10/23/2002 11:00PM

Like the Irish? Try money line


LAS VEGAS - In Saturday's game of the day, all the fundamental handicapping criteria seem to favor Florida St., while all the intangibles seem to favor Notre Dame.

Florida St. has the skill players to match up with the talented Irish defense, and plenty of defense to shut down a Notre Dame offense that only started showing signs of life against an undersized Air Force defense. This line should be at least two touchdowns. In fact, when the Imperial Palace posted its "College Games of the Year" this summer, Florida St. was favored by 21. Notre Dame, however, is 7-0 both straight up and against the spread, and there is that Notre Dame mystique.

So I just can't lay the 10 points, even though I feel the value is on Florida St. If you disagree, I would suggest a money-line play on Notre Dame. If Florida St. gets up on Notre Dame, the Irish don't have the offense to rally, and the Seminoles will probably cover. So if you think Notre Dame is for real, you should take the plus-money for the outright upset.

But I have two live underdogs for Saturday, and one big favorite that I have confidence in.

Georgia at Kentucky (+4 1/2)

Like Notre Dame, Georgia is an undefeated team that isn't as good as its record. And the Dawgs aren't likely to stay undefeated with their current rash of injuries. Out for this game: leading rusher Musa Smith, dangerous receiver Fred Gibson and top lineman Jon Stinchcomb. Kentucky is led by QB Jared Lorenzen, but the key will be RB Artose Pinner, who leads the SEC in rushing at 111.6 yards per game and will keep the Georgia defense honest and allow Lorenzen to use play-action and throw deep to receivers in man coverage.

PLAY: Kentucky for 1 unit.

Iowa (+3 1/2) at Michigan

Iowa's offense has gotten off the great starts all season long and will pose problems for a soft Michigan defense. QB Brad Banks leads the Big 10 in passing efficiency and is fourth in the nation. His scrambling will also pose problems for Michigan. Critics will point out that Iowa allows over 320 passing yards per game, but that number is inflated because the Hawkeyes' opponents are usually playing from behind and passing more. Michigan QB John Navarre will get his yards, but he has a tendency to make bad decisions in key games and that will cost him.

PLAY: Iowa for 1 unit.

Miami-Fla. (-19) at W. Virginia

It's usually not advisable to lay this many points, especially with a road team. No. 1-ranked Miami, however, should romp. The Hurricanes should be able to move the ball at will on a West Virginia defense that is hobbled by injuries. West Virginia has a strong running game with all-time Big East rushing leader Avon Cobourne, but he won't be much of factor when the 'Canes open up a huge lead. Add in the fact that they'll be motivated to post an impressive victory by the fact Oklahoma is atop the BCS ratings and you have all the makings of a blowout.

PLAY: Miami-Fla. for 1 unit.

Season record: 15-15 for a net loss of 0.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units for every 1 unit I'm trying to win).