12/27/2001 12:00AM

Gimme three bowl faves and an NFL underdog


LAS VEGAS - Saturday is a football fan/bettor's delight.

The Motor City Bowl (Toledo vs. Cincinnati) kicks off at 9 a.m. Las Vegas time, noon Eastern, and is followed in succession by the Alamo Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, and an NFL battle with playoff implications between the Ravens and the Buccaneers.

When the day is over, we will have 12 hours of football to remember, and hopefully some tickets to cash.

Toledo (-4) vs. Cincinnati

Cincinnati received its bowl berth more from geographical concerns than for its on-field accomplishments. It was 0-4 against bowl teams in compiling a 7-4 record. Toledo's players and staff must be irked by that fact, particularly because they were 10-1 last year and were snubbed by the bowls. This year, Toledo took matters in its own hands, winning the MAC title to earn its Motor City Bowl berth. Using Chester Taylor (1,430 rushing yards), the Rockets can run on anyone, and the fact that they held Byron Leftwich and Marshall to 36 points shows they will not be intimidated by the passing of Cincy QB Gino Guidugli (2,573 yards and 16 TDs).

Play: Toledo for 11 units.

Texas Tech (-1) vs. Iowa

Texas Tech played well against some of the best teams in college football this year. The Red Raiders lost 41-31 to Nebraska and 30-13 to Oklahoma, and defeated three bowl teams (42-14 over North Texas, 38-19 over Kansas State, and 12-0 over Texas A&M). Iowa had a 6-5 record and struggled against quality teams, losing all four games against bowl teams. The Hawkeyes put up some impressive offense stats, but they were mostly amassed in such lopsided wins as 51-0 over Kent State, 44-19 over Miami-Ohio, 42-28 over Indiana, 59-16 over Northwestern, and 42-24 over Minnesota. Meanwhile, Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury threw for 3,502 yards and 50 touchdowns, both school records. RB Ricky Williams not only led the Red Raiders in rushing but also caught 93 passes for 700 yards. Texas Tech wins this game on class.

Play: Texas Tech for 11 units.

Kansas St. (-5 1/2) vs. Syracuse

I normally would like Syracuse, a team that was 4-3 against bowl teams, as an underdog in a bowl game like this. But Syracuse, with a 9-3 record, was hoping to be playing somewhere other than Tuscon, Ariz., and the Orangemen have voiced disappointment over that fact. A 59-0 loss to Miami-Fla. didn't boost the Orangemen's stock. Still, they felt they earned a better bowl bid. Kansas State, on the other hand, comes into the game winning four of its previous five games, and is more motivated in this bowl. So I'll go with the more inspired team with the poorer record.

Play: Kansas St. for 11 units.

Starting college bankroll: 1,000 units.

College bankroll through Wednesday: 1,003 units.

Ravens (+1 1/2) at Bucs

Both teams are peaking right before the playoffs. The Ravens hope to get DT Tony Siragusa back to fill the middle of the line. The Ravens allowed Corey Dillon 127 rushing yards Sunday, the first 100-yard performance they've allowed in 51 games. But even if Siragusa isn't able to go, the Ravens can put the clamps on the Bucs' Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn, because they're both one-dimensional runners and not the threat that Dillon is. The Ravens' offense is starting to click, too. The Ravens are simply a better team.

Play: Ravens for 11 units.

Starting NFL bankroll: 1,000 units.

Current NFL bankroll: 923 units.