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Bettin’ colleges!

Nov 19, 2002 7:27 AM

   Sports bettors should find some great opportunities on which to “plunge” this weekend as some of the biggest college football games of the year find the spotlight.

   Most of the games fall into the so-called rivalry genre, in which long-time match-ups such as Michigan-Ohio State, Alabama-Auburn and USC-UCLA bring out the best the teams have to offer.

   Also of interest will be a few games that could unhinge the BCS standings and the positioning of teams jockeying for a shot at the national championship.

   In analyzing these games we can feel assured that the players and coaches will be laying everything on the line, leaving nothing left in the locker room. Thus questions of motivation, looking ahead, etc. shouldn’t be a factor.

   At this time of year, we also shouldn’t worry about surprises. These teams have compiled nearly a season’s worth of information on which to judge their play and it’s not likely any major alterations will take place.

   Let’s start by looking at teams that are currently hot — they are either peaking at the right time or have somehow put it all together to hit their best stride. Alabama would be a good example.

   Conversely, it can prove profitable to continue to play against teams that are in the midst of a tailspin, or simply playing out the string. Baylor fits that dubious bill.

   It’s a fun match-up when you have a hot team playing a cold team. And we have such a collision in the MAC with Ball State and Buffalo.

   Buffalo at Ball State -17: Even though Ball State is out of contention for the league title, it has put together a nice late run, winning three of its last four and covering the points in all of them. Buffalo has lost nine straight since beating Rutgers, and has covered the spread only once in the last six games. During that stretch, the Bulls lost by four points at home to lowly Kent State. Ball State puts the capper to a decent season.

   Auburn at Alabama -10: Alabama has been riding a tremendous streak that started with a big road win over Tennessee four weeks ago and culminated last Saturday with a drubbing of LSU in Baton Rouge. Because they’re on probation and barred from post season play, the Tide is making every game count. This week it’s their “bowl” game against Auburn, and even though the number is slightly inflated, Alabama should win going away.

   Baylor at Oklahoma State -27½: Baylor has been abysmal — they’ve covered one of 10 lined games this year, and lost the last six by an average of 40 points (they were shutout in three of those games!). Oklahoma State isn’t among the Big 12 elite, but they’ve shown they can score a lot of points. Plus the Cowboys have covered four of the last five meetings. This should be number five.

   Boise State -16 at Nevada-Reno: Boise State has been lighting it up; they’ve won their last nine games and came within half a point (vs. Louisiana Tech) of covering them all. The Broncos have been doing it with a high powered offense that has eclipsed 50 points three times and 60 points twice. They should continue the onslaught at a defensively challenged Reno squad. Boise State.

   New Mexico at Colorado State -16½: Since opening MWC play, Colorado State has won five straight and covered four of them. Even though New Mexico has been playing well of late, they’ve won only one game in the last eight meetings and have covered only two of them. Sonny Lubick has the Rams rolling right now and the Lobos won’t be able to slow them down. Colorado State.

   Connecticut at Iowa State -21½: Although Connecticut has won only three games this year, they’ve been competitive, covering seven of 10, including games against Boston College, Georgia Tech and Miami-Florida. Much of the life has gone out of Iowa State, which has lost four of its last five, both SU and ATS. Even though Seneca Wallace may post some big numbers, Connecticut will score enough to stay very close.

   Akron -4½ at Kent State: These two appear to be fighting to keep out of the MAC cellar, but Akron has actually been very competitive in league play, which includes a win over high-powered Marshall. Conversely, Kent has won only one MAC contest (against Buffalo), and failed to cover every one of them! Moreover, Akron has won five straight in the series. This one should be number six. Akron.

   Toledo at Northern Illinois -3½: Northern Illinois finds itself in the unusual position of playing for a division title in the MAC. But they’ve earned the right by running the table — the Huskies are 7-0 straight up and ATS in league play. With one conference loss, Toledo has a shot at the division crown, and the Rockets have dominated the series with Northern Illinois (5-0 SU and 3-1-1 ATS in the last five meetings). But the Huskies appear to be on a mission, and even a nemesis like Toledo won’t deter them. Northern Illinois.

Here are the best of the rest:

   Michigan State at Penn State —20: Even though the Spartans showed signs of life in its last two games, they won’t be able to slow down the Nittany Lions hard-hitting attack. Penn State.

   South Florida -10 at Houston: South Florida has been impressive against its soon-to-be Conference USA rivals (they join C-USA next season). Houston’s been unimpressive against everyone. Enough said. South Florida.

   Michigan at Ohio State —5: Forget about the Buckeyes playing Miami for the national championship. They get knocked out of both the Fiesta and Rose Bowls in one fell swoop. Michigan.

   USC -4 at UCLA: The Trojans are contending for the PAC 10 crown as well as BCS honors. Plus they’ve won three straight against the Bruins, which had won the previous seven. Guess it’s time for the Victory Bell to return to Westwood. UCLA.

Last week: 7-3
Season Record: 48-34-4

In what one bookmaker called "dirty Saturday," players had their best day of the season betting college football last week.

"We lost on about a dozen games, and lost big on about six of them," said sports book director at a popular locals casino who asked not to be identified. "We made up some ground on Sunday with the NFL games, but even that was short-lived as the Raiders’ backers won big on Sunday night."

Among the games on which the players won big were Maryland over Clemson, Penn State over Indiana, Oklahoma over Baylor, Wyoming over Utah, Kansas State over Nebraska, USC over Arizona State, Colorado over Iowa State, Connecticut over Navy, and Central Florida over Kent.

In fact, the spread on the Central Florida game climbed so high that one book ceased taking parlay card (straight and teaser) bets by mid Saturday morning.