09/06/2001 12:00AM

Razorbacks can catch Tennessee looking ahead


COLLEGE FOOTBALL for Saturday, Sept. 8

Tennessee at Arkansas (+13)

Tennessee is in a difficult spot here coming down off a big win over Syracuse in its home opener and looking ahead to its annual showdown against Florida which often decides the conference. This year, the Vols will seek revenge for last season's 27-23 loss to the Gators which should make it tough to concentrate on the Razorbacks, a solid team that is always good at home. Arkansas survived an opening week scare against UNLV when they pulled out a 14-10 victory thanks to a late score. That win should be viewed as much more of a positive than a negative as UNLV is a quality football team that is picked to win the Mountain West Conference crown. Last year, Tennessee was just 1-4 against the spread on the road including 1-3 as favorites. Arkansas, meanwhile, is 13-5 against the spread at home and 4-2 against the spread as home dogs under coach Houston Nutt. Play: Arkansas for 3 units

Fresno St. at Wisconsin (-4)

The Fresno St. Bulldogs are the stars of the college football season so far with back-to-back wins over Colorado (on the road) and Oregon St., but this may be their toughest test yet as they prepare for their third difficult non-conference game in three weeks. Fresno's huge home field advantage (won 16 in a row) helped them to last week's win over the Beavers, and perhaps they caught Colorado looking ahead to its match-up against Colorado St.. They will have no such scheduling advantage this week, however, as they travel to cheese-land to face a Badger team that is coming off a close loss at Oregon. Unlike their week one road win, this game will be played on artificial turf, a surface that has given Fresno St. trouble the last two seasons. The Bulldogs are 0-5 against the spread on artificial surfaces dating back to 1999. Quarterback Brooks Bollinger is again expected to miss this game with an injury, but second-stringer Jim Sorgi has already proven he's a more-than-capable back-up. Play: Wisconsin for 2 units

Kansas St. at USC (+3 1/2)

In stark contrast to its recent history, Kansas St. opens its season with a tough Pac-10 road assignment instead of the usual home game against a small conference cupcake. After this game, however, they may be wishing they'd stuck with the cupcakes. Not only did they pick a strong opponent, they picked one that plays on grass. The Wildcats are just 2-5-1 against he spread the last two years on natural grass. Southern California already began its season with a win against San Jose St. last weekend, and they should be revved up to face a ranked opponent. Pete Carroll is the Trojans' new head coach after taking over from the perpetually underachieving Paul Hackett, and while Carroll may be only a marginal improvement, he does have 14 returning starters on the roster to work with. Sultan McCullough (1234 yards rushing LY) and pro prospect quarterback Carson will again lead a good offense that will be anchored by an O line that returns three starters. Kansas St., meanwhile, will be going through a rebuilding year of sorts and must replace their quarterback, top receiver, and seven starters on defense. Easy pickens for Palmer and the Trojans. Play: USC for 2 units

Western Michigan (+16) at Virginia Tech

Last week was a very tough week for Virginia Tech, as the Hokies lost premier back Lee Suggs (1280 yards, 30 TDs in 2000) for the season with a knee injury in a costly blowout win over lowly UConn. On top of that, one of Suggs back-ups, freshman Kevin Jones, suffered a thigh bruise and is listed as questionable this week. The possible lack of a running game will put additional pressure on new quarterback Grant Noel, who has the third-stringer last season behind Michael Vick. Western Michigan is a solid team that returns 12 starters from last year's 10-2 team that advanced to the MAC championship game. The Western Michigan defense held seven opponents to 10 points or less last year, and has seven starters returning on that side of the ball including sack leader Anthony Allsbury and interception leader Ron Rogers. The Broncos can play with the big boys, too. Just ask Wisconsin and Iowa who were given early-season scares at home against W. Mich. Last season. Forget about what Virginia Tech did the last couple of seasons. They clearly won't be as good this year without Vick and Suggs. Play: Western Michigan for 1 unit

South Carolina (-1 1/2) at Georgia

South Carolina was the surprise team of 2000, going 8-4 straight up and 9-3 against the spread including a victory over Ohio St. in the Outback Bowl for second-year head coach Lou Holtz. The Gamecocks won't be sneaking up on anyone this year, but look for their success to continue with almost all of the key elements from last year's team returning for another season. South Carolina got a good tune-up for this game last week against Boise St. (32-13 win). Georgia, on the other hand, struggled at times as 35-point favorites over lowly Arkansas St.. The Bulldogs will seek revenge for last season's 21-10 loss to South Carolina, but they may not get it this time around unless they can recover from the loss of six NFL draft picks including quarterback Quincy Carter and three other first and second-rounders. Mark Richt takes over as Georgia's new head coach, and it may take a few weeks for the offense to fully pick up on his new system. On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs' three new starting defensive linemen will have their hands full stopping Cocks QB Phil Petty (2285 yards, 8 TDs LY), and running back Derek Watson (1066 yards, 10 TDs). Play: South Carolina for 1 unit

Boston College (+5 1/2) at Stanford

Stanford opens its season at home against a solid Big East team before going on the road next week to face San Jose St. from the WAC. Could this really be a look-ahead situation for the Cardinal? You betcha it is. Stanford has suffered three embarrassing losses in a row to San Jose St., and no doubt circled the game against their next-door nemesis on their calendars as soon as the schedule came out. Before they take another crack at the Spartans, however, they have a little thing called a football game this weekend against a Boston College squad that is undoubtedly pumped following their romp of West Virginia last weekend. BC got everything they wanted and more from quarterback Brian St. Pierre last week with the junior signal-caller doing a good job taking over offense from last year's starter Tim Hasselbeck. The defense also played well and the running game clicked in a total team effort. Last year, Stanford had a very young team that matured and improved as the season progressed, and they are destined to be a solid football team again in 2001. However, this season won't truly begin for the Cardinal until they finally exorcise their demons and get over the hump against San Jose St. Play: Boston College for 1 unit

Last week: 3-1 (plus 3 units)

College season: 4-6 (minus 3 units)