11/14/2002 1:00AM

This could be Ohio State's turn to fall


LAS VEGAS - Last week, the Palms posted odds on potential BCS title games.

Oklahoma and Miami, the No. 1 and 2 teams at the time, were listed at pick-em if they were to meet in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, while both teams were 7-point favorites over No. 3 Ohio State. Bets were taken but would be refunded if the matchup didn't materialize.

Well, Oklahoma was upset, 30-26, at Texas A&M last Saturday, so the Sooners were taken off the board. Meanwhile, Miami has been bet up to a 10-point favorite over Ohio State despite the fact the Buckeyes are ahead of the 'Canes in the BCS rankings.

But enough about hypothetical games. Let's look at Saturday's action.

Ohio State at Illinois (+9)

Of course, there's no guarantee Ohio State will still be undefeated next week when it plays Michigan, the game everyone has targeted as the one that could keep the Buckeyes from playing in the BCS title game. But if Ohio State is not careful, those dreams could end in Champaign, Ill. Ohio State is 0-4 against the spread on the road, including last week's near-loss at Purdue. Illinois has played much better in recent weeks (3-1 straight up and 4-0 against the spread) and needs a win to stay bowl-eligible. If the Illini pull the outright upset, sports books will have plenty of options available for hypothetical BCS title game matchups.

PLAY: Illinois for 1 unit.

Nebraska (+11) at Kansas State

Nebraska's offensive line is showing signs of dominance and the running of Dahrran Diedrick should take the pressure off QB Jammal Lord, who is much better when he has time in the pocket. Kansas State has had a lot of blowout victories this year, but doesn't play as well when challenged early, as evidenced by its two losses in its only close games of the year (35-31 to Colorado and 17-14 to Texas). I wouldn't have touched this game a few weeks ago, but Nebraska is playing much better and should be in the game from start to finish.

PLAY: Nebraska for 2 units.

Alabama at LSU (+2)

Alabama is another team that doesn't fare well when a team stares it down, losing 37-27 to Oklahoma and 27-25 to Georgia, the only two ranked teams the Crimson Tide have faced. Now they play No. 12 LSU, which pulled out a miracle last week at Kentucky. Coach Nick Saban has used the win to inspire his team to avoid playing poorly and putting itself in position of needing to win on a freak play again. But it's nice to have a team with the confidence to pull one out like that if faced with another tight game.

PLAY: LSU for 1 unit.

NC State at Virginia (+6 1/2)

Two weeks ago, North Carolina State was 9-0 and poised for a BCS bowl, but the Wolfpack lost two straight games and won't even win the ACC title if 32-point favorite Florida State beats North Carolina on Saturday. Adding injuries to insult, NC State will probably be without starting RB T.A. McClendon, G Shane Riggs, WR Jeremiah Cotchery, and LB Avery Gibson on defense. Virginia has also lost two straight, but both were on the road and now the Cavaliers return home, where they have won four straight.

PLAY: Virginia for 1 unit.

Wisconsin (+11) at Michigan

Michigan has been terrible against the spread this year (3-7, with last week's cover against Minnesota aided by a snap over the punter's head and a blocked punt) and now it's laying double digits to a Wisconsin team that has QB Brooks Bollinger and RB Anthony Davis. Michigan could also be looking ahead to next week's game at Ohio State.

PLAY: Wisconsin for 1 unit.

Season record: 22-21, including 11-8 on 2-unit plays, for a net profit of 2.1 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).