Aug 27, 2002 7:34 AM

The college season begins in earnest this week as most of the Division 1A teams hit the playing field. Although it is only the start of the season, there are several key match-ups and many interesting contests from which to choose. Here’s a rundown of games in which bettors can expect to find a solid edge.

Wake Forest —3 at Northern Illinois: Both teams are on the rise, but Wake comes off a winning season (the second since ’92) in which it won road games at East Carolina, Virginia and North Carolina. The Demons also return an experienced offense and sophisticated air attack. Northern Illinois has made strides, but its solid ground attack lacks an experienced quarterback to keep defenses honest. The inability to control the aerial assault will be Huskies downfall. Lay the points with Wake Forest.

Oklahoma —37 at Tulsa: The Sooners are geared up for another run at a national title. Last season’s 4th ranked defense could be better this season, and the offense will be more prolific with a 100 percent Jason White at the helm, and newly-acquired coordinator Kevin Wilson calling the shots. Tulsa comes off an abominable season and can’t be nearly as bad as last year (can it?), but even their solid home-field edge won’t keep Oklahoma from covering the number.

Kansas at Iowa State —20: Although the Cyclones fell short in a gritty performance against Florida State last week, quarterback Seneca Wallace emerged as a legitimate Heisman hopeful. This week, he should have little problem directing his team up and down the field against a Kansas squad that the Cyclones have beaten twice in a row by a combined 87-24. Covering three TDs shouldn’t be a problem.

Wyoming at Tennessee —33½: This is a horrible mismatch. Wyoming can’t stop the run, and their rushing attack is among the bottom 10 in the country. That doesn’t bode well against a Vol defense that will probably completely smother the Cowboys attack. Even though the Vols won’t have their massive Neeland Stadium crowd behind them, they could cover the number by the half.

UAB at Florida —31½: The Gators have a new coach, and a lot to prove with the unexpected departure of Steve Spurrier. Florida is loaded at the skill positions, and new defensive guru John Thompson will have his charges wreaking havoc on opposing teams. But Florida may be looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Miami, and the Blazers are a solid 9-0 as a double-digit dog (including covers against Florida State last season, and outright win against LSU two years ago). Take UAB to hang in against an inflated number.

Idaho at Boise State —23: The Broncos have won and covered three straight against Idaho with an average victory margin of 35 points. This year’s meeting won’t be an exception as Idaho’s defense remains one of the country’s worst, giving up 45 points a game last season. The Vandals defense appears equally undermanned this season as well, so don’t expect any quick turnarounds.