10/12/2005 11:00PM

For bettors in this city, nothing new


LAS VEGAS - Last Tuesday was the first day in three weeks without a college or pro football game on TV, so to fill the void, I went to the local multiplex to see "Two for the Money," the movie about the sports advisory business.

"Two for the Money" isn't a cinematic masterpiece and doesn't have much in the way of redeeming social value, but the subject matter kept me entertained through the 2 hours, 2 minutes running time.

Anyone who has dealt with a sports service will certainly get a kick out of it - though it may bring back bad memories - as will anyone who has watched those Saturday morning tout shows. The main character, Brandon Lang, a real-life tout who sold the story to Hollywood, is played by Matthew McConaughey, with Al Pacino playing the role of Walter Abrams, based on the infamous Stu Feiner. Renee Russo plays Abrams's wife, and the inevitable love triangle develops, which doesn't add anything to the script (written by Russo's husband, Dan Gilroy).

The credits say the film was "inspired by a true story" - it's just too bad it wasn't more inspiring. The themes would seem to be "greed is not good," "gambling is addictive," and "winning streaks don't last" - but then, in the end, no one really learns their lesson, so it's just a look at the highs and lows of gambling. Frankly, I see more drama here every weekend.

People who see the movie aren't going to run out and buy picks from touts, not after seeing that customers are viewed as losers who are to be milked for everything they have.

When all the touts were bragging about their recent winning streaks, it reminded me of the exaggerations I've often heard here: If someone says they've won 3 of their last 4, you can assume they've won only 3 of their last 5 or more, otherwise they would have said they had won 4 of their last 5. It's all smoke and mirrors, and hype.

So, let's look at reality of this Saturday's college football card. After all, after picking Penn St. to knock off Ohio St. last Saturday night, my recent record is 1-0 (full disclosure at the bottom).

Northwestern (+7 1/2) at Purdue

I've been on Wisconsin several times this year and was glad I passed on the Badgers last week, when they lost, 51-48, to Northwestern. I was really impressed with the Wildcats, and they are in a good spot this week traveling to Purdue. Neither team is very good on defense, and after last week's shootout win - over a better team - Northwestern should be able to match scores with Purdue. In a game in which both teams should be trading touchdowns - the total is set at 67 points - I like that I'm getting more than a touchdown.

PLAY: Northwestern for 1 unit.

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

Ohio St. has been a great bet-against team in recent years: The Buckeyes are usually overpriced, and even when they win they tend not to cover the spread. Now they're coming into this game after a loss last week at Penn St., which pretty much dashed any of the Buckeyes' hopes of a Big 10 title. That comes just a month after they had their national title hopes ruined last month vs. Texas. Coming to town this week is a Michigan St. team that has played well on the big stage, upsetting Notre Dame and nearly beating Michigan. The Spartans have had two weeks to prepare for Ohio St. Quarterback Drew Stanton and the Spartans' offense should have a big game, and Ohio St. will be hard-pressed to keep up. A money-line play on the Spartans at 2-1 is also warranted.

PLAY: Michigan St. for 1 unit.

Colorado St. (-1 1/2) at BYU

Moving from the Big 10 to the Mountain West, Colorado St. is 2-0 in conference play and trails only TCU at 4-0. The Rams gutted out a 21-17 win over Utah last week, and they have a balanced attack with Kyle Bell running and Justin Holland throwing the ball to David Anderson. BYU counters with quarterback Josh Beck, but Beck doesn't have the running game to help him out. That should be the difference.

PLAY: Colorado St. for 1 unit.

Louisiana Tech at Nevada (-1)

Staying out West, the WAC has been the domain of Fresno St. and Boise St. in recent years, but this game is the conference's marquee matchup this weekend. Both teams are 2-0 in league play and atop the standings. Nevada has been getting better players in recent years (for example, receiver Nate Burleson, now with the Vikings). The Wolfpack is another team with a nice, balanced offense. Last week, in a 62-14 win over Idaho, they had 265 yards rushing and 262 yards passing. Louisiana Tech is an example of a team that plays well at home (2-0 straight up and against the spread) and doesn't take its show on the road (0-2 SU and ATS).

PLAY: Nevada for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-2 for a net loss of 1.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). College season record: 9-10 for a net loss of 2 units.