Upstarts Boise State, Central Florida should coast

Nov 12, 2002 2:17 AM

   Contenders kick it up in tight conference races. As we near the finish line to the college football season, league titles will be made or broken in a few key matchups.

   Here are a few worth watching.

   Maryland (-pts) at Clemson: The Terrapins still have an outside shot at the ACC title. With their come-from-behind win over NC State last week, they appear to be playing best in the conference. Clemson avoided its seventh straight pointspread loss, thanks to a miserable Tar Heels squad. We’ll continue to ride MARYLAND.

   No. Carolina at Florida St (-pts): Meanwhile, back in Tallahassee, FSU should have no problem with North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense has either quit or taken an early holiday break. Over the last four games, the “D” had stretches in which it was outscored 37-6, 31-0, 59-0 and 42-3. The Seminoles look forward to throwing their feather-ed headband into the ring. FSU.

   Ohio St (-pts) at Illinois: The Buckeyes escaped with a huge win at Purdue last week, when Craig Krenzel threw a 37-yard TD pass on fourth-and-one with 1:36 left. With an eye toward a showdown with Michigan next week, OSU could be looking ahead. Illinois overcame five turnovers to beat Wisconsin and should put forth a huge effort here. ILLINOIS.

   Utah (-pts) at Wyoming: The Utes avoided a seventh-straight loss last week, thanks to a slumping UNLV team. Wyoming took the lead in the fourth quarter at BYU but couldn’t hold it. But back in Laramie, QB Casey Bramlet should pick apart Utah’s secondary and get the Cowboys’ second MWC win. WYOMING.

   Air Force (-pts) at UNLV: Staying in the MWC, Air Force got back on track against Army last week. The Falcons should continue to roll against UNLV, which gave up 211 rushing yards against Utah. The Falcons may eclipse that in the first half, facing a Rebels bunch that’s 2-8 ATS. AIR FORCE.

   La Tech at Boise St (-pts): The Bulldogs were out-gunned 42-30 last week at San Jose State, which earlier lost to Boise by a 45-8 margin. The Broncos have won and covered eight straight and, in WAC play (6-0), their average margin of victory is 40 points/game. BOISE ST wins going away.

   Arizona at Cal (-pts): The Wildcats under John Mackovic are slouching toward oblivion. Arizona is 0-6 SU in league play and has lost its last three by a combined 73 points. Cal played a great game against defensively-challenged Arizona State, and should light it up again. CALIFORNIA.

   Arizona St at USC (-pts): Apparently the early hype on Arizona State’s Andrew Walter was just that — early hype. After lackluster performances against Oregon and California, Walter proved he’s no Jake Plummer, at least not yet. USC has the best defense in the PAC 10 and will shut down the fading Sun Devils. USC wins by three TDs.

   So. Carolina at Florida (-pts): The Gators coasted against Vandy last week, but they’ll kick it up against the Gamecocks. Don’t worry about South Carolina covering the points. The Gamecocks have averaged 10 points in its last four games. FLORIDA.

   Kent at C. Florida (-pts): The Golden Knights traveled to Buffalo last week and smothered the Bulls. They’ll have a similarly easy task against Kent, which was demolished by Connecticut, 63-21. UCF.

   Last week: 6-4.

   Season: 41-31-4.