09/12/2002 12:00AM

If you love that dog, bet some he'll win outright


LAS VEGAS - Here's hoping that Saturday is a dog day afternoon, because I'm landing on four live underdogs on the college betting card. If your bookmaker has money lines available, the underdogs should be worth a play to pull an outright upset. But don't bet the same amount on the money line as you do against the spread. It makes no sense to have a pointspread win but then lose all your profits because they didn't win straight up.

If I strongly believe a dog has a good shot to win outright, I generally wager 20-30 percent of my pointspread play on the money line; that way I make a nice profit if they cover but don't win. If they win outright, it's a bonus for a handicapping job well done.

Georgia at South Carolina (+5 1/2)

South Carolina lost at Virginia last week (thanks to seven turnovers) and now returns home to face No. 9-ranked Georgia. SC coach Lou Holtz is a master motivator, and this is where he usually gets the best out of his teams. Getting nearly a touchdown (and maybe the line will climb to 6 or more by kickoff) is a bonus, as SC has a two-game winning streak against Georgia.

PLAY: South Carolina for 2 units.

California (+14) at Michigan State

Michigan State was unimpressive in its 27-10 win over Rice last week. California is off to its first 2-0 start in five years. Okay, so Baylor (a 70-22 victory) and New Mexico State (34-13 win) aren't upper-echelon teams, but Cal QB Kyle Boller led the first-team offense to a combined five TDs and a field goal in first-quarter possessions in those two wins. The offense is sharp and should challenge the Spartans, who could be looking past the Bears. Even in a worst-case scenario, Boller should be able to get me a backdoor cover, but I'm hoping it doesn't come to that.

PLAY: California for 2 units.

Washington St. (+8) at Ohio St.

I might be betraying my Midwestern roots a little bit here by going with another Pac-10 team over a Big 10 school, but Washington St. QB Jason Geeser should single-handedly keep the Cougars in this one. Ohio St. will try to run the ball up the middle with freshman sensation Maurice Clarett (175 yards and three TDs in his collegiate debut), but the Cougars' defense should be able to bend and not break, or at least not break often enough that Geeser won't be able to rally them.

PLAY: Washington State for 1 unit.

Michigan at Notre Dame (+3 1/2)

This is the third straight year in which Michigan QB John Navarre has gotten off to a strong start against inferior competition. He's faltered in each of the last two years when he faced tougher teams, and I'm banking that the third time won't be the charm - or a form reversal - against a Notre Dame defense that has been solid. Irish coach Ty Willingham has done a great job with the team he inherited. The Irish are 2-0 despite not scoring an offensive touchdown. Now facing a subpar Michigan defense, that should change. Notre Dame also has the edge in special teams.

PLAY: Notre Dame for 1 unit.

Season record: 1-6 for -6.7 units, based on laying 1.1 units to win 1.