11/09/2006 1:00AM

Catch Michigan looking ahead


LAS VEGAS - As I was talking with sports book directors and bettors this past week, the topic came up that the NFL season is halfway over, with every team having played 8 of its 16 games. The overriding sentiment was: "Where has the time gone?"

Well, if you think the NFL season is flying by, consider that we really have only three more full weekends of college football remaining, and only two with full schedules. There are 48 games on the betting boards Saturday and 49 next Saturday. But then the season winds down, starting with Thanksgiving weekend when 12 games are moved to Friday and 27 games are played on the traditional Saturday. The first weekend of December is devoted mostly to conference championship games, a few regional rivalries, Army-Navy and USC-UCLA.

After a fast start this season, I've mostly been hovering around the .500 mark, so it's time to put all the lessons of this season to the test and try to end with a bang.

Michigan at Indiana (+19)

With most eyes on the Michigan-Ohio St. game next week, I've had my eye on this matchup the past few weeks as a possible look-ahead spot for the Wolverines. Indiana had been playing better, pulling outrights upsets at home over Iowa and Michigan St. Prior to last Saturday, if you had asked me about this game, I would have certainly said that I was going to make it a 2-unit or even 3-unit play on the Hoosiers. But then two things happened: Indiana went to Minnesota and got blown out 63-26 and Michigan went through the motions in beating Ball St. 34-26 last week at home as a 32-point favorite. To see Indiana get overmatched (just as the Hoosiers did in a 44-3 loss at Ohio St.) two weeks back, gives me pause, and now I fear that Michigan had its letdown spot last week. Still, I have to go with my first instincts and believe that Indiana again will put up an inspired effort at home, and that a Michigan team which beat Ball St. only by 8 points, beat Iowa and only 20-7 (the same team Indiana beat at home) and Northwestern 17-3 at home might struggle to beat Indiana by three touchdowns on the road. And maybe with last week's results, we're getting a few extra points in line value.

PLAY: Indiana for 1 unit.

Georgia Tech at North Carolina

(over/under 47 1/2)

This total wasn't up at every book early Thursday, but the books here and offshore were dealing between 47 and 48, so we'll go with 47o1/2. The Georgia Tech defense should shut down North Carolina's offense, and even though the Yellow Jackets have been putting up points recently, I don't think they can get this over the total all by themselves.

PLAY: Under 47 1/2 points for 1 unit.

Cincinnati (+18 1/2) at West Virginia

(over/under 48 1/2)

I'm going with another big dog here as West Virginia is coming off a 44-34 loss to Louisville that killed their national-title hopes. It's usually good to bet against teams in that spot, as there's a natural letdown after one's dreams are dashed. Cincinnati also has a run defense - 13th in nation at 89 yards per game - that can at least contain the Mountaineers' potent attack, ranked No. 2 at 319 yards per game. As for common opponents, they both beat Syracuse and lost to Louisville, though Cincy's loss was 23-17 and the Bearcats' had a pass knocked down in the end zone in the final seconds as they went for the outright upset. I think West Virginia's talent will prevail, but Cincinnati should be in it to the end. I also think the defenses will hold their own and keep the points under the total.

PLAY: Cincinnati for 1 unit and Under 48 1/2 for 1 unit.

Houston at SMU


I'll switch to the over in this matchup, as both Houston and SMU have been clicking on offense (Houston averages 33 points per game and SMU 26) and struggling on defense (they both allow around 22 points per game), so this should lead to a real Texas shootout in Dallas.

PLAY: Over 53 points for 1 unit.

New Mexico St. (+11 1/2) at Fresno St.

I've played New Mexico St. several times this year, as the Aggies usually get a lot of points and they have the No. 2 passing offense in the nation (397 yards per game), so they're a great candidate for backdoor covers. This week, they play Fresno St., which is 1-7 in the record book and 0-8 in the sports books, the only winless team in the country against the spread. Moreover, the Bulldogs have the 89th-ranked pass defense and until last week were the only team in the country without an interception. Granted, New Mexico St. hasn't been able to stop anyone with its defense, but the passing attack again should keep them in the game and in position to pull the outright upset against a program that is reeling.

PLAY: New Mexico St. for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-1 for a net profit of 1.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). College season record: 27-24-1, including 1-1 on 2-unit plays, for a net profit of 0.5 units.