10/25/2001 12:00AM

Sooners and points? It's OK to get down!


The best horse doesn't always win the race, and the best team doesn't always win the game - or beat the spread. That's why it's called gambling.

Last Saturday, all four of my bankroll plays covered the spread in the fourth quarter. Three of them - USC, Oregon, and Oregon State - didn't cover at the end.

After losing games like those, it's important to look at the results objectively. For every bettor who thinks he lost a bet he should have won, there's someone who bet the other team who thinks he had the right side all along. From my standpoint, USC, Oregon, and Oregon State all fell apart in the fourth quarter . . . but people betting Notre Dame, Stanford, and Arizona State probably feel that the better team took control down the stretch.

One must decide if he was faulty in his handicapping - in my case, whether I bet on teams that couldn't go the distance against a quality opponent - or if it was simply "one of those things." Or, in my case, three of those things.

I think it was the latter. So it's time to get back on that horse and take on Saturday's college football card.

Oklahoma (+4) at Nebraska

It's a battle between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the current BCS rankings. Over the past two seasons, Oklahoma certainly has shown it can find the winner's circle. The Sooners already have defeated Kansas State and Texas this year, while Nebraska's only ranked victim so far is Notre Dame. The Sooners' defense shut down Texas QB Chris Simms this year and now faces a different challenge in Nebraska Heisman candidate QB Eric Crouch.

Nebraska is averaging 545 yards in its last five games, but none of the defenses it faced has the overall speed of Oklahoma. And Nebraska's offensive line is banged up.

Oklahoma also has the weapons to attack a Nebraska defense that has been suspect this year, and I like the emergence of sophomore QB Jason White, who has replaced Nate Hybl as the starter. Depth like that, plus the big-game experience of the defending national champs, should help Oklahoma stay on top. Getting more than a field goal in a game that should be pick 'em is a bonus.

Play: Oklahoma for 11 units.

South Carolina (+7 1/2) at Tennessee

Both teams have one loss and are ranked in the Top 15, but you wouldn't know it from listening to South Carolina coach Lou Holtz's press conference. He said, "When you play in the Southeastern Conference you know you are going to play ranked teams. You figure you are going to play five or six every year. The difference is that we are now ranked. I don't think justifiably so."

Despite Holtz's words, the Gamecocks are talented enough to blow out Boise State (which beat Frenso State last week) and win at Georgia, a team that beat Tennessee. Holtz will keep his team close enough.

Play: South Carolina for 11 units.

UCLA (-7) at Stanford

UCLA continues to impress on both sides of the ball. Stanford has been involved in some shootouts with undefeated Washington State. and previously unbeaten Oregon. Stanford doesn't lose too much with injured QB Randy Fasani being replaced by Chris Lewis, who led the Cardinal over Oregon last week. Nevertheless, UCLA has a better defense than anyone Stanford has faced, and the Bruins also boast a balanced offense with QB Cory Paus and RB DeShaun Foster.

Play: UCLA for 11 units.

Washington (+3) at Arizona State

The Huskies have played many close games this year. They won't let Arizona State off the hook as easily as Oregon State did last week. In fact, under coach Rick Neuheisel the Huskies have won their last 10 games that were decided by seven points or less. The Huskies also get a lift from QB Cody Pickett, who returned from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the UCLA game last week and passed for a school record 455 yards versus Arizona.

Play: Washington for 11 units.

Starting bankroll: 1,000 units.

Bankroll entering last week: 999 units.

Last week: 1-3 for net loss of 23 units.

Current bankroll: 976 units.