7 and 49-11. The Badgers will play at No. 19 Northwestern, which is off to its first 4-0 start in Big Ten play since 1996. The Wildcats have been very successful against the Badgers at home, winning FIVE of the last six matchups at Ryan Field. However, the Badgers are favored by seven points. The third top-25 matchup on Saturday features "Bedlam" in Norman, Oklahoma as the 14th-ranked Oklahoma St Cowboys take on the 18th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. It's a Spencer vs Spencer battle of QBs, as Spencer Sanders of Oklahoma State faces his counterpart Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma. Oklahoma St is 4-1 in the Big 12 and Oklahoma is 4-2 (Iowa St leads at 5-1). A win Saturday by Oklahoma St would not only put the Cowboys in the driver's seat for their first Big 12 Championship Game berth (top-two teams meet on either Dec 12 or Dec 19), but would virtually knock the Sooners out of contention, ending their FIVE year run of conference titles with two regular-season games remaining. That said, Oklahoma is favored by seven points.No. 2 Notre Dame (owners of the nation's longest active winning streak at 14) has an off week and No. 5 Texas A&M has had its game with Ole Miss postponed. Three top-10 teams are involved in top-25 matchups (see above), leaving five, top-10 teams playing unranked opponents. No. 1 Alabama is home to Kentucky, with the Tide favored by 30 points. No. 4 Clemson comes off a bye week AND a loss at Notre Dame on Nov 7, to play at 2-6 Florida St. Trevor Lawrence is back for the Tigers, who are favored by 35 1/2-points. No. 6 Florida plays at winless Vandy (0-6), where the Gators are favored by 31 1/2-points as Kyle Trask continues his OUTSTANDING season (28 TD passes in six games with just three INTs). No. 7 Cincinnati faces its toughest test to-date, playing in Orlando against UCF. The Bearcats are averaging 41.6 PPG and allowing just 12.4 PPPG, but UCF takes the field with an offense averaging 51.3 PPG plus has won 23 of its last 24 home games! The Bearcats are favored by six points. Last but NOT least, we have the 8th-ranked BYU Cougars looking to move to 9-0 on the season with a home win over North Alabama. Pretty sure the Cougars will do just that, as they are favored by 48 points.I didn't forget the NFL, which opens its Week 11 with a "Battle 4 First" in the NFC West between the Cards and Seahawks in Seattle. The NFC West has a three-way tie at the top between the Cards, Rams and Seahawks (all are 6-3).The Cards and Seahawks square off in Seattle and barring a tie, one will move to 7-3. The Rams play Monday night in Tampa against the Bucs, making their path to 7-3 a real test. The Cardinals overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit back in Week 7 in a SNF matchup at home, to edge the Seahawks 37-34 on a Zane Gonzalez 48-yard FG with 15 seconds remaining in OT (note: Gonzalez had previously kicked a 44-yarder as time expired in regulation). Seattle is favored by three points and the over/under is 57. The NFL takes 'center stage' in Friday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Nov 18

Wednesday, Nov 18, 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."Tuesday MACtion featured a pair of games featuring 2-0 schools playing 0-2 ones and as expected, Buffalo moved to 3-0 in defeating Bowling Green 42-17 and Kent St made it three straight wins to open the 2020 season by beating Akron, 69-35. Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson carried it 31 times for a school-record 301 yards and scored four TDs. Patterson has now rushed for 3,323 yards at Buffalo, moving him to second on the school's all-time list (Branden Oliver holds the Buffalo record at 4,049). He sure loves playing BG, as last season he rushed for 298 yards and a MAC-record six TDs against the Falcons. Buffalo outscored BG 14-0 in the third quarter to open a 35-3 and has now outscored its opponents 49-0 in the third quarter over three games. Kent St found itself in a much tougher than expected game vs winless Akron (much more on the Zips in a bit), leading just 35-28 at the half. However, the Golden Flashes were 'golden' in the second half, outscoring the Zips 34-7 to earn a 35-point win and get the cover. Kent QB Dustin Crum threw for 348 yards and three TDs, while adding 104 rushing yards with two TDs. Kent St ran up 750 total yards against the Zips, including 390 on the ground (7.6 YPC). Tuesday's results set up a showdown on Nov 28 (Saturday after Thanksgiving) in which 3-0 Buffalo plays at 3-0 Kent St. The winner will move to 4-0 and will have a near-stranglehold on the East Division title, with a one-game advantage and just two games to go, while also owning the tiebreaker edge.Wednesday's MACtion serves up a three-game card. 2-0 Northern Illinois is at 1-1 Ball St (Cardinals are favored by 14 1/2-points), 1-1 Toledo is at 0-2 Eastern Michigan (Rockets are a 6 1/2-point road favorite) and in the MAC's "Game of the Week," 2-0 Western Michigan is at 2-0 Central Michigan. This game has a similar scenario that will face Buffalo and Kent on Nov 28, but 10 days earlier. The winner puts itself in PRIME position to win the MAC West. The MAC is only playing SIX league games, meaning the team which comes out of the game at 3-0 will effectively own a TWO-game lead, considering it will also have the tiebreaker. Central Michigan opened as a small home favorite but as of Wednesday morning, WMU is the one-point favorite. One thing is for sure, Toledo will be rooting for the Chippewas (of course the Rockets have to make sure they beat EMU, first). Western Michigan 'stole' a win from Toledo last week, meaning if the Rockets and Broncos both win, Toledo will be one game back but WMU will own the tiebreaker (tough 'hill to climb' with just three games left). However, if CMU wins, the Rockets may be looking at a "winner-take-all" home game with the Chippewas at home on Dec 12.CFB 2020's loveable losers: Entering the current CFB week (Nov 17-21), there are SEVEN winless schools among FBS teams that have played at least four games. Throw in Akron, which fell to 0-3 (1-2 ATS) with its loss Tuesday night (Zips get 'grandfathered in') and I'm dubbing them the "Not-So Great Eight!" A list of the seven schools 0-4 or worse follows, in order of the team with the most losses. UL-Monroe checks in at 0-8 (3-5 ATS), followed by 0-7 (0-7 ATS) Kansas and 0-6 (3-3 ATS) Vanderbilt. Four more schools are all 0-4. That group includes 0-4 (0-4 ATS) Penn St, 0-4 (0-4 ATS) Utah St, 0-4 (0-3-1 ATS) UNLV and 0-4 (1-3 ATS) FIU. Doing the math reveals that my "Not-So Great Eight" are a combined 0-40 SU and 8-31-1 ATS (20.5%).I include Akron in my list because while the Zips are just 0-3 to open 2020 (MAC didn't begin play until Nov 4), they own the nation's longest-active losing streak at 20 in a row (last win came back on 10/27/18 when the Zips won 17-10 at home over Central Michigan). Akron has not just lost 20 straight, it's also gone a 'money-burning' 5-15 ATS (25%) in that span. Three of the seven schools that are 0-4 or worse are from Power-5 conferences, Kansas, (Big 12), Vandy (SEC) and Penn St (Big Ten). We've all talked about and heard enough about Penn St and no one cares what Vandy is doing, even SEC fans. However, I will discuss Kansas in some detail (sorry Gayle), as the Jayhawks own the second-longest active losing streak (11) behind Akron.Remember the 'svelt' Mark Mangino? He was hired as Kansas head football coach in December 2001. The program had NOT posted a winning season in any of the SIX seasons prior to his arrival. However, in 2003, his second season at KU, Mangino led the Jayhawks to an appearance in the 2003 Tangerine Bowl (now known as the Camping World Bowl). This was the first bowl appearance for Kansas since 1995. In 2005, his fourth season at KU, the team finished the regular season 6–5, to post its first winning record under Mangino, and went on to the Fort Worth Bowl, its second bowl game in three seasons. In 2007, Mangino coached the Jayhawks to a 12–1 record and a 24-21 win over Va Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl (their first ever BCS appearance). Kansas finished as the AP's No. 7 team in its final poll that season. Mangino led the Jayhawks to 19 consecutive weeks ranked in the AP and/or USA Today polls (2007–08), 20 wins in a two-year period for the first time in school history, set home attendance average records in each of his last four seasons (2004–2008), led KU to its first appearance in national polls since 1996 and to the school’s highest ranking ever at (No. 2), produced the top-three total offense seasons in school history, the top-two passing seasons and two of the top three scoring seasons and won three Bowl games, the same number Kansas had won in its 102-year history combined, prior to his arrival. However, things fell apart quickly for Mangino. There were allegations of academic fraud and recurring issues of Mangino's chronic, alleged misconduct towards his players. It became the subject of an internal investigation by the University of Kansas Athletic Department. After a prolonged period of negotiations, the university and Mangino's attorneys agreed on a buy-out amount that was large enough to secure his quiet resignation in December 2009.So how have things gone since? Kansas opened the 2020 season with a 21-99 record since 2010 (span of 10 years), including a 6-83 record in the Big 12. The laundry list of head coaches since Mangino was forced out include, Turner Gil, Charlie Weis, interim head coach Clint Bowen when Weis was fired, David Beaty and now Les Miles (note: Joshua Eargleis is currently coaching the Jayhawks, as Miles is following protocols after testing positive for COVID-19). Throw in Kansas' 0-7 SU and ATS record in 2020 and since Mangino left, the Jayhawks are 21-106 (.156) overall, including 6-89 (.063) in Big 12 play. Wondering about KU's ATS record? It's 49-75-3 (41.9%). Anyone have Mangino's cell number or email address?You know me, I can never end without "one last thing." The UMass Minutemen football team is the FOURTH-oldest program currently in FBS. UMass began play in 1879 and has since appeared in three FCS National Championship games, winning the title in 1998. The Minutemen began a two-year FBS transition period in 2011, becoming bowl eligible in 2013. In March 2014, the MAC and UMass announced an agreement for the Minutemen to leave the conference after the 2015 season due to UMass declining an offer to become a full member of the conference. The Minutemen have subsequently played as an independent through the 2019 season. UMass was one of the first schools to say it was NOT going to play in 2020. Here's the statement. "After consulting with university, state and public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 UMass football season," athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. "We have been in constant communication with university leadership and our football staff since March, with the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff remaining our top priority. The continuing challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic posed too great of a risk, and we reached the conclusion that attempting to play a season would not have placed the members of our program in the safest situation possible." However, UMass reversed that earlier decision in late Sep, saying it intended to play fall football. The problem being, the Minutemen had trouble finding opponents to play. Maybe, UMass should have left well enough alone? Coming off a 1-11 season (3-9 ATS) in which the team allowed 52.7 PPG, the Minutemen were able to schedule just four games. They've opened 0-2, getting outscored 92-10! Paul Revere would NOT be happy.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Nov 17

Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: NFL Week 10 concluded with the Vikings beating the Bears 19-13 in Chicago. Kirk Cousins threw for 292 yards and two TDs (both to Adam Thielen, who now has NINE TD receptions on the season), as the Vikings won their THIRD straight after a 1-5 start. In stark contrast, after opening 5-1, the Bears have now lost FOUR in a row. Cousins completed 25 of 36 passes and was intercepted once but is ONE happy guy, as he won for the FIRST time in 10 career starts on Monday night, snapping his record drought. Chicago QB Nick Foles had a poor game (15 of 26 for 106 yards and an interception) and was carted off the field with 37 seconds to go due to an apparent right leg injury. Was it a great performance by the Minnesota D (entered the game allowing 29.2 PPG on 417.9 YPG) or a pathetic effort by the Chicago offense?  Chicago had just 149 total yards (including 41 rushing yards on 2.4 YPC) and accounted for just 10 FDs, converting 2 of 11 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. Week 10 recap in just a bit.The CFB week begins with Tuesday night MACtion. The MAC completes its Tuesday and Wednesday schedule this week, as the conference will move to Saturday games on Nov 28, Dec 5 and Dec 12 to complete its regular season schedule. The conference championship game (at Ford Field in Detroit) will be played Friday, Nov 18. There were supposed to be three MAC games on Tuesday but the Mid-American Conference made an announcement Sunday afternoon that there will be no "Battle of the Bricks" this year between Ohio U and the Miami-Ohio. The statement read; “The Ohio University at Miami University football game has been canceled due to roster issues with the Ohio football team related to positive covid-19 tests and subsequent contact tracing. The game has been declared a no contest.” After 15 games were postponed or canceled last week in CFB, as of Tuesday morning, the Ohio/Mia-O contest is just one of SEVEN games to already suffer a similar fate. The list includes No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 12 Miami-Fl and No. 15 Marshall. And so it goes...Returning to teams actually playing, tonight's MACtion features a pair of games featuring 2-0 schools playing 0-2 ones. 2-0 Buffalo (2-0 ATS) is at 0-2 Bowling Green (0-2 ATS) at 7:00 ET, while 0-2 Akron is at 2-0 Kent St (both schools are 1-1 ATS) at 8:00 ET. Buffalo is averaging 45.5 PPG and BG is allowing 50.0 PPG, so it's no surprise that the visiting Bulls are a 31-point road favorite. The Zips are averaging 11.5 PPG and allowing 41.0 PPG in their 0-2 start (more in just a second), while Kent is averaging 44.5 PPG in its 2-0 start. Once again, there is no surprise in the pointspread, which has the Golden Flashes favored by 26 points. I'll close with the continuing woes of the Akron Zips (bring back Gerry Faust!). Akron went winless in 2019 at 0-12 and also matched that by going 1-11 ATS. In fact, Akron's last win came back on 10/27/18, when the Zips won 17-10 at home over Central Michigan. Doing the math, Akron takes a 19-game losing streak (nation's longest active) into tonight's game, having gone almost as bad ATS, covering just FOUR of its 19 losses (21.1%). Wednesday's Notes will feature more MACtion plus take a look at CFB's 'lovable losers' in 2020.NFL Week 10 recap and highlights: Let's start with the numbers. Home teams did well, going 11-3 SU and 8-6 ATS (home dogs were 2-3 SU & ATS). Doing the match on the Y-T-D numbers, home teams entered the week below .500 at 65-67-1 (.492) on the season but are now 76-70-1 (.520), although they remain under .500 ATS at  68-77-2 ATS (46.9%). Home dogs are well below .500 at 14-36 (.280) SU but are a small money-maker in going 26-22-2 (54.2%) ATS. Scoring was robust in Week 9, as games averaged 52.9 PPG, resulting in nine overs, four unders and one push. However, Week 10's 14 games averaged just 45.7 PPG (just over a TD less per game!), as EIGHT of 14 games stayed under the total. There have now been 75 overs, 68 unders and four pushes through 10 weeks.I already credited Kirk Cousins for winning a MNF game in his 10th try but also noteworthy in last night's game was Bears kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson opening the second half by returning the kick-off 104-yards for a score. He is now tied for first-place in NFL history with his eighth career kickoff return for a TD. he's pulled even with Josh Cribbs (2005-14) and Leon Washington (2006-14). It also was the longest kickoff return in Bears history, eclipsing a 103-yard TD by Gale Sayers against Pittsburgh on Sep 17, 1967. We lost Gayle ("The Kansas Comet") on Sep 23rd at 77-years-old and if you haven't watched Brian's Song, shame on you! I saw it the first time as a freshman at Ohio U in a crowded dorm lobby, with each one of us trying to hide the tears in our eyes from one another. Steelers fans will surely remember the chant, "Pittsburgh Goin' to the Super Bowl, We've got a Feeling," back in the 1974 season. As the 2020 moves to Week 11, Pittsburgh remains the NFL's lone unbeaten, after taking care of the Bengals 36-10 on Sunday. "Big Ben' couldn't practice all week because of COVID protocols, but passed for a season-high 333 yards with four TD passes. The Steelers are now 9-0 and with Baltimore falling to 6-3 with a 23-17 loss in New England, Pittsburgh has a commanding three-game lead in the AFC North. Up next, is securing home field advantage in the AFC. However, the defending champion 8-1 Chiefs, just may have other ideas. Buffalo still leads the AFC East at 7-3 (more on their game in a bit) but Tua moved to 3-0 as an NFL starter in Miami's 29-21 win over the Chargers, as the Dolphins have now won FIVE in a row and sit 6-3. In the AFC South, the Texans (winners of the division in four of the last five seasons) are 'dead' at 2-7 and it will be a 'fight to the finish' between the 6-3 Colts and Titans. The Colts beat the Titans 34-17 in Week 10 (Thursday night) and the teams will have a rematch at Indy in Week 12.Over in the NFC, the Giants beat the Eagles 27-17, as QB Daniel Jones has now gone without a TO in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. The 3-5-1 Eagles lead the NFC 'Least' but are the 3-7 Giants charging? Washington lost 30-27 at Detroit but is there a better 'feel good' story in NFL 2020 than the journey of Alex Smith? It's taken nearly two years for him to return to the starting lineup. It took him only two games to inject himself into the conversation over whether he can be Washington's future quarterback. He's thrown for a combined 715 yards in Washington's last two losses, nearly leading comebacks from large deficits each time. Smith has returned to a place few thought he would reach again. In Sunday's 30-27 loss to the Detroit Lions, Smith's first start since breaking the fibula and tibia in his right leg on Nov 18, 2018, he completed a career-high 38 passes for 390 yards. Washington tied the game after trailing by 21 points in the second half only to lose on a last-second field goal.Chicago's MNF loss to the Vikings leaves the Packers 'smiling' atop the NFC North. Green Bay had a sluggish 24-20 win over Jacksonville on Sunday but is now 7-2 and no other team in the division has a better record than Chicago's 5-5 mark. Should the Pack really be worried about the 4-5 Vikings and their current three-game winning streak? The Saints won their SIXTH straight game (27-13 over the 49ers) and are now 7-2. However, Drew Brees has multiple rib fractures on both sides of his chest and a collapsed lung on the right side, injuries suffered over two weeks. It is uncertain how much time he might miss. Jameis Winston to the rescue? Oh my! The Tampa Bay 'Bradys' moved to 7-3 with a 46-23 rout of Carolina (TB rolled up 554 yards), as TB-12 threw three TD passes and added a TD run, bouncing back from his embarrassing three-INT game in Week 9, 38-3 at home to the Saints.New Orleans' win over San Francisco leaves the defending NFC champions at 4-6 in the NFC West, a division which features Arizona, the LA Rams and Seattle all tied at 6-3. No postseason in 2020 for the 49ers! Arizona beat the Bills on a 'miracle' Hail Mary 43-yard TD pass with two seconds remaining in the game. Up by two points and NOT wanting to risk the extra-point attempt being blocked and returned for two points, the Cards 'passed.' Arizona was favored by anywhere from one to three points in the game. Oh, the ATS carnage! Meanwhile, the Rams beat the Seahawks 23-16, leaving the Cards, Rams and Seahawks all tied (see above). That sets up Week 11's Thursday night game, as the Cards travel to Seattle for a rematch with the Seahawks. Arizona won 37-34 in OT at home over Seattle back in Week 7. Pretty good way to kick off 'lucky' Week 11. Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 16

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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Ness Notes: Friday, Nov 13

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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Ness Notes: Thursday Nov 12

Thursday, Nov 12, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The 5-3 Indianapolis Colts visit Nashville on Thursday night to take on the 6-2 Tennessee Titans. The Titans can open a two-game lead in the division with a win, while the Colts can move into a first-place tie with the Titans by winning. The teams meet again at Indianapolis in Week 12. The Colts signed QB Philip Rivers in the offseason as a FA and he's been solid but it's the team's defense that's been the key, as the Colts are allowing a league-low 290.0 YPG and 20.0 PPG (3rd-best). The Titans entered the season off their great playoff run of last season (won at New England and Baltimore before losing at KC in the AFC championship game) and got off to a 5-0 start. However, back-to-back losses followed, before last Sunday's 24-17 win over the Bears. The game is a pick'em and the over/under is 48 1/2. MACtion Part 2: Buffalo and Kent moved to 2-0 in the MAC East with wins on Tuesday night and last night, it was Central and Western Michigan winning to move to 2-0 in the West. The Chippewas dominated from the start, taking a 26-0 halftime lead on their way to a 40-10 at Northern Illinois. In stark contrast, Toledo never trailed at Western Michigan and when it went up 38-28 with 2:54 left in the game, it seemed almost a sure thing that Toledo would be off to a 2-0 start. However, the Broncos closed to 38-34 with an 11-play, 70-yard TD with 45 seconds remaining. Needing to recover an onsides kick, WMU did just that and then, with 17 seconds left, got a 9-yard TD pass and converted the extra-point to win 41-38. The MAC is now off until Next Tuesday and Wednesday, again playing three games each night. The "marquee" matchup will be Western Michigan at Central Michigan (Nov 18) with the winner moving to 3-0 and gaining the tiebreaker edge in what is just a six-game schedule. After next week's Tuesday and Wednesday games, the MAC will transition to Saturdays for the final three weeks.CFB Weekend: There are no top-25 matchups set for this weekend, although EIGHT of the AP's top-10 were scheduled to play (No. 4 Clemson and No. 8 BYU had open dates). However, note that the "operative" phrase in my first sentence is "scheduled to play." As of Thursday morning, No. 1 Alabama's game at LSU, No. 3 Ohio State's game at Maryland and No. 5 Texas A&M's game at Tennessee have all been postponed or canceled. Throw in No. 12 Georgia at Missouri plus  No. 24 Auburn at Miss St and FIVE ranked teams have 'lost' games because of COVID-19 issues. Three more games, Memphis at Navy, Air Force at Wyoming and UL-Monroe at Arkansas St have also been postponed or canceled. That's EIGHT games so far (it is only Thursday), following 10 games suffering similar fates last weekend. And so it goes in this "time of COVID."Higher ranked teams will remain 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS when facing a lower-ranked opponent. As documented here each week, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results. Ranked teams did go a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents last week but still could NOT win more than 50 percent ATS, going 6-7-1. The numbers Y-T-D stand 82-22 SU (.788) but just 42-60-2 ATS (.412). We are still waiting for that "regression to the mean," in which ranked teams start covering against unranked ones. This weekend features 14 games between ranked and unranked teams. That includes FIVE of the nation's top-10 teams, the first being No. 7 Cincinnati hosting East Carolina on Friday. The Bearcats are the highest-ranked Group of 5 team and a "look back" at Wednesday Notes sheds some light on that situation. Cincinnati has won 18 straight at home as it welcomes a 1-5 East Carolina team to Nippert Stadium (Cincy is favored by 27 1/2-points). No. 2 Notre Dame, fresh off its 47-40 double-OT win over Clemson, will put its 13-game winning streak (longest active among FBS teams) on the line when the Fighting Irish visit Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College. Notre Dame has to be careful of a let down but maybe BC's near upset at Clemson on Oct 31 (Tigers barely edged the Eagles 34-28) has gotten Notre Dame's attention. The Fighting Irish are favored by 13 1/2-points. No. 6 Florida also has to be wary of a let down, as the Gators welcome Arkansas to "The Swamp," fresh off their 44-28 win over Georgia. Florida is favored by 17 1/2-points. No. 9 Miami-Fl barely escaped with a 44-41 win at NC State on Nov 6 and plays at Va Tech. The ACC got rid of its two divisions this season (plus added Notre Dame), so the championship game will feature the teams with the league's top-two records. Currently, Notre Dame is 7-0, Clemson 7-1 and Miami 6-1. The 'Canes are a two-point underdog. No. 10 Indiana is ranked in the AP's top-10 for the first time since 1969 and will play at Michigan St, a team which has lost 38-27 to Rutgers at home as a 10-point favorite, won at 27-24 Michigan as a four-TD underdog and lost 49-7 at Iowa. Indiana is favored by seven points.NINE more ranked teams play unranked opponents, including 2020's two 'Cinderella' programs, No. 15 Coastal Carolina and No. 22 Liberty (both are 7-0). The Chanticleers are 5-1-1 ATS and play at 4-3 Troy, where they are favored by 10 1/2-points. Liberty is 5-2 ATS and will host Western Carolina, which is an FCS school (Flames are favored by 33 points). NFL midseason update and Week 10 preview coming in Friday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Nov 11

Wednesday, Nov 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."A three-game MACtion card opened the new CFB week on Tuesday. All three favorites won, going 2-1 ATS. Ohio didn't come close to covering in its unimpressive 24-10 win over Akron, as the Bobcats were favored by about four TDs. Ohio was outgained 435-to-307 yards by Akron but survived by winning the TO 'battle' 3-0. The Zips lost their 19th straight game, with their last win coming 17-10 at home against Central Michigan on Oct 27, 2018. Kent moved to 2-0 with a 62-24 road win over Bowling Green (0-2), outgaining the Falcons 667-365 in yards The Golden Flashes passed for yards (five TDs) and ran for 295 yards. Buffalo never 'broke a sweat' at home against defending MAC champion Miami-Ohio, routing the RedHawks 42-10. The Bulls had 556 yards (353 yards passing and four TDs from QB Vantrease and 203 yards rushing), while Miami had just 258 yards.MACtion Part 2 is Wednesday, with three more games. Eastern Michigan is at Ball St in a matchup of 0-1 teams (). 1-0 Central Michigan won the West last season and looks to move to 2-0 by winning at 0-1 Northern Illinois, where the Chippewas are favored by . The "game of the week" in the MAC is Toledo at Western Michigan. Both have opened 1-0 and the winner obviously moves to 2-0 and in a six-game schedule, would also give them a tiebreaker edge (Broncos are favored). Getting back to Central Michigan, beating Northern Illinois is a "must win," as the Chippewas would be tied at 2-0 with the Toledo/Western Michigan winner. Central Michigan hosts Western Michigan next Wednesday and plays at Toledo on Dec 12 in its regular season finale. ALL games during a six-game regular season matter GREATLY for MAC teams in the division 'hunt.'The first set of College Football Playoff rankings won't be released until Nov 24 and an emerging trend could have the committee asking themselves the following question. How do undefeated Independent and Group of 5 teams fit into the 2020 playoff hunt? Entering the current week, excluding conferences that have played just one game (Pac-12 and MAC), there are 13 remaining unbeaten teams in the FBS (I'm also not counting No. 14 Wisconsin, which has played just one game). The list includes Power-5 schools like No. 1 Alabama (6-0), No. 2 Notre Dame (a traditional Independent playing in the ACC for the 2020 season) and No. 3 Ohio State (3-0), but also Big Ten 'surprises' like No. 10 Indiana (3-0), No. 23 Northwestern (3-0) and unranked Purdue (2-0). The Wildcats and Boilermakers play next week and the Buckeyes and Hoosiers play on Nov. 21. That's six unbeaten schools but that number will be down to four after the above-mentioned Big Ten matchups the next two weeks (Wisconsin could also be 'alive'). However, the other SEVEN unbeaten schools are either Independents or in the Group of 5. That list includes No. 7 Cincinnati (6-0), No. 8 BYU (8-0), No. 15 Coastal Carolina (7-0), No. 16 Marshall (6-0), No. 22 Liberty (7-0), Nevada (3-0) and San Jose State (3-0). 8-0 BYU and 7-0 Liberty are both Independents and both could finish undefeated. However, the Cougars have by far the best chance, as they will be heavily favored in their last two games against North Alabama and San Diego State. Liberty plays at 7-0 Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt) in its regular-season finale on Dec. 12 plus also must play at NC State on Nov 21. I question BYU's strength of schedule and have to believe that the AAC's Cincinnati (ranked 7th) has the best chance at a breakthrough. The Bearcats are scoring 39.3 PPG and allowing just 11.7 PPG. Cincy has beaten Army 24-10 (Army was ranked 22nd at the time and is 6-1 on the season) plus crushed SMU on the road, 42-13. The Mustangs are 7-1 and currently ranked 19th. The Bearcats get 1-5 East Carolina this Saturday but then play three straight on the road, including at UCF, a team averaging 45.0 PPG. The Bearcats will likely have to "run the table" (which would include winning the AAC championship game), to have ANY chance to crack the 'Final Four.'All eyes will turn to that first CFP ranking on Nov 24. The committee has historically kept the top-ranked Group of 5 teams (and Independents not named Notre Dame) too far down the rankings in the initial set. In fact, over each of the last six years, the highest a Group of 5 team has been ranked in the initial standings was UCF's 7-0 team of 2018 at No. 12. The year before, UCF's 7-0 team checked in at No. 18 and an 8-0 Memphis team was ranked 13th back in 2015. However, it's a L-O-N-G way from 12 or 13 to that Final 4.Thursday's Notes will review MACtion from Wednesday, preview the start of NFL Week 10 with the AFC South showdown between the 5-3 Colts and 6-2 Titans plus take a long look at the upcoming SCFB weekend.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Nov 10

Tuesday, Nov 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."Eights were wild in Week 9's MNF contest between the New England Patriots and the NY Jets. The Pats had won EIGHT consecutive meetings against the New York Jets, while the Jets had lost all EIGHT of their games this season. The Jets had mustered a league-low 94 points this season, 39 fewer than the next-closest team (Washington had played one fewer game) entering Week 9. They had only scored two TDs in their last four games and ranked last in total offense (259.0 YPG), last in passing (155.9 YPG) and last in third-down conversions (28.3 percent). However, the Jets took a 20-10 halftime lead, with their 20 points being more than the team had scored in SEVEN of its previous eight full games. Then, unfortunately for Jet fans, came the fourth quarter. The Pats trailed 27-17 but would score the game's final 13 points, with Nick Folk's 51 yard FG accounting for the game-winner on the contest's final play. Flacco had his best game as a Jet (262 passing yards with three TDs and one INT) but the Jets were outgained 433-to-322 in yards and 30-18 in FDs. The much-maligned Can Newton completed 27 of 35 for 274 yards and while he did not have a TD pass, he did not turn the ball over (Pats had zero for the game as a team). Newton ran for two TDs, as the Pats had 159 yards rushing to the Jets' 59. The Pats snapped their four-game slide and yes, the Jets remain the lone winless team in the NFL at 0-9 but they did easily cover.Week 9 was good to home dogs, which were just 1-4 SU but 4-1 ATS. However, home teams finished just 5-9 SU but led by those home dogs, managed to go 7-7 ATS. Checking in on the Y-T-D numbers, home teams fell below .500 at 65-67-1 (.492) on the season while going 60-71-2 ATS (45.8%). Home dogs are well below .500 at 12-33 (.267) SU but are a small money-maker in going 24-19-2 (55.8%) ATS. Scoring was robust, as games averaged 52.9 PPG, resulting in nine overs, four unders and one push. There have now been 69 overs, 60 unders and four pushes after nine weeks. Week 10 will kick off on Thursday, as the 5-3 Indianapolis Colts are in Nashville to take on the 6-2 Tennessee Titans in an AFC clash.Week 9 highlights: The Jets entered Week 9 as the NFL's lone winless team and despite their easy ATS win, will enter Week 10 at 0-9. In a somewhat similar situation, the Cowboys entered Week 9 at 2-6 but as the league's lone winless ATS team. Dallas' opponent was the NFL's lone unbeaten team, the 7-0 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-1 ATS). Similar to what the Jets did last night vs the Pats, the Cowboys took a 10-point lead into the 4th quarter (19-9) and just like the Jets, the Cowboys allowed the game's final 15 points in a 24-19 loss. However, as a 14-point home dog, Dallas earned its first ATS win of 2020. How 'bout dem Cowboys! Pittsburgh is 8-0 and its closest competitor for the NFL's best record is the defending champion KC Chiefs. Mahomes had four more TD passes (zero INTs), giving him 25 TDs and just one INT on the season (115.9 QB rating). However, the KC running game produced just 30 yards (2.5 YPC) and the defense allowed Carolina 435 yards. KC scored 33 points and when Carolina's 67-yard game-winning FG attempt was long enough but wide-right, the Chiefs held on for a two-point win.The SNF contest set up as a "classic," with Brees and Brady squaring off for the second time this season. However, it quickly turned into a R-O-U-T, as the Saints took over first place in the NFC South with a 38-3 win. New Orleans led 31-0 at the half and Tampa Bay's ONLY score came when the Bucs decided to kick a meaningless FG with just under 6:00 minutes to go (trailing 38-0), just to avoid a shutout (kind of sad). Brees was 26 of 32 for 222 yards with four TDs and zero INTs, while Brady threw for just 209 yards, was intercepted three times and sacked three times. FIVE of Brady's seven INTs in 2020 have come in the team's two losses to the Saints, as he owns an 18-2 ratio in Tampa Bay's other seven contests, in which the Bucs are 6-1.Seattle took its 6-1 record into Buffalo against the 6-2 Bills and neither team could run the ball, as Seattle had 57 yards on the ground (3.4 YPC) and Buffalo 34 (1.8 YPC). So it came down to a mano-a-mano showdown between QBs Russell Wilson and Josh Allen. Allen was the clear winner, completing 31 of 38 for 415 yards with three TDs and no INTs (138.5 QB rating). Wilson threw for 390 yards but had as many INTs (2) as TD passes (2). It was Tua vs Kyler in Phoenix and both played great. Tua moved to 2-0 as an NFL starter as the Dolphins scored the game's final 10 points (a familiar theme in Week 9) for a 34-31 win. Tua completed 20 of 28 for 248 yards with two TDs and no INTs (122.3 QB rating) plus added 35 rushing yards. However, Kyler outperformed him, completing 21 of 26 for 283 yards with three TDs and no INTs (150.5 rating) plus ran for 106 yards on 9.6 YPC with a TD.The Ravens outscored the Colts 17-0 in the second half (there's that recurring theme, again) of Baltimore's 24-10 win at Indianapolis. The Ravens are 6-2 but have lost their two biggest games of the season to the Chiefs and Steelers, both at home. QB Lamar Jackson has taken 'the heat' for those losses but with Sunday's win, he matched Dan Marino's 25-5 record as a starting QB to open one's career (in the Super Bowl era). Dan NEVER won a Super Bowl. Will Lamar follow the same path? Working in his favor is the fact that he's just 23 years-old!The new CFB week opens Tuesday night with MACtion, as six MAC schools play three games. 0-1 Akron is at 0-1 Ohio, 1-0 Kent is at 0-1 Bowling Green and 1-0 Miami-Ohio is at 1-0 Buffalo. Ohio is favored by 27 1/2 points, Kent by 20 1/2 and even though Miami won the MAC last season, Buffalo is favored by 9 1/2-points. Wednesday and Thursdays Notes will feature much more on CFB 2020.Good luck...Larry 

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 9

Monday, Nov 09, 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."Eights are wild in tonight's MNF contest between the New England Patriots and the NY Jets (8:20 ET on ESPN). The Pats have won EIGHT consecutive meetings against the New York Jets, many of them by lopsided margins. The Pats swept the Jets by a combined 63-14 margin in 2019's two games, as Belichick improved to 30-10 in the rivalry. The Jets have lost all eight of their games this season and entering Week 9, had mustered a league-low 94 points this season, 39 fewer than the next-closest team (Washington had played one fewer game). The Jets have only scored two TDs in their last four games and entered Week 9 ranking last in total offense (259.0 YPG), last in passing (155.9 YPG) and last in third-down conversions (28.3 percent). The post-Brady Patriots have lost four consecutive games for the first time since 2002 and New England hasn't lost five in a row since 1995. Can the 0-8 Jets win? Maybe not but we just saw the 0-8 ATS Cowboys lead the 7-0 Steelers 19-9 into the fourth quarter before collapsing but still being able walk away with an ATS win. The Pats are favored by 10 points and the over/under is 42. I'll take a pass and "get back to work" with the start of NFL Week 10 when the Colts and Titans square off for first place in the AFC South on Thursday night. Tuesday's Notes will feature a Week 9 recap and a mid-season update.CFB recap: Entering the CFB week (Nov 4-7) there had been 16 meetings so far this season between ranked opponents, with the higher ranked team having gone 15-1 SU and 14-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). However, the past weekend saw No. 1 Clemson lose 47-40 (2-OTs) at No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Georgia lose 44-28 to No. 8 Florida in Jacksonville. Both No. 9 BYU (51-17 over No. 21 Boise St) and No. 13 Indiana (38-21 over No. 23 Michigan) followed the previous weeks' form of the higher ranked teams winning and covering.Clemson saw its 28-game winning streak vs ACC opponents end, as did its 39-game regular season winning streak fall as well (for those 'keeping score,' I incorrectly wrote last Thursday that Clemson had won 40 straight). Notre Dame won its NINTH game over an AP No. 1 team (since 1936) but it was its first since the Irish topped Florida St back in 1993. Notre Dame has now won 13 straight overall (longest active streak among FBS teams) and 23 straight at home (QB Ian Book is 14-0 at home as ND's starting QB). Georgia led Florida 14-0 and 21-14 but trailed 41-24 at the half. Florida QB Kyle Trask threw for 474 yards and four TDs to become the first player in SEC history to pass for four-plus TDs in FIVE straight games. Boise St began the game without starting QB Bachmeier (not unexpected) but then lost QB Spears VERY early, after he went 4 of 4 for 41 yards. The Cougars won in a rout and are 8-0, extending the team's best starting since BYU opened the 2001 season at 12-0. The Wolverine faithful can't help but be getting tired of Jim Harbaugh, as Indiana dominated Michigan, 38-21. However, let's be sure to give Indiana head coach Tom Allen his due, as the Hoosiers' win ended a 24-game losing streak to Michigan (last win came back in 1987), the last time Indiana opened 3-0 in the Big Ten. Could that win move Indiana into the AP top-10 for the first time since 1969? I'll tell you in just a bit when I give the latest AP poll update. Wrapping up, higher ranked teams are now 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. Ranked teams began the college football week 68-22 (.756) SU when taking on an unranked opponent but a 'money-burning' 36-53-1 (.404) ATS. I opined last Thursday, will this trend continue throughout the 2020 season? Or, will there be a "regression to the mean?" Well, ranked teams did go a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents this past week but still could NOT win more than 50 percent ATS, going 6-7-1. The numbers Y-T-D stand 82-22 SU (.788) but just 42-60-2 ATS (.412).New AP poll: Clemson was the AP's preseason No. 1 and had stayed atop the poll each week but the Tigers' loss to Notre Dame (see above) dropped them to No. 4. "Movin' on up" was Alabama, getting 59 of the 62 first-place votes. Notre Dame (two 1st-place votes) jumped two spots to No. 2, its best ranking since the Fighting Irish were 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in the final regular season poll of 2012. Stepping back in time for a moment; despite starting that season unranked, the Fighting Irish ended it 12–0 and ranked No. 1. However, Alabama crushed Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship Game and later, adding insult to injury, ALL wins in the 2012 and 2013 seasons were vacated for the use of ineligible players. Returning to 2020, Ohio St remained No. 3 (one vote) and Texas A&M claimed the No. 5 spot (highest ranking since its No. 5 ranking in 2012). Rounding out the top-10, Florida is up to No. 6, Cincinnati is No. 7, BYU is No. 8, Miami-Fl is No. 9 and yes, Indiana did crack the top-10 for the first time since 1969 (does anyone but me remember John Pont, who is the ONLY Indiana head coach to lead the Hoosiers to the Rose Bowl?), at No. 10.Georgia fell EIGHT spots to No. 13 plus No. 21 and No. 23 Michigan dropped out of the rankings. New to the latest poll are No. 23 Northwestern (back in for the first time since 2018) and No. 25 ULL, which returns after being ranked as high as 19th earlier this season. A "shout out" goes to 7-0 Coastal Carolina, which remained at No. 15 and 7-0 Liberty, which has climbed to No. 22 after its 'fantastic finish' win 38-35 at Va Tech as a 17-point underdog. Let me close with a tribute to Nick Saban, like him or not. Alabama has now been ranked No. 1 at some point in each of the last 13 seasons (streak began in 2008, Saban's 2nd season). Alabama has topped the AP poll on 123 occasions, well ahead of Ohio State's 105. Oklahoma is third with 101 weeks at No. 1 and Notre Dame is next at 98. One last "shout out" to Saban; he's been Alabama's head coach for 92 of those 123 No. 1 rankings, which is one more than USC's legendary program has all-time (91).Just like last week, my Wednesday and Thursday Notes will concentrate on the 2020 CFB season and an upcoming preview of the weekend, respectively.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Nov 6

Friday, Nov 06, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 9 (Thursday Night): Aaron Rodgers passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns as the Packers rolled to a 34-17 victory over the 49ers on Thursday night at Levi's Stadium. He completed 25 of 31 passes before exiting. Green Bay has scored at least 30 points in all six of its victories. Nick Mullens completed 22 of 35 for 291 yards for one TD but also threw an interception and lost a fumble, starting in place of Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle). San Francisco has been decimated by injuries and then the COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse. Without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, TE George Kittle, RB Raheem Mostert, WRs Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Kendrick Bourne, left tackle Trent Williams, cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and more, the team the Niners put on the field Thursday night was unrecognizable from the one that ran roughshod over the Packers in two meetings last season. A whopping $80.8 million worth of cap space was on injured reserve.Let's check on the Y-T-D numbers heading into Sunday. Home teams remain barely over .500 at 60-59-1 (.504) on the season while going just 53-65-2 ATS (.449). Home dogs check in at 11-30 SU but a more respectable 20-19-2 ATS. Scoring remains high but with over/under numbers being adjusted higher, there have been 61 overs, 56 unders and three pushes.Sunday NFL: The 7-0 Steelers (6-1 ATS) are the NFL's lone unbeaten team and will travel to Dallas to take on the 2-6 Cowboys, who are the NFL's only winless ATS team (0-8). Pittsburgh's Big Ben will go up against a Dallas defense that is allowing the most points of any team in 2020, 33.3 PPG. Meanwhile, the Steelers own one of the NFL's best defenses, allowing 20.3 PPG on 310.7 YPG. Dallas' franchise QB Dak Prescott is out with a season-ending broken ankle. Backup Andy Dalton has been transferred from concussion protocol to the reserve/COVID-19 list and head coach Mike McCarthy has lost confidence in Ben DiNucci, a Pittsburgh native who made his first start last week (he completed 21 of 40 passes for 180 yards with two lost fumbles in last week's 23-9 loss to Philadelphia). It will come to a decision between Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush. Pittsburgh is favored by 14 points and the over/under is 42. The league's lone winless team is the NY Jets (0-8 & 1-7 ATS) and they will host the 2-5 Patriots (who have lost FOUR in a row) on Monday night. I'll cover that contest in Monday's Notes.SNF (8:20 ET on NBC) has the week's marquee matchup, as the 5-2 Saints are in Tampa to take on the 6-2 Bucs. The winner will sit atop the NFC South and the game is a rematch of the Saints' 34-23 Week 1 win in New Orleans. Both Brees and Brady had two TD passes last week, leaving Brady with 561 for his career, ONE more than Brees. Tampa Bay is favored by  4 1/2-points and the over/under is 50 1/2. While the Saints and Bucs square off for the lead in the NFC South, two first-place teams square off in Buffalo, where the NFC West-leading Seahawks (6-1) will meet the AFC East-leading Bills (6-2). MVP candidate Russell Wilson threw four more TD passes last week and enters having completed 71.5% with 26 TDs and six INTs (120.7 QB rating). He's also run for 260 yards on 7.4 YPC. Two of those TDs went to DK Metcalf, who set career highs with 12 receptions for 161 yards. Seattle's defense has been much-maligned in 2020 and for good reason. Seattle is allowing a league-high 406.9 PPG. However, the defense just might be trending in the right direction, as it allowed just 117 total yards and one score through three quarters of last weekend's 37-27 victory against visiting San Francisco. The 49ers' backups put together some drives after the Seahawks had built a 23-point lead. The Bills snapped a SEVEN-game losing streak to New England last Sunday with a 24-21 win. New England has won the AFC East in each of the last 11 seasons but the Bills seem poised to win the division for the first time since 1995 in 2020. Seattle is favored  by three points and the over/under is  55. There are three other games of note, the 5-2 Ravens at the 5-2 Colts, the 5-3 Bears at the 5-2 Titans and the 4-3 Dolphins at the 5-2 Cardinals. The Ravens, who were 14-2 in the regular season in 2019, have lost BOTH of their marquee games in 2020, 34-20 to KC and 28-24 to Pittsburgh (BOTH at home!). Meanwhile, after opening with a 27-20 loss at Jacksonville (the Jags' LONE win this season), the Colts have won FIVE of six. The key has not been the addition of QB Philip Rivers but rather the play of the Colts' D, which allows just 293.4 YPG (2nd-best in the NFL) and only 19.4 PPG.  Baltimore is favored by 1 1/2-points and the over/under is 48. The Bears trail the 6-2 Packers in the NFC North, while the Titans are dead-locked with the 5-2 Colts atop the AFC South. The Titans are favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 47. The Dolphins and Cards are both 2020 surprises and the game features Miami rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa and Arizona QB Kyler Murray, a former Heisman-winner who is having an excellent sophomore season. Tua won his first career NFL start over the Rams last Sunday but he completed a modest 12 of 22 for only 93 yards with one TD (zero INTs). His longest completion was for 15 yards and his TD pass was a three-yarder. As for Murray, who is off a bye week, he's completing 66.8% for 1,847 yards with 13 TDs and seven INTs, while rushing for 437 yards on 6.7 YPC and seven TDs. Arizona is favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 50 1/2.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday Nov 5

Thursday, Nov 05, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." The Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to postpone the fall season because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic back on Aug 8 but 'reversed field' on Sep 25 by announcing that a season would be played, one which would feature a six-game, conference-only schedule. All 12 MAC schools opened play last night with defending East Division champion Miami-Ohio (school won its first MAC championship since 2013 in 2019) and defending West Division champion Central Michigan both winning. Ball St led Miami 21-10 but Miami scored the next 21 points. The game was tied late at 31-all, when Miami intercepted Ball St deep in Cardinals' territory and shunned a FG to score on a two-yard TD run with 10 seconds left for a 38-31 victory. Miami has now won NINE straight at home and has gone 24-9 in its last 33 league games. Ohio opened the second half of its game at Central Michigan with a 93-yard KO return TD to go up 27-20 but the Bobcats NEVER scored again, as the Chippewas won 30-27. MACtion returns next week with THREE games on Tuesday and then three more on Wednesday. It's an uneventful Thursday night in CFB, as 0-2 Utah St is at 2-0 Nevada and 1-1 Wyoming is at 0-1 Colorado St in MWC play.NFL Week 9 opens: The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers both went 13-3 and met in the NFC championship game in 2019. The result was a DOMINATING San Francisco win, as the 49ers led 27-0 at the half and cruised to a 37-20. It's a rematch of that contest in this Week 9 Thursday Night game, as the 49ers again welcome the Packers to Levi's Stadium (8:15 ET on FOX/NFL Network). The 49ers opened 2-3, then followed with B2B wins (24-16 at home against the Rams and 33-6 at the Pats), but then lost 37-27 at Seattle last Sunday. The 4-4 Niners find themselves in last-place in the NFL's toughest division, behind the 6-1 Seahawks, 5-2 Cards and 5-3 Rams. The Packers sprinted to a 4-0 SU & ATS start but after a bye (Week 5), have sandwiched a 35-20 Week 7 win at Houston with a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay (Week 6) and a 28-22 home loss to Minnesota (Week 8). Green Bay is 5-2 and just a half-game up on the Bears in the NFC North. The 49ers enter with key players injured plus this week, have lost more players to COVID issues. The Packers are now favored by 7 1/2-points and the over/under is 48 1/2..CFB Weekend: THREE ranked teams are in action on Friday, with No. 11 Miami-Fl (5-1) at NC State (4-2) and No. 9 BYU (7-0) visiting No. 21 Boise St (2-0). "We feel good to be at this part of the season and to be at 5-1," Miami coach Manny Diaz said. "It promises to be an exciting and challenging stretch run." The Hurricanes only loss has been at No. 1 Clemson, Both schools are coming off a bye week and for NC State, this marks its FOURTH game against a ranked opponent this season, but FIRST at home. The Wolfpack have lost at then-No. 20 Va Tech, won at then-No. 24 Pitts and lost at then-No. 14 No Carolina. However, NEITHER of those three schools are currently ranked. Miami is favored by 10 1/2points. There just could be some scoring in the BYU/Boise St game, as Boise State has averaged 45.5 PPG (third in the nation) and 454.5 YPG (22nd) over its two first games, while BYU is averaging 44.4 PPG (7th) and 527.7 YPG yards (6th). The Cougars have topped 40 points in SIX of their first seven games for the first time in program history. BYU's 7-0 start is its first since 2001 and its No. 9 ranking places the school inside the AP top-10 for the first time since November 7, 2009. BYU is favored by three points and the over/under line is 61.The BYU and Boise St contest is the first of FOUR matchups featuring ranked opponents. The marquee matchup (and the Game of the CFB 2020 season to-date) is No. 1 Clemson (7-0) at No. 4 Notre Dame (6-0). You may have heard that Trevor Lawrence will NOT play, meaning freshman D.J. Uiagalelei will line up under center for the Tigers for the second straight Saturday. He passed for 342 yards and two TDs plus ran for a third, as Clemson came back from a 28-7 halftime deficit to beat Boston College 34-28 (Tigers were favored by 26 1/2-points). Clemson has won 28 consecutive games against ACC opponents and 40 straight regular season games, the second-longest streak of all-time. Notre Dame is off a less-than-impressive win as well, winning 31-13 at Ga Tech as a three-TD road favorite. The Irish will welcome the Tigers to South Bend owning a 12-game winning streak, the longest active among FBS teams. Clemson is favored by 5 1/2-points .The final two games between ranked teams are No. 5 Georgia (4-1) and No. 8 Florida (3-1) meeting Jacksonville in what's billed as "The World's Largest Cocktail Party" and No. 13 Indiana (2-0) hosting No. 23 Michigan (1-1).The two SEC East schools square off as top-10 teams for the THIRD consecutive season, with Georgia (which owns a 52-43-2 series lead) looking for its FOURTH straight win in the series. "It doesn't clinch it or seal anything, but whoever wins this game certainly is putting themselves in the driver's seat to get to Atlanta," Florida head coach Dan Mullen said (Georgia is seeking a fourth straight SEC title). Georgia is favored by 3 1/2-points. Indiana is 2-0, giving the school its best start in the Big Ten since 1991. Indiana's No. 13 ranking is the school's highest since it was ranked 11th back in 1987. The Hoosiers shocked then-No. 7 Penn St 36-35 in OT at home to open the season and then followed with a 37-21 road win at Rutgers. Meanwhile, Michigan is coming off a disappointing 27-24 home loss to rival Michigan State, further putting heat on sixth-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have gone 8-13 against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin during Harbaugh's five-plus year tenure. Think Michigan fans and alumni are loving their $7 million a year (plus) head coach these days? However, let me point out that Michigan hasn't lost to Indiana since 1987. The Wolverines are a three-point road favorite.In 16 meetings so far this season between ranked opponents, the higher ranked team has gone 15-1 SU and 14-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). Will that trend continue with this weekend's four such matchups? As documented here each week, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results. Ranked teams did win 14 of 18 such matchups last weekend but were still a highly unimpressive 10-8 ATS. The Y-T-D tally sits as such; ranked teams are 68-22 (.756) SU when taking on an unranked opponent but remain a 'money-burning' 36-53-1 (.404) ATS. Will this trend continue throughout the 2020 season? So far, we are still waiting for that "regression to the mean."There are 14 games this weekend in which ranked teams take on unranked opponents, including three contests involving top-10 teams. No. 3 Ohio St is home to Rutgers (Buckeyes are favored by 38 points), No. 6 Cincinnati hosts Houston seeking an 18th straight home win (Bearcats are favored by 13 1/2-points) and No. 7 Texas A&M is at South Carolina (Aggies are favored by 10 points). The Pac 12 becomes the last of CFB's 10 conferences to take the field in 2020. No. 12 Oregon is home to Stanford (Ducks are favored by eight points) and No. 20 USC hosts Arizona St (Trojans are favored by 11 points).Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday Nov 3

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." The Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to postpone the fall season because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic back on Aug 8 but 'reversed field' on Sep 25 by announcing that a season would be played, one which would feature a six-game, conference-only schedule. All 12 MAC schools will open the season Wednesday, Nov 4 and then play their next two games on Tuesdays or Wednesdays before transitioning to Saturdays for the final three weeks. Each team will play five division opponents and one crossover opponent in Week 1. The two most noteworthy games are defending league champion Miami (Ohio) opening at home against Ball State and Central Michigan (defending West Division champs) at home against Ohio U. CFB-Part 1: Thursday's Notes will feature my usual CFB preview but this special Wednesday edition takes a look at just how much the pollsters know or DON'T know. Here's a brief history of the AP poll. The news media began running their own polls of sports writers to determine who was, by popular opinion, the best football team in the country at the end of the season. One of the earliest such polls was the AP College Football Poll, first run in 1934. In 1935, AP sports editor Alan J. Gould declared a three-way tie for national champion in football between Minnesota, Princeton, and Southern Methodist. Minnesota fans protested, and a number of Gould's colleagues led by Charles "Cy" Sherman suggested he create a poll of sports editors instead of only using his own list, and the next year the poll was born and it has run continuously since 1936. The AP Poll currently lists the top-25 teams in the nation but from 1936 to 1961 the wire service only ranked 20 teams. Surprisingly, from 1962 to 1967 only 10 teams were recognized. From 1968 to 1988 the AP again resumed its top-20 before expanding to the current 25 teams in 1989.The AP began conducting a preseason poll starting in 1950 and I'll take a quick peek back to see where those predictions stand as the season moves into the month of November. Clemson was ranked No. 1 (38 first-place votes), Ohio St No. 2 (21), Alabama No. 3 (2), Georgia No. 4 and Oklahoma No. 5. Not bad, as the current AP poll (as of Nov 1) has Clemson No. 1 (33), Alabama No. 2 (29), Ohio St No. 3, Notre Dame No. 4 and Georgia No. 5. That's four of the top-5 still in the top-5 with Notre Dame, which opened No. 10 in the preseason poll, replacing Oklahoma. The Sooners are a modest 4-2 and are currently ranked No. 19 and just re-entered the poll on Oct 25, after missing THREE straight polls after losing back-to back games following a win in their season opener.Let's look and some big "swings and misses!" Defending champion LSU was ranked No. 6 in the preseason poll and actually received one first-place (that voter should at least be fined, or maybe placed in 'time out.'). The Tigers opened their season at home vs Miss St and lost 44-34. How bad does that loss look now? The Bulldogs haven't won since beating LSU, going 0-4 while totaling just 30 points! Unranked LSU has added a 45-41 loss at Missouri (Missouri came into that game averaging 15.5 PPG) and just last Saturday, lost 48-11 at Auburn, which was also ranked as one of the nation's biggest underachievers prior to that result. Penn St opened No. 7 and after the Big Ten's late start, is 0-2. The Nittany Lions opened with a 36-35 (OT) loss at Indiana, giving the Hoosiers their first win over a top-10 team since 1987! Penn St lost this past Saturday 38-25 at home to Ohio St and dropped out of the poll after being ranked for 64 straight polls (when eligible). Indiana began unranked in the preseason and is currently 2-0 and ranked No. 17, the school's highest ranking since being No. 11 back in 1987.More misses: North Carolina opened at No. 18 and after a 3-0 Start, was ranked No. 5, the school's highest ranking since 1997. However, the Tar Heels are now unranked, after losing 31-28 at Florida State (Seminoles entered that game 1-3 with their lone win coming over Jacksonville St) and 44-41 at Virginia, which entered that contest on a four-game slide. Is it basketball season yet, ask Tar Heels fans? Minnesota went 11-2 last season and beat Auburn 31-24 in the Outback Bowl as a seven-point dog. It marked Minnesota's first 11-win season since 1904 and the Golden Gophers opened No. 19. However, Michigan beat them 49-24 at home and then the not-so Golden Gophers lost 45-44 at Maryland, which lost 43-3 in its season opener at Northwestern plus was coming off a 3-9 season in 2019 (1-8 in the Big Ten). Iowa opened No. 24 but has opened 0-2 for the first time since 2000 and Tennessee opened No. 25 but is 2-3.Underappreciated was Cincinnati, which opened at No. 20 but has started 5-0 while outscoring its opponents 198-60. The Bearcats have won 17 straight at home and this past Sunday earned a No. 6 ranking, the school's highest since ending the 2009 season ranked No. 4. Nowhere to be found in the preseason poll were now-No. 9 BYU, now-No. 15 Coastal Carolina, now-No. 16 Marshall and now-No. 25 Liberty. BYU was coming off a 7-6 season and saw its schedule completely undone by the pandemic. NINE of the 12 schools on BYU's original schedule announced that they were NOT going to play in 2020. BYU plays football as an Independent and had to scramble to patch together a 2020 schedule. BYU has opened 7-0 and have just THREE games left, a road game Friday at No. 21 Boise St, then home games against North Alabama (an FCS school) and SD State. If the Cougars win on the "blue turf," they'll likely finish 10-0. They are currently ranked No. 9, the first time the school has been in the top-10 since Nov 7, 2009. As for Coastal Carolina, Marshall and Liberty, that trio is a combined 17-0. Who could have predicted that? Surely not the experts voting in the AP poll, which is EXACTLY the point I was trying to make.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Nov 3

Tuesday, Nov 03, 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 concluded its Week 8 last night at MetLife Stadium, as the Tampa Bay Bucs recovered from an 11-point deficit in the second quarter to beat the NY Giants 25-23. The Bucs were stuck in 'FG mode' (just like in the team's 20-19 loss at Chicago in Week 5), settling for three FGs until a Brady to Gronk TDP put them up 15-14 (failed two-point conversion try) in the mid-third quarter. The Giants went back up 17-15 but then Brady's second TD pass of the game and Ryan Succop's 4th FG gave Tampa Bay a 25-17 lead. The Giants pulled within 25-23 on a 19-yard scoring pass from Jones to Tate with 28 seconds left but the two-point conversion pass failed. The Bucs are now 6-2, after winning FIVE of six in which Brady's thrown 17 TD passes against just ONE interception. The Bucs host the 5-2 Saints in Week 9 (SNF on NBC), a rematch of New Orleans' 34-23 win over Tampa Bay in Week 1. The Giants fell to 1-7 but have covered FOUR of their last five games (5-3 ATS on the season).Let's check on the Y-T-D numbers, with Week 8 in the books. Home teams went 7-7 SU and 8-6 ATS, including home dogs going 2-3 SU but 4-1 ATS. Home teams remain barely over .500 at 60-58-1 (.508) on the season while going just 53-64-2 ATS (.453). Home dogs check in at 11-29 SU but a more respectable 20-18-2 ATS. Scoring remains high (Week 8 games averaged 47.6 PPG) but resulted in eight overs and six unders. Y-T-D there have been 60 overs, 56 unders and three pushes.NFL Week 8 highlights: My Friday Notes will be dedicated to a "state of the union' NFL report, as the 17-week season hits its midpoint with Week 9. I noted yesterday that Pittsburgh (7-0) remained the lone NFL unbeaten by winning 28-24 at Baltimore, despite the Ravens owning 457-221 yardage advantage. How'd that happen? Baltimore had FOUR giveaways, including a 'pick-6!' In another head-scratching result, the Eagles beat the Cowboys 23-9. Why do I say "head-scratching" knowing the Cowboys are 0-8 ATS? Try this. The Eagles are the first team to have under 250 total yards (222), turn the ball over FOUR times and get sacked FOUR times and still win a game by 14 points since the Dolphins beat the Jets 14-0 in the 1982 AFC Championship Game (Can you say, AJ Duhe?).Monday's headline read: Tua wins his first NFL start! Can't argue with Miami's 28-17 win over the LA Rams, the Dolphins THIRD straight win (Miami is now 4-3). However, didn't Miami win DESPITE Tua? Tagovailoa (picked 5th overall in the first round) fumbled on his first attempt to throw as Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald knocked the ball loose, setting up the Rams on Miami's 15-yard line. Three plays later, it was 7-0 LA. However, the Dolphins scored 28 consecutive first-half points to take a 28-7 lead, thanks in large part to four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) by Rams QB Jared Goff. One fumble was returned 78 yards for a TD plus Miami added an 88-yard punt return TD, as well. As for Tua, he completed 12 of 22 for 93 yards with one TD (zero INTs). His longest completion was for 15 yards and his TD pass was a three-yarder. Joe Burrow was the NFL's No. 1 pick and lines up behind an OL that has allowed 28 sacks and 'fuels' a non-existent running game (101.3 YPG), while Cincy's D allows 26.8 PPG. Still, Burrow is completing 67.0% for 2,2272 yards with 11 TDs and five INTs through eight games, after going 26 of 37 for 249 yards with two TDs and zero INTs in a 31-20 win over the Titans. The Bengals lost at Baltimore by 24 points but their other four losses have come by margins of three, five, four and three points.The Colts lost 27-20 at Jacksonville in Week 1 (Jags are 0-6 since) but their 41-21 rout at Detroit (Lions have now lost SEVEN straight at home) was their FIFTH win in their last six games, moving them into a first-place tie with the Titans in the AFC South. Dalvin Cook ran for 163 yards and scored four TDs (three rushing / one receiving), to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 28-22 victory at NFC North-leading Green Bay. It snapped the Packers' EIGHT-game winning streak in the division. Patrick Mahomes (name sounds familiar) passed for 416 yards and five TDs, as the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs moved to 7-1. I think Mahomes has a future in this league. Meanwhile, the defending NFC champion 49ers lost 37-27 at Seattle, to fall to 4-4. San Francisco sits in last-place in the NFL's best division, behind the Seahawks (6-1), Cards (5-2) and Rams (5-3). To add insult to injury, TE Kittles and QB Jimmy G both got hurt and each will miss multiple games.Wednesday's and Thursday's Notes will focus on college football, as the MAC and more notably the Pac 12 FINALLY 'join the party.' Saturday's showdowns include No. 1 Clemson (40-game regular season winning streak) playing at No. 4 Notre Dame, which owns the longest active winning streak of any FBS team (12 in a row). Then there is No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Florida meeting in Jacksonville in what's called "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party!" Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 2

Monday, Nov 02, 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."Sunday NFL highlights: Pittsburgh (7-0) remains the lone NFL unbeaten by winning 28-24 at Baltimore. The Ravens had a 457-221 yardage advantage over the Steelers but had FOUR giveaways, including a 'pick-6!' The NY Jets (0-8) remain the lone winless NFL team with a 35-9 loss at Kansas City (Jets are 1-7 ATS). Dallas led Philadelphia 9-7 at the half Sunday night but went scoreless in the second half and fell 23-9 to the Eagles, remaining a very 'IM-PERFECT' 0-8 ATS. New England (2-5) lost its FOURTH straight (longest skid since 2002), 24-21 at Buffalo. The Bills snapped a SEVEN-game losing streak to New England, which has won the AFC East in each of the last 11 seasons. Buffalo is 6-2. Full Week 8 recap on Tuesday.MNF: The 5-2 Tampa Bay Bucs are at the 1-6 NY Giants at 8:15 ET on ESPN. Has Tom Brady found "the Fountain of Youth" in Florida? He has thrown 15 TD passes against just ONE interception over his last five games, with Tampa Bay going 4-1 in that stretch (exception being a 20-19 loss at Chicago in Week 5). He's sure being helped out by a Tampa Bay defense allowing the fewest yards in the league (291.3 YPG) and a modest 20.3 PPG. The Giants' lone win of 2020 was a 20-19 victory over Washington, which was sandwiched around a 37-34 loss at Dallas (Week 5) and a 22-21 loss at Philly (Week 7). Tampa Bay is favored by 13 points and the over/under is 45.CFB recap: There was only ONE game this past weekend in which ranked teams played each other. No. 3 Ohio State was at No. 18 Penn St last Saturday night and the Buckeyes won 38-25, a final that was also good enough for an Ohio St ATS win. That result continued an on-going trend in meetings between ranked teams this season. The higher ranked team has gone 15-1 SU and 14-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). However, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results. Ranked teams did win 14 of 18 such matchups last weekend but were still a highly unimpressive 10-8 ATS The Y-T-D tally sits as such; ranked teams are 68-22 (.756) SU when taking on an unranked opponent but remain a 'money-burning' 36-53-1 (.404) ATS. Will this trend continue throughout the 2020 season? So far, we are still waiting.The four ranked teams to lose SU to an unranked opponent were then-No. 6 Oklahoma St 41-34 (OT) at home to Texas, then-No. 13 Michigan 27-24 at home to Michigan St, then-No. 15 North Carolina 44-41 at Virginia and then-No. 16 Kansas St 37-10 at West Va. The Longhorns' win at Oklahoma St was Texas' first win on the road over a top-10 opponent since 2010. First-year Michigan St head coach Mel Tucker joined Nick Saban (1995) as the only two MSU head coaches to beat Michigan in their first-ever try. On the flip side of that rivalry, 'the incomparable' Jim Harbaugh is now 1-6 SU at home against Ohio St and Michigan St (as if those two rivalries mean something to Michigan fans and alumni!). New AP poll: Trevor Lawrence was held out of Clemson's game vs Boston College and the Tigers barely survived, coming back from a 28-7 halftime deficit to win 34-28. Clemson had 52 first-place votes the previous week but fell to just 33 on Sunday, edging No. 2 Alabama (29 votes) by just TWO total points. Ohio St remained No. 3 and Notre Dame at No. 4, after the Irish won 31-13 at Ga Tech in less than impressive fashion (note: Notre Dame owns the longest-active winning streak among FBS schools at 12). Speaking of less-than-impressive efforts, Georgia held onto its No. 5 ranking, despite a 14-3 win at Kentucky (the Bulldogs were favored by 17 points). Cincinnati routed Memphis 49-10 for its 17th straight home win and is ranked No. 6, the school's highest since it finished 4th in the final AP poll of 2009 (can you say Brian Kelly?). BYU handled Western Ky 41-10 and the Cougars moved into the AP top-10 (at No. 9) for the first time since Nov 7, 2009. Indiana is ranked 13th, the school's highest since being ranked 11th in 1987. Okla St fell from No. 6 to No. 16 with its loss to Texas, while Michigan fell from 13th to 23rd with its loss to Michigan St. No. 14 North Carolina, No. 16 Kansas St and No. 18 Penn St all dropped out. Penn St had been ranked for 64 straight polls (not including when it was ineligible earlier this year to be considered), which was the 4th-longest active streak. If interested, the top-three active streaks are Alabama (205), Ohio St (138) and Clemson (94).New to the poll are Texas (22nd) and Auburn (24th) which are both back in. Auburn routed LSU 48-11! Special mention goes to 6-0 Liberty, which had a bye but moved into the final spot (25th), for the first time in school history. Of course, Liberty is in just its THIRD season as an FBS member. Liberty replaced Coastal Carolina at the No. 25 spot, as just like the Jeffersons, the Chanticleers are "movin' on up!" Coastal Carolina 'trashed' Georgia St 51-0 on the road this past Saturday and are also 6-0 (5-1 ATS) on the season, moving up to No. 15 in the latest poll.Tuesday's Notes will concentrate on NFL Week 8 and then it's mostly CFB on Wednesday and Thursday, before returning to the NFL on Friday, as the 17-week season hits its midpoint with Week 9.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 30

Friday, Oct 30, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."CFB: I covered the Wisconsin COVID-19 situation in Thursday Notes but an update is that the Wisconsin football program now has 16 active cases of COVID-19. The positive tests recently received include those of head coach Paul Chryst and QB Graham Mertz. Mertz is out three weeks and Chryst is required to isolate for 10 days and will be able to return to the team in person on Nov 7 at the earliest. That, coincidentally, is the date Wisconsin is scheduled to play Purdue. Is Wisconsin's season in the balance? If that news wasn't bad enough, I woke up this morning to the news that Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence has also tested positive. Here's what we know.Lawrence will miss Saturday's home game against Boston College, as the Tigers go for their 39th straight regular season win, which would tie Miami for the second-longest streak in college football history ('Canes run came from 2000-03). The longest regular season winning streak is 45 in a row by Oklahoma from 1953-57. Lawrence is said to have mild symptoms but at this time, his status for Clemson's Nov 7th game at South Bend with the 4th-ranked Fighting Irish remains in question. Lawrence will be required to isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms. That begs the question, when did his 10-day clock start? The best-case scenario for Lawrence's return is if he began experiencing symptoms on Tuesday and that began his 10-day isolation clock, which would potentially allow him to play on Nov 7. However, this also requires the player to show no symptoms, defined as no respiratory issues or fever, without the aid of fever-reducing medication. Lawrence will also have to pass a battery of cardiac tests to ensure he isn't showing symptoms of myocarditis. If he clears all those hurdles, it's possible he could play against the Irish, albeit with no practice under his belt beforehand. As I opined Thursday, fingers crossed.NFL Week 8 opened with Atlanta winning 25-17 at Carolina on Thursday night. The Falcons fired Dan Quinn after a 23-16 home loss in Week 5 to the Panthers but have now won TWO of three under interim head coach Raheem Morris. Atlanta bounced back from last Sunday's emotionally-draining one-point loss to Detroit, when the Lions drove 75 yards in 1:04 and scored the winning TD (and extra point) with no time remaining. As for Carolina, the Panthers have now lost THREE in a row, after winning THREE in a row. Carolina has played each of its last SIX games without All-Pro RB Christian McCaffrey.Sunday's NFL "Game of the Week" is the 6-0 Steelers playing the 5-1 Ravens in Baltimore at 1:00 ET. The current Baltimore Ravens are "the original Cleveland Browns" and rivalry has never let up with Browns/Ravens moving from Cleveland to Baltimore. It has produced vicious hits, close games, dramatic finishes and now a historic matchup of head coaches. The Steelers hired Mike Tomlin in 2007 and he's led Pittsburgh to a 139-74-1 (.652) record in the regular season while capturing six AFC North titles and one Super Bowl championship. John Harbaugh was hired by the Ravens the following season (2008) and owns a 123-75 (.621) regular season record winning four AFC North Titles and one Super Bowl title. Sunday's meeting will be the 25th matchup between Tomlin and Harbaugh, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the duo will become the first pair of head coaches in the Super Bowl era to face off 25 times in the regular season (Harbaugh holds a 13-11 edge over Tomlin). For you history buffs, there are only two head-coaching matchups in NFL history that eclipse Tomlin-Harbaugh. George Halas (Bears) and Curly Lambeau (Packers) met 48 times plus Lambeau and Steve Owen (Giants) coached against each other 28 times.  I mentioned above something about "close games" and two-thirds of the 25 games have been decided by FOUR points or less, including four overtime games. The Ravens are favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 46 1/2.The Pittsburgh/Baltimore matchup is not the only game in which the winner will take over first-place with a victory. In Week 8's SNF game (8:20 ET on NBC) the 2-5 Cowboys (0-7 ATS) will be in Philadelphia to take on the 2-4-1 Eagles, with the winner walking away as the NFC East's division leader. Now you CAN'T make that up! Philly is favored by 9 1/2-points and the over/under is 43. There are two more division showdowns with important implications. The SF 49ers are not just defending NFC West champs but they are also defending NFC champs. The Niners opened 2-3 but have won two in a row (24-16 at home against the Rams and 33-6 at the Pats) to get back to 4-3. However, the 49ers still find themselves in last-place in the NFL's toughest division, behind the 5-2 Cards and Rams plus the 5-1 Seahawks. Seattle welcomes the 49ers to CenturyLink Field off the team's first loss of 2020, a 37-34 OT loss last Sunday night in Arizona. Seattle is favored by three points and the over/under is 54. Then we have the 2-4 Patriots heading to Buffalo to take on the 5-2 Bills. The Patriots have won the AFC East in each of the last 11 years and in 17 of the last 19 seasons. A win by the Bills would move Buffalo to 6-2, with New England falling to 2-5. Could Buffalo win its first AFC East title since 1995 in 2020? The Bills are favored by four points and the over/under is 41.Week 8 also features an important non-division NFC matchup, as the 4-2 Saints are in Chicago to take on the 5-2 Bears. The Saints currently trail 5-2 Tampa Bay in the NFC South and with the Bucs playing the 1-6 NY Giants on MNF, the last thing New Orleans needs is to lose at Chicago, while Tampa Bay wins as expected in New Jersey. The Bears trail the 5-1 Packers in the NFC North and with Green Bay hosting the 1-5 Vikings, the Bears can ill afford a loss AND what is expected to be a Packers win. The Saints are favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 43 1/2. I'll close with the NFL's lone winless team, the 0-7 (1-6 ATS) Jets, who can't possibly be expected to win at the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. KC welcomes the Jets to Arrowhead Stadium as a 19 1/2-point favorite (over/under is 49).Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Oct 29

Thursday, Oct 29, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 8: Arizona, Houston, Jacksonville and Washington are on their bye weeks. 5-2 Arizona is "right in" the postseason hunt in the NFC West, tied with the Rams as both teams are chasing 5-1 Seattle. Ironically, 2-5 Washington is also "right in" the postseason hunt because it plays in the sad-sack NFC East where 2-4-1 Philadelphia resides in first-place. As for Houston and Jacksonville (both 1-6), it's "wait until next year." The Thursday Night schedule in 2020 has been underwhelming, to say the least. Week 8's matchup features the 1-6 Falcons playing at the 3-4 Panthers. The Falcons came one play away from improving to 2-0 under interim coach Raheem Morris last Sunday, who said the team needs to recover emotionally from the latest result, a one-point loss to the Lions. Detroit drove 75 yards in 1:04 and scored the winning touchdown (and extra point) with no time remaining. Carolina's defense let the team down regularly last Sunday in a 27-24 loss at New Orleans, allowing the Saints to convert on 12 of 14 third-down situations. These teams met in Week 5 with the Panthers winning 23-16 in Atlanta. That outcome pushed the Falcons to an 0-5 record, prompting the firing of head coach Dan Quinn. Carolina's win over Atlanta was the team's THIRD straight but the Panthers have lost two straight, since. The Panthers were hoping All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey would be able to play in this one, after more than a month's absence caused by a high ankle sprain. McCaffrey hasn't played since the second week of the season but the Panthers announced Tuesday that McCaffrey has been designated to return from injured reserve. However, he was not activated from IR on Wednesday. The Panthers faced a 4 p.m. ET deadline Thursday to call him up in time to face the Falcons but just as I was ready to post this article, Carolina announced that McCaffrey will NOT play. Tonight's game kicks off a 8:15 ET (FOX/NFL Network) with Carolina favored by two points (over/under is 51 1/2).NCAAF: The new CFB week opens with a pair of games on Thursday night. South Alabama is at Georgia Southern in a SBC contest and will air on ESPN at 7:30 ET (Ga Southern is favored by four points). The MWC features Colorado St at Fresno St in the other matchup. There are three Friday games, highlighted by a Big Ten contest featuring Minnesota at Maryland on ESPN at 7:30 ET (Gophers are favored by 20 points). The other two are East Carolina at Tulsa and Hawaii at Wyoming. No. 19 Marshall was scheduled to play at FIU on Friday but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues. For FIU, the Panthers have had more games postponed (four) in 2020 than they have played (three, going 0-3). As for 5-0 Marshall, the Thundering Herd have now lost THREE games to postponements. Saturday's North Texas at UTEP game has also been postponed but the biggest virus-related news comes in the fact that No. 9 Wisconsin's game at Nebraska was canceled (NOT postponed) due to COVID-19 breakouts to Wisconsin players and coaches. The Big Ten just returned to play last weekend and Wisconsin led things off with a 45-7 romp over Illinois on Oct 23. However, as has been well reported, the Big Ten's late start date has allowed NO 'wiggle room' in its schedule of EIGHT games in eight weeks. The Wisconsin and Nebraska game can't be "made up" and it's likely that Wisconsin's Nov 7 home game with Purdue will also be canceled. It's a stark reminder that the college football season is hardly being played on 'firm ground.' Fingers crossed as we look forward. Saturday CFB: There is only ONE game this Saturday in which ranked teams square off and that's No. 3 Ohio State at No. 18 Penn St. The then-No. 5 Buckeyes made 'short work' of Nebraska last Saturday, rolling to a 52-17 win but then-No. 8 Penn St's 36-35 OT loss at Indiana was to say the least, a real shocker. It was Indiana's first win over a top-10 team since 1987! Ohio St is favored by 12 points in Happy Valley and I will note that in meetings between ranked teams this season, the higher ranked team has gone 14-1 SU and 13-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). However, the dynamic of ranked teams against unranked opponents has seen markedly different results. Ranked teams did win 10 of 12 such matchups last weekend but were able to go just a modest 6-6 ATS, although that was a MAJOR improvement over the numbers Y-T-D. Entering Saturday, ranked teams are 54-18 (.750) SU when taking on an unranked opponent so far this season but remain a 'money-burning' 26-45-1 (.366) ATS. Will this trend continue throughout the 2020 season? I noted in last Thursday's Notes that following a theory called "regression to the mean," we are overdue to see the ATS record swing back in favor of the ranked teams. However, we are still waiting. Is this the week?Only FIVE ranked teams are NOT in action this weekend, including No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 19 Marshall (see above). No. 12 Miami-Fl is idle, while No. 14 Oregon and No. 21 USC are Pac 12 schools which have yet to begin their respective seasons. Both open their SIX-game schedules next Saturday with Oregon at home vs Stanford and USC at home vs Arizona St. No. 3 Ohio St is playing at No. 18 Penn St and No. 9 Wisconsin had its game at Nebraska canceled but the other remaining eight top-10 teams are in action, all playing unranked opponents. No. 1 Clemson can extend its regular-season winning streak to 39 games with a home win over Boston College (Tigers are favored by 31 points). No. 2 Alabama hosts Miss St, which has lost THREE in a row (averaging just 10.0 PPG), after upsetting defending champion LSU 44-34 in its season-opener. The Tide are also favored by 31 points. No. 4 Notre Dame owns the nation's longest-active winning streak (11) and will be at Ga Tech, where the Irish are favored by 20 points. No. 5 Georgia is coming off a bye week and has to be motivated to bounce back from its 41-24 loss at Alabama on Oct 17. The Bulldogs are favored by 15 1/2-points. No. 6 Oklahoma St is the lone unbeaten team in the Big 12 and will host Texas in Stillwater, where the Cowboys are favored by 3 1/2-points. No. 7 Cincinnati hosts Memphis and is looking for "double-revenge" from back-to-back losses at Memphis in 2019's regular season final and then the following week in the AAC championship game. The Bearcats are favored by 6 1/2-points. Texas A&M hosts Arkansas (Aggies are favored by 12 1/2-points) and No. 10 Florida hosts Missouri in its first game since losing 41-38 at Texas A&M back on Oct 10. The Gators are favored by  12 1/2-points.10 more ranked teams are in action on Saturday vs unranked opponents, including 6-0 and 11th-ranked BYU at home vs Western Kentucky, which is nation-worst 0-6 ATS. The Cougars are favored by 28 1/2-points. No. 20 Coastal Carolina continues it's 'magical' season, when it plays at Georgia St (Chanticleers are favored by three points).Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, October 28

Wednesday, Oct 28, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." World Series recap and closing thoughts: The LA Dodgers won their EIGHTH consecutive NL West title in 2020, finishing the pandemic-shortened season with a MLB-best record of 43-17 (LA's .717 winning percentage would have translated to 116-win season over 162 games). The Dodgers were clearly MLB's best team in the regular season, noting the team's run differential of plus-136 was 52 runs higher than their closet competitor (SD Padres) and a whopping 76 runs higher than their World Series opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays (Rays owned the best record in the AL at 40-20, second to only LA in all of MLB). However, the Dodgers found themselves down 3-1 to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, before rallying to sweep the final three games of the series. That allowed LA to reach the World Series for the FOURTH time in the last four seasons. It marked the 63rd instance in major league history that a team had reached three World Series in a four-year span and only TWO teams among the group did not win a World Series. The Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in 2017 and to the Red Sox in 2018, sure didn't want to join the 1907-09 Detroit Tigers and the 1911-13 NY Giants in that 'club.' As already noted, the Rays had the AL's best regular season record. However, they were extended to the limit in both their ALDS with the Yankees (won Game 5, 2-1) and in the ALCS by Houston (took a 3-0 series lead only to be pushed to a Game 7 that they won 4-2). Tampa Bay reached the World Series for just the second time in franchise history, having lost the 2008 World Series to the Phillies, 4-1. Of note was that a Dodgers/Rays matchup was only the FOURTH time in the wild-card era (since 1995) that the teams with the best record in each league would meet in the World Series.Game 6: Tampa Bay rookie Randy Arozarena gave the Rays a 1-0 lead with a first-inning HR against Gonsolin. He became the second rookie ever to hit three HRs in a single World Series, joining Charlie Keller of the 1939 New York Yankees, while extending his all-time record for a single postseason to 10 HRs (his 29 hits also set an all-time record for a single postseason). He also became the first rookie to collect an RBI in four consecutive World Series games. However, the Rays never scored again after Arozarena's HR, Roberts pulled Gonsolin after 1.2 innings and SIX relievers (NONE named Jansen), gave him 7.1 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out 12 Rays. Tampa Bay finished with just FIVE hits and 16 Ks. As for the Dodgers, they looked helpless against Snell, who struck out NINE batters while giving up two hits, including one to Austin Barnes in the sixth with one out. It was then that Tampa Bay manager took Snell out of the game, much to Snell's dismay and as it turned out, all ALL Tampa Bay fans and bettors. Cash decided to bring righty Nick Anderson into the game to face Mookie Betts, despite the fact that Betts was hitting just .218 against left-handers this season and had struck out in his first two at-bats of this game against Snell. Sure enough, Betts doubled to put runners on second and third with just one out. A wild pitch scored the tying run and then Corey Seager's run-scoring groundout gave LA a 2-1 lead. With Tampa Bay helpless against A's bullpen, Mookie Betts solo HR in the eighth, sealed the 3-1 victory.SS Seager batted .400 with two HRs, five RBI and six walks against the Rays, including last night's sixth-inning grounder that allowed Betts to race home from third base with the go-ahead run. He was named World Series MVP after winning MVP in the NLCS against Atlanta. He hit .310 with five HRs and 11 RBI in the NLCS, including three HRs as the Dodgers fought off elimination in Games 5, 6 and 7. He drove in runs in FIVE consecutive plate appearances, starting with his final two at-bats in Game 2, to match a feat that had been accomplished only by the Houston Astros' Carlos Beltran in 2004. Only EIGHT players have won MVPs in a LCS and WS in the same season (all National Leaguers), with the most recent being San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner in 2014. However, it seems only fitting that Seager would pull off this rare 'double-double,' just like Orel Hershiser did in 1988, the last time the Dodgers won the World Series.It was a 'redemption' World Series for Clayton Kershaw, who entered the 2020 World Series having struggled badly in his first two two World Series appearances (2017 and 2018). He had gone 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five appearances (four starts) in those two series. The Dodgers were 1-3 in those four starts, as Kershaw had allowed 21 hits and 16 ERs over 22.2 innings for a 6.35 ERA. However, he went 2-0 vs the Rays, posting a 2.31 ERA with a 14-3 KW ratio over 11.2 innings. He became only the third starting pitcher to earn two wins and strike out at least one-third of the batters he faced in a single World Series, joining Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. Long-suffering Kershaw fans will lament that he is the first pitcher to do so on a winning team and NOT win World Series MVP.My closing thought is on Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. Let me say going in, I 'hate' him for introducing the practice of using "an opener," as it has wreaked havoc on handicappers and bettors. Way too many times we have all waited for teams to announce a starting pitcher, as linemakers are forced to wait on establishing a line. What has been worse, is a starting pitcher named in the morning, only to find out shortly before the first pitch that "an opener" will get the nod, thereby canceling one's play or bet. I'll add that I'm also no big fan of "analytics" but that said, I don't despise them as so many my age do.My most vivid childhood memories are of Sandy Koufax dominating the Yankees (1963) and the Twins (1965), while Bob Gibson did the same against the Yankees (1964), the Red Sox (1967) and the Tigers (1968). In that vein, I can't imagine taking Snell out of the game last night after giving up a one-out single. As noted, Betts had struggled against lefties all season (see above) and had already struck out twice against Snell in his first two at-bats. Who knows what would have happened if Snell was left in? However, we do KNOW what happened when he was taken out. One wonders if either Snell or Cash will ever get another chance in a World Series? A return is NOT guaranteed.That said, let me say this for Cash. He was hired by the Tampa Bay Rays as their manager back on December 5, 2014, succeeding Joe Maddon, while becoming the youngest manager in the MLB. He took over a team playing in an awful stadium with some of the worst fan-support in MLB, as well as working with one of MLB's lowest payrolls. The Rays did little his first three seasons but then won 90 games in 2018, although they didn't qualify for the playoffs. However, 2019 was a breakout season, as they won 96 games, then beat the Oakland A's in the wild card game, before pushing the Astros to a full five games in an ALDS. I noted above what Tampa Bay accomplished here in 2020 and will note that the Rays did it all with a $29 million payroll, which ranked 28th out of the 30 major league teams.I KNOW Rays fans are devastated but would they really want to bring back Joe Maddon, who guided the LA Angels, with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, to a 26-34 record in 2020, FOURTEEN games worse than Tampa Bay's? Cash has been making the same type of decisions (like he did with Snell last night), since arriving in Tampa. It should be noted that last night's contest was Snell's 17th start of 2020 and he had NEVER completed six innings in ANY of his previous 16. One's memory doesn't have to be stretched too far to remember Snell's start in Game 2 of the Series. He didn't allow a hit through four innings, while striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings. However, his dreams of a no-hitter ended in the 5th. He walked Kiké Hernandez with two out and served up a two-run HR to Chris Taylor. A walk to Mookie Betts and a single by Corey Seager ended Snell's night. Coulda, shoulda, woulda!Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, October 27

Tuesday, Oct 27, 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." World Series Game 6: I provided a brief recap of Games 3 through 5 in Monday's Notes and now, following LA's 4-2 win in Game 5, the Dodgers are just ONE win away from the team's first World Series title since 1988. The Game 6 pitching matchup is a rematch of Game 2, as Blake Snell takes on Tony Gonsolin. The Rays staked Snell to a 5-0 lead and he didn't allow a hit through four innings, while striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings. However, Snell's dreams of a no-hitter ended in the 5th. He walked Kiké Hernandez with two out and served up a two-run HR to Chris Taylor. A walk to Mookie Betts and a single by Corey Seager ended Snell's night. However, four relievers held off the Dodgers, allowing two runs over 4.1 innings, as Tampa Bay evened the Series at one-all with a 6-4 victory. Gonsolin was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine games (eight starts / team was 5-3) during the regular season. However, in his two outings this postseason against Atlanta, he'd allowed SEVEN earned runs in 6.1 innings for a 9.95 playoff ERA. He threw just 41 pitches in a Game 7 against Atlanta (allowed two runs in two innings) in which the Dodgers won 4-3 to complete their comeback from being in an 0-3 'hole' against the Braves. I found the choice of starting Gonsolin in Game 2 a little strange, as he was pitching on just two days' rest in Game 2 of the World Series and got just four outs, throwing 29 pitches while allowing a solo HR and one walk. In his three postseason starts, he's lasted only 7.2 innings, allowing eight ERs on six hits with almost as many walks (7) as strikeouts (9). His ERA is 9.39 and his WHIP is 1.70.However, he hasn't pitched since that Game 2, so he takes the mound well-rested. Remember, he pitched well in the regular season (see above). The Dodgers have won Games 1, 3 and 5, while the Rays have won Games 2 and 4. "The trend" says Game 6 sets up as a Tampa Bay win, which would send the World Series to a Game 7, mirroring the two LCS that also went a full seven games. The Dodgers, as they have been in EVERY game so far, are favored (-140) and the over/under is 8. I'll be back tomorrow with a World Series recap OR, a Game 7 preview.Note: I've gone 8-3, +$5,615 with all LCS and WS plays and Game 6 is my 10* MLB Game of the Week. BATTER UP!NFL's Week 7 concluded last night with the LA Rams beating the Chicago Bears 24-10. LA's defense dominated, as Chicago's only TD came on an eight-yard fumble return with just 7 1/2 minutes to go and Chicago down 24-3. Jared Goff won the QB 'battle' over Nick Foles, completing 23 of 33 for 219 yards with two TD passes, no INTs and a 108.0 QB rating. In comparison, Foles completed 28 of 40 for 261 yards without a TD pass and two INTs (66.8 rating). Supporting Goff was an LA running game that produced 161 yards, compared to Chicago's 49 rushing yards on 2.9 YPC.LA's win gave home teams a 6-8 SU and ATS record for the week, as home dogs went 1-5 SU but 3-3 ATS. Here are the Y-T-D numbers. Home teams are barely over .500 at 53-51-1 (.510), while going just 45-58-2 ATS (.437). Home dogs check in at 9-26 SU but a more respectable 16-17-2 ATS. Scoring remains high (Week 7 games averaged 49.1 PPG) but resulted in six overs, seven unders and one push. Y-T-D there have been 52 overs, 50 unders and three pushes.More NFL from Week 7: In a showdown of unbeatens, the Steelers moved to 6-0 with a 27-24 win in Nashville against the Titans (now 5-1). Arizona's comeback 37-34 OT win in SNF action dropped Seattle to 5-1, leaving Pittsburgh as the NFL's lone unbeaten. Up next, the Steelers are at the 5-1 Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. At the 'bottom of the barrel' are the 0-7 Jets, who had a 10-0 lead at home over the Bills in the mid-second quarter but NEVER scored again in an 18-10 loss. Buffalo never scored a TD, settling for six FGs. Dallas is not winless (Cowboys are 2-5) but remain the NFL's lone winless ATS team, falling to 0-7 with a 25-3 loss at Washington.The NFC East is a 'disaster,' as the 2-4-1 Eagles sit atop a division that is 7-20-1 (.288) SU and 10-18 (.357) ATS, overall. In contrast, there is the NFC West in which all four teams are above. 500. The division is a combined 18-8 (.692) SU and 16-10 (.615) ATS. The defending NFC champions are the SF 49ers, but they sit in last-place at 4-3, trailing the 5-1 Seahawks, as well as the Cardinals and Rams (both are 5-2). The Niners are not the only 2019 division winner that is finding that repeating in 2020 will not come easily. The Houston Texans won the AFC South in 2019 for the FOURTH  time in the previous five years but at 1-6, the Texans are effectively 'dead' in 2020 (Titans lead the division at 5-1). The Brady-less NE Patriots entered 2020 having won 11 straight AFC East titles (as well as 17 of the previous 19) but at 2-4 are already 2 1/2 games behind the 5-2 Buffalo Bills The Pats travel to Buffalo on Sunday and while it may be just Week 8, how isn't it a "must win?" Minnesota was 10-6 in 2019 and earned a wild card spot, where the Vikings upset the 13-3 Saints in New Orleans, but the Vikings have little chance of playing past Week 17 in 2020, as they are off to a 1-5 start.There are a couple non-playoff teams from 2019 that are 'sitting pretty' through Week 7 of 2020. No team is better positioned than the 6-0 Steelers, who are almost assured of ending their brief, two-season postseason drought in 2020. The TB 12-led Bucs are riding Brady's excellent start in 2020 (18 TDs / four INTs) plus one of the NFL's best defenses (20.3 PPG on 291.3 YPG ) to a 5-2 start. The Bucs last made the playoffs in 2007, a 12-year drought! Week 8 kicks off on Thursday with another ho-hum contest, the 1-6 Falcons at the 3-4 Panthers. Who is responsible for 2020's 'ugly game' Thursday Night schedule?Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, October 26

Monday, Oct 26, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 7 will conclude tonight with 5-1 Bears in LA to take on the 4-2 Rams at 8:15 ET on ESPN (Rams are favored by six points and the over/under is 44 1/2). Just one of Chicago's wins this season have come over a .500 or better team (Tampa Bay), while all FOUR of the Rams' wins in 2020 have come against NFC East teams, which are a combined 7-20-1. You make the call. Full Week 7 recap in Tuesday's Notes but Pittsburgh's 27-24 Sunday win at Tennessee moved the Steelers to 6-0, while the Titans fell to 5-1. When the Cardinals came back Sunday night to edge the Seahawks, Seattle fell to 5-1 leaving the Steelers as the NFL's lone unbeaten team. The Jets lost 18-10 at home to the Bills and remain the NFL's lone winless team at 0-7 but they covered to give them their first ATS win of the season (1-6 ATS). The Cowboys lost 25-3 at Washington and Dallas now stands alone as the NFL's lone winless ATS team (0-7). How 'bout dem Cowboys!3-Day World Series recap: With the Series tied at one-all, Walker Buehler allowed just ONE run over six innings with 10 Ks in Game 3. He became the first pitcher in World Series history to record double-digit strikeouts in six innings, as the Dodgers won 6-2. The Rays' Charlie Morton allowed five ERs over just 4.1 innings, after entering the game having won all FIVE of his starts in the playoffs for Tampa Bay over the last two years while recording a minuscule 0.70 ERA.Game 4 was a World Series "classic," as the Tampa Bay Rays won Saturday night's contest with one of the wildest finishes in World Series history. The Dodgers broke a 6-6 tie in the top of the 9th by scoring their seventh run of the night, all coming with two outs. Then, with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, Brett Phillips, a seldom-used outfielder, hit a single to center field off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, bringing in the tying run. However, Chris Taylor kicked the ball and Randy Arozarena, who started on first, never stopped running. The relay to catcher Will Smith had Arozarena out by 30 feet but Smith dropped the ball and the ricochet allowed Arozarena to dive home with the winning run. The 8-7 Tampa Bay victory tied the Series at two-all.Game 5 saw Clayton Kershaw take the mound with the fifth-worst postseason ERA among pitchers with at least 70 innings, since the advent of the wild card in 1995. Kershaw was excellent in LA's Game 1 win (one ER allowed in six innings with eight Ks) and was treated to an early 3-0 lead. Kershaw allowed two runs in the third but lasted 5.2 innings, while surviving an attempted steal of home by Manuel Margot in the fourth with two outs and LA leading just 3-2. Then, LA used THREE relievers (NONE named Jansen) to pitch 3.1 scoreless innings for the 4-2 victory. Game 6 is set for Tuesday with a pitching rematch from Game 2 of Tampa Bay's Blake Snell and LA's Tony Gonsolin. See Tuesday's Notes for a preview. CFB recap: Saturday featured four games between ranked opponents, No. 6 Oklahoma St at home against No. 17 Iowa St, No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU, No. 14 No. Carolina home to No. 23 NC State and No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota. The higher ranked team won all four and also went 4-0 ATS. That continued a trend in which of the 15 games featuring ranked opponents in 2020, the higher ranked team has gone 14-1 SU and 13-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). However, ranked teams against unranked opponents have seen a very different dynamic. Ranked teams did win 10 of the 12 such matchups this past weekend but were able to go just a modest 6-6 ATS, although that was a MAJOR improvement over the numbers Y-T-D. Ranked teams are 54-18 (.750) SU when taking on an unranked opponent so far this season but remain a 'money-burning' 26-45-1 (.366) ATS.No. 19 Va Tech losing at Wake forest was a surprise but No. 8 Penn State losing 36-35 in OT at Indiana was a real shocker. It was Indiana's first win over a top-10 team since 1987! The Indiana shocker was just ONE of seven Big Ten games, as the conference took the field for the first time in 2020 this past weekend. Illinois started things off with a 45-7 rout of Illinois on Friday, as Graham Mertz, the highest-rated quarterback recruit to ever sign with Wisconsin, made quite a 'splash' in his first career start. He entered the year as Jack Coan’s backup but when Coan suffered a serious foot injury in preseason practice, Mertz got the start. He lived up to his billing, completing 20-of-21 passes for 248 yards and five TDs. His 95.2% single-game completion percentage mark set an all-time Big Ten mark. However, Ohio State's Justin Fields would match it the very next day, as he also completed 20 of 21 passes for for 276 yards (two TD passes and one rushing TD), as Ohio St beat Nebraska 52-17. Ohio State has now won 13 straight Big Ten games by double digits! Also making news in the Big Ten was Michigan's dominating 49-24 win at Minnesota. Michigan's junior QB Joe Milton completed 15 of 22 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 52 yards and another score, in his first career start (had 11 pass attempts in his first two seasons). While Indiana's upset of Penn St garnered the biggest headlines out of the Big Ten, let's give a shout out to Rutgers' Greg Schiano. The Scarlet Knights won 38-27 at Michigan St, snapping the school's 21-game Big Ten losing streak in the first game of his second tenure as head coach at Rutgers.6-0 Clemson remained No. 1 in the AP's latest poll (52 of 62 first-place votes), winning its 38th straight regular season game, 47-21 over Syracuse. A win at home over BC this coming Saturday and the Tigers will match Miami's 39-game streak set from 2000-03, leaving only Oklahoma's 45-game winning streak (1953-57) to beat. No. 2 Alabama got the remaining 10 first-place votes after beating Tennessee but the Tide lost WR Waddle on the opening play of that game on his kickoff return (ankle). Ohio St moved up from No. 5 to No. 3, as Notre Dame fell to No. 4 after winning a nation-best 11th straight game, 45-3 at Pittsburgh. Idle Georgia rounds out the top-5.Falling out of the rankings were No. 19 Va Tech, No. 21 Minnesota and No. 23 NC State. Indiana enters the poll at No. 17, matching the school's highest ranking since being ranked No. 17 in 1993. The Hoosiers snapped a 25-year absence from the AP top-25 in 2019 but their stay lasted just one week. Will Indiana remain ranked next week, after playing UNDEFEATED Rutgers this Saturday? Also new to the latest poll is Oklahoma, which returns after a three-week absence. That three-week poll drought was the longest for Oklahoma since the Sooners were left out of the final SIX polls of the 2009 season (Oklahoma finished 8-5 that season). Checking in at No. 25 is Boise St, which beat Utah St 42-13 in its first game of 2020. Boise St finished No. 23 in the final AP poll of 2019 and the Broncos are no strangers to being ranked. In fact, it's the 19th straight season in which the Broncos have been ranked for at least ONE week, tying them with USC for seventh-best all time.Closing shout outs. Joining Clemson at 6-0 in 2020 are BYU (ranked No. 11) and Liberty. The Flames are coached by Hugh Freeze and he led them to an 8-5 season in 2019 (his first at the school), including a 23-16 Cure Bowl win over Georgia Southern. Liberty received 85 points in Sunday's AP poll, second to Memphis' 105 points, among "others receiving votes." Boise St, the 25th-ranked team has 113 points. Let's NOT forget the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, who were ranked (at No. 25) for the first time in last week's poll. The Chanticleers beat Georgia Southern 28-14 this past Saturday and are now up to No. 20. Is there a 'ceiling' for how high they could climb? How about this? Coastal Carolina will host Liberty on Dec 5 in the season- finale for both schools. Could it be a "Showdown of Unbeatens?"Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, October 23

Friday, Oct 23, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." World Series Game 3: The best-of-seven series is tied at one victory apiece and the Game 3 pitching matchup is a VERY good one. 26-year-old Walker Buehler takes the mound for the first time since he threw six scoreless innings in a 3-1 triumph against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday in Game 6 of the NLCS. That performance gives him 29 Ks over four postseason starts (19 innings) in 2020. The Dodgers are 3-1 in his starts and Walker owns a 1.89 ERA. I think Buehler is now considered LA's 'ace,' over Kershaw. With an excellent effort here, he could nail down that moniker. However, he faces one tough competitor in Tampa Bay's 36-year-old Charlie Morton. Morton's 3-0 in 2020's postseason, allowing 11 hits and two runs (one earned) over 15.2 innings for an 0.57 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 17-4 KW ratio. In fact, Morton has won all FIVE of his starts in the playoffs for Tampa Bay over the last two years while recording a minuscule 0.70 ERA. The Dodgers are favored (-150) and the over/under is 7 1/2.<p>Note: I enter Friday on an 8-2 run MLB run (+$6,615 at $100/unit) and Game 3 is my 10* MLB Game of the Year. BATTER UP!NFC 'Least' is back! Going back in time, NFC East fans will remember that in a 10-year span from Super Bowl XXI through Super Bowl XXX, an NFC East team won SEVEN of the 10 Super Bowls played in that span (49er fans will point to the fact that "their team" won the other three). However, that was THEN and this is NOW. The Giants and Eagles met last night in Philly, with the Eagles eking out a 22-21 win. Carson Wentz threw an 18-yard TD pass to Boston Scott with 40 seconds remaining for the game-winner. Wentz threw for a season-high 359 passing yards and two TDs, both coming late in the fourth quarter on scoring drives of 78 and 71 yards. He also had a rushing TD. The Giants attempted to answer on the ensuing drive but QB Daniel Jones was stripped of the ball and Philly recovered to seal the win. Improbably (incredibly?), the Eagles now sit ATOP of the division with 2-4-1 record, edging the 2-4 Cowboys by percentage points (.357 to .333). For those unfamiliar, the NFL gives a team half a win and half a loss in a tie game. NFC East teams are a combined 6-19-1 SU and 9-17 ATS. However, the New York Football Giants (as Howard Cosell always referred to them), may be 1-6 but they own the division's only winning ATS record at 4-3.NFL Week 7 resumes on Sunday, with Baltimore (5-1), Indianapolis (4-2), Miami (3-3), Minnesota (1-5) enjoying bye weeks. Only three unbeaten teams remain and barring a tie, ONE team will fall from the rung of unbeatens by Sunday night. The 5-0 Steelers will visit the 5-0 Titans in Nashville on Sunday. This game was originally scheduled for Oct 4, but an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Titans organization forced a postponement. Now, this Week 7 game marks just the EIGHTH time in NFL history that undefeated teams have met this deep into a season. The Steelers are 5-0 for the first time since 1978 and Tennessee for the first time since a 10-0 start in 2008. Tennessee is currently favored by just one point and the over/under is 50 1/2.Speaking of COVID-19, the Raiders were scheduled to host the Bucs in Las Vegas for NBC's Sunday Night Football. However, the Raiders placed four starting offensive linemen plus a safety on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday. All five players were deemed high-risk contacts Thursday. The NFL then announced later on Thursday that the Raiders' game against the Bucs had been moved to 4:05 ET "out of an abundance of caution to ensure that a game would be available for fans on Sunday Night Football." That means, the 5-0 Seahawks will now face the 4-2 Cardinals in Arizona for SNF.Seattle is the NFL's third unbeaten team but has yet to face an NFC West opponent. The Seahawks' 5-0 start is the best in franchise history and the 4-2 Cardinals are above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015, which was the last time they made the playoffs. Seattle QB Russell Wilson is widely considered the front-runner for the NFL's MVP award a third of the way through the season, as he's completing 72.8% for 1,502 yards while leading the league with 19 TD passes (just three INTs) and with a 129.8 QB rating. However, THREE of Seattle's five victories have come down to the game's final 15 seconds. Seattle is favored by 3 or 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 56.Another HUGE game is the 3-3 SF 49ers playing in Foxboro vs the 2-3 NE Pats. The 49ers won the NFC West last season at 13-3 (and advanced to the Super Bowl) but their 3-3 record leaves them in last-place in 2020, behind not only the 5-0 Seahawks but also the 4-2 Rams and Cards. The Pats are more than just the defending AFC East champs, as New England entered 2020 having captured the AFC East title the previous 11 years and in 17 of the last 19 seasons (since 2001). The Pats welcome the 49ers to Gillette Stadium on Sunday with a 2-3 record. New England hasn't been under .500 through the fifth game or later in any season since they were 3-4 in 2002, which was the last season the Patriots did not win 10-plus games. New England is a two-point choice and the over/under is 44.I'll close with the NFL's only winless team, the 0-6 (also 0-6 ATS) J-E-T-S Jets, Jets Jets! The Jets are last in the NFL with 75 points scored (every other NFL team has scored at least 100), which is an average of 12.5 per game. The Jets are also one of EIGHT teams allowing 30-plus points per game (30.8), meaning they are losing by an average of 18.3 PPG. Buffalo QB Josh Allen was terrific in Buffalo's 4-0 start, completing 70.9 percent of his passes, while averaging 331.5 YPG through the air with 12 TDs and just one INT. However, Buffalo has lost back-to-back games, 42-26 at Tennessee and then 26-17, as Allen has completed just 58.8 percent, while averaging only 192.5 YPG passing with four TDs and three INTs in the back-to-back defeats. Buffalo is favored by 12 1/2-points and the over/under is 45.Updating the NFL's Y-T-D numbers to include last night's game. NFL home teams continue to struggle in 2020, going a modest 48-43-1 SU (.527) but a 'money-burning' 39-51-2 (.433) ATS. Home dogs are 8-21 SU and 13-14-2 ATS. There have been 46 overs, 44 unders and two 'pushes' on the season.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday October 22

Thursday, Oct 22, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." World Series Update: The 2020 World Series got underway Tuesday night and the Dodgers looked every bit the part of a team with MLB's best record in this COVID-shortened season with an 8-3 victory. Three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw shrugged off his rocky playoff history to give up just ONE run on two hits over six innings with only one walk and eight strikeouts. He retired 13 consecutive batters until Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier hit a solo HR in the fifth. In contrast, the Ray's Tyler Glasnow allowed three hits and SIX walks (three would eventually score) in 4.1 innings of work in which he allowed SIX runs (all earned). Cody Bellinger gave the Dodgers an early lead with a two-run HR (two days after his go-ahead HR in Game 7 of the NLCS) and Mookie Betts hit his first postseason HR for the Dodgers in the sixth to open a 7-1 advantage. Betts, Muncy and Taylor each had two hits. Tampa Bay had just six hits, while LA struck out 10 Rays as opposed to allowing just ONE walk.However, Game 2 told a very different tale, as Blake Snell took charge from the mound in the first four innings, while Brandon Lowe took charge at the plate. Lowe came in batting .083 (4-for-48) with one HR in his previous 13 postseason games but ended his slump in dramatic fashion. Lowe jump started the Rays' offense with a solo HR in the first inning off Tony Gonsolin, then hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning off Dustin May, as the Rays led 5-0 into the bottom of the 5th. Snell didn't allow a hit through four innings, while striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings. However, Snell's dreams of a no-hitter ended in the 5th. He walked Kiké Hernandez with two out and served up a two-run HR to Chris Taylor. A walk to Mookie Betts and a single by Corey Seager ended Snell's night. Four relievers held off the Dodgers, allowing two runs over 4.1 innings, as Tampa Bay evened the Series at one-all. The Rays had 10 hits, the first time they reached double digits since Game 3 of their ALDS against the New York Yankees, a single-digit-hit skid that had lasted 10 games. The Dodgers used SEVEN pitchers in the loss but the good news (for both pitching staffs) is that Thursday is an "off day." Game 3 is set for Friday and it features the best pitching matchup of the series, LA's Walker Buehler vs Tampa Bay's Charlie Morton. Early price is LA (-155) with an over/under line of 7 1/2.Note: My 10* MLB Game of the Year is already posted for Game 3. BATTER UP! NFL Week 7 kicks off with another uninspiring contest (way too many already this season), when the 1-5 NY Giants visit the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles (FOX/NFL Network at 8:20 ET). That said, with the 2-4 Cowboys atop the sad-sack NFC East, the winner of this game is "right in the mix" for the division title. The division as whole is 5-18-1 SU and 8-16 ATS. Actually, the two 1-5 teams (NY Giants and Washington) account for SIX of the division's eight ATS wins. The Eagles have won SEVEN straight games against the Giants and haven't lost at home to their NFC East rivals since a 15-7 setback in 2013. Philly is favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 45. Good luck to all who dare play this one. I'll pass and wait until Sunday, when my card will feature my 1st 10* "Signature" 37-Club Play of NFL 2020 (represents my 37 years as a professional handicapper).The college football weekend also kicks off tonight, as 3-2 Arkansas St visits Boone, NC to take on 2-1 Appalachian St. ESPN will be there to televise at 7:30 ET. App St is favored (-13.5) and the over/under is 68. The biggest storyline of the weekend in the college ranks is the return of the Big Ten. CFB's oldest conference (established in 1895) announced it was canceling its fall football season back on August 11. However, a little over a month later (in mid-September), the conference announced that it had adopted “significant medical protocols,” and would return to play the weekend of October 23-24. So here we are and someone had to be first. Kicking off the 2020 Big Ten schedule will be Illinois and Wisconsin, with the 14th-ranked Badgers hosting the Illini in front of an empty Camp Randall Stadium in Madison Friday night at 8:00 ET on the Big Ten Network. The Badgers had won the last nine meetings and 13 of the previous 14, with Wisconsin having outscored Illinois by a combined 145-46 in the four meetings since Paul Chryst took over the Wisconsin program in 2015. So what happened in 2019? James McCourt converted a 39-yard FG as time expired, as Illinois upset Wisconsin 24-23 as a 30 1/2-point underdog. Methinks the Badgers will remember? Wisconsin is favored by 19 points and the over/under is 51.5.The remaining 12 Big Ten schools (six games) will all be in action on Saturday. Top-10 schools Ohio St (No. 5) and Penn St (No. 8) are home to Nebraska and at Indiana, respectively. However, the Big Ten's marquee Game of the week is No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota. Most feel as if Harbaugh has underachieved since returning to his alma mater to coach and the Wolverines are coming off a 9-4 season, including a 35-16 loss to Alabama in the Citrus Bowl. As for Minnesota, PJ Fleck's Gophers 'rowed the boat' to an 11-2 season (including a 31-24 win in the Outback Bowl over Auburn as a 7-point dog), the school's first 11-win season since 1904. It's safe to say this is a "big one" for the Golden Gophers, as the last time Minnesota was involved in a matchup of ranked teams to start a season was 1968. Michigan is favored by three points and the over/under is 54 (kick off is 7:30 ET on ABC).Michigan/Minnesota is one of four games featuring ranked opponents. The other three are No. 6 Oklahoma St at home against No. 17 Iowa St (Cowboys are favored by 3 1/2-points), No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU (Bearcats are 2 1/2-point underdogs) and No. 14 No. Carolina home to No. 23 NC State (Tar Heels are favored by 15 points). There have been just 11 games featuring ranked opponents in 2020 and the higher ranked team has gone 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). As for playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents, it has been a 'money-burning' proposition so far. Through games played Oct 17, ranked teams are 44-16 SU (.733) against their unranked opponents but only 20-39-1 (.339) ATS!  Friday's game (Wisconsin hosting Illinois) is the first of 12 games in which a ranked team is squaring off against a ranked opponent. Keep the above stat in mind before getting involved with any of the 12 favorites this weekend. That said, following a theory called "regression to the mean," we are overdue to see the ATS record swing back in favor of the ranked teams. Is this the week? Top-10 teams facing unranked opponents are No. 1 Clemson (-46) home to Syracuse, No. 2 Alabama (-21) at Tennessee, No. 3 Notre Dame (-10.5) at Pittsburgh, No. 5 Ohio St (-26) home to Nebraska and No. 8 Penn St (-5.5) at Indiana. Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Oct 21

Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." The 2020 World Series got underway last night and the Dodgers looked every bit the part of the team with MLB's best record in this COVID-shortened season. Three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw shrugged off his rocky playoff history to give up just ONE run on two hits over six innings with only one walk and eight strikeouts. He retired 13 consecutive batters until Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier hit a solo HR in the fifth. In contrast, the Ray's Tyler Glasnow allowed three hits and SIX walks (three would eventually score) in 4.1 innings of work in which he allowed SIX runs (all earned). Cody Bellinger gave the Dodgers an early lead with a two-run HR (two days after his go-ahead HR in Game 7 of the NLCS) and Mookie Betts hit his first postseason HR for the Dodgers in the sixth to open a 7-1 advantage. Betts, Muncy and Taylor each had two hits. Tampa Bay had just six hits, while LA struck out 10 Rays as opposed to allowing just ONE walk.Tampa Bay turns to Blake Snell, who won a Cy Young of his own in 2018, in Game 2, while the Dodgers will hand the ball to Tony Gonsolin. Snell was 4-2 in the 2020 regular season with a 3.24 ERA over 11 starts (Rays were 7-4). In four starts during this postseason, Snell is 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA. He enters off an outing in Game 6 of the ALCS in which he gave up two runs on three hits with four walks in four-plus innings and was CLEARLY unhappy about being removed. The Houston Astros won that game 7-4 but the Rays rebounded to win Game 7. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has named Tony Gonsolin as his Game 5 starter. He said after the World Series opener, "We just feel like we like him in this spot," Roberts referenced Gonsolin's recent bullpen experience, seemingly suggesting the 26-year old could be more of an opener Wednesday, pitching the first inning and perhaps a bit more if he is efficient. The Dodgers would turn it over to the bullpen from there. Gonsolin was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine games (eight starts / team was 5-3) during the regular season. However, in his two outings this postseason against Atlanta, he's allowed SEVEN earned runs in 6.1 innings for a 9.95 playoff ERA. LA is favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.Peeking ahead to the NFL weekend: NFL Week 7 kicks off with another uninspiring contest (way too many already this season), when the 1-5 NY Giants visit the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles. That said, with the 2-4 Cowboys atop the sad-sack NFC East, the winner of this game is "right in the mix" for the division title. More in Thursday Notes about this game and the NFC East. The Game of the Week is the 5-0 Steelers visiting the 5-0 Titans, a contest that was scheduled for Week 4 but was pushed back to Week 7 because of Tennessee's COVID-19 issues. Ironically, the game is even more significant now. SEVEN of last season's eight division winners are NOT in first place as we enter Week 7, as KC is the LONE division winner from 2019 to actually lead its division here in 2020. TWO of those seven teams meet Sunday in Foxboro. The SF 49ers won the NFC West last season at 13-3 (and advanced to the Super Bowl) but their 3-3 record leaves them in last-place in 2020, behind not only the 5-0 Seahawks but also the 4-2 Rams and Cards. The Pats are more than just the defending AFC East champs, as New England entered 2020 having captured the AFC East title the previous 11 years and in 17 of the last 19 seasons (since 2001). The Pats welcome the 49ers to Gillette Stadium on Sunday with a 2-3 record. New England hasn't been under .500 through the fifth game or later in any season since they were 3-4 in 2002, which was the last season the Patriots did not win 10-plus games. SNF features TB 12 visiting Las Vegas (along with the NFL's No. 1 defense) to face the Raiders, who are coached by Jon Gruden. Most should remember that Gruden coached the Bucs to the franchise's lone NFL championship in SB XXXVII, a 48-21 win over the Raiders, the team he now coaches in his second go-around with that franchise. Good stuff!Thursday's Notes will feature a recap of World Series Game 2 (Thursday will be an off day) plus a 'long' look at the upcoming college football weekend, highlighted by the Big Ten's return to play!

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Oct 20

Tuesday, Oct 20, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 6 concluded with a MNF doubleheader. The Chiefs were to play at the Bills this past Thursday but it was rescheduled to Monday. Both came in 4-1, after each team lost for the first time this season in Week 5. The Bills led 10-7 as the first half was nearing its end but Mahomes hit TE Kelce with a second TD pass to put KC up for good, 13-10. The Chiefs extended the lead to 23-10 and the final was 26-17. Rookie RB Edwards-Helaire ran for 161 yards, as KC ran for 245 yards (on 5.3 YPC). It should not h=go unmentioned that KC ran the ball more times than it passed it for just the SECOND time in Mahomes' 37 starts. That's NOT to say Mahomes was not a major factor. He was 'surgical 21 of 26 for 225 yards with two TDs and zero INTs (QB rating of 128.4). His "opposite number," Buffalo QB Josh Allen, played poorly. He was 14 of 27 for only 122 yards with two TDs and one INT. Allen opened the season by leading the Bills to four straight wins, completing 70.9 percent of his passes, while averaging 331.5 YPG through the air with 12 TDs and just one INT. However, in Buffalo's back-to-back losses, he's completed just 58.8 percent, while averaging only 192.5 YPG passing with four TDs and three INTs.The regularly scheduled MNF game saw the Cards roll over the Cowboys 38-10 in Dallas. It was Arizona's third straight road game but Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott started the game with two fumbles, which gave the Cards all the momentum they needed. The first fumble came after catching a short pass from Andy Dalton and 11 plays later Kyler Murray and Christian Kirk hooked up for a six-yard flip for a TD. Two plays into the next possession, Elliott fumbled again and five plays later, Arizona RB Kenyan Drake scored the Cardinals' second TD and gave them a 14-0 lead. Arizona won the 'turnover battle' 4-0. QB Kyler Murray completed a modest 9 of 24 for 188 yards but had two TD passes and did not throw an INT. He added 74 yards rushing and a third TD to become just the THIRD player in league history with 30 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in the first 25 games of his career. He's done so in 22 games, tying Daunte Culpepper (Vikings) for the QB quickest to reach the mark. The Cowboys fell to 2-4 but incredibly, remain atop the NFC East, as their three division rivals own a combined 3-14-1 record (more in a bit). League-wide scoring is up this season and NINE teams are currently allowing 30-plus PPG but NO team is allowing more than the Cowboys, who are giving up 36.3 PPG. New head coach Mike McCarthy may also want to point out that his team also owns the WORST turnover ratio of ANY team, at minus-12 (15 giveaways vs just three takeaways).I noted above that Dallas sits atop the NFC East at just 2-4 and that's because defending NFC East champ Philly is just 1-4-1. However, the Eagles are NOT alone among 2019 division champs through Week 6 of NFL 2020. In fact, the LONE division winner from 2019 to be currently leading its division in 2020, is the 5-1 defending Super Bowl champion KC Chiefs in the AFC West. Here's a list of the other six 2019 division champs and their status as the season head to Week 7. In the AFC East, the defending champion Pats are just 2-3. The Pats haven't been under .500 through the fifth game or later since they were 3-4 in 2002, which was the last season the Patriots did not win 10-plus games. Houston won the AFC South in 2019 (for the 4th time in the previous five seasons) but are 1-5 and in deep trouble in 2020. The San Francisco 49ers won the NFC West last season at 13-3 (and advanced to the Super Bowl) but their 3-3 record leaves them in last-place in 2020, behind not only the 5-0 Seahawks but also the 4-2 Rams and Cards. Neither the Packers (4-1), the Ravens (5-1) nor the Saints (3-2) lead the divisions they captured in 2019 (NFC North, AFC North and NFC South, respectively) but that's not because of poor play. The Bears are 5-1 in the NFC North, the Steelers are 5-0 in the AFC North and the Bucs are 4-2 in the NFC South.NFL home teams continue to struggle in 2020, as after going 7-7 SU and 6-8 ATS in Week 6, are 47-43-1 SU (.522) Y-T-D and 39-50-2 (.438) ATS. Home dogs are 8-21 SU and 13-14-2 ATS. The Cowboys fell to 0-6 ATS with their Monday loss, joining the Jets, who remain the NFL's lone winless team. Five teams are tied atop the ATS standings at 4-1. That group includes the 5-0 Seahawks and Steelers plus the 4-1 Packers but also the 2-3 Broncos and 1-4 Chargers. Week 6 games averaged 47.5 PPG and 10 of the 14 went under. There have been 46 overs, 43 unders and two 'pushes' on the season.World Series 2020: Both LCS went the full seven games, although each followed a different path, which I detailed in Monday's Notes. So in the end, the team with the best record in the AL and the team with the best record in the NL, will meet in the 2020 World Series. Just the way it should be, right? That makes sense but I should note that it's only the FOURTH time in the wild-card era (since 1995) that the teams with the best record in each league will meet in the World Series. Tampa Bay is in the World Series for just the second time in franchise history (first time being in 2008, when it lost to Cole Hamels' Phillies). The Rays opened the season ranking 28th in the majors in payroll and the only team to reach the World Series since 1998 with a lower ranking was that 2008 Tampa Bay club. As for the Dodgers, they are in the World Series for the THIRD time in the last four seasons, losing in 2017 to the Astros and in 2018 to the Red Sox. It's the 63rd instance in major league history that a team has reached three World Series in a four-year span and only TWO teams among the group did not win a World Series. The Dodgers sure don't want to join the 1907-09 Detroit Tigers and the 1911-13 NY Giants.  If the Dodgers win, it will be their 7th championship (including one as the Brooklyn Dodgers).The starting pitchers for Game 1 will be Tampa Bay's Tyler Glasnow and LA's Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw and LA are favored (-175) and the over/under is 7 1/2. There's good news for the teams' pitching staffs, as after each team played SEVEN games in SEVEN days in their respective LCS, the World Series will have a one-day break after Games 1 and 2 and another one-day break after Games 3 thru 5 and before Games 6 and 7.  BetAnySports has the series odds at -200 for the Dodgers, with Tampa Bay at +185.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 19

Monday, Oct 19, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 6 opened with four remaining unbeatens and 5-0 Seattle was assured of staying unbeaten, as the Seahawks were on their bye week. The Steelers joined the Seahawks at 5-0 with an impressive 38-7 home beatdown of the Browns, while the Titans moved to 5-0 with a 42-36 OT win at home over the Texans, just four days after handing the Bills their first loss of the season last Tuesday. Houston, which has won the AFC South in FOUR of the last five seasons, is now 1-5 to open 2020. Unlike Pittsburgh and Tennessee, the 4-0 SU & ATS Packers lost their 'Battle of the Bays' in Tampa. Green Bay jumped to a 10-0 lead but the Bucs defense shut down Rodgers and Co. as Tampa Bay scored the game's final 38 points! Three winless teams entered Sunday's action, with two getting off the schneid. The Falcons won 40-23 at Minnesota (Vikings are now 1-5), while the Giants eked out a 201-9 home win over Washington. The one constant of NFL 2020 so far has been, we can always rely on the Jets to not only lose, but also lose ATS. The J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets lost 24-0 at Miami, falling to 0-6 SU and ATS, while 'leading' the way with a league-worst minus-110 point differential.As the league 'manages' its way through the "Era of COVID," we have yet another MNF doubleheader. The Chiefs were to play at the Bills this past Thursday but it was rescheduled until tonight (Fox/NFL Network at 5:00 ET). The Chiefs and Bills are both 4-1 and each team lost for the first time this season in Week 5. The Chiefs are favored () and the over/under is . The regularly scheduled Monday Night game (ESPN at 8:15 ET) features the 3-2 Arizona Cardinals at the 2-3 Dallas Cowboys. The Cards will be playing their THIRD straight road game (never a great spot) but the Cowboys are 0-5 ATS and feature arguably, the NFL's worst defense. Dallas is allowing a league high 36.0 PPG and ranked 29th of 32 teams through Week 5 by allowing 404.4YPG. What's more, QB Dak Prescott has been lost for the season, with Cincy cast-off Andy Dalton going the rest of the way under center. The current line is Dallas minus-1 and the over/under is. Don't forget, a full recap of NFL Week 6 will be the "feature attraction" of Tuesday's Notes.ALCS/NLCS recap: Baseball fans couldn't have asked for more out of the two just completed LCS. The Rays owned the AL's best record (40-20) and took a 3-0 lead over the Houston Astros, who were able to make the expanded 2020 postseason field by finishing second in the AL West, despite a 29-131 record. However, there was no "give-up" on the Astros, who won Games 4 and 5 by identical scores of 4-3, before forcing a Game 7 with a 7-4 win in Game 6. Houston, which had won 100-plus games in each of the previous three seasons, were looking to join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to comeback from an 0-3 'hole' and win a seven-game series. However, the Rays took Game 7 by the score of 4-2 on the strength of Charlie Morton's pitching (5.2 scoreless innings), Randy Arozarena's two-run HR and a solo HR and sac fly from Mike Zunino. Arozarena was named ALCS MVP. Getting back to Morton, he improved to 3-0 in Game 7 appearances, having beaten the Yankees as a starter in the 2017 ALCS and the Dodgers in relief in the 2017 World Series. In 14.2 career Game 7 innings, he's given up just one run and six hits.The Dodgers owned MLB's best 60-game record this season (43-17) plus posted a plus-136 run differential that was 52 runs better than any other MLB team. It was 76 runs better than their NLCS opponent (Atlanta) but the Braves took a 3-1 series lead. LA fought back to win Game 5 (7-3) and Game 6 (3-1) setting up a winner-take-all Game 7 against Atlanta rookie Ian Anderson. Anderson made his MLB on August 26 and in six regular season starts, posted a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .172 BAA. He took the mound Sunday night having not allowed a SINGLE run in 15.2 postseason innings, with the Braves winning all three of his starts. As for LA, manager Dave Roberts didn't name a starter until late afternoon. It turned out to be Dustin May, who allowed one run in one inning. Gonsolin followed and allowed two runs in two innings but then Treinen, Graterol and Urias combined for six scoreless and HITLESS innings. Trailing 3-2 in the 6th, pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez tied it with a solo HR and then Cody Bellinger hit a go-ahead HR in the seventh inning, which turned out to be the game-winner. Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was named NLCS MVP with five HRs and 11 RBI in the seven games. 2020 World Series preview set for Tuesday.CFB recap: There had been just 10 games so far in which ranked teams have met entering this past Saturday. The Saturday schedule had just ONE such matchup but it was the 'game of the year' so far in 2020. No. 3 Georgia made the trip to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 2 Alabama Saturday night at 8:00 ET on CBS. These two national powers hadn't met in the regular season since 2015 and believe it or not, the last time the Bulldogs played in Tuscaloosa was 2007. That happened to be Nick Saban's first season with Alabama and Georgia won 26-23 in OT. Georgia's defense ranked first nationally in rushing (38.3 YPG), second in total defense (236.7 YPG) and was tied for fifth in scoring defense (12.3 PPG). Meanwhile Alabama's offense led the nation with an average of 51.0 PPG (note: Alabama put up 723 yards the previous Saturday vs Ole Miss!) but 'Bama's defense was shredded at Ole Miss in allowing 647 yards and 48 points.<p>If there wasn't enough drama surrounding the game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 and it looked for certain that he would not be able to coach the team. However, he was able to get three negative tests in a row and there he was on the sidelines. Georgia led Alabama 24-20 at the half but a Jones to Waddle 90-yard TD pass in the early third quarter sent Alabama on its way to a 41-24 win. Georgia's defense had no answers for the Tide's offense, which rolled up 564 yards. The much-maligned Alabama D held the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half. Saban improved to 22-0 against his former assistants and the Crimson Tide have now won 28 consecutive games against SEC East opponents. Saban also tied Joe Pa for most all-time wins against a ranked opponent with 86. He already owns the most wins over top-five opponents (25) and over top-10 opponents (42).Streak setting or breaking ran 'wild ' in the SEC on Saturday, as Kentucky beat Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since 1984, having lost its previous 17 visits. Saturday's game wasn't close, as the Wildcats won 38-7. South Carolina made some history of its own, beating Auburn 30-27 at home last Saturday for its first win over the Tigers since 1933! Not to be outdone, the ACC made some waves of its own with Clemson's 73-7 rout of Ga Tech as the 66-point margin of victory was the biggest in ACC history. North Carolina visited Tallahassee 3-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation while the Seminoles only win of 2020 had come against Jacksonville St, an FCS team. Mack Brown, an FSU grad, had NEVER beaten his alma mater and he wasn't able to do it on Saturday either, as FSU went up 31-7 at the half and was able to hold on for a 31-28 win. Brown is now 0-10 lifetime vs FSU, 0-3 with Tulane and now 0-7 with North Carolina.Alabama's win and cover over Georgia means the higher ranked team has gone 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M) in meetings between ranked opponents. However, as I have noted each week, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. There were 11 games in which a ranked opponent met an unranked one last week and the ranked team went 7-4 SU but again struggled ATS, going 5-6. Actually, that's much better than usual. Through games played Oct 17, ranked teams are 44-16 SU (.733) but only 20-39-1 (.339) ATS against their unranked opponents.Clemson remains No. 1 in the latest AP poll (out Sunday), after winning its 37th regular season game. That ties Nebraska, which did the same from 1992-96. Clemson has Syracuse and Boston College up next, so the Tigers will almost assuredly match Miami's 39-game regular season winning streak, set from 2000-03. Clemson will play at current No. 3 Notre Dame on Nov 7 and will need to beat the Irish to move past Miami. If so, only Oklahoma's 45-game regular season winning streak (from 1953-57) stands in the way. Let's hear it for Coastal Carolina, which only moved up to FBS status in 2017, as the Chanticleers are ranked for the first time in school history at No. 25. The Big Ten 'joins the party' this weekend and I'll see you Thursday for my CFB weekend preview.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 16

Friday, Oct 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." The Astros were able to avoid getting swept by the Rays by winning 4-3 in Game 4. The two teams went with "bullpen" games for Thursday's Game 5, as neither start saw the third inning. George Springer crushed John Curtiss' first pitch over the fence in left field to give the Astros the lead in a game in which they never trailed. Brandon Lowe homered in the third to tie it for Tampa Bay but Houston went up 3-1 on a two-run double by Brantley. Solo shots by Tampa's Arozarena and Choi sent the game to the 9th tied at 3-all. Astros closer Pressley stranded the potential go-ahead run on second base in the top of the ninth, before Carlos Correa belted a walk-off HR with one out in the ninth inning. The game-ending blast came off Nick Anderson, who had entered a tie game in the bottom of the eighth and had retired all four batters he faced before Correa's blast.<p>As we head to Game 6, here's the setting. The Rays have now lost two in a row but still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. As for the Astros, they became just the fourth team out of 39 ever to trail a playoff series 3-0 and even force a Game 6. The 2004 Boston Red Sox (in the ALCS against the NYY), are the only team to win a series after losing the opening three games. The Astros attempt to keep their season alive with a third straight win Friday night, as the Game 6 starters are Houston left-hander Framber Valdez and Tampa Bay lefty Blake Snell. It's a rematch of Game 1, which the Rays won 2-1. Framber pitched six innings in that contest, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out eight. Snell earned the win by allowing one run on six hits and two walks over five innings with just two Ks. Tampa Bay is favored (-135) and the over/under is 8. The Dodgers were MLB's most-dominant team during this COVID-shortened season but they found themselves in an 0-2 'hole' as they faced a Game 3 against an Atlanta team that was 7-0 this postseason. However, LA hitters 'took no prisoners' with an 11-run first inning that set a record for the most in any inning in postseason history. The Dodgers compiled 18 total bases in that 32-minute top of the first, the most in postseason history for any inning. Their three HRs and five extra-base hits each tied records for single postseason innings. However, a 15-3 win doesn't count any more than a 2-1 win does. The Dodgers sent Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game 4, while the Braves countered with 22-year-old Bryse Wilson, who was making his first career postseason start. Game 4 was 1-1 after five innings, as Wilson matched Kershaw. Wilson held the Dodgers scoreless in the top of the sixth but in the bottom of that inning, Kershaw had yet ANOTHER postseason 'meltdown!' The Braves sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the sixth-inning, chasing Kershaw and breaking the game wide-open. Kershaw never got an out in the 6th, leaving after allowing four runs in five innings. Meanwhile, Wilson went six innings and allowed just one run in his first postseason appearance! The first three batters in Atlanta's lineup, Acuna, Freeman and Ozuna went a combined 8 of 14 with six runs scored and six RBI (Acuna hit two HRs). The 10-2 Atlanta win puts the Braves ONE win away from their first World series appearance since 1999. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker announced prior to Game 4 that he would NOT bring Fried back until Game 6, so it will be a "bullpen" game for Atlanta, while the Dodgers will hand the ball to Dustin May, who has pitched 4.2 scoreless innings over three appearances this postseason, including 1.2 innings in relief against Atlanta in Game 1. Starting pitching uncertainty has become 'common' this postseason so there is currently no price on this game.NFL home teams are a modest 40-36-1 SU (.526) Y-T-D, while going just 33-42-2 ATS (44.0%) with home dogs going 6-18 SU and 10-12-2 ATS, through five weeks. NFL games had averaged a combined 51.3 through the first four weeks of the 2020 season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Week 5 games averaged 51.8 PPG but over/under numbers have been adjusted up, as seven games went over and seven stayed under. Peering a little closer, let me note that the seven games which went over averaged 62.9 PPG, while the seven that went under averaged just 40.7 PPG. After five weeks, there have been 42 overs, 33 unders and two 'pushes.' There are just four remaining NFL unbeatens as the season moves to Week 6. Seattle is 5-0 (4-1 ATS) and is one of four teams which has a Week 6 bye. The others are the Chargers, Raiders and Saints. The other unbeatens are all 4-0, a group that includes Green Bay (4-0 ATS), Pittsburgh (3-1 ATS) and Tennessee (1-3 ATS). On the flip side, we have three winless teams at 0-5. Atlanta is joined by MetLife co-tenants the NY Giants and NY Jets. Atlanta fired head coach Dan Quinn at the beginning of the week and Jets head coach Adam Gase may not be far behind. Gase led Miami to a 10-6 season in 2016 but was fired after going 6-10 and 7-9 the next two seasons. For some unexplained reason, the Jets hired him in January of 2019. The Jets went 7-9 last season and have now opened 0-5. How do you like him so far? The Giants have a first-year head coach in Joe Judge but while the Falcons and Jets are a combined 1-9 ATS, the Giants have been somewhat competitive, going 3-2 ATS.<p>Tracking the three unbeaten teams playing in Week 6, the 4-0 SU & ATS Packers will play at the 3-2 Bucs in a 'Battle of the Bays' (Green vs Tampa), as Rodgers (13 TDs / 0 INTs) and TB 12 go head-to-head. Green Bay is a one-point road favorite. The 4-0 but 1-3 ATS Titans are home against the 1-4 Texans, who are coming off their first win of 2020 last Sunday, 30-14 over the Jags. Tennessee is favored by 3 1/2 points. Then there is 4-0 (3-1 ATS) Pittsburgh hosting NFC North rival Cleveland, which is 4-1 for the first time since 1994. The Browns lost 38-6 in Week 1 at Baltimore but have won four straight, scoring 30-plus points in each win. When was the last time the Browns scored 30 points or more in four straight games? Try 1968! Cleveland leads the NFL averaging 188.4 YPG on the ground, while the Steelers are holding opponents to an NFL-low 64.0 rushing YPG. Pittsburgh is favored by 3 1/2-points.The 0-5 Falcons are in Minnesota to take on the 1-4 Vikings but note that Minnesota has covered three in a row (Vikings are favored by four points). The 0-5 Giants (but 3-2 ATS) are home to 1-4 Washington, which comes in having lost four in a row (allowed 30 points or more in each), after upsetting the Eagles 27-17 in Week 1 (Eagles led that one 17-0 but never scored again). The Giants are favored by 2 1/2-points. Then we have the 0-5 Jets (also 0-5 ATS) at Miami, where they'll face the 2-3 Dolphins. It's a 'homecoming' for Gase but I doubt either Miami or New York (New Jersey?) want to claim him. Miami is favored by 9 1/2-points.SNF features the Rams at the 49ers. The 49ers represented the NFC in last year's Super Bowl but enter this game just 2-3, while the Rams are 4-1. Both are looking up at 5-0 Seattle in the NFC West. The Rams are favored by 3 1/2-points. It's another MNF doubleheader in Week 6, with an excellent game between the 4-1 Chiefs and 4-1 Bills joining the regularly scheduled game (Arizona at Dallas). The Chiefs and Bills are both coming off Week 5 losses, with the defending Super Bowl champs favored by 4 1/2-points. Dallas lost starting QB Dak Prescott for the season last week and will turn to Andy Dalton at QB. The Cards are 3-2 and a slight favorite (1 1/2 points) over the 2-3 Cowboys who are 0-5 ATS but sit atop the NFC East, as the Giants, Philadelphia and Washington are a combined 2-12-1.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Oct 15

Thursday, Oct 15, 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." MLB's most-dominant team during this COVID-shortened season was the LA Dodgers but they found themselves in an 0-2 'hole' against the Atlanta Braves, who were a perfect 7-0 in the playoffs to-date after an 8-7 win in Game 2.  Atlanta pitching had allowed just SIX runs (five came in its 9-5 Game 1 win over Miami) heading into the 7th inning of Game 2 (that's over 64 innings), before FIVE relievers allowed SEVEN runs over the last three innings. The Dodgers were not able to complete their ninth-inning comeback against the Braves on Tuesday night but in what was a clear "must-win" situation in Game 3, LA hitters 'took no prisoners against Atlanta starter Kyle Wright, with an 11-run first inning that set a record for the most in any inning in postseason history. The Dodgers compiled 18 total bases in that 32-minute top of the first, the most in postseason history for any inning. Their three HRs and five extra-base hits each tied records for single postseason innings. However, a 15-3 doesn't count any more than a 2-1 win does.Kershaw's back is "good to go" and he'll get the start after opening the 2020 postseason by going  2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. Those two successful starts are in stark contrast to his checkered postseason history (9-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 32 appearances, including 25 starts) before this year. Getting the nod for Atlanta will be the 22-year-old Bryse Wilson. He's made just 15 career appearances (seven starts), posting a 3-1 record but with a 5.91 ERA, 1.80 WHIP and .306 BAA. Wilson has never pitched west of Milwaukee in his three-year, major league career and has never started a game against an NL West team. Needless to say, this is his first start in the postseason. Kershaw is 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA in 11 career starts against Atlanta with his ERA against the Braves marking his best against any NL team. Surprise, surprise. The Dodgers are favored -213 and the over/under is 9 runs. Over in the AL, the Astros were able to avoid getting swept by the Rays by winning 4-3 last night. Altuve hit a solo HR in the 1st and then doubled in a run in the second for Houston but Tampa Bay's Arozarena hit a two-run HR to tie it in the fourth, before George Springer's two-run HR put the Astros up 4-2 in the 5th. Zach Greinke got into trouble in the top of the sixth but Dusty Baker went with his 'gut' and decided to leave Greinke in and he delivered by getting out of the inning. Tampa Bay scored once in the 9th but left a runner stranded on third when the game ended. The Rays still own a commanding 3-1 lead but the Astros have 'lived' to 'fight another day.' Not much to report on Game 5, as Baker has yet to name a starting pitcher, though John Curtiss will be the first of a slew of "relievers" to toe the rubber for Tampa.The CFB week got an early start, as a pair of Sun Belt unbeatens met last night in Lafayette, La. It was 3-0 Coastal Carolina and 3-0 UL-Lafayette, which was ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll. The game had been pushed back four days because of the threat to Louisiana from Hurricane Delta. It was 13-all at the half (both teams had a missed extra-point) and was 27-all before Massimo Biscardi kicked a 40-yard FG with four seconds remaining to give Coastal Carolina a 30-27 upset victory. The victory makes Coastal Carolina 4-0 and should move the Chanticleers closer to the AP top-25. They have received votes in the rankings each of the last two weeks for the first time in the program's four-year FBS history. It was yet another example of a ranked team falling 'victim' to an unranked team (more in a bit).There is one game on Thursday, as 1-1 Georgia St is at 2-2 Arkansas St (Red Wolves are favored by 3 1/2-points) but Friday features a doubleheader on ESPN. It's No. 17 SMU (4-0) at 2-2 Tulane at 6:00 ET and No. 14 BYU (4-0) at 1-0 Houston at 9:30 ET. The Mustangs opened last season 4-0 as well (actually opened 8-0) and by repeating that start in 2020, have recorded the school's first back-to-back 4-0 starts since 1983-84 (remember "The Pony Express?"). SMU is favored by 6 1/2-points. BYU head coach Kalani Stake was 'feeling the heat,' as the Cougars were coming off seasons of 4-9, 7-6 and 7-6. However, the Cougars opened with a light schedule in which they won their first three games by an average of 41.3 points, before unexpectedly struggling in a 27-20 win over visiting UTSA last Saturday. The Cougars find themselves 4-0 and with a very favorable schedule ahead of them. Friday's game at Houston and a Nov 6 visit to Boise St seem like the only possible pitfalls. Houston is coming off a 4-8 season and its 49-31 home win on Oct 8 over Tulane was its FIRST game of 2020. The delayed start was due to contests against Washington State, Rice, Baylor and North Texas being canceled due to various COVID-19 reasons, while a game with Memphis was postponed and rescheduled for Dec 5. Houston was predictably rusty in the win over Tulane, as it committed four of its five turnovers in the first half before recovering from a 24-7 deficit to win by 18 points! BYU looks to notch its first 5-0 start since 2008  and is favored by five points.Getting to Saturday's action, let's first acknowledge that COVID-19 has 'raised its ugly head.' It was revealed on Wednesday afternoon that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has tested positive. Earlier in the day, the game between LSU and No. Florida was postponed due to the Florida program's issue with the virus. Having already been postponed for Saturday were No. 7 Oklahoma St's game at Baylor, Vandy's game at Missouri at Appalachian St's game at Georgia St (has already been rescheduled for Dec 12). The news about Saban comes with No. Alabama hosting No. 3 Georgia. It is the LONE game on Saturday's schedule in which ranked teams were playing each other and it is easily the 'biggest" game of CFB 2020, to-date.There have been just 10 games so far in which ranked teams have me and the higher ranked team has gone 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing last Saturday at then-No. 21 A&M). No. 3 Georgia visits No. 2 Alabama Saturday night (8:00 ET on CBS) in Tuscaloosa. These two national powers haven't met in the regular season since 2015 and believe it or not, the last time the Bulldogs played in Tuscaloosa was 2007. That happened to be Nick Saban's first season with Alabama and Georgia won 26-23 in OT. Georgia's defense ranks first nationally in rushing (38.3 YPG), second in total defense (236.7 YPG) and is tied for fifth in scoring defense (12.3 PPG) but will surely be tested by Alabama's offense, which lead the nation with an average of 51.0 PPG (note: Alabama put up 723 yards last Saturday vs Ole Miss!). However, Alabama's defense was shredded at Ole Miss last Saturday, allowing 647 yards and 48 points. That's the most points the Tide have given up vs an unranked team since 1936! Georgia's Kirby Smart was an Alabama assistant under Saban from 2007 to 2015 and is 0-2 vs his former boss. That's not exactly news, as Saban is 21-0 against his former assistants. Is it possible Saban will be on the coaching sidelines on Saturday? Alabama was a solid six-point choice prior to the news about Saban's positive test but as of Thursday morning, Alabama is down to a four-point favorite.While Georgia/Alabama is the lone game between ranked opponents on Saturday, 11 ranked teams will be playing an unranked opponent either Friday or Saturday. That includes top-10 teams No. 1 Clemson at Ga Tech (Tigers are favored by 27 points), No. 4 Notre Dame home to Louisville (Irish are favored by 17 points), No. 5 North Carolina at Florida St (Tar Heels are favored by 13 1/2-points) and No. 8 Cincinnati at Tulsa  (Bearcats are favored by 3 1/2-points). Wednesday night saw unranked Coast Carolina upset No. 21 ULL, making ranked teams 37-13 (.740) SU vs unranked opponents in 2020 but an abysmal 15-34-1 ATS (that's just 30.6%). Let the buyer beware. I should talk, right? I used ULL as my SBC Game of the Year Wednesday night. However, I have gone 9-3-1, +$5,230 (at $100/unit) the last three CFB Saturdays and serve up an action-packed five game card on Oct 17. The "featured" play will be my 1st "signature" LEGEND Play of CFB 2020, having gone 5-0 with LEGEND Plays in all sports since July 23.<p>Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Oct 14

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 5 recap: Week 5 concluded a day later than usual as Tuesday featured a matchup of unbeatens, the 4-0 Bills at the 3-0 Titans. Tennessee was not able to practice since the team shut down operations back on Sep 29, after 24 players and team personnel members tested positive for COVID-19 since Sep 24. The Titans were finally able to return to their facility on Saturday and had three days of walk-through practices to get ready for Buffalo. The Titans entered the game 3-0 but also 0-3 ATS but with only three practices in 16 days, routed the previously unbeaten Bills, 42-16.The Titans got some players back in time for Tuesday's game, but they were without starting receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries. However, QB Ryan Tannehill finished with 21 completions on 28 attempts for 195 yards with three TDs and zero INTs (129.3 QB rating) plus ran for a TD. Buffalo QB Josh Allen had his worst game of the season (26 of 41 for 263 yards  with two TDs and two INTs / 77.6 QB rating) and the Tennessee defense forced three TOs and held a Buffalo team to just 16 points (Bills had averaged 30.8 PPG in their 4-0 start).Home teams ended the week 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS (home dogs were 2-2 SU & ATS). Home teams are now 40-36-1 SU (.526) Y-T-D, while going just 33-42-2 ATS (44.0%) with home dogs going 6-18 SU and 10-12-2 ATS. NFL games had averaged a combined 51.3 through the first four weeks of the 2020 season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Week 5 games averaged 51.8 PPG but over/under numbers have been adjusted up, as seven games went over and seven stayed under. Peering a little closer, let me note that the seven games which went over averaged 62.9 PPG, while the seven that went under averaged just 40.7 PPG. After five weeks, there have been 42 overs, 33 unders and two 'pushes.' There is no Thursday night game in Week 6 but we will have another MNF doubleheader. Friday's Notes will feature a Week 6 preview.MLB Playoffs: "Something had to give" in Game 1 of the NLCS, as the Braves and Dodgers were both 5-0 this postseason and the pitching matchup featured Fried (Braves were 12-1 in his starts in 2020) vs Buehler (Dodgers were 9-1 in his starts). Game 1 entered the 9th tied at one-all when Austin Riley hit a solo shot to put the Braves up. An Acuna double, an Ozuna single and an Albies HR, all, like Riley's hit, coming after 0-2 counts, gave the Braves a 5-1 win. Game 2 was expected to see Ian Anderson go up against Clayton Kershaw. Anderson made his MLB on August 26 and in six regular season starts, posted a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .172 BAA. He'd won BOTH postseason starts, pitching 11.2 scoreless innings with a 17-3 KW ratio. However, Kershaw was scratched with back spasms. Gonsolin was an under-appreciated hurler for Dave Roberts' squad this season. However, the jury is still out on how he will fare in his first postseason appearance.<p>Here's the answer. Anderson allowed just one hit and struck out five in four scoreless innings but his outing was cut short after he gave up five walks and threw 85 pitches. As for Gonsolin, he was fine through three innings but then allowed a two-run HR to Freddie Freeman in the 4th. He was chased in the 5th inning, when Atlanta added FOUR more runs (Gonsolin was charged with five ERs in 4.1 innings). The Braves extended the lead to 7-0 in the top of the 7th but Corey Seager hit a three-run HR in the bottom of the 7th. It was 8-3 entering the bottom of the 9th when the Dodgers scored FOUR times, before Cody Bellinger was left on third base when A.J. Pollock's groundout ended the rally. The Braves are now 7-0 this postseason and lead the Dodgers 2-0. Game 3 is set for 6:05 ET on FS1. Kershaw is still unavailable so it's Jose Urias and Atlanta's Kyle Wright. The Dodgers are favored (-180) and the over/under is 9 1/2.Over in the ALCS, the Tampa Bay Rays keep giving us more reasons to believe the City of Tampa is this year's "chosen city." The Lightning won the Stanley Cup and the Rays are now just ONE win away from making the franchise's second-ever World Series appearance (Rays lost to the Phillies in the 2008 Series). Jose Altuve's first-inning throwing error opened the door for Tampa to take 3-0 lead in Game 2, as Tampa's 4-2 win gave the Rays a 2-0 lead in the series. Altuve's sudden case of the yips has come to exemplify an ALCS in which the Astros can't seem to catch a break. Altuve's FOURTH throwing error of the postseason and THIRD of the ALCS played a big part in Tampa's five-run, sixth-inning rally. The Rays' 5-2 victory gives them a commanding 3-0 lead as the team's get set for Game 4 (8:40 ET on TBS). Tonight's pitching matchup features Tyler Glasnow and Zach Greinke. The Rays have won each of Glasnow's last 11 starts (including 3-0 this postseason) and while the Astros are 2-0 in Greinke's two starts this postseason, he had little to do with Houston's 11-6 series-clinching Game 4 win over Oakland (4 ERs allowed over 4.2 innings), after pitching four innings and allowing one run in the team's 4-1 Game 1 win over Minnesota in the wild card round. The Rays are favored (-140) and the over/under is 8.The CFB week gets off to an early start with a Wednesday night game between two unbeaten Sun Belt schools. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are 3-0 and visit Cajun Field in Lafayette, La to face the 3-0 ULL Ragin' Cajuns. UL-Lafayette is ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll, one of FOUR Group of 5 schools currently ranked. ULL opened the 2020 season by winning 31-14 at Iowa St as a two-TD underdog. That victory is arguably the biggest win in school history, as ULL beat a top-25 opponent on the road for the first time, having previously gone 0-26 against ranked foes away from home. ULL's only other win over a top-25 team was in 1996 at home against Texas A&M. However, the Rajin' Cajuns have 'escaped' with wins vs Ga State (34-31) and Georgia Southern (20-18), since. Kickoff is 7:30 ET on ESPN with ULL favored by 7 1/2-points.Note: I'm featuring a doubleheader of Game of the Year plays on Wednesday, my SBC 10* Game of the Year in tonight's CFB and my LCS 10* Game of the Year in MLB. Any takers? Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Oct 13

Tuesday, Oct 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."NFL: The Saints overcame a 20-3 deficit to 'escape' with a 30-27 OT win last night over the Chargers. Drew Brees completed 33 of 47 passes for 325 yards (one TD / one iNT) and ran for a TD. He drove the 3-2 Saints to a tiebreaking 36-yard FG by Wil Lutz on the first possession of overtime and then watched as Justin Herbert's five-yard completion to Mike Williams came up a yard short on fourth down at the Los Angeles 49 to end the game. The 1-4 Chargers lost their FOURTH straight game since Herbert, the overall No. 6 pick in the 2020 draft, took over for Tyrod Taylor as the starter. However, it's hard to blame Herbert. He completed 20 of 34 for 264 yards with four TD passes and zero INTs (122.7 QB rating). The rookie is completing 68.8% for 1,1195 yards with nine TDs and three INTs (QB rating of 107.1) in his four starts. He looks like 'a keeper!' In a normal season, MNF concludes the NFL week but we are all WELL aware that 2020 is no 'normal' year. The Titans had their Week 4 game with Pittsburgh postponed and Tennessee's Week 5 game with Buffalo (set for Sunday) was pushed back to Tuesday. The good news is, the 4-0 Buffalo Bills and 3-0 Tennessee Titans will proceed as scheduled after all of the Titans' coronavirus tests from Monday came back negative. It marked the second straight day that the Titans had no new positive COVID-19 tests. Tonight's game features two QBs off to excellent starts. Buffalo's Josh Allen is completing 70.9% for 1,326 yards with 12 TDs and one INT (122.7 QB rating) in four games, while Tennessee's Ryan Tanehill is completing 67.3% for 809 yards with six TDs and one INT (105.8 QB rating) in three games. Both teams are unbeaten but while Buffalo is 3-1 I'll have my  NFL Week 5 recap on Wednesday's Notes.ATS, the Titans are 0-3 ATS, due to just a plus-6 point differential margin. Buffalo is favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 51 1/2. I'll feature my NFL Week 5 recap in Wednesday's Notes.MLB Playoffs: The Tampa Bay Rays eked out a 2-1 win in Game 1 on Sunday night and then came back with a 4-2 victory in Game 2, late Monday afternoon. A two-out throwing error by Astros second baseman Jose Altuve brought Manny Margot to the plate with two on in the bottom of the first and he hit Lance McCullers second pitch over the fence in center to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead, one which the Rays never relinquished. Margot then made the "catch of the postseason" in the top of the second, when Houston's George Springer came up with two outs and runners on second and third. Springer hit a fly down the right field line that kept drifting into foul territory toward the wall but Margot made the grab as he hit the wall and then he went over it and fell face first to the concrete below, quickly getting up to hold up his glove, displaying that he made the catch. Tampa Bay is looking like a team of destiny and manager Kevin Cash has masterfully used his deep and talented bullpen. That said, the Astros have had their chances. They left seven runners on base over the first four innings in Game 2 and for the series, the Astros have scored just three runs but left 21 runners on base while losing the first two games. Meanwhile, the Rays are up 2-0, with a modest 10 hits (team BA of .169). The pitching matchup is Ryan Yabrough for Tampa Bay (making his first career postseason start) and Jose Urquidy for Houston. Not exactly a Gibson/Koufax showdown. Game 3 (8:40 ET on TBS) is a pick'em and the over/under is 8 1/2.The NLCS got started last night and "something had to give" in Game 1. The Braves and Dodgers were both 5-0 this postseason and the pitching matchup featured Fried (Braves were 12-1 in his starts in 2020) vs Buehler (Dodgers were 9-1 in his starts). We now know the answer. The lone unbeaten in the 2020 postseason is Atlanta. The game entered the 9th tied at one-all  when Austin Riley hit a solo shot to put the Braves up. An Acuna double, an Ozuna single and an Albies HR, all, like Riley's hit, coming after 0-2 counts, gave the Braves a 5-1 win. The Dodgers owned MLB's best record at 43-17, EIGHT game better than Atlanta's 35-25 mark, but now enter Game 2 (6:05 ET on FS1) looking to bounce back from the team's first loss since Sep 23 (almost THREE weeks ago!). Ian Anderson starts for Atlanta and Tony Gonsolin for LA. Anderson made his MLB on August 26 and in six regular season starts, posted a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .172 BAA. He's won BOTH postseason starts, pitching 11.2 scoreless innings with a 17-3 KW ratio. Gonsolin was an under-appreciated key hurler for Dave Roberts' squad this season. However, the jury is still out on how he will fare tonight, given it's his first post-season appearance. The Dodgers are favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.Final NBA thoughts: Let's hear it for Adam Silver. He was the first to shut down the season (all sports followed) and he worked with the players to pull off a 'bubble' in Orlando which went off with barely any missteps. When the Lakers took Game 6 from the Heat 106-93, it capped the longest season in NBA history. Three-hundred fifty-six days after the season began, the Lakers won the 2019-20 NBA championship, the franchise's 17th all-time (matching the Celtics for most-ever). Individually, LBJ won his fourth title and was named 2020 Finals MVP for the fourth time, as well. He previously won Finals MVP in 2012 and '13 with the Heat and in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, making him the first player in NBA history to win the award with three different franchises. Winning his fourth Finals MVP moves him out of a tie with Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal and into second all time, trailing only Jordan, who won the award six times. He also became the second-oldest player to win NBA Finals MVP (35 years, 286 days), behind only Kareem (38 years, 54 days in 1985). A final 'shout out' goes to Jeanie Buss. She took over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017, as controlling owner after a legal battle with her brothers. She is now the first female controlling owner to lead an NBA organization to a championship.The Lakers won the title but the Heat were the NBA postseason "ATS champs." The Heat finished 14-7 SU this postseason but 16-5 ATS (76.2%). In comparison. the Lakers went 16-5 SU but 11-9-1 ATS. With no homecourt edge, I guess it should be no surprise that favorites were only 41-40-2 ATS. The under has cashed in 48 of the 83 games (57.8 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they finished 32-33-2 ATS (49.2%) or minus-4.3 net units.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 12

Monday, Oct 12, 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."NBA Finals: My last update had LA up 3-1 heading into Friday's Game 5. Jimmy Butler became the SIXTH player in NBA Finals history to have multiple triple-doubles in the same title series (35-12-11). Magic Johnson and LBJ have both done it three times, while Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Draymond Green have done it once. All Miami starters were in double digits, including a career playoff high by Duncan Robinson (26). LBJ had 40-13-7 but while he and Davis were a combined 24 for 36 from the floor, the rest of the Lakers were 14 for 46 (30.4%). The Lakers' reserves shot 5 for 22 (22.7%). That forced a Game 6 last night. After failing to beat the Heat in Friday's Game 5, Lakers coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup, moving Davis to the 5 and plugging Alex Caruso in Dwight Howard's place for a smaller, quicker group.After failing to beat the Heat in Friday's Game 5, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup, moving Davis to the center position and starting Alex Caruso over Dwight Howard's for a smaller, quicker group. The move paid off, as LA effectively put the game away by outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter. They led by 28 at the half, the second-largest halftime lead in NBA Finals history. Jimmy Butler, after a 40-point triple-double in a Game 3 win for the Heat and a 35-point triple-double in a Game 5 win, was contained, finishing with 12 points. LBJ capped his fourth championship with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, as the Lakers cruised to a 106-93 victory (game was NOT as close as the final score). Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds in winning his first NBA title (won a national championship at Kentucky in ). LBJ became the first player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP with three different teams and won the award for the fourth time to trail only Michael Jordan (six). It was the Lakers' 17th NBA title, tying them with the Celtics for the most all-time. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third wire-to-wire victory to clinch an NBA title in the past 50 seasons, joining the 1982 Lakers and the 1986 Boston Celtics. Much more on the 2019-20 NBA season, the Lakers and LBJ in Tuesday's Notes.MLB Playoffs: Michael Brosseau hit a dramatic home run off Aroldis Chapman with one out in the eighth inning, as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Friday night in the decisive Game 5 to reach the ALCS for the first time in 12 seasons. The Rays dominated the regular-season series with the Yankees 8-2 and were the AL's No. 1 seed and making the victory even more 'sweet' was that Tampa Bay's $29 million payroll (28th out of the 30 major league teams) was dwarfed by the Yankees, who had the third-largest payroll at $84 million. Waiting for the Rays were the Houston Astros, who followed three straight 100-win seasons by going just 29-31 during this year's COVID-shortened season but were able to get into an expanded 16-team playoff field by virtue of finishing second in the AL West. The Astros then swept AL Central champs Minnesota 2-0 in the wild card round and eliminated AL west champs Oakland 3-1 in an ALDS matchup. The NLDS features the Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers. The Braves beat the Marlins 3-0 in Game 3 last Thursday, giving Atlanta a three-game sweep and its first trip to the NLCS since 2001. In the process, the Braves became just the SECOND team in MLB history to throw four shutouts in their first five playoff games, joining the 1905 New York Giants behind Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity. The Braves have already pitched the most postseason shutouts in franchise history and are one shutout shy of tying the MLB record for most in a postseason set by the 2016 Indians over 15 games. Atlanta draws the LA Dodgers in the NLCS, who completed a three-game sweep of their own last Thursday with a 12-3 win over the Padres. Los Angeles advanced to its fourth NL Championship Series in five years and the team with MLB's best regular season record in 2020 (43-17), will be making their 14th NLCS appearance, matching the St Louis Cardinals for the most.The League Championship Series Prices at BetAnySports (before the start of each series) had the Rays -175 and the Astros +165, while the Dodgers were -215 and the Braves +195. To win the World Series the Dodgers were +160, the  Rays +240, the Braves +425 and the Astros +435. Game 1 of the ALCS was last night and the Rays won 2-1. The Rays took a 1-0 series lead on the back of two timely hits and a pair of critical double plays, the latter coming with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning. Randy Arozarena his fourth HR of this postseason. and Mike Zunino plated the go-ahead run with a first-pitch single in the fifth inning. Blake Snell allowed a solo HR in the first inning but that was all he allowed in five innings. The Rays' bullpen then produced another exceptional effort, as four relievers combined for FOUR scoreless innings. Houston wasted a solid effort by Valdez (two runs in six innings with eight Ks), as the Astros left 10 men on base and went 2 of 8 with RISP.Game 2 of the ALCS ( 4:07 ET on ) sees Lance McCullers going up against Charlie Morton. The Rays are favored (-125) and the over/under is 8. Game 1 of the NLCS (8:08 ET on FOX) features Atlanta's Max Fried up against LA's Walker Buehler (more in a bit). The Braves led the majors in OPS (.832) and ranked second in team BA (.268), runs (348), HRs (103) and slugging (.483) during the regular season. Checking LA's numbers in those same categories reveals the Dodgers had an .821 OPS, a team BA of .256, scored 349 runs, hit 118 HRs and owned a slugging percentage of .430. However, LA's pitching numbers are dominant by comparison. LA owns a team ERA of 3.02 (Atlanta's is 4.41) with a 1.06 WHIP (Atlanta's is 1.36) and a BAA of .213 (Atlanta's is .247). LA owned a MLB-best 43-17 regular season record, while Atlanta was EIGHT games worse at 35-25. More LA dominance is revealed by LA's MLB-best plus-136 run differential, more than DOUBLE that of Atlanta's (plus-60). However, it's just a seven-game series and Atlanta's pitching staff (see above). "Something has to give" in this Game 1, as the Braves are 12-1 in Fried's 2020 starts, while the Dodgers are 9-1 when Buehler starts. The Dodgers are favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.BATTER UP! I have plays in BOTH games!NFL: It's Monday and that typically means the NFL would be completing its current week with a MNF matchup. However, 2020 has hardly been a "typical" year in ANY aspect of life, let alone the 'world of sports.' The NFL is the 'Big Dog' and likes to think of itself as invulnerable but COVID-19 has had other ideas. Here's what I think we know. The Bills at the Titans (scheduled for yesterday will be played tomorrow (Oct 13). The Broncos at the Pats and Broncos (also scheduled for yesterday) will now be played during Week 6 on Sunday Oct. 18. As a result of that game, the Broncos' Week 6 matchup against the Miami Dolphins has been pushed back to Week 11. From what I've read, here are the other remaining changes to the 2020 schedule: The Kansas City Chiefs-Buffalo Bills Week 6 game on Thursday, Oct. 15 moves to Monday, Oct. 19. The New York Jets-Miami Dolphins Week 10 matchup moves to Week 6. The New York Jets-Los Angeles Chargers matchup moves from Week 6 to Week 11. The Jacksonville Jaguars-Los Angeles Chargers matchup moves from Week 8 to Week 7. The Los Angeles Chargers-Denver Broncos game moves from Week 11 to Week 8. The Los Angeles Chargers-Miami Dolphins game moves from Week 7 to Week 10. Got it?There is a MNF game tonight at 8:15 ET on ESPN. The 1-3 Chargers are at the 2-2 Saints, with New Orleans favored by seven points (over/under is 49 1/2). My usual Tuesday NFL recap will be pushed back to Wednesday's Notes, to cover the Bills/Titans contest. CFB recap: Heading into this past Saturday (Oct 10), there had been just SIX, top-25 showdowns in 2020, with the higher ranked team having gone 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS. However, we saw FOUR such matchups on Saturday. No. 1 Clemson beat No. 7 Miami-Fl  42-17, No. 3 Georgia beat No. 14 Tennessee 44-21 and No. 8 North Carolina beat No. 19 Va Tech 56-45. All three played at home and covered. However, No. 4 Florida was at No. 21 Texas A&M and lost 41-38 (A&M's winning FG came as time expired), becoming the first higher ranked team to lose to a ranked opponent. The Y-T-D record has higher ranked teams at 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS. As I warned last Thursday, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. October 10 was a 'nightmare' scenario ATS for the seven ranked teams facing an unranked opponent. Five won but just ONE covered!  No. 17 LSU lost an 'ugly' one at home to Missouri, 45-41, while No. 22 Texas lost its Red River Showdown 53-48 in four OTs to Oklahoma in a "classic" (most combined points in the series' 116-game history)  LSU was stopped FOUR times from the one-yard line with a chance to win and the LSU defense allowed 45 points to a Missouri team that had averaged 15.5 PPG in its first two. With ranked teams going 5-2 SU and 1-6 AY+TS, the Y-T-D record has ranked teams 37-12 (.755) SU vs unranked opponents in 2020 but an abysmal 15-33-1 ATS (that's just 31.3%).4-0 Clemson remains No. 1 in the AP poll with 59 of 62 first-place votes. Its victory over Miami was the Tigers' 36th consecutive regular season win, the fourth-longest streak of all-time. They can tie Nebraska, which won 37 straight from 1992-96, with a Saturday win at Ga Tech. Alabama is No. 2 after a 63-48 win at Ole Miss ('Bama led just 49-45 with under four minutes to go) and will host No. 3 Georgia on Saturday in the season's 'BIGGEST' game to-date (note: it's the ONLY game between ranked opponents this coming weekend). Notre Dame has won NINE in a row (most of any Power-5 school) and is ranked 4th, while North Carolina climbed to No. 5, the school's highest ranking since November of 1997, when Mack Brown was head coach. Hey wait. He's baaaaaack!LSU dropped out of the poll (last defending champ to be unranked the following season was Auburn in 2001, post-Cam), after 43 consecutive appearances in the top-25. No. 22 Texas dropped out after its loss to Oklahoma but the win was not enough for the Sooners to sneak back in the poll and is now 'poll-less' for the second straight week, after being ranked for 64 consecutive polls. Last time both Oklahoma and Texas were unranked was Sep 25, 2016. For those remaining in the poll, the biggest drops were SIX spots by Florida (down from No. 4 to No. 10) and Miami (from No. 7 to No. 13). The biggest move up was Texas A&M going from No. 21 to No. 11. Kansas St made its first appearance in the top-25 at No.22, while USC, the AP's preseason No. 17 team), is back at no. 25 without playing a game. The Trojans are one of SEVEN teams ranked, before playing a game. No. 6 Ohio St and No. 10 Penn St are top-10 teams. It's surely a season like no other!Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 9

Friday, Oct 09, 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."NBA Finals: The Lakers rolled in Game 1 by the score of 116-98 and took Game 2 by 10 points (124-114), as Miami was with Dragic and Adebayo. Despite playing without those two starters in Game 3, Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51 and Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. Adebayo returned for Miami in Game 4  (scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 33 minutes) but Butler was able to score just 25 points (down from 40). The Heat used just three players off the bench and that trio combined for 13 points while shooting an abysmal 4 of 18 (22.2%). LBJ was his usual self (28-12-8) and A.D. bounced from a poor game (15 points) with 22 points and nine rebounds, while starting LA guards Caldwell-Pope and Green combined to score 25 points. LA's bench outscored Miami's 27-13. The Heat stayed with the Lakers all game and the final was 102-96. Herro nailed a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds to go to give Miami the cover. The Heat fell to 13-6 SU this postseason but are 15-4 ATS, while the Lakers are 15-4 SU but just 10-8-1 ATS. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-39-2 ATS, while the under has cashed in 47 of the 81 games (58.0 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 30-33-2 ATS (47.6%) or minus-6.3 net units. Game 5 tips tonight at 9:00 ET on ABC. The Lakers are looking for their first title since 2010, when they defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games. A win in Game 5 (or in Game 6 or 7) would give the franchise its 17th title all-time, which would tie them with the Celtics for most in NBA history. LBJ is looking for his FOURTH NBA title in his 10th Finals. Many like to play "the G.O.A.T game" of comparing him to MJ but "I Like Mike," who was SIX-for-SIX in NBA Finals' appearances, winning MVP honors in each one. Anthony Davis is one win away from his first NBA title. "They're going to make adjustments," Davis said after Tuesday's 102-96 victory by the Lakers, giving them a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven game series. "We have to be prepared for it." Ask Miami's Jimmy Butler and despite the hole the team is in, believes the Heat are capable of rallying. "We just got to lock in on us knowing that we can control a lot of these things," Butler said. "But our confidence ain't going nowhere. It's going to stay high. I'm going to make sure that it stays high because it's going to have to be at an all-time to get this next win." LA is favored by seven points and the over/under is 216. Game 6, if necessary, is scheduled for Sunday. My next Ness Notes is Monday, so I'll be back with a recap of the Finals OR, a preview of Game 7. MLB Playoffs: The Braves beat the Marlins 3-0 in Game 3, giving Atlanta a three-game sweep and its first trip to the NLCS since 2001 (note: the Marlins had won all SEVEN of their previous postseason series!). In the process, the Braves became just the SECOND team in MLB history to throw four shutouts in their first five playoff games, joining the 1905 New York Giants behind Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity. The Braves have already pitched the most postseason shutouts in franchise history and are one shutout shy of tying the MLB record for most in a postseason set by the 2016 Indians over 15 games. Awaiting the Braves in the NLCS will be the LA Dodgers, who complete a three-game sweep of their own with a 12-3 win over the Padres. Los Angeles advanced to its fourth NL Championship Series in five years and the team with MLB's best regular season record in 2020 (43-17), will be making their 14th NLCS appearance, matching the St Louis Cardinals for the most. The Dodgers and Braves will open the best-of-seven NLCS on Monday in the Texas Rangers' new $1.2 billion stadium with fans in attendance for the first time during this pandemic-altered season.Over in the American League, the Houston Astros beat the Oakland A's 11-6, eliminating the AL West champs, 3 games to one. Houston 'snuck into' the postseason despite a 29-31 record but improved to 5-1 in the playoffs. The Astros and A's combined for 24 HRs (12 each), the most in a postseason series of five games or fewer. The Astros ranked 20th in the majors with a .240 average and 14th with 279 runs during the regular season and while their batting slump continued through the wild-card round, Houston batted .322 as a team in the ALDS, scoring 33 runs (8.3 per) with those 12 HRs. Few people outside of Houston are rooting for the Astros these days but one has to feel good for Dusty Baker, their 71-year-old manager. He earned his first closeout win since the 2003 NLDS, improving (?) to 4-13 in closeout games. The Astros will head to San Diego's Petco Park to await the winner of Game 5 between the Yankees and Rays.The Tampa Bay Rays went an AL-Best 40-20 during the regular season and captured the AL East title for the first time since 2010. In the process, the Rays took EIGHT of 10 from the Yankees but I doubt anyone on Tampa Bay expected their ALDS with their hated rivals would be a 'walk in the park.' The Yankees won 9-3 ion Game 1, while the Rays rebounded to win Games 2 and 3, 7-5 and 8-4. However, the Yankees didn't flinch under the pressure of an elimination game, as Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres hit impressive HRs, while Jordan Montgomery and three relievers combined on a three-hitter. The Yankees beat the Rays 5-1 Thursday night to even the best-of-5 series at 2-all. The Yankees are trying to reach the ALCS for the THIRD time in four seasons following eliminations by the Astros at that stage in 2017 and last season. Meanwhile, the Rays are trying to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2008, when they made it to their only World Series. Somewhat ironically, the pitching matchup of Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow is a rematch of last year's ALDS Game 5 between Houston and Tampa Bay. I'm NOT sure why MLB decided to play the four Division Series WITHOUT a day off (Championship Series will be contested without any days off, as well), as it has taxed the pitching staffs of all teams and in particular any that are forced to "go the distance." That's the case here with the Rays and Yanks. Cole will pitch on three days' rest for the FIRST in his career, while Glasnow is being asked to pitch on TWO days' rest. New York is favored (-155) and the over/under is  7 1/2.Note: Game 5 of NY/TB is my 10* Division Series Game of the Year.The NFL opened its Week 5  with 3-1 Tampa Bay visiting 3-1 Chicago. The Bucs came in on a three-game winning streak and with all due respect to the Bears' 3-1 start, their three wins had come over a trio of teams that owned a combined 1-11 record. Tom Brady never lost to Chicago in five meetings as a member of the Patriots and was liking 'itching' to get another shot at Nick Foles, facing him for the first time since New England lost to Philadelphia in Super Bowl 52. However, the six-time champion came up short, as Chicago won 20-19. Brady threw for 253 yards and one TD but he and the Bucs couldn't finish their drives, settling for four FGs (three inside of 40 yards). Foles, the Super Bowl 52 MVP, completed 30 of 42 passes for 243 yards and a TD in his second start after replacing Mitchell Trubisky. Green Bay and Detroit have byes in Week 5 plus the schedule has been 'shuffled' due to COVID-19 issues. For the SECOND consecutive week we will have a MNF doubleheader, as the Denver/New England game has been moved from Sunday to Monday, joining the regularly scheduled MNF contest between the Chargers and Saints. There was early talk that game might be moved to Indianapolis because of Hurricane Delta, but that's no longer an issue. What's more, the 4-0 Bills were scheduled to play the 3-0 Titans in Nashville on Sunday but while the game will go on, it has been moved to TUESDAY! The Bills (-8.5) and Titans are two of SIX teams still unbeaten. The 4-0 Packers and Seahawks are both also 4-0 ATS and while the Packers have a bye week, Seattle will host the 1-3 Vikings on SNF (Seattle is favored by seven points). The defending Super Bowl champions Chiefs are 4-0 (3-1 ATS) have won 13 straight games (including a 3-0 run in last year's postseason) and will host the 2-2 Raiders, laying 11.5 points (and seemingly climbing). The Steelers are the last of the NFL's six unbeatens at 3-0 and after having their game at Tennessee postponed last Sunday, will welcome in-state rival Philadelphia to the Steel City on Sunday (Pittsburgh is favored by seven points). The Eagles are 1-2-1 but reside in first-place in the pathetic NFC East, ahead of 1-3 Dallas and Washington, plus the 0-4 NY Giants. NFC East teams are 3-12-1 SU and 5-11 ATS. In contrast, AFC West teams are a combined 11-5 ATS.There remain four winless NFL teams, as the Falcons, Giants, Jets and Texans are all 0-4. The Falcons, Jets and Texans are all also 0-4 ATS, while the Giants are 2-2. With Chicago's win last night, home teams moved to 26-22 SU, while going just 21-25-2 ATS in 2020 (Home dogs are now 5-13 SU and 8-8-2 ATS). I mentioned in Thursday's Notes that NFL games have averaged a combined 51.3 through four weeks of a season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Last night's game stayed under but overs still lead unders at 26-20-2 (56.5%). Linemakers have adjusted totals higher very quickly.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Oct 8

Thursday, Oct 08, 2020

The NFL kicks off its Week 5 when the 5-1 Bucs visit Chicago to take on the 3-1 Bears. You may just have heard that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Tom Brady in the offseason and after a 34-23 loss in Week 1 at New Orleans (in a showdown with Drew Brees), Brady has looked great in three straight wins completing 65.5% with nine TDs and just two INTs. The Bears are also 3-1 and Brady may just remember his "opposite number" tonight. It's Nick Foles, who played a "game for the ages" when he led the Eagles to a 41-33 win against the Patriots (and Brady) in Super Bowl LII. He was the game's MVP completing 28-of-43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns plus caught a 1-yard TD pass on the “Philly Special" trick play that ranks as one of the most famous plays in NFL history (note: Brady passed for 505 yards in the loss, with three TD passes and zero INTs in 48 attempts). The Bucs are favored by 3 1/2-points and the total is 44.5. Something to ponder? NFL games have averaged a combined 51.3, the highest through four weeks of a season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Much more NFL in Friday's Notes. MLB Playoffs: In the NL, Travis d'Arnaud and Dansby Swanson each homered for the second straight day, as the Braves beat the Marlins 2-0. Ian Anderson scattered three hits and struck out eight over 5.2 innings, after he fanned nine in six scoreless innings in a wild card win over the Reds. The Braves are now just the THIRD team in MLB history to pitch three shutouts in the first four games of a postseason, joining the 1966 Baltimore Orioles and the 1905 New York Giants. Clayton Kershaw followed up his gem in the clinching game of the first round against Milwaukee (13 Ks over eight scoreless innings) with six strikeouts and no walks over six innings, although he allowed three runs, including back-to-back solo homers by Machado and Hosmer in the sixth. However, he got the "W," as the Dodgers held on for a 6-5 win over the Dodgers. The Padres were down one with a runner on and two outs in the seventh when Cody Bellinger extended his glove above the 8-foot wall to rob Tatis of what would have been a go-ahead HR. Joe Kelly retired Eric Hosmer on a routine grounder to earn the save after Dodgers All-Star closer Kenley Jansen wobbled (AGAIN) in the ninth. How about this? The Padres became the first team in 20 games this postseason to lose when outhomering their opponent. Over in the AL, the Astros had a chance to sweep A's but the wasted leads of 2-1 and 7-4. Houston's bullpen had stifled Oakland in the first two games with seven shutout innings of one-hit relief but Oakland rallied for three runs in the 7th and two more in the eighth for a 9-7 win. The A's entered the day 1-29 when trailing by at least three runs after the sixth inning in postseason games all-time but saved their season under that very scenario. Liam Hendriks recorded the final NINE outs to preserve a 9-7 win. Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run HR in the eighth inning of Game 3 for the Yankees to become the first player with a HR in each of his team's first five games of a single postseason (has six HRs and 13 RBI in those five games) but it wasn't enough, The Rays' Randy Arozarena homered for the THIRD straight game on Wednesday, while Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Perez also went deep for the Rays, who beat Yankees 8-4. Charlie Morton got the win after holding the Yankees to two runs (one earned) on four hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked two in winning his FIFTH straight postseason decision. Masahiro Tanaka took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits in four-plus innings.In Thursday's games (listed in order of start times), the Marlins, A's, Yankees and Padres all face elimination. I'd post lines for the games but with pitching staffs being taxed with NO days off in these series, we never quite know when the managers will name a starter, allowing linemakers to post a price and handicappers to make a pick..The CFB weekend opens Thursday night with a C-USA game, as Tulane visits Houston (7:30 ET on ESPN). The Green Wave are 2-1 (0-1 in C-USA), while the Cougars will FINALLY actually get to play a game. Houston has had a Sep 3 home game with Rice, a Sep 19 game at Baylor and a Sep 26 home game with North Texas, all postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. NONE of those games have been rescheduled, so the Cougars will only play a maximum of EIGHT games this season (let's hope). The Cougars are listed as a 6.5 favorite. Friday night at 7:00 ET (also on ESPN), it's an ACC contest when 1-2 Louisville visits 1-2 Ga Tech. The Cardinals entered the AP poll at No. 18 after a season-opening 35-21 win over Western Ky but have since dropped out after conference losses to losses to Miami (47-34) and Pittsburgh (23-20). Ga Tech opened its season with a 16-13 win at Florida St but has since lost 49-21 at home to UCF and 37-20 at Syracuse. Louisville is favored by 4.5 points.Before getting to Saturday's games, let me take a quick look back at last week's results. There were two contests last Saturday featuring ranked teams and as has been the case in the early going, the higher ranked team won and covered in each one. No. 2 Alabama beat No. 13 Texas A&M 52-24 and No. 4 Georgia beat No. 7 Auburn. In top-25 showdowns in 202, the higher ranked team sit 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS. However, in something I have been following (and sharing) for years, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. So far in 2020, that has surely been the case. There were 14 ranked teams playing unranked opponents last weekend and they not only went just 8-6 SU but also a 'money-burning' 4-10 ATS. That leaves ranked teams 32-10 (.762) SU vs unranked opponents in 2020 but an abysmal 14-27-1 ATS (that's just 34.1%).The two most shocking Saturday upsets last Saturday, lead me into my preview of this Saturday's games. Texas (-11) lost 33-31 at home to TCU, when the Longhorns fumbled at the Horned Frogs goal line on a 1st and goal play with about four minutes to go. The 'Horns dropped from No. 9 to No. 22 in the latest AP poll. Then there was Oklahoma (-7.5) losing 37-30 at Iowa St, giving the Hawkeyes their first win in Ames over the Sooners since 1960! Oklahoma has now dropped back-to-back regular-season games (lost 38-35 at home to Iowa St on Sep 26) for the first time since 1999. The Sooners were No. 3 in the AP poll two weeks ago but the loss to Iowa St dropped them out of the top-25, after spending 64 consecutive weeks inside the AP top-25. As fate would have it, Oklahoma and Texas meet in the Red River Showdown for the 116th time on Saturday. Texas holds a 62-48-5 edge all-time but the Sooners have won 14 of the 21 meetings since 2000. However, the "vibe" is different in 2020 for MANY reasons. The Red River Showdown is one of the most unique games in college football. The are fans split down the 50-yard-line. The State Fair of Texas is bustling just outside the Cotton Bowl gates and the bus rides by the teams through the fairgrounds to the stadium are jam-packed with thousands of fans lining the streets either cheering or jeering. COIVID-19 has changed all that. "To pull into the fairgrounds without anybody there will be a little eerie," Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said. "It'll be different, there's no doubt. And that's just 2020 right now, I guess." What's more, with Oklahoma unranked and Texas at No. 22, NEITHER school is in the top-20 for this game for the 1st time since 1999! Oklahoma is a 2.5-point favorite.Point of interest, this contest is my 10* Rivalry Game of the Year! BE THERE! Getting back to business, Texas is one of SEVEN games this Saturday in which a ranked team faces an unranked opponent, an unusually small number. No. 2 Alabama is at Ole Miss (favored by 24.5 points) and Notre Dame is home to Florida St (Irish are favored by 20.5 points), among top-10 teams. Notre Dame has won EIGHT straight games, tied for the longest active winning streak among Power-5 schools. However, after just SIX meetings between ranked opponents up until now, there are FOUR such meetings on Saturday. No. 1 Clemson gets its first real test of the season when it hosts No. 7 Miami-Florida (Tigers are favored by 14). No. 3 Georgia is home to No. 14 Tennessee, which also owns EIGHT straight wins (Bulldogs are favored by 12.5). No. 4 Florida is at No. 21 Texas A&M (Gators are favored by 6.5) and No. 8 North Carolina is home to No. 19 Va Tech (Tar Heels are favored by 4.5). One quick 'shout out' to Air Force. The Falcons played their first game of 2020 last Saturday when they routed Navy, 40-7. The MWC originally said the league would not play football in the fall, so Air Force was only scheduled to play Navy and Army. However, the MWC will now play a six-game conference schedule, meaning the 'Fly Boys' will play eight games in all. I mention this because Air Force's win over Navy gave them NINE straight wins, the longest active streak among FBS schools (note: Air Force is 7-2 ATS during its winning run). Air Force will next play Oct 24th at San Jose St.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Oct 7

Wednesday, Oct 07, 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."NBA Finals: The Miami Heat reached this year's NBA Finals as the East's No. 5 to face the LA Lakers, the West's No. 1 seed. Miami is the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. The Lakers rolled in Game 1 by the score of 116-98 and took Game 2 by 10 points (124-114), as Miami was with Dragic and Adebayo. Despite playing without those two starters in Game 3, Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51 and Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. Game 4 was last night and Adebayo returned for Miami. He scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 33 minutes but Butler was able to score just 25 points (down from 40). The Heat used just three players off the bench and that trio combined for 13 points while shooting an abysmal 4 of 18 (22.2%). LBJ was his usual self (28-12-8) and A.D. bounced from a poor game (15 points) with 22 points and nine rebounds, while starting LA guards Caldwell-Pope and Green combined to score 25 points. LA's bench outscored Miami's 27-13. The Heat stayed with the Lakers all game but LA bettors (INCLUDING ME) lost when Miami rookie Tyler Herro nailed a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds to go. The 102-96 final gave Miami the ATS win. And so it goes in the sports betting world. The Heat fell to 13-6 SU this postseason but are 15-4 ATS, while the Lakers are 15-4 SU but just 10-8-1 ATS. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-39-2 ATS, while the under has cashed in 47 of the 81 games (58.0 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 30-33-2 ATS (47.6%) or minus-6.3 net units. Game 5 is Thursday and the early line has the Lakers favored by the same 7 1/2-points they were in Game 4.MLB Playoffs: The NL 'joined the party' on Tuesday with Miami vs Atlanta from Houston. and the Padres vs the Dodgers from Arlington. I noted in Tuesday's notes that Atlanta's Max Fried had made 12 starts in 2020 (including Game 1 of the wild card series) and the Braves have gone 11-1. However, he allowed four ERs on six hits in just four innings. The Braves trailed 4-3 entering the bottom of the 7th but 'exploded' for SIX runs, highlighted by Travis d'Arnaud's three-run HR and two-run shot by Dansby Swanson. The final was 9-5 Atlanta, as five relievers held Miami to just two hits and one run over five innings with seven Ks Atlanta is now 12-1 in Fried's 2020 starts (never in doubt).The Dodgers beat the Padres 5-1 in that series Game 1, which was somewhat strange. Mike Clevinger made it only two pitches into the second inning of his postseason debut for the Padres before leaving with the same elbow injury that sidelined him during the first round. San Diego's heavily worked bullpen couldn't keep putting up zeros, or keeping runners off base, even though the Padres gave up only four hits. Clevinger walked three batters in his one-plus inning of work and then NINE San Diego relievers allowed SEVEN more. The Dodgers had already drawn nine walks before Mookie Betts got their first hit in the sixth inning, when LA boke open a 12- game with FOUR runs. Buehler lasted just four innings, allowing two hits and one ER with eight Ks. Four relievers worked five scoreless innings and the LA staff struck out 14 Padres!Back in the AL, the Astros took a 2-0 lead over the A's with a 5-2 win and the Rays evened their series with the Yankees with a 7-5 win. George Springer hit two HRs and Martin Maldonado also went deep for Houston, as the Astros (just 29-31 in the regular season) moved to 4-0 in the postseason and are now just ONE win away from reaching their FOURTH straight ALCS. Oakland didn't have an at-bat with a runner in scoring position, as the A's are batting only .226 for the series (14 for 62). The NY Yankees became the first team in American League history to hit a grand slam in back-to-back playoff games in Game 1, while setting a franchise record by hitting at least three HRs in three consecutive postseason games. Giancarlo Stanton hit two HRs in Game 2 and has now hit five HRs this postseason, tying an MLB record held by Juan Gonzalez (Rangers, 1996) for HRs by a player in his team's first four playoff games. However, the Rays hit four HRs in Game 2 and more importantly, four Rays pitchers struck out 18 Yankees, an MLB postseason record for a nine-inning game and a postseason record for Yankees batters. Starter Tyler Glasnow allowed three hits and four runs in five-plus innings, while walking three. His 10 strikeouts surpass the previous Rays postseason record of nine done three times. It was the Rays' 10th straight win when Glasnow started. He won his FIFTH straight start and SEVENTH consecutive decision.Wednesday's MLB (in order of starting times). Miami (Lopez) vs Atlanta (Anderson) at 2:08 ET (Braves -210 / 8 .5), Oakland (Luzardo) vs Houston (Urquidy) at 3:35 ET (Astros -110 / 9), Tampa Bay (Morton) vs NY Yankees (Tanaka) at 7:10 ET (NYY -125 / 9) and San Diego (undecided) vs Los Angeles (Kershaw) at 9:08 ET (no line). Thursday's notes zeroes in on CFB Last week's highlights, current AP poll and a look ahead to the weekend.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Oct 6

Tuesday, Oct 06, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The NFL concluded its Week 4 with a MNF doubleheader as the Pats/Chiefs game, postponed from Sunday to to COVID-19 issues, joined the regularly scheduled MNF game between the Falcons and Packers. New England played without Cam Newton but gave KC fits most of the way (trailed just 13-10 in the 4th quarter), before Mahomes' second TD pass and a "pick-six" by Tyrann Mathieu (just NINE seconds apart), led KC to a 26-10.Green Bay beat Atlanta 30-16, as Aaron Rodgers threw for 327 yards with four TDs. The Chiefs and Packers are both 4-0, joining the Bills and Seahawks as the NFL's lone 4-0 teams. The Steelers and Titans are each 3-0 but had their game postponed Sunday. The Falcons' MNF loss dropped them to 0-4, joining the Giants, Jets and Texans. The Jets and Titans are also both 0-4 ATS, while the Falcons are 1-3 and the Giants a 'giddy' 2-2! Houston, which won the AFC South last season for the FOURTH time in the last five seasons, have seen enough of Bill O'Brien. He was not only head coach but was also the team's GM. He was fired Monday afternoon with associate head coach Romeo Crennel named as the team's interim head coach. Now that's the 'ticket!' Crennel's record as an NFL head coach is 28-55 (.337) in five-plus seasons with the Browns and Chiefs!Home teams went 2-0 SU and ATS on Monday night, after opening the week going 4-9 SU and 2-10-1 ATS. Week 4's first 13 games averaged 54.2 PPG but with totals being adjusted higher, saw six games go over, five go under and two fall "on the closing number." Both Monday games went under. Home teams are barely over .500 SU on the season at 25-22, while going just 20-25-2 ATS (Home dogs are 4-13 SU and 7-8-2 ATS). Overs still lead unders at 26-19-2 (57.8%). NFL Week 5 kicks off Thursday night when the 3-1 Bucs (what a comeback by Brady on Sunday when he threw five TD passes!) visit the 3-1 Bears, whose options at QB are either Foles or Trubisky.NBA Finals: The Miami Heat reached this year's NBA Finals as the East's No. 5 to face the LA Lakers, the West's No. 1 seed. Miami is the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. The Lakers rolled in Game 1 by the score of 116-98 and took Game 2 by 10 points (124-114), as Miami was with Dragic and Adebayo. Despite playing without those two starters in Game 3, Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51 and Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. LBJ played a typical game in Sunday's loss (25-10-8), as he's averaging 27.7-10.7-9.0 through three games. However, the Lakers committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter alone in Game 3, one more than they had total in Game 2. They finished the contest with 20, James being responsible for eight and Anthony Davis five. Davis, after scoring 34 and 32 points in the first two games, took just NINE shots and finished with only 15 points. LA's other three starters (Howard, Green and Caldwell-Pope), combined for a pathetic11 points on 3-0f-13 shooting (23.1%).Do we have a series now? We'll find out in tonight's Game 4, where the Lakers are 7 1/2-point favorites. The Heats are 13-5 SU this postseason (14-4 ATS), while the Lakers are 14-4 SU but 10-7-1 ATS. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-38-2 ATS , while the under has cashed in 46 of the 80 games (57.5 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 30-32-2 ATS (45.6%) or minus-5.1 net units.MLB Playoffs: The AL gets things going on Monday. The A's got the better of the Astros 7-3 in the season series but fell in Game 1 of the ALDS, 10-5. The teams combined for six HRs (three each) but the Astros out-hit the A's 16-8, overcoming a 5-3 deficit to score the game's final SEVEN runs from the 6th-inning on. Game 1 between the Yankees and Rays was expected to be a pitchers duel between Cole and Snell. That wasn't the case. Cole was solid but hardly spectacular (6 IP/ 3 ERs / 8 Ks) and Snell had a less-than-impressive outing ( 5 IP / six hits, including 3 HRs / 4 ERs). It was 4-3 Yanks into the 9th when New York broke the game open on the strength of Stanton's grand slam. The Yanks would score FIVE runs in the top of the 9th for a 9-3 win and a 1-0 series lead. The Bronx Bombers became the first team in American League history to hit a grand slam in back-to-back playoff games, while setting a franchise record by hitting at least three HRs in three consecutive postseason games. New York's goal in Game 2, after recording 31 runs and a major league-record 11 HRs in their first three postseason contests. It's Valdez (Hou) vs Manaea (Oak) in Game 2 and the game is a pick-em and the total is 9. The Yankees send rookie Garcia up against the Rays Glasnow, with the Rays favored (-125) and the total set at 8.The NL 'joins the party' on Tuesday with Miami vs Atlanta at 2:08 ET from Houston. The second-seeded Braves did not surrender a run in their two-game sweep of Cincinnati over 22 innings, while the sixth-seeded Marlins allowed just ONE while sweeping the Chicago Cubs *Chicago batted .145 in the two games). Miami lost 105 games in 2019 and became the first team to reach the playoffs after a 100-loss season. The Marlins finished second in the NL East at 31-29 being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that forced 18 players from the field following the opening series and prevented them from playing for more than a week. Remember, the only other times the Marlins have reached the  postseason in their history, they won the World Series (in 1997 and 2003). It's Alcantara for Miami and Max Fried for Atlanta. Fried has made 12 starts in 2020 (including Game 1 of the wild card series) and the Braves have gone 11-1. It's no surprise that Atlanta is favored (-1950 in Game 1, with a total of 8.The teams with the two best records in the National League open tonight in Arlington at 9:38 ET, as the Dodgers, owners of MLB's best record (43-17) face the Padres, whose 37-23 record was second-best in the NL. The Dodgers won six of the 10 regular season matchups and will turn to Walker Buehler in Game 1, while the Padres have yet to announce a starter for Game 1. Top San Diego starters Mike Clevinger (elbow) and Dinelson Lamet (biceps/elbow) are still being considered for the NLDS roster after not participating in the wild-card round. The Padres pitched Chris Paddack and Zach Davies in the first two games of their series with the Cards but both 'flopped." The Padres then used NINE pitchers to craft a shutout in a deciding Game 3. The current odds have LA favored (-170) and the over/under at 8. BetAnySports has the Dodgers (-120) as significant favorites to win the NL pennant, followed by the Braves (+355), the Padres (+370) and the long-shot Marlins (+876).Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 5

Monday, Oct 05, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 4 concluded with an unexpected MNF doubleheader. 2-1 New England and 3-0 Kansas City were scheduled to play Sunday but Patriots QB Cam Newton and Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta'amu were added to the COVID-19 reserve list this weekend. The status of the game was "up in the air" but thankfully, further testing showed none of their teammates were infected with the virus. Therefore, the game will be played Monday night 7:05 ET (CBS). The regularly scheduled MNF game featuring 0-3 Atlanta and 3-0 Green Bay has been bumped back 45 minutes and will now kick off at 8:50 on ESPN. The Chiefs are favored by 10 1/2-points (were about a TD favorite against Cam) and the Packers are favored by 6 1/2-points. Complete NFL Week 4 recap with Tuesday's notes.NBA Finals Update: Do we have a series? The Lakers routed the Heat in Game 1 (116-98) and then took Game 2 by the score of 124-114, as Miami's Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both sat out with injuries. Dragic and Adebayo did not play in Game 3 either but Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, as the Heat beat the Lakers 115-104 last night to get within 2-1. Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. BTW...LBJ has a Finals-best 10 triple-doubles. Game 4 is set for Tuesday night but unlike in Games 2 (LA closed as a 10 1/2-point favorite) and 3 (LA - 9 1/2), the early line has LA favored by 7  1/2-points. More on the NBA in Tuesday's Notes.MLB: All SEVEN Central Division teams lost in the wild card round, going a combined 2-14. No team was more disappointing than the Twins, who have now lost an incomprehensible 18 consecutive postseason games with a total of seven rounds lost. However, the Twins weren't alone, as two NL Central teams gave pathetic offensive efforts. The Cubs (NL Central champs) lost 5-1 and 2-0 to the Marlins, batting .145 as a team. Chicago saw Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combine to go 0 for 12 Friday's loss, finishing the series 1 for 24. The trio is 19 for 142 (.134) with 52 strikeouts and six walks in the postseason since the 2016 World Series title as Chicago has lost nine of 13. Not to be 'outdone,' the Reds were swept by the Braves, scoring just ONE run over 22 innings of two games, batting .194 as a team. Good Riddance Central division teams.All four Division Series feature matchups between division rivals. The AL teams open Monday, with Houston and Oakland playing at Dodgers Stadium (4:07 ET) and the NY Yankees and Tampa Bay playing at Petco Park in San Diego (8:07 ET). The NL 'joins the party' on Tuesday, as Miami and Atlanta hook up in Houston and San Diego and the LA Dodgers meet in Arlington.AL preview: The Houston Astros opened the 2020 season off three straight seasons of 100-plus wins (101, 103 and 107), making the World Series in 2017 and 2019 (won the first, lost the second). The team's season figured to be marred by criticism of "sign stealing" but COVID-19 pushed all other storylines to the 'back-burner.' The Astros opened 15-10 but would go 14-21 the rest of the way and became one of two teams to make the 2020 postseason field with a losing record (29-31). The Astros drew a great wild card matchup in Minnesota, whose postseason 'nightmare' continued. Houston eliminated the Twins 2-0, as the Twins have now lost an incomprehensible 18 consecutive postseason games with a total of seven rounds lost. Houston manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs with the Astros, advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NLDS with the Chicago Cubs. The Oakland A's won the AL West in 2020 for the first time since 2013. The AL West champions lost the opener of its wild card series 4-1 to the White Sox but then won on consecutive days at home in Games 2 and 3 (5-3 and 6-4), advancing to an ALDS against the rival Houston Astros. Oakland snapped a NINE-game losing streak in winner-take-all postseason games, a major league record that dated to the 1973 World Series. The A's had lost six straight playoff series since sweeping Minnesota in the 2006 ALDS, starting with when Detroit swept Oakland in that year's ALCS. It was a humongous relief for a club that won 97 games each of the past two seasons only to lose the division to Houston and then the AL wild card game both years. The A's got the better of the Astros 7-3 in the season series but it should be noted that they had the advantage of getting eight of the 10 games at home. Lance McCullers (3-3, 3.93 ERA in the regular season) gets the start for Houston and Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.29 ERA) for Oakland. The A's are -135 and the total is 8.I don't want to compare the Yankees/Rays rivalry with the Red Sox/Yankees but the disdain the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees share for each other is hardly a secret. Tampa Bay claimed its third-ever division title by winning EIGHT of 10 regular season meetings, outscoring the Yankees 47-34. Tensions boiled over in the ninth inning of New York's 5-3 win back on Sep 1 at Yankee Stadium, when closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball up and in at infielder Michael Brosseau's head, nearly prompting a benches-clearing incident. Now, after some hostile moments in the regular season, the stakes are significantly higher in this five-game ALDS. Petco Park has been known as a pitchers' park and it seems only fitting that the team's two aces will square off. Gerrit Cole (7-3, 2.84 ERA in the regular season) takes the mound for New York, while Tampa Bay counters with Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA). The Yankees are favored in Game 1 (-145) and the total is 7. BetAnySports has the Yankees as a slight favorite to win the AL pennant (+187), followed by Tampa Bay (+197), Oakland (+375) and Houston (+432). NL preview on Tuesday.A typical Monday would feature a recap of the CFB weekend but I'll combine that recap with my upcoming CFB weekend preview in Thursday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 2

Friday, Oct 02, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 4 kicked off last night with a game between the winless Broncos and Jets. It was NOT a well-played game but it was somehow entertaining. Brett Rypien, the nephew of 1992 Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien, made his first NFL start and threw for 242 yards and two TDs but also threw three INTs (one which was returned for a TD). However, he led the Broncos to 37 points, after the team had averaged just 15.0 PPG in opening 0-3. He got some help from newly-acquired RB Melvin Gordon, who ran for 107 yards, including a 43-yard TD run with just under two minutes to go which sealed Denver's win. Rypien became the first QB to win his first start with three interceptions since San Francisco's Jim Druckenmiller beat the St. Louis Rams 15-12 in 1997. As for the Jets, paraphrasing HOF head coach Bill Parcells, "They are who their record says they are!" The Jets are 0-4 SU and ATS. I'll return to the NFL in just a bit.The NBA Finals resume tonight with Game 2. The Lakers dominated the first game, cruising to a 116-98 win but the main storyline for Game 2 is the injuries to Miami PG Goran Dragic (plantar fascia tear in left foot) and PF/C Bam Adebayo (neck strain). Both are listed as doubtful and I think that's an optimistic take. The current line has the Lakers listed as 7 1/2- or eight-point favorites and after winning my NBA Game of the Year on the Lakers in Game 1, I will sit this one out and see what kind of team Miami can put on the floor. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-36-2 ATS, while the under has cashed in 45 of the 78 games (57.7 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 27-33-2 ATS (45.0%) or minus-.9.3 net units.MLB Playoff Update: Game 2 of the Marlins/Cubs series was postponed and will be played on Friday but four other series were played on Thursday. The Braves beat the Reds 5-0, snapping their record-tying string of losses in 10 consecutive postseason rounds since their last playoff series win in 2001. The Reds, playing in their first postseason since 2013, did not score a SINGLE run  in the two games (over 21 innings), batting .169 as a team, while hitting 1 of 14 (.071) with RISP. Oakland beat the Chicago White Sox 6-4 in its deciding Game 3, ending a nine-game losing streak in winner-take-all postseason games, a major league record that dated to the 1973 World Series. The A's had also lost six straight playoff series since sweeping Minnesota in the 2006 ALDS, starting with when Detroit swept Oakland in that year's ALCS. Back in the NL, Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 while delivering eight innings of three-hit ball. His 13 strikeouts were a playoff career high and considering he came into the game with a 9-11 record and 4.43 ERA in the playoffs, he and the Dodgers have to be feeling pretty good. The Dodgers eliminated the Brewers with Thursday's 3-0 victory and it's "Good Riddance" to Milwaukee. The Brewers never got above .500 all season and 'snuck into' the expanded playoff field with a 29-31 record as the NL's No. 8 seed.Joining the Marlins and Cubs in playing on Friday, are the Cards and Padres. San Diego's powerful offense finally burst to life in the  6th-inning of Game 2, after slumbering through a 7-4 loss in Game 1 and a listless first five innings last night. The Cards led 6-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth but the Padres hit five HRs while plating NINE runs from the 6th to the 8th inning. The Padres are the first team in postseason history with five HRs from the sixth inning onward in a game and Thursday's victory marked the team's 23rd comeback win of 2020. The Cards will start Jack Flaherty in Game 3, while the Padres are expected to use a "bullpen game." Game 1 and 2 starters Chris Paddack and Zach Davies lasted a combined 4.1 innings, forcing the Padres to use eight relievers on Wednesday and seven more on Tuesday, for a total of 13.2 innings. SIX San Diego relievers have worked in both games. As for the Miami/Chicago game, it's Miami rookie Sixto Sanchez (3-3, 3.46 ERA)  up against the Cubs' Yu Darvish (8-3, 2.01 ERA).Returning to the NFL, the "big story" of Week 4 has to be the postponement of the Pittsburgh/Tennessee game due to COVID-19 concerns. This is the NFL's first real test and all sports fans (and bettors) have their "fingers crossed," The 3-0 Steelers and Titans are two of SEVEN teams still unbeaten, joined by the Bears, Bills, Chiefs, Packers and Seahawks. Green Bay and Seattle are 3-0 ATS but Tennessee is 0-3 ATS, as the Titans have only outscored their three 'victims' by a total of just SIX points.The Pittsburgh/Tennessee game was the only contest featuring unbeaten opponents but there are two games featuring 3-0 teams playing 2-1 opponents. The 3-0 Chiefs host the 2-1 Pats (Chiefs are -7) and the 3-0 Bills are at the 2-1 Raiders (Bills are -3 1/2). The LONE game featuring 0-3 opponents is the Vikings at the Texans (Houston is -4), a game between two 2019 playoff teams. The SNF game on NBC has the 0-2-1 Eagles (winners of the NFC East in 2019) at the 2-1 SF 49ers, the defending NFC champs (Niners are favored by seven points). MNF has the 0-3 Falcons at the 3-0 Packers (Green Bay is favored by 7 points at BookMaker).  See you all Monday for my next Ness Notes report.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Oct 1

Thursday, Oct 01, 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." LBJ led the Lakers into the 2020 NBA Finals, marking his 10th appearance (with three different teams). His teams had won just THREE of his previous nine Finals appearances and it sure didn't help that those teams had gone 1-8 in Game 1 of past finals, including a stretch of SEVEN consecutive Game 1 losses! LBJ may have thought "here we go again," when the Heat scored on SIX consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead midway through the opening period. However, it was ALL Lakers after that. Anthony Davis scored 34 points and added nine rebounds, while LBJ had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, as the Lakers cruised to a 116-98 win. The Lakers did whatever they wanted. They outrebounded Miami 54-36, led by as many as 32 points and made 15 three-pointers. Adding insult to injury, Miami Point PG Goran Dragic left in the second quarter and word is, he has a torn plantar fascia in his left foot (if so, he's done). More bad news  was that Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a left shoulder strain and Jimmy Butler played through a twisted left ankle. Game 2 is Friday and I'll update the situation in tomorrow's Notes.MLB Playoffs: The NL 'joined the party' on Wednesday with four Game 1s. The first game out of the box (Cin/Atl) featured a terrific pitching matchup between Trevor Bauer and Max Fried. The result? Wednesday's starters combined to throw 14.2 scoreless innings and strike out 17 batters in a game eventually won 1-0 by Atlanta in 13 innings. NO postseason game had ever gone so deep into extra innings before the first run was scored and the teams combined for a playoff-record 37 strikeouts. The Marlins and Cubs followed from Wrigley Field with Miami winning 5-1 on the strength of a five-run 7th (ghosts of Steve Bartman?). The Cards beat the Padres 7-4 in San Diego, meaning they need just one more win to eliminate the Padres from the postseason for the FOURTH time since 1996. They swept the Padres in the NLDS in 1996 and 2005, and won 3-1 in the NLDS in 2006, which was the last time San Diego made the postseason. The NL schedule concluded with the No. 1 LA Dodgers taking care of the No. 8 seed Brewers, 4-2.Back in the AL, the Astros (just 29-31 in the regular season) eliminated the Twins with a 3-1 win in Game 2. The Twins are now 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their ALDS at the New York Yankees back on Oc. 5, 2004, losing SEVEN consecutive series. Kudos to Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs with Houston this season and advanced for the first time in SEVEN series since winning the 2003 NLDS with the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees followed their dominating 12-3 win over the Indians in game 1 with a 10-9 win over the Cleveland Indians, what is now the longest nine-inning game in major league history. It lasted 4 hours, 50 minutes and that does NOT include two rain delays totaling another 76 minutes. The top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays eliminated the Blue Jays with an 8-2 win, The Al's top team (40-20) saw starters Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow dominate Toronto batters, pitching a combined 11.2 innings while allowing just two ERs with 17 Ks and just three walks. While the Blue Jays, Indians and Twins are going home, the A's forced a Game 3 with the White Sox with a 5-3 win. Chicago's Dallas Keuchel allowed FIVE runs (three earned) in just 3.1 innings.It's a deciding Game 3 in the AL between the White Sox and A's on Thursday plus four Game 2s in the NL, with the Brewers, Cubs, Padres and Reds all facing a "win-or-go-home" scenario. So far, home teams have gone 5-7 and there have been five overs and seven unders in MLB's playoffs.CFB 2020 has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 and the month of September was an unusually 'quiet' one. No one is saying "we are out of the woods" just yet but the hope is that we will see MUCH more CFB being played the rest of the way, as the Big Ten begins play in late-October plus the Pac-12, MAC and MWC start up in early November. Fingers crossed. The entire month of September saw just FOUR games played between ranked teams. The higher ranked team won all four, going 3-1 ATS. Saturday provides two contests between ranked opponents, both in the SEC. No. 2 Alabama will host No. 13 Texas A&M ('Bama is favored by 18) and No. 4 Georgia will host No. 7 Auburn (Bulldogs are favored by 6 1/2-points).The CFB weekend opens on Friday, as No. 22 BYU, coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, is hosting La Tech. The 2-0 Cougars are favored by 24 points over a La Tech team that is also 2-0 and  is coming off a 10-3 season in which the Bulldogs beat Miami 14-0 in the Independence Bowl. For what it's worth, the Bulldogs became the first Group of 5 school to shut out a Power-5 school in a bowl game since the BCS/CFP era began in 1998. BYU is one of 13 ranked teams playing unranked teams this weekend, including three top-10 schools. No. 1 Clemson is home to UVa laying 28 points, No. 3 Florida hosts South Carolina and is an 18-point favorite and No. 9 Texas hosts TCU and is laying 12. Beware of ranked teams playing unranked opponents, as Y-T-D, ranked teams are 24-4 SU but only 10-17-1 ATS (that's 37.0 percent). when playing unranked opponents. Will it turnaround? I'll update this trend in Monday's Notes.Before I go, it's Thursday Night in the NFL, as the NFL Network brings us a "Losers Night Out" contest with Denver playing at the NY Jets. The Broncos and Jets are both 0-3 for the second straight season, and each is looking to avoid dropping their first four games in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. Barring a tie, one team will  avoid an 0-4 start. Denver opened a 2 1/2-point favorite but with the news that the Broncos will start their third different QB this season, the Jets are currently favored by 1 1/2-points (and climbing?). Brett Rypien (nephew of Super Bowl-winning QB Mark Rypien) will make his first NFL start. You make the call. I'm passing. Friday's Notes will focus on NFL Week 4.Good luck...Larry 

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Sep 30

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

MLB's expanded 16-team postseason opened Tuesday with the lower-seed team winning THREE of the four games. The lone exception was the AL's No. 1 seed, Tampa Bay, beating 8th-seeded Toronto 3-1. It all started when the Astros and Twins entered the 9th-inning tied at one-all. A two-out error by Minnesota shortstop Jorge Polanco kept Houston alive in the top of the inning, before a bases-loaded walk forced in the go-ahead run and a two-run single followed. The Astros beat the Twins 4-1 to open their AL playoff series and stretch Minnesota's all-time postseason record to 17 straight losses, while the Astros became the first team in major league history to win a game after reaching the postseason with a losing record. Chicago's Lucas Giolito dazzled in his postseason debut, throwing SIX perfect innings. He didn't allow a baserunner until Tommy La Stella's single up the middle to start the seventh, as the White Sox won 4-1. Tampa Bay's Blake Snell took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Toronto, helped by some splashy defensive plays by shortstop Willy Adames and a two-run HR from Manuel Margot (Rays won 3-1). The nightcap saw Gerrit Cole strike out 13 batters over seven innings (allowed two runs), while the Yankees ripped probable AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber for seven ERs in 4.2 innings of a 12-3 New York rout.All four AL series continue on Wednesday with the four Game 1 losers in a "win-or-go-home" scenario in their respective Game 2s. The NL 'joins the party' on Wednesday with four Game 1s of their own. Up first it's Cincinnati (in its first postseason since 2013) playing in Atlanta against the Braves, who have won the NL East the last three seasons. However, the Braves have dropped NINE straight postseason series since beating Houston during the 2001 NLDS, not including an additional one-game 2012 NL wild-card loss against St Louis. The Marlins at the Cubs come next. The Marlins are just the second team in MLB history to reach the postseason the year after losing at least 100 games and own the distinction of having been to the playoffs only twice before in franchise history, while winning the World Series both times. Note: There is a Steve Bartman Watch today at Wrigley!<p>The 30-28 Cardinals open at the 38-23 Padres, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2006. I wonder if San Diego is happy to open with St Louis? Fact is, this is the fourth time the Padres and Cardinals have met in the opening round of the National League playoffs. The bad news for San Diego is, the Cardinals eliminated the Padres in 1996, 2005 and 2006, winning NINE of 10 games. Revenge? Lastly, the Dodgers, who finished with a MLB-best 43-17 record, will host the brewers, who like Houston, made the playoffs with a sub-.500 record (29-31). These two teams met in the 2018 NLCS, when Los Angeles needed SEVEN games to advance to the World Series. This series can't go SEVEN but will it go THREE?The NBA Finals are finally here and how many thought we'd actually make it this far? The Miami Heat are just the East's No. 5 seed but they are in The Finals against the LA Lakers, the West's No. 1 seed. Miami is the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. The Lakers cleared enough cap space to lure LeBron James in 2018 free agency and then traded the cache of draft assets they collected in six straight trips to the lottery for Anthony Davis. Owning two of the five best players in the league has the Lakers on the verge of tying the Celtics for the most NBA titles all-time, at 17.The Lakers cleared enough cap space to lure LeBron James in 2018 free agency and then traded the cache of draft assets they collected in six straight trips to the lottery for Anthony Davis. Owning two of the five best players in the league has the Lakers on the verge of tying the Celtics for the most NBA titles all-time, at 17. A.D. (28.8 & 9.3) and LBJ (26.7-10.3-8.9) don't exactly have the kind of supporting cast you would expect from a dominant playoff team but those two are one "Dynamic Duo." While the Lakers own the two-best players in this series, all five Miami starters are averaging in double figures and Kentucky rookie guard Tyler Herro (16.5 PPG) has become a playoff star coming off the bench.LBJ is looking for his FOURTH title and the Lakers would be the third team he's won with (twice with Miami and once with Cleveland). As for A.D, it would be his first. Both teams are 12-3 SU this postseason but Miami is 12-3 ATS, while the Lakers are 9-5-1. LA is favored by 4 1/2-points at BetOnline in Game 1 and are about 4-to-1 to win the title.Good luck...Larry 

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Sep 29

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020

NFL concluded Week 3 with a highly-anticipated MNF showdown between 2018 MVP Pat Mahomes and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson. By game's end (KC won 34-20), Pat Mahomes won by KO. The Super Bowl MVP passed for 385 yards with four TDs, no INTs and earned a QB rating of 133.5. Jackson threw for just 97 yards (1 TD / 0 INTs / 73.1 rating) and added 83 yards rushing  but no TDs, Mahomes had now thrown nine TD passes without an interception in 121 attempts (QB rating of 114.3), as the Chiefs joined the Bills, Steelers and Titans at 3-0 in the AFC. The NFC still has three unbeaten teams, the Bears, Packers and Seahawks. The Packers and Seahawks are also 3-0 ATS, while the Titans stand with an 0-3 ATS record. The Bears, Bills, Chiefs and Steelers are all 2-1 ATS. The NFC 'Least' is back, as NFC East teams are a combined 2-9-1 SU and 2-10 ATS (combined minus-97 in point differential). There was a time when the NFC West was saddled with an NFC 'Worst' label but that hasn't been the case for quite awhile now. Seattle sits atop of the division that is a collective 9-3 SU and ATS, with a combined plus-100 point differential. Four playoff teams from the 2019 field are all in some early trouble. Houston (AFC South champs) are 0-3, NFC East champ Philly is 0-2-1 and NFC wild card entrant Minnesota is also 0-3. New Orleans won the NFC South with a 13-3 record in 2019 but dropped to 1-2 after losing a SNF game to the Packers. Those teams are a combined 1-10-1 SU and 2-10 ATS.Speaking of pointspread numbers, here is the up-to-date tally on the season's first three weeks. Home teams went 6-9-1 SU and 7-9 ATS in Week 3, including home dogs going 0-3 SU and 1-2 ATS. Week 3 games averaged 52.2 PPG but unlike in Week 2 when games averaged 53.3 PPG with 11 of 16 games going over, Week 3 games saw nine games go over and seven stay under. Y-T-D totals have home teams 25-22-1 SU and 23-24-1 ATS (home dogs are 3-11 SU but 7-6-1 ATS). Over bettors are winning the 'battle' so far, with 29 overs and 19 unders (60.4%). Week 4 kicks off on Thursday, as 0-3 Denver plays at the 0-3 NY Jets. TV ratings should be sky-high.Let's hear it for the Lightning. Brayden Point scored his playoff-best 14th goal and the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 on Monday night to win the franchise's second Stanley Cup (won first in 2004). Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the 10th defenseman to win the award. The Lightning went 2-1 in the seeding round and then 16-6 in the playoffs, as last night's win made Tampa Bay a perfect 7-0 after a loss. Everyone remembers last season's shocking first-round sweep by Columbus after the Lightning had tied the NHL single-season wins record (62) and won the Presidents' Trophy with 128 points. However, the Lightning also exorcised playoff demons from 2015 in the Finals when they lost four consecutive games to Chicago after going up 2-1 plus Tampa Bay also blew 3-2 series leads in the Eastern Conference final in 2016 and 2018. Kudos to the NHL, which played 130 games in a bubble, 25 of them going into overtime. After more than 31,000 tests, there were zero positive coronavirus cases reported among players, coaches and staff inside the bubbles and just a handful among hotel, arena or restaurant employees. There was nothing close to a breakout. The NHL has targeted a tentative Dec 1 start date for next season, but even commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged a later December or January start is possible. However, even that is no guarantee given the uncertainty.We were never quite sure a MLB season (of ANY length) would be played in 2020 but "here we are!" Amazingly, the two teams most-affected by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins and the St Louis Cardinals, BOTH made the expanded 16-team playoff field. So did the Blue Jays, who were not allowed to play home games in Toronto and were forced to play 'home' games at their Triple-A park in buffalo (Toronto played its first 13 games on the road, while that stadium was made MLB-ready). Getting back to Miami, the Marlins became just the second team in MLB history to reach the postseason the year after losing at least 100 games, joining the 2017 Minnesota Twins. Their 16-season playoff drought was the second-longest active streak in the majors, behind the Seattle Mariners (19). The Marlins have been to the playoffs only twice before in franchise history but they won the World Series both times (watch out!). MLB's 60-game schedule was limited to regional play, so SEVEN of the eight wild card series features teams that haven't met since 2019! The exception is the series between AL East rivals Toronto and Tampa Bay. The Padres (NL's No. 4 seed) are in the postseason for the first time since 2006, the White Sox (AL's No. 7 seed) are in for the first time since 2008 and the Reds (NL's No. 7 seed) are in for the first time since 2013. Tampa Bay won the AL East for the first time since 2010 and is the AL's No. 1 seed. Oakland won the NL West for the first time since 2013, a comfortable seven games ahead of the Astros. Houston, which had won three AL West titles with 101, 103 and 107 wins from 2017-2019, is one of two teams to make the postseason with a losing record (29-31). The Brewers are the other team as Milwaukee also went 29-31, making the playoffs for a third straight season. The Yankees and Dodgers were favored to meet in the 2020 World Series and while the Dodgers put together MLB's best record (43-17), the Yankees fought through injuries to go a much more modest 33-27, entering as the AL's No. 5 seed. The Dodgers are solid favorites at BetOnline to win the NL at +140, followed by the Padres (+450), the Braves (+575) and the Cubs (+750). All other teams are 10-1 or higher. The AL race is tighter, with the Rays at +325 and the Yanks at +350. The Twins (+575), A's (+650), White Sox (+700) and the Indians (+700) follow, with the remaining teams at 10-1 or higher. The Dodgers are +300 to win the World Series, while the Rays and Yankees are both listed at +650. All others are 10-1 or higher.The Four AL series begin Tuesday, with the four NL Game 1s set for Wednesday. All four AL series will also play on Wednesday (EIGHT games in all), as FOUR teams will be one loss away from elimination. This season's wild card round could be nicknamed, "The Fast and Furious," Play Ball!Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Sep 28

Monday, Sep 28, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The NFL concludes its Week 3 schedule with its marquee game, as the defending champion KC Chiefs (2-0) visit Baltimore to take on the 2-0 Ravens. This was the matchup all anticipated to be last season's AFC championship game but the 14-2 Ravens (-10) were upset 28-12 by the Tennessee Titans. Does it get any better than Mahomes vs Jackson? The Ravens are favored by 3 points (-125) at BetAnySports. I'll recap NFL Week 3 in Tuesday's Ness Notes but first let's look back at the college football weekend.There were three games featuring top-25 opponents (had been just ONE, prior to Saturday) and the higher ranked team won all three (2-1 ATS). Fourteen other ranked teams were in action against an unranked opponent and while 12 of the 14 won, the group went just 5-8-1 ATS. As September comes to a close, ranked teams vs unranked opponents are 24-4 SU but only 10-17-1 ATS (that's 37.0 percent). The two losses by ranked teams were more than a little noteworthy. No. 3 Oklahoma welcomed Kansas St to Norman looking for revenge from last season's 48-41 loss at Manhattan, as a 23.5 point favorite. Kansas State lost its home opener to Arkansas State two weeks ago and had its roster depleted by COVID-19 but came back from a 35-14 deficit in the late third quarter to win, 38-35 as a four-TD underdog. The Wildcats outscored the Sooners 17-0 in the fourth quarter and after giving up 455 yards the first three quarters, held Oklahoma to 62 yards in the fourth. It marked K-State's first-ever road win over a top-3 opponent and its first win while playing as an unranked team against an AP top-3 opponent in 30 tries (now 1-29!).Defending champion LSU opened its season against Miss St, as Mike Leach made his SEC coaching debut for the Bulldogs. Miss St, led by K.J. Costello (a Stanford graduate transfer) ended LSU's 17-game winning streak with a 44-34 upset as a little more than a two-TD underdog. Leach's "Air Raid" offense suited Costello just fine, as he threw six TD passes plus set an SEC-record with 623 passing yards. LSU became the first defending champ to lose its season opener since Michigan did so back in 1998.<p>Speaking of rankings, the latest AP poll was released on Sunday afternoon. It was sure a poll unlike any before it (AP began its poll back in 1936), as the AP decided that all FBS schools planning to play in 2020 could be included (note Big Ten starts Oct 24 and Pac-12 schools are expected to return Nov 6). Clemson remains No. 1 (55 of 62 1st-place votes) and Alabama, after extending its record of consecutive wins over an unranked opponent to 92 with a win 38-19 at Missouri, sits No. 2 with three, first-place votes. Ohio St, which was a close No. 2 to Clemson in the preseason poll, is ranked No. 6 and actually got four first-place votes. The Buckeyes were one of FIVE schools ranked in the AP's preseason poll to enter Sunday's poll, despite not yet playing. Miss St, unranked in the preseason, entered the poll at No. 16. SIX schools dropped out of the poll, including No. 19 ULL which improved to 3-0,  No. 20 Va Tech which beat NC State 45-24 despite missing 23 players due to COVID-19 and No. 25 Marshall which was idle.The 2020 NBA Finals are set, as the LA Lakers (No. 1 seed in the West) will meet the Miami Heat (No. 5 seed in the East. The Lakers (including their beginnings in Minneapolis) are in the Finals for the 32nd time in franchise history (but first appearance since 2010) and a 17th title would tie them with the Celtics for the most all-time, Miami is making its sixth Finals appearance (win in ) but first without longtime star Dwyane Wade. Game 1 is set for Thursday. Full preview and NBA postseason numbers to-date, in Wednesday's Notes.Bye-Bye Denver and Boston. Entering this season's Western conference finals with the Lakers, the Nuggets had played FOUR consecutive seven-game series the last two postseasons. They won their first in 2019 against Utah, but then lost to the Blazers last season, as Portland won Games 6 and 7. Here in 2020, the Nuggets fell behind the Jazz AND the Clippers 3-1 but came back to capture each one in seven games. In the process, Denver became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit TWICE in the same postseason. In the East, Boston swept longtime rival Philly 4-0 in the first round but after taking the first two games against defending champions Toronto, needed seven games to dispatch the Raptors. Boston's performance in the East Finals against the Miami Heat was an abject embarrassment. Boston heads into the offseason, dealing with the reality that they collapsed in the second half of THREE of its four losses. Boston entered the 4th-quarter of Game up 12 but the Heat forced OT and won. Boston then owned a 17-point lead in the first half of Game 2 but didn't wait for the final period to collapse, getting outscored 37-17 in the third quarter. Boston then gave up a 26-6 fourth-quarter run in Game 6 that officially sealed its fate.The Stanley Cup final continues with Game 6 on Monday. The Lightning took a 3-1 series lead with a 5-4 OT win in Game 4 on Friday but playing the very next night, the Stars staved off elimination with a 3-2 win in double-OT. However, they still trail 3-2 and the Lightning are a perfect 6-0 in games following a playoff loss in this year's postseason. Tampa Bay is a minus-160 favorite at BetAnySports. MLB's COVID-shortened season is complete and its 16-team playoff-field starts play tomorrow. I'll feature some random thoughts on the 2020 MLB season in Tuesday Notes, along with that NFL Week 3 recap.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Sep 25

Friday, Sep 25, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 3 kicked off Thursday night, as the Dolphins easily handled the Jags 31-13 in Jacksonville. Who says Ryan Fitzpatrick is no more than a journeyman? The 37-year-old accounted for three TDs ( two passing / one rushing). He became the first NFL quarterback to notch six wins over the same opponent with SIX different teams. The blowout also gave Miami its first double-digit victory in 39 games, ending the longest drought in the league. NFL home teams have gone 19-13 SU but just 16-15-1 ATS the first two weeks, including home dogs going 3-8 SU but 6-4-1 ATS. Eleven of the 16 Week 2 games went over (average final score was 53.3 PPG), as overs lead unders 20-12 (62.5%).Week 3 features two games between 2-0 teams. The Rams at the Bills (Buff is -2.5) plus on MNF, the 2-0 Ravens host the 2-0 Chiefs. Baltimore is favored by 3.5, as the two teams expected to meet in last season's AFC championship game square off. Think anyone will be watching? The only game between 0-2 teams is the Bengals at the Eagles (Philly is -4.5). There are three games featuring a 2-0 team vs an 0-2 one. The 2-0 Titans are at 0-2 Vikings (Tenn is -2.5), the 2-0 Steelers host the 0-2 Texans (Pitt is -4) and the 2-0 Cardinals host the 0-2 Lions ( Arz is -5.5). SNF has a good one in 2-0 Green Bay at 1-1 New Orleans, Rodgers vs Brees (Saints are -3).The Lakers beat the Nuggets 114-108 last night to take a 3-1 lead in the western conference finals A.D. had 34 points, LBJ 26-9-8 and Dwight Howard got his first start of the postseason, adding 12 & 11. The Nuggets shot 50.6% as a team but it wasn't enough. Does Denver have LA right where it wants? The Nuggets have already overcome two, 3-1 deficits this postseason. Game 5 is Saturday (early line is LA -6). Game 5 of the East is set for tonight, with Miami leading 3-1. Miami can become the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. Boston is in the East Finals for the third time in four years but hasn't advanced to the NBA Finals since 2010. Boston last won an NBA title in 2008 and before that, its last title was back in 1986, the last of Bird's three NBA championships. Each team has scored exactly 441 points but that's NOT indicative, as the Heat have been the better team (Miami is 11-2 SU & ATS this postseason). However, Boston is favored by three points in Game 5.of a one-sided series.  Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 37-35-2 ATS , while the under has cashed in 44 of the 74 games (59.5 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 26-31-2 ATS (45.6%) or minus-.8.1 net units (last night's game was graded as a 'push').MLB enters its final weekend. The Blue Jays clinched a playoff spot in the AL with their 4-1 win last night over the Yankees. Yes, the Cardinals and Marlins dealt with major COVID outbreaks but let's NOT forget the Blue Jays were denied the ability to play in Toronto by the Canadian government, so they instead played their home games at their Triple-A stadium in Buffalo, NY. The team was forced to open the season with 13 games straight on the road. Kudos to the franchise that won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. The Astros can wrap up the final playoff spot in the American League on Friday with a win over the Rangers OR an Angels loss to the Dodgers. Speaking of the Marlins and the Cards. Miami can clinch second place in the NL East and the playoff spot that goes with it Friday with a win over the Yankees AND a Phillies loss to the Rays. The Cards currently hold down second place in the NL Central but they Cards enter Friday to either earn the second-place spot in the division, grab one of the NL's two wild cards or miss the postseason entirely. Note: St Louis could be forced into a make-up doubleheader with Detroit on Monday.Next Ness Notes on Monday by 1:00 ET.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes

Thursday, Sep 24, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."  The Lightning took 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals with a dominating 5-2 win over the Stars. Wouldn't it be "just desserts" if the Lightning won it all this year, after last season's 'disaster.' Even casual fans may remember that the Lightning went 62-16-4 (128 points) in the 2018-19 season, tying the record for most wins in a single season in NHL history. However, the Lightning then got swept in four games by Columbus in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 4 is Saturday (early line has Tampa Bay as a -160 favorite.The Miami Heat have not just been the most surprising team in this year's postseason (Came in as the East's No. 5 seed) but they've also been the NBA's best team this playoff season (so far). The Heat beat the Celtics 112-109 to take a 3-1 lead in the series. All FIVE of Miami's starters are averaging in double digits, while Kentucky rookie Tyler Hero is chipping in 16.5 PPG (he had a 37 points last night!). The Heat are now 11-2 SU and ATS this postseason. The West Finals resume tonight from Orlando, as the top-seeded Lakers take on the third-seeded Nuggets. Each of the Nuggets' four previous playoff series (two last year and two this year) have gone to seven games, with Denver winning THREE of them, The Nuggets rallied from 3-1 deficits in each of their first two series this postseason and after falling in an 0-2 'hole' against the Lakers, bounce back with an impressive 114-106 win in Game 3. Are we headed to another seven-game Denver series? The Lakers are favored by six points in tonight's game. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 37-35-1 ATS , while under cashed in 44 of the 73 games (60.3 percent. For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 26-31-1 ATS (45.6%) or minus-.8.1 net units.MLB enters the final four days of its COVID-shortened 60-game schedule and there are still a few playoff spots up for grabs in this season's expanded 16-team field. It's no surprise that the Dodgers own MLB's best record (39-17 or that they won the NL West for the EIGHTH consecutive year. However, the Padres have secured a second-place finish in the NL West (all second-place teams are assured a playoff spot), as San Diego (just 70-92 in 2019) will participate in MLB's postseason for the first time since 2006. The surprising Chicago White Sox, off a 72-89 season in 2019, have clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2008. The Yankees were the clear favorites to represent the AL in the World Series at the start of the season, as well as strong favorites to win the AL East. However, the 37-20 Tampa Bay Rays have  won their first AL East title since 2010 and are likely to wind up as the AL's top-seed.The 2020 CFB season has started slowly and late due to COVID-19 but the SEC (the nation's top conference) finally opens its season on Saturday. There has been just one game between ranked opponents up until now, as No. 17 Miami-Florida handled No. 18 Louisville last Saturday, 47-34. However, there are three games this Saturday in which ranked opponents square off against each other. No. 8 Auburn (-7.5) is home vs No. 23 Kentucky, No. 14 Cincinnati (-13.5) hosts 2-0 Army (note: Army was just 5-8 in 2019) and No. 21 Pittsburgh (-3) is home against No. 24 Louisville. There are 14 teams playing unranked teams this weekend and note that while ranked teams are 12-2 SU against unranked opponents so far in 2020, they are a 'money-burning' 5-9 ATS. I'll follow this trend all season here at Ness Notes.Be back Friday at 1:00 ET.Good luck...Larry

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2020 NBA Playoffs: A Championship Unlike Any Other

Sunday, Aug 16, 2020

Hearing Jim Nantz say the catchphrase, "A tradition unlike any other" around the Masters each year over the last three decades has become a tradition unto itself. The saying has even been trademarked by Augusta National and now adorns tournament merchandise. However, COVID-19 has had a way of 'influencing' many traditions in the sports world in 2020. Case in point is The Masters itself, which was postponed from April 9-12 to Nov 12-15 AND will be played without patrons or guests on the grounds. Quoting Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there?"That brings me to the 2020 NBA postseason, which in many respects, will challenge its players and teams like never before. The NBA was the first professional sports league to shut down and most consider the league, led by Adam Silver, to have had the best response to the current pandemic. Twenty-two of the league's 30 teams were sent to an Orlando 'bubble,' with all 22 playing eight games to decide the final seeding order of the 16 teams which would begin the 2020 postseason. The 'experiment' has basically gone off without a hitch and fans (along with us bettors) have been treated to some entertaining games. Portland's Damian Lillard was the bubble's brightest star, averaging 36.9 PPG in the nine games the Blazers needed to clinch the West's final playoff spot, although Portland's reward is a first round matchup with the top-seeded Lakers. The most surprising team in Orlando was the Suns, who were just 26-39 when play was halted in March but then went 8-0 in "the bubble," as well as going a perfect 8-0 ATS, as well. Raise your hand if you saw that coming! However, the Suns' brilliance was all for naught, as they missed out on a spot in the West's play-in game to Memphis (both teams finished 34-39) because they lost the season series 3-1 to the Grizzlies.With the 2020 postseason tipping off on Monday (Aug 17), let me note that the NBA consists of 30 teams but just 15 have won championships since the 1976-77 merger. Only EIGHT teams have won multiple titles, with the Lakers leading the way with 10. The Lakers are followed by the Bulls (six), Spurs (five), Celtics (four), Warriors, (three), Heat (three), Pistons (three) and Rockets (two). Will the fact that all teams are playing neutral-site games make for a more wide-open postseason? I wouldn't count on it. The NBA has NOT presented us with many "surprise" champions for quite some time now.As I point out every year at this time (granted, a little later in the year here in 2020), it’s not as if the NBA playoffs typically serve up “unlikely” champs. Bird and Magic entered the NBA for the start of the 1979-80 season, rejuvenating what was a 'dying' league. Here's what a check of the history books tells us. Of the 40 championship teams since that 1979-80 season, 19 have been teams which finished the regular season with the best regular season record (or tied for the best record). Ten champs have been teams which finished with its second-best mark and six others with its third-best record.That leaves just FIVE champions from outside the top-three regular season records over the last 40 seasons (or just 12.5 percent). That 'Group of 5' includes the 2010-11 Mavericks and the 2011-12 Heat, who both finished with the fourth-best record that year. The 2005-06 Heat finished  with the league's fifth-best record that season and the 2003-04 Pistons finished with the league's sixth-best mark. However, that Detroit team deserves an asterisk, because after acquiring Rasheed Wallace during the regular season, the Pistons owned the NBA’s best record after the All Star break and by year’s end, were HARDLY considered the league’s sixth-best team. That leaves the 1994-95 Houston Rockets as the fifth team to win an NBA title these last 40 years, without finishing the regular season with at least the league’s third-best regular season record. That squad deserves a “special mention.”You may remember that following a third straight NBA title in 1992-93 with the Bulls, MJ decided to pursue a career in MLB. The tragic death of his father was said to have had something to do with MJ’s decision, although there are other theories out there. Anyway, with MJ in the minors and not on an NBA court, the 1993-94 Rockets (coached by Rudy T and led by Hakeem) won the title in a seven-game series over the Knicks, who were coached by Pat Riley and led by Patrick Ewing. The following season, the Rockets finished with a record of 47-35, tied for the 10th-best mark during the regular season. However, they beat in order, the 60-22 Jazz, the 59-23 Suns and the 62-20 Spurs (owners of the league's best record that year in David Robinson's MVP season) in the Western Conference playoffs, to reach the NBA Finals. Waiting for them were the 57-25 Magic, led by Shaq and Penny, who had eliminated the Bulls and MJ, who had returned late in that season from his MLB 'sabbatical.' The Rockets swept the Magic in four games, giving Rudy T and Hakeem back-to-back titles and giving Clyde Drexler (who was acquired from Portland during the season in a trade), the lone NBA title of his Hall-of-Fame career. Houston 'victims' that postseason had a combined record of 238-90 (.726) during the regular season. No championship team, before or since, has beaten a more impressive group of challengers on its way to an NBA title.On the eve of the 2020 playoffs, should we expect any surprises. The Milwaukee Bucks own the league's best record (56-17), followed by the defending champion Toronto Raptors (53-19). Completing the "Big Three" is the LA Lakers (52-19), the West's No. 1 seed. I'm not even a little 'sold' on the Lakers and like the chances of Bucks and Raptors, much more. It would be hard to call the LA Clippers a "dark horse" but at 49-27, they are outside of this year's "Big Three," who as noted above, have won 35 of the last 40 NBA titles (87.5%). Kawhi and George make up a dynamic combo (offense and defense) plus Wiliams and Harrell make up the NBA's best one-two 'punch' off the bench. Kawhi's already a HOF lock but what would it mean for him to add a third title to his resume, joining his championship season with the Spurs (in 2014) and his one last year with the Raptors. Kwahi was The Finals' MVP in both 2014 and 2019 and if the Clippers win it all in 2020, would anyone like to bet against him NOT being the Finals' MVP, again? I bet the playoffs game by game and series by series but a small wager on the Clippers to "win it all," is warranted.Good luck...Larry

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Major League Baseball's Back (Fingers Crossed)

Monday, Jun 29, 2020

After negotiations between owners and players failed to produce a settlement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred instituted a 60-game schedule. It's expected to begin July 23 or July 24 and last until late September. Teams will play their four divisional opponents 10 times each and five interleague opponents in the same geographical area four games apiece (example: NL East will play AL East). The playoff structure remains the same (10 teams) but significant changes are that the National League games will use a designated hitter and when a game moves to extra innings, teams will begin with a runner on second base (that will NOT apply for postseason games).Before continuing, let me first address 'the elephant in the room.' Covid-19 hovers over almost all aspects of our lives and each sport has protocols to be followed. However, to face reality, they are all 'flying blind.' As generals say during war time, "Conditions on the ground will dictate." Here are three conditions (according to reports) that could lead to the season being canceled: 1) if restrictions on travel throughout the country are imposed; 2) if the season poses "an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games,"; and 3) if the competitive integrity of the season is compromised by the number of players who are available.The above is beyond our control, so let's talk baseball. Before the start of the 2020 season was postponed in March, the Dodgers and Yankees were favored to meet in the 2020 World Series. Following the announcement of a 60-game season, the World Series title odds were released by various sportsbooks. At Bovada, the Dodgers and Yankees were co-favorites at +375, followed by the Astros at +800. No other team was better than 15-1. At the other end of the spectrum, the Pirates were 400-to-1, with the Orioles and Marlins listed at 300-to-1.When the coronavirus pandemic suspended the start of the baseball season back in March, the Dodgers had the highest season win total at Caesars Sportsbook at 102.5. Caesars' adjusted win totals for the 60-game season look like this (note: teams must play a minimum of 59 games for season win-total bets to be valid, according to Caesars Sportsbook's rules). The Dodgers opened at 37 wins and the Yankees checked in at 36.5. 18 teams had win totals between 34.5 (Astros/Twins) to 30.5 (Brewers/Red Sox). The Orioles (20.5) and Tigers (21.5) had the fewest win-total predictions (five teams had predictions of under 25 wins).Here's some history you may want to know before you make a future bet. The most wins through 60 games over the past five years were 41, 41, 42, 42 and 39. The average winning percentage of the worst playoff team in each league over the last five seasons is .549 (that translates to 33-27 over 60 games). The worst "playoff" team through 60 games was between 31 and 33 wins in each league in each season (again over the past five years).The volatility of a 60-games season could see some "surprise teams." Remember, the Nationals (2019 champs) were just 19-31 after 50 games last season and 27-33 after 60 games. I think it's possible to make the case that as many as 15 teams are capable of going 39-21 over a 60-game stretch but most would be incapable of sustaining that over 162 games. There's a pretty decent chance that a 31-29 team will make the playoffs, while a 32-28 team will miss it. Could the "third wild-card" team" (the one just missing out), actually have a better record than at least one division winner? It would hardly be a shocker.MLB has always been my favorite sport to bet/handicap but clearly we will be faced with unique challenges this season. It's unlikely that starters will pitch 'deep' into games the first few weeks and we could see many more teams turning to the practice of using "Openers," a la Tampa Bay (the depth of the Rays' bullpen could give them an edge in this shortened season).With the launch of Al's new site this upcoming August, I will feature a daily "Ness Notes" feature, EXCLUSIVELY at bigal.com. It will run Monday through Friday, available by 1:00 ET."Let's play ball!" The NBA and NHL are scheduled to join the 'party' in late July as well, virus permitting.Good luck...Larry

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Notes From Colonial: Welcome Back PGA

Tuesday, Jun 09, 2020

The Colonial golf tournament has been held every year since 1946, with exceptions in 1949 (flooding of the Trinity River, which orders the course) and 1975, when the club hosted the second Tournament Players Championship in August. The most noteworthy winner of the tournament is Ben Hogan; the late Fort Worth resident won five times, which earned the course the nickname "Hogan's Alley." Many may remember that Annika Sörenstam played in the 2003 tournament and became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years (Babe Zaharias made three cuts as an amateur in 1945). Sörenstam's participation drew HUGE media attention but she shot 71 and 74 and missed the cut by four strokes.As noted above, the Colonial golf tournament has been held every year since 1946, making it the longest running non-major tour event held at the same site. Charles Schwab & Co, a major sponsor on the PGA Tour and PGA Champions Tour, expanded its golf presence in 2019 by assuming title sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club (four-year agreement, from 2019-2022). The 2020 tournament will be played June 11–14, as the first PGA Tour event staged since the interruption of the regular schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interests of maximum health and safety, the tournament will be played with no spectators attending, which will be a PGA Tour first.While there won’t be fans on the grounds at Colonial Country Club when the PGA Tour resumes play on Thursday, 16 of the top-20 in the Official World Rankings will be participating. The Tour announced its featured groupings on Sunday and the top-three ranked players in the world—Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka—will play together. The trio played together in the first round of this year's Players Championship back on March 12, which was eventually wiped out when the tournament was canceled on Thursday night at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic (FYI...Rahm shot 69, Koepka 70 and McIlroy 72). McIlroy is the hottest player in the game with one win and five other top-5s in his last six starts (he is making his tournament debut). Rahm has played just five events in the 2019-20 season but has four top-10 finishes  His best finishes are a 2nd at the Farmers (Torrey Pines) in late January and a T-3 at the WGC-Mexico Championship, which is the last time he's played an event (ended Feb 23). Rahm has two top-5s at Colonial. Koepka, who has won FOUR majors since 2017 (two US Opens and two PGAs), will be making his sixth appearance of the current season. Believe it or not, he's had two missed cuts, had a W/D at the CJ Cup@Nine Bridges, plus owns a T-43 at the Genesis Invitational (Riviera) and a T-47 in Arrnie's tourney at Bay Hill. Koepka has played at Colonial only once, but he shot a pair of 63s to finish T-2 in 2017.Boyhood friends Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth will play with arguably the Tour's "favorite son," Rickie Fowler. Spieth turns 27 in late July and has already won 11 PGA Tour events, including THREE majors. However, Jordan's last Tour win was the 2017 British Open. He tees off Thursday at Colonial having gone SIXTY starts since winning his third major. Meanwhile, Thomas (who turned 27 in April) has caught and passed his longtime friend with 12 Tour titles (lone major came in the 2017 PGA). Two of his career wins have come in the current season and he tees off at Colonial ranked 4th in the OWR. The ever-popular Fowler, who will turn 32 in December, will tee it up for the 243rd start of his career but owns a modest FIVE wins and NO majors.Kevin Na (four career PGA wins) is the defending Schwab Challenge champion, as he won by four shots over Tony Finau in 2019. Na will be paired with Gary Woodland and Phil. Woodland, like Na, owns a modest four PGA wins (turned professional in 2007) but one of them was the 2019 US Open. Phil needs no introduction but note he turns 50 on June 16 and has dropped to No. 63 in the World Rankings with four missed cuts in his last five starts. Phil won the 2013 British Open (his fifth major) and shortly thereafter declared, "I'm playing the best golf of my career!" Phil's won 44 PGA titles (9th all-time) but since that win at The Open, he's won TWO of his 143 starts. Good luck...Larry

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