11/15/2001 12:00AM

Four college dogs will beat spread in Rivalry Week 1


This is going to be a fun Saturday. Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman isn't the only heavyweight bout on the sports menu, as college football plays out Rivalry Week 1. Highlighting this week's schedule is Florida-Florida St., Washington-Washington St., Alabama-Auburn, Utah-BYU, Clemson-South Carolina, and Cal-Stanford. Next week will feature Mississippi-Mississippi St., Texas-Texas A&M, Michigan-Ohio St., Georgia-Georgia Tech.

But it isn't a time to look ahead, which is something that none of these teams will be doing with their archrivals lined up across the ball. But anything can happen in these rivalry games, and the results often come down to the closing minutes. With that in mind, I'm looking at four underdogs this week to at least keep their games close if not pull the outright upset.

Florida St. (+15) at Florida

Many handicappers see these as two teams heading in opposite directions, and the bandwagon is filling up with bettors looking to lay the points. But I think 15 points is a high price to pay. In its previous rivalry game, Florida St. lost to Miami-Fla., 49-27. But what is lost in that lopsided score is that Florida St. actually outgained the Hurricanes. And the Seminole offense has improved since then. (Granted, the Seminoles are mediocre on defense, especially against the pass.) There's no doubt Florida will score its share, but Florida St. coach Bobby Bowden knows how to slow down Steve Spurrier's offense. The Seminoles have won the last three in this series. Besides, I'm not expecting them to win, just stay within two touchdowns.

Play: Florida St. for 11 units

California (+24) at Stanford

I didn't want to pick this game, and with Cal at 0-9 straight-up and 1-8 against the spread, I tried to avoid it. However, 24 points are just too many to be giving a team that is basing its season on this one game. Even though Stanford has dominated this series in recent years, winning eight of the last 10, the largest margin of victory has been 21 points - even when the Cardinal has had the far superior team, which is the case here. Stanford will win, but with a game against Notre Dame next week (rescheduled from the week of the terrorist attacks) to keep its hopes of a major bowl alive, I can't see Stanford running up the score even against its biggest rival.

Play: California for 11 units.

UCLA at Southern Cal (+3 1/2)

UCLA has gone from a 6-0 team that was vying for a Rose Bowl berth to a 6-3 that might be heading to Las Vegas for Christmas. (I can think of worse places to be, but it would certainly be a letdown for the Bruins). Barring the unlikely reinstatement of Bruins RB DeShaun Foster, this game comes down to the quarterbacks, and USC has the edge with Carson Palmer. UCLA's defense also hasn't been as dominant as it was earlier in the season when it beat up weaker competition. USC needs a win to become bowl-eligible, and coach Pete Carroll will pull out all the stops.

Play: Southern Cal for 11 units.

Utah (+8) at BYU

This isn't as high-profile of a rivalry as the above games, but it could be one of the most significant games of the weekend. With few unbeaten teams remaining, it would be controversial if BYU goes 11-0 and is bypassed in the Bowl Championship Series by teams with one or even two losses. Utah might do the BCS a favor here. The road team has won the last six games in this series, and covered in the last nine.

Utah's defense actually has a chance to slow down the Cougars, and will be helped by the fact the Utes should be able to run against a BYU defense that allows 221 yards a game on the ground.

Play: Utah for 11 units.

Starting bankroll: 1,000 units.

Bankroll entering last week: 993 units.

Last week: 1-2, for net loss of 12 units.

Current bankroll: 982 units.