09/27/2001 12:00AM

Big week for revenge in the SEC

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Revenge is one of the biggest factors in football handicapping and it should play a large role in several big college football games this weekend, especially in the SEC where the conference's three top teams - Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina - all seek to avenge losses from last season.

Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina lost a combined total of 11 games last season including Bowls, making this a truely rare opportunity to cash in on revenge situations for all three teams on the same day. These teams are among the best in the country, and will be anxious to prove that last year's losses to this Saturday's opponents were nothing more than flukes. All three teams lost on the road last season, but now will be playing at home where their advantages are almost insurmountable.

If the SEC isn't your bag, perhaps key revenge plays on teams like Illinois and Syracuse this weekend will be enough to whet your whistle.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAMES FOR 9/29

Mississippi St. at Florida (-17)

Florida began last year 4-0 before Mississippi St. ended its dreams of an undefeated season, and th Gators no doubt have had this revenge game circled on their calendars ever since. Florida has been an excellent home favorite with a record of 6-2 against the spread at "The Swawp" dating back to last year. The Gators are also 9-1 against the spread in conference games during that same span. Mississippi St. has not played well in two games so far this season. The Bulldogs were neck-and-neck with Memphis until the Tigers self-destucted in their season opener. Mississippi St. then followed up that effort with a home loss to South Carolina. Additionally, things could get worse before they get better for the Bulldogs. One-thousand-yard running back Dicenzo Miller is injured and listed a doubtful for thisi game. Play: Florida for 2 units.

LSU at Tennessee (-10)

Tennessee's loss to LSU last season effectively took the Volunteers out of contention for the SEC crown, and don't think for a minute that they have forgotten about it as they seek revenge at home this weekend. Tennessee has bee solid in two wins so far this season including a 33-9 victory over Syracuse in their only home game so far. The Vols have now covered five of their last six games as home favorites, and are 10-3 against the spread in that role since 1999. Tennessee didn't cover at Arkansas in its last game, but should be forgiven for that sub-par effort which came on a rain-soaked field in a downpour. The Vols defense has allowed only 12 total points in two games this season, and should be able to stop the Tigers who are playing their first road game after going just 1-3 against the spread on the road last year. Play: Tennessee for 2 units.

Alabama at South Carolina (-6 1/2)

Don't let last week's 31-10 home win over Arkansas fool you, Alabama is not a quality football team. The Tide were able to take advantage of a Razorbacks team ravaged by injuries to several key players. Before last week, Alabama had lost at home to UCLA and squeaked out a 3-point win against lowly Vanderbilt in their only away game so far this season. This week's road trip is quite a bit tougher against Lou Holtz and the Gamecocks who are currently one of three top-tier SEC teams along with Florida and Tennessee. South Carolina is already 3-0 following road wins against both Georgia and Miss. St., and the 'Cocks have now had nine days to prepare for this game since playing last Thursday night. Alabama is 1-5 on the road both straight up and against the spread dating back to last season. The Tide won't face many tougher road assignments than this one against the Gamecocks, who missed a perfect 6-0 home pointspread record last year by just one point in a loss to Tennessee. South Carolina's defense is allowing just 12 points a game this season, and the Gamecocks will be looking for revenge for last year's 27-17 road loss to the Tide. Play: South Carolina for 1 unit.

Illinois (+7) at Michigan

Who remembers last year's Illinois - Michigan game? You can bet Illinois does. The Fighting Illini were robbed of a win by two horrible calls late in the fourth quarter that the Big Ten Conference later had to apologize for in a statement admitting the referees cost Illinois the game. At least the bettors didn't get the shaft as the Illini still covered that game for their second straight cover against Michigan. Illinois will seek revenge for last year's fiasco and are more than capable of an outright win in the "Big House" based on their 35-29 win at Michigan against a much better Wolverine team in 1999. The Illini have begun the season 3-0 and are looking like one of the top teams in the Big Ten this year along with Northwestern and possibly Iowa. Kurt Kittner is playing well and has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Things are not running as smoothly in Ann Arbor with quarterback John Navarre slowed by a hand injury and starting fullback Chris Perry listed as doubtful for this game with an injured knee. Illinois plays its home games on artificial turf, but has really become more of a grass-type team under head coach Ron Turner. The Illini are 10-4-1 against the spread in their last 15 games on grass. Play: Illinois for 1 unit.

East Carolina at Syracuse (-6)

Syracuse got off to a rocky start with losses in tough games against Georgia Tech and Tennessee, however, the Orangemen have since gotten back on their feet back at home with wins and covers over Central Florida and Auburn. Syracuse was 4-0 against the spread as home favorites last year, and has now covered six in a row in that role. This week, the Orangemen find themselves in a revenge situation against East Carolina, who beat them last season by a score of 34-17 when Syracuse was still looking for a replacement for Donovan McNabb. East Carolina returns a lot of starters from the team that won the Gallery Furniture.com Bowl last season, but they have yet to look like the same team so far this year. The Pirates suffered an embarrassing home loss to Wake Forest to start the season, and last week beat William and Mary by only 15 points. We hear William was a pushover but Mary was tough to beat. East Carolina has yet to find solid replacements for their three top receivers and their top pass rusher from last year, and will not be ready for a revenge-seeking Syracuse team with a great home-field advantage in the Carrier Dome. Play: Tulsa for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-4 (minus 3 units)

Season record: 7-14 (minus 8 units)