08/29/2001 11:00PM

College football's kicking off: Let's cash some bets

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When the college football season starts, teams are expected to operate at peak efficiency against quality competition right away. It really makes you wonder why the NFL has preseason games at all. The college season kicked off last week with a handful of games, but Labor Day weekend is really when you get the sense that a new season has begun.

Miami-Fla. at Penn. St. (+14): Remodeled Beaver Stadium will be rocking with 106,000 fans as Joe Paterno tries to get his program back on the winning track after a disaster of a season last year. Penn St. QB Matt Senneca isn't as athletic as Rashard Casey, but he should be more consistent. Many of the same players were on the field when Penn St. won 27-23 in Miami two years ago. Now Miami-Fla. is the far superior team, with several potential first-round draft choices on its roster. I fully expect them to win, but I'm playing the percentages. I think if they played this game five times, Penn St. would win outright once, Miami would win by fewer than 14 points twice and Miami would win in a rout twice. That gives us a 60 percent chance of winning this bet. I'll wager 11 units (to win 10) on Penn. St.

Colorado St. (+4) vs. Colorado: This game is being played at the new Mile High Stadium, and Colorado is listed as the home team. I can't see any other reason why Colorado is favored by this much (especially with starting RB Marcus Houston out indefinitely). Colorado lost its opener last week to Fresno St., which is a solid but underrated program just like Colorado State. State has won this rivalry the last two years and covered each of the last five meetings. I'm more inclined to think that Colorado's season is shot. I'll wager 11 units on Colorado St.

UCLA (+3) at Alabama: Alabama was ranked No. 3 in preseason polls last year before they were upset in the season-opener at UCLA. They never fully recovered. A lot of people are looking for Alabama to get revenge at home this year, but I'd rather bet the more talented team. The UCLA offense is led by RB DeShaun Foster and the key for the Bruins will be QB Cory Paus's health (he missed four games last year because of injury). UCLA's defense should also be improved. Alabama has a new coach and is simply overmatched despite the revenge incentive. I'll wager 11 units on UCLA.