10/20/2004 11:00PM

Some spreads just jump out at you

Email

LAS VEGAS - The World Series starts Saturday night, with the Red Sox, fresh off their amazing comeback vs. the Yankees, hosting the National League representative.

As of Thursday afternoon, it wasn't determined if the Red Sox would be facing the Cardinals or Astros, who were preparing to play the seventh game of their series Thursday night.

Game 1 of the World Series will be the biggest game Saturday, but in the sports betting world it's just that - one game. Sure, there are many different ways to play that game, with the side, total, run line, and a number of proposition wagers posted just like they are for any other major event. But real sports bettors know there are many more opportunities and soft lines available with 50 college football games on the board.

Hopefully I've sifted through the menu and have found five such plays.

Indiana (+13 1/2) at Ohio St.

I've been cashing a lot by going against Ohio St., and I see no reason to stop. The way the Buckeyes have been playing, they shouldn't be laying this many points to anyone, not even perennial Big 10 doormat Indiana. The Hoosiers have covered two of their three games on the road this year, winning outright as 20 1/2-point underdogs at Oregon and covering an 11 1/2-point spread two weeks ago in a 31-24 loss at Northwestern. That's the same Northwestern team that upset Ohio St. in overtime three weeks ago, giving me confidence that the Hoosiers can stick with the Buckeyes, especially since Ohio St. will probably turn to backup quarterback Troy Smith. He might be the long-term answer in Columbus, but an opportunistic Indiana defense (15 turnovers) could force him into some rookie mistakes. Give the edge in the quarterback department to Indiana's Matt LoVecchio, who is nothing special but should be able to move the ball on an Ohio St. defense that is down from recent years.

PLAY: Ohio St. for 1 unit.

Boston College (+7) at Notre Dame

There's no denying that Boston College has underachieved this season, with upset losses to Wake Forest and Pittsburgh, but if there is one game that it has circled on its calendar every year, it's the one vs. Notre Dame. BC has won three straight vs. the Irish and covered four of the last six meetings. These games are always hard-fought and close - those last six meetings have been decided by a combined 20 points - so I'll gladly take the 7-point headstart. Despite being held to 56 rushing yards vs. Pitt, Boston College is averaging 230 yards on the ground and should return to form vs. the Irish. In addition, BC's defense remains solid, allowing only 11.5 points per game.

PLAY: Boston College for 1 unit.

Miami-Fla. at N.C. State (+7 1/2)

A lot has been made about the Hurricanes' No. 2 ranking in the BCS, but all the talk could end after this road trip. North Carolina St. is 10-3 as an underdog the past four years and will certainly have incentive to pull off the biggest upset of the day. Miami-Fla. rallied to win 41-38 last week vs. Louisville, but faces a much tougher defense this week and that will probably lead to a game more like the season opener vs. Florida St. (a lucky 16-10 win). North Carolina St. will also have a hard time moving on the Miami-Fla. defense, but the Wolfpack have an NFL-caliber running back in T.A. McClendon, which is exactly what you need against the Hurricanes. I'm sure North Carolina St. can pull the upset, but again I'll gladly take the points as insurance.

PLAY: North Carolina St. for 1 unit.

Fresno St. (+9 1/2) at Boise St.

Here's another game that could see an unbeaten team lose and be taken out of the BCS race, although Boise St. has pretty much taken itself out of contention with lackluster wins over UTEP (47-31 as a 29-point favorite), BYU (28-27 as a 22-point favorite), SMU (38-20 as a 38-point favorite), and Tulsa (45-42 as a 19-point favorite). Fresno St. has also lost its longshot BCS hopes, with back-to-back losses to Louisiana Tech and UTEP, and ruined what could have been a marquee matchup. I see Fresno rebounding here, however, since coach Pat Hill always seems to be well-prepared when he has time to form a game plan for a specific opponent, as evidenced by the Bulldogs' fast starts the past few years and their upsets in bowl games the past two years. Boise St., which is 23-9 on its blue field over the past five years, isn't as strong on defense and will have a hard time slowing down Fresno's running attack (204 yards per game). I think quarterback Paul Pinegar can also get back on track if he can avoid having his interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Bulldogs have a strong defense, allowing 299 totals yard per game compared to 350 for Boise, and should keep the Broncos in check.

PLAY: Fresno St. for 1 unit.

Alabama (+7) at Tennessee

There are a lot of games this Saturday with lines in the range of a touchdown, and I like another dog here, though this is my least favorite of the five. Tennessee is off to a 5-1 start with freshman quarterback Erik Ainge taking over, but the Vols haven't been dominant in their victories over Florida (by 2 points), Georgia (by 5 points), and Mississippi (by 4 points as a 9 1/2-point favorite last week). This should be another tight SEC battle. Alabama's defense is allowing just 13 points and 226 yards per game and will be a bigger test for Ainge. The Tide also has the ground game to control the clock, with Kenneth Darby picking up where injured starter Ray Hudson left off before being sidelined for the year with a knee injury. I just wish Alabama still had quarterback Brodie Croyle, but then this line would probably only be around 4, so I'll take what I can get and put my trust in the Tide's running game and defense.

PLAY: Alabama for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-2 for a net loss of 0.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). Season college record: 14-11 for a net profit of 1.9 units.