12/21/2005 1:00AM

Double overtime at Leroy's

Nick Reid (7, left), the Kansas linebacker and Big 12 defensive player of the year, can make his presence felt in the Fort Worth Bowl.

LAS VEGAS - Jimmy Vaccaro's goal this fall as the marketing director for Leroy's sports books was to get maximum exposure for their handicapping contests. He succeeded, even if it wasn't in the way he intended.

The Leroy's College Challenge, in which entrants paid $250 and made seven against-the-spread plays a week for 12 weeks, ended in a tie between the top two contestants and had to be played off in an extra week, as a California schoolteacher going by the handle "Maj Ent" defeated the one-name professional bettor Fezzik.

Then, in the Leroy's Money Talks Invitational, in which 16 handicappers put up $2,500 of their own money and faced off in head-to-head matches each week, veteran bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich and professional handicapper Bryan Leonard both went 4-3 with net losses of $140 to force another playoff this upcoming weekend. They each make seven weighted plays from $110 on their first selection up to $770 on their best bet.

The Money Talks playoff gives Vaccaro another chance to talk about the contest on the air and get the Leroy's name in the newspapers.

Bogdanovich and Leonard's plays will be given out on the "Leroy's Sport Hour" radio show Friday between 8 and 9 p.m. at the Riviera sports book and the playoff will be aired live on KDWN AM-720 and kdwn.com.

First prize in the Money Talks Invitational is $40,000, with the runner-up receiving $10,000.

Also part of the radio show will be two amateur handicappers giving out their college bowl selections and competing for a $500 prize after having their names drawn from a hat last Friday. They are Las Vegas locals John McDonald and Dennis Eriksen, with Tim Fattig being an alternate if one is a no-show.

Lawrence wins Stardust crown

In addition to Fezzik's runner-up showing in the Leroy's College Challenge, he was also second in the Stardust Invitational tournament.

Marc Lawrence and Fezzik both went 4-3 and both won their best bet - Lawrence with the Patriots -4 1/2 over the Buccaneers and Fez with the Steelers-Vikings game under 41 points - but the tiebreaker procedure went to their second-best bet, and Lawrence won that with the Titans +7 vs. the Seahawks while Fezzik lost with the Patriots-Bucs game over 36 1/2.

Lawrence won the $10,000 winner-take-all first prize and receives an invitation back to defend his title next fall.

Fort Worth Bowl (Friday)
Kansas (-3) vs. Houston

Both teams had to win their final games to barely became bowl-eligible at 6-5. Even though the Big 12 was down from recent years, I still think Kansas is stepping down in class a little bit, especially after upsetting a solid Iowa St. team - which is playing in the Houston Bowl on Dec. 31. Kansas has the far better defense and should be able to shut down or at least contain Houston's offense.

Houston is more of a running team (averaging 179 yards per game), but that's the strength of Kansas's defense (allowing just 88 yards per contest). Houston has also had success passing the ball, but that should be minimized if the Cougars aren't able to establish the run and keep Nick Reid, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, and Charlton Keith (a school record 21 tackles for a loss) out of the backfield. Kansas doesn't have much of an offense, but Houston isn't anything to write home about on defense, so the Jayhawks should be able to score enough to win and cover.

PLAY: Kansas for 1 unit.

Hawaii Bowl (Saturday)
Nevada (-2 1/2) vs. Central Florida

Nevada has had a great season, with the big blemish on its record being a 49-14 loss at Boise St., but Nevada certainly made up for that with its upset of Fresno St. The Wolf Pack has the edge on both sides of the ball, with Jeff Rowe throwing and B.J. Mitchell running on offense and the defense getting the return of its best defensive back, Nick Hawthorne.

Even though the weather in Hawaii might be closer to what Central Florida is used to, Nevada has made this trip the the islands before and this is CFU's first bowl game ever.

PLAY: Nevada for 1 unit.

Insight Bowl (Tuesday)
Rutgers (+11) vs. Arizona St.

Arizona St. has the better overall talent, but the Sun Devils weren't the same team down the stretch after failing to knock off Southern Cal, and there is a big question about whether they'll really be inspired to play this game after having much higher expectations this season. For that reason, I think Rutgers can at least stay within the number.

The Scarlet Knights rebounded from back-to-back losses to bowl-bound teams South Florida and Louisville to close the regular season on a strong note with a 44-9 drubbing of Cincinnati. In cases like this, I'll take the motivated dog over the complacent favorite.

PLAY: Rutgers for 1 unit.