11/02/2001 1:00AM

ACC no longer just about hoops


NEW YORK, N.Y. - The ACC is known for great basketball and mediocre football with the exception of Florida St. This year, however, the conference has moved up into the upper echelon of college football with five teams - FSU, Maryland, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Clemson - currently ranked in the top 25 in the AP poll and/or the ESPN-USA Today poll.

No ACC team is currently ranked in the top 10 in either poll, however, the conference is still among the deepest in the country with five bowl-bound teams and two more - N.C. State and Virginia - that are far from gimmies. Even Wake Forest, who has been amongst the youngest teams in college football the last two years, may get good over the next season or two.

The winner of the ACC will automatically receive BCS consideration while the next couple of teams should be expected to make very strong showings in games like the Gator Bowl and Peach Bowl. Until then, the conference as a whole should be respected far more than leagues like the Big East and C-USA, which have both gone down the last couple of years.


Florida St. (-7 1/2) at Clemson

This is definitely an off year for Florida St., but the Seminoles certainly deserve a little more respect than 7 1/2 points against the overrated Tigers, even on the road. Clemson has squeaked out three ACC wins, and suffered two losses despite having played the easier part of its conference schedule. The Tigers have also been no bargain at home this season with a record of 0-3 against the spread which includes outright losses to North Carolina and Virginia. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden will be looking to knock off his dad, Florida St. coach Bobby Bowden, for the second straight time at home. However, he is catching the rapidly-improving Seminoles at the wrong time. Florida State's quarterback position finally solidified last week with Chris Rix passing for 350 yards and 5 TDs against previously unbeaten Maryland to propel the 'Noles to their second straight cover. Play: Florida St. for 2 units.

Arkansas at Mississippi (-6)

Ole' Miss has scored five straight wins to gain an inside track on the SEC West title, so they can't letdown this week as they take on Arkansas at home. The Rebels and quarterback Eli Manning (Peyton's little bro) have not been held under 27 points since Sept. 8 at Auburn and have showed steady improvement to beat teams like Alabama and LSU in recent weeks. Mississippi has not been the best home favorite in recent years, but this year they are 3-0 straight-up and 2-0 against the spread at home. Arkansas, meanwhile, is strictly a home team. On the road, the Razorbacks have lost and failed to cover twice in two games as 10-point dogs against Alabama and Georgia. Ole' Miss has stomped Arkansas two years in a row by an average margin of 18-points. Look for more of the same this year. Play: Mississippi for 2 units.

Michigan at Michigan St. (+6 1/2)

Top 10 teams have been going knocked off with regularity lately, and the shooting match should continue this week as Michigan travels to East Lansing and lands smack-dab in the middle of a potential upset situation against Michigan State. The Spartans have been one of the surprise teams of the Big 10 this season, and their 4-2 record easily could have been 5-1 if not for a last-second loss at Northwestern back in September. The Wolverines have won and covered five in a row, but their last loss came to Washington back on Sept. 8 in their only previous game on artificial turf this season. Including that loss, Michigan seniors have accumulated a record of just 1-5 against the spread on turf dating back to 1998. Michigan St., meanwhile, specializes on turf with a pointspread record of 11-7 the last three years including last week's 42-28 win at Wisconsin. The Michigan defense is having a good year, but has proved vulnerable on the road with 23 points allowed to Washington and 26 points allowed to Iowa last weekend. Play: Michigan St. for 1 unit.

Iowa (-1 1/2) at Wisconsin

The Wisconsin quarterbacking depth-chart is currently reminiscent of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion from the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz. Starter Brooks Bollinger is going to need a lot of courage to play with a pulled groin, third-stringer Scott Willie will need heart to overcome a sprained ankle, and back-up Jim Sorgi, who has a concussion, is on his way to the Emerald City right now to ask the Wizard for a brain. Three questionable quarterbacks are not what the doctor ordered for the Badgers, whose defense has allowed 42 or more points in three of its last four games. Wisconsin is at home this week, but that may not help as the Badgers are already 0-4 against the spread at home, where they have covered just two of their last 11 games dating back to last year. Iowa is not generally thought of as an artificial turf team, but did cover in its only outing of the year on turf three weeks ago at Michigan St. and is now 3-1 against the spread on turf going back to last season. The Hawkeyes have covered six of their last eight road games, and have a revenge motivation against Wisconsin, which beat them in a close 13-7 game in Iowa City last year. Play: Iowa for 1 unit.

Oregon St. at USC (-6 1/2)

Last year, Oregon St. beat USC for the first time in 27 years and this year you can be sure the Trojans will be out to avenge that embarrassment to the team. The Beavers have been a tremendous disappointment this season with a record of 3-4 straight-up and 2-5 against the spread including no-covers in each of their last two games. USC's recent home record is nothing to brag about, but they did cover in their last game at the Coliseum with a 31-point win over Arizona St. Overall, the Men of Troy have now won two of their last three games while covering three of their last four. The Beavers are 0-2 against the spread on grass this season, and have not been a good road team with a record of 1-3 straight-up and against the spread. Oregon State's defense, in particular, has been much worse on the road than at home. The Beavers have allowed an average of 25.5 points in their last two road games as opposed to an average of only 6.5 points per game at home. Play: USC for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-3 (minus 1 unit)

Season record: 20-27-1 (minus 9 units)