12/28/2005 12:00AM

NCAA Analysis: Breaks sometimes do even out


LAS VEGAS - When you suffer a bad beat, people like to say that things even out. But it never really feels that way.

Well, not usually, but after the early bowl games this week, I felt a little redemption.

In last Saturday's Hawaii Bowl, I had Nevada -2 1/ 2 vs. Central Florida. Nevada seemed to take control in the fourth quarter and led by 10, 42-32, with 3:18 to play. Even a touchdown wouldn't beat me. But then Central Florida kicked a field goal, recovered an onside kick and then got in the end zone to tie the game 42-42.

Nevada scored a touchdown in the first overtime, but allowed Central Florida to score one as well. So, it looked like it would go to a second overtime with Central Florida have first possession, but they missed the extra point and Nevada had a 49-48 non-covering win. That was a hard loss to take.

On Tuesday night in the Insight Bowl, it looked like I was going to suffer another bad beat. Rutgers, who I had as an 11 1/ 2-point underdog, was playing great, leading 24-10 late in the first half and seemingly never in danger of getting blown out, but Arizona St. took over and eventually led 45-33 with 4:26 remaining. Fortunately, Rutgers was able to get in the end zone and the back door to cover the spread in a 45-40 loss.

It wasn't pretty - especially since I thought I was on the right side from the beginning - but I'll take it as my make-up call to get me back on the plus-side for the bowl games.

Here's three games I like for the middle of the week until we get into the really major bowl games over the weekend and into early next week.

MPC Computers Bowl (Wednesday)
Boise St. (+1 1/2) vs. Boston College

This game opened with Boise St. between a 1- and 3-point choice at the sports books here in Las Vegas, but early money on Boston College caused a change in favorites. But I think we have to look at the Boise St. side for a number of reasons: this game is being played on Boise's home field, where the Broncos have won 31 straight games, and this is coach Dan Hawkins' last game on the sideline before leaving to take the head post at Colorado. Hawkins is a popular coach, and I see the players wanting to send him out a winner. Most observers say Boston College has a talent edge, but I think it's pretty negligible (and certainly overcome by the home crowd). Boise St. should be able to move the ball on offense with quarterback Jared Zabransky and the underrated defense should be able to contain the Boston College attack.

PLAY: Boise St. for 1 unit.

Alamo Bowl (Wednesday)
Nebraska (+11) vs. Michigan

These two programs are used to playing on New Year's Day and beyond, so it'll be interesting to see how excited the players and fans will be for this game in San Antonio. That alone makes the double-digit spread enticing, but I also think Nebraska has an important edge in the trenches and will be able to pressure Michigan quarterback Chad Henne and give ample call to its own signal-caller, Zac Taylor. That should lead to a turnover edge for the Cornhuskers, and in a relatively low-scoring game that I see each team scoring in the 20's, that could be huge.

PLAY: Nebraska for 1 unit.

Holiday Bowl (Thursday)
Oklahoma (+3 1/2) vs. Oregon

Most people remember that Oklahoma started the season terribly and got blown out by Texas. That's when most people stopped paying attention to the Sooners, but the fact is they won five of their last six games with the only setback being a narrow, controversial loss to Texas Tech. This young team is on the rise and, in my opinion, the equal of Oregon at this stage of the season. Granted, Oregon is a solid team with its only loss coming to No. 1 USC and the Ducks did get snubbed by the BCS bowls, but that can be a negative factor instead of a motivating one. Exhibit A: see California, last year's BCS snub, getting beat 45-31 in the Holiday Bowl as an 11-point favorite over Texas Tech. The same thing is likely to happen here with Oklahoma finally living up to its preseason potential.

PLAY: Oklahoma for 1 unit.

Bowl game bankroll record: 3-2 for a net profit of 0.8 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1) through Tuesday's Insight Bowl.