01/01/2003 1:00AM

Miami is just too good


The college football season comes to a conclusion Friday night with the Fiesta Bowl/BCS Championship Game between the No. 1-ranked Miami-Fla. Hurricanes and No. 2 Ohio St. Buckeyes.

Miami opened as a 10 1/2-point favorite and was steadily bet up to a 13-point choice. As of noon Wednesday, the line was bouncing back and forth between 12 1/2 and 13. The betting public, made up mostly of tourists in Las Vegas this week for the New Year's festivities, is on the Hurricanes' side, while the professional bettors keep taking the points with the Buckeyes when the game gets bet back up to 13. No book has had to move the line to 13 1/2 to action back on the 'Canes, so it looks like 13 will be the closing number by game time Friday.

I love betting underdogs, and usually don't like being on the side of the public, but I have to back Miami in this game. The Hurricanes just have too much talent; their second string would be pretty close to undefeated.

Both teams have allowed inferior teams to stick around, but Miami has shown the ability to still turn those games into routs. This has been Miami's goal all season, so while the 'Canes have been guilty all season of looking past teams, that won't happen here.

They are additionally motivated by the fact that neither QB Ken Dorsey nor RB Willis McGahee won the Heisman Trophy, plus they've been hearing all week how Maurice Clarett gives the Buckeyes a chance because Miami has been vulnerable against running teams this season. I'd be surprised if he surpasses 100 yards, and I'll be looking for proposition bets on over/under his number of yards or Clarett vs. McGahee.

Of the first 23 bowl games played this year, 13 have been decided by 14 or more points. You often see in bowl games (and in national title games) that the better team gets a lead and then keeps rolling to a big victory.

As exciting as it would be for Ohio St. to pull the upset, I have to go with the chalk.

PLAY: Miami (-12 1/2) for 1 unit.

Handicapping champions crowned

While the NCAA national championship will be decided Friday night, the professional handicapping championships were decided last weekend in Las Vegas.

This year's top winner was "I Walk a Beat," who won $168,600 in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest. The Hilton had a record 281 entrants at $1,500 apiece this year, with the winner taking home 40 percent.

"I Walk a Beat" went 4-1 with his final plays last weekend (SuperContest players pick five NFL sides per week) to finish with a record of 56-29 (65.9 percent winners). He came within a game of earning a $10,000 bonus for hitting 67 percent. His lone loser last weekend was the Falcons (-2 1/2), who squandered a 16-10 fourth-quarter lead and lost 24-16 to the Browns.

"Jersey Red" also went 4-1 to finish only a half-game back at 55-29-1 and claim the second prize of $67,440. "Little Awful Andy," the alias of professional handicapper Andy Iskoe, finished third at 54-31 and receives $33,720, while "Specialists," a group of five men who put up $300 apiece, closed strongly to finish fourth at 53-31-1 and will split earnings of $21,075. Fifth through 10th pays $14,752 and 11th through 20th pays $4,215.

This year, locals casino giant Station Casinos entered the high-end tournament fray with a $1,000 buy-in that attracted 129 entries. R.G. Sports #II went 4-1 last weekend to claim the inaugural event's first-place prize of $64,500 (50 percent of the prize pool) with a record of 53-30-2. Robert Burns and Roland Phillip tied for second at 52-33 and split second- and third-place money for $9,675 apiece. Phillip would have claimed sole possession of second place if the 49ers had held their lead Monday night versus the Rams. Burns was on the Rams. Three contestants tied for fourth and receive $3,010 apiece.

Stations spreads the wealth

While the above competitors were playing for themselves, a season-long media contest at the Station Casinos was held for charity with $1,000 being donated in the name of the media member picking the most straight-up winners in the NFL each week, and $8,000 more being distributed to charity at the end of the season.

Craig Williams of KOMP radio finished with a record of 160-91 to win $3,000 for Ronald McDonald House. David Stratton of GamingToday was second at 155-96 to win $1,000 for the Nevada Chinese Academy, and Richard Eng of the Las Vegas Review-Journal was third at 154-97 to win $500 for Lied Animal Shelter. Eng, also a DRF columnist, went 12-2 the final week (losing the tiebreaker for the $1,000 weekly prize) but vaulted past four people to claim third.

Stations also allotted prize money for those picking the most losers. I finished with the third-most losers and $500 will go to the Sun Camp Fund. Tony Bonnici of Lotus Broadcasting had the most losers and won $2,000 for the Ronald McDonald House and Douglas Marsh of KOMP radio was second to last and also won $1,000 for Ronald McDonald House, which was the biggest winner in the contest with a total of $10,000 of the $25,000 winnings during the contest going to that charity.

Cannery moves up opening day

The Cannery, the Las Vegas valley's newest casino, had its unveiling moved up a day and was to open its doors at 10 p.m. Thursday.

The Cannery, located just west of Interstate 15 on Craig and Lossee roads, has a 1940's industrial theme, complete with smokestack out front, and will market to the booming locals population in North Las Vegas. As such, a huge emphasis will be on the slot floor, which will feature 1,278 machines.

The sports book will gets its odds from The Rampart in Summerlin. There is no race book.