11/03/2005 12:00AM

Vandy should keep it close vs. Florida


LAS VEGAS - We are now two months into the college football season, and it's time to put up or shut up.

There are only a few weeks left in the regular season and then the bowl games. If we don't know the teams by now, we never will. There's no time like the present.

So, emboldened by a 3-1 mark last week and inspired by cliches, I will try to strike while the proverbial iron is hot and put all the accumulated knowledge from this season to the test. I'll give it the ol' college try.

Vanderbilt (+19) at Florida

Vandy has lost four straight games since starting the season 4-0, but in its last contest two weeks ago the Commodores hung in there in a spread-covering 38-35 loss at South Carolina. They've had two weeks to prepare for this game and should be competitive. After all, Florida quarterback Chris Leak still hasn't mastered coach Urban Meyer's spread offense, so even though the Gators have the talent edge and are coming off a 14-10 victory over Georgia last week, I'm confident they won't be able to pull away by three touchdowns or more vs. Vandy's Jay Cutler. I prefer to take underdogs when I think they have a legitimate shot to pull the outright upset, but with this many points there's plenty of wiggle room.

PLAY: Vanderbilt for 1 unit.

Wyoming (+3) at Utah

Utah has tumbled from the elite in just one season. Wyoming isn't that great either (both teams are 4-4), but the Cowboys do have the top defense in the Mountain West Conference and should be able to control this game. Utah's offense, which has dropped off with the slow development of quarterback Brian Johnson, might also be without running back Quinton Ganther, who is questionable with a knee injury. If that's the case, expect this line, which opened at Utah -4, to drop further. When the Cowboys have the ball, expect quarterback Corey Bramlet to be able to hook up with star receiver Jovon Bouknight.

PLAY: Wyoming for 1 unit

Nebraska (-1) at Kansas

Obviously Nebraska is not its usual dominant self and Kansas isn't as much of a doormat as it traditionally has been, but it's still strange to see the point spread on this game so low considering the Cornhuskers have won this matchup the past 36 years and were 28-8 against the spread in that run. I won't buck either trend here. Both of these teams are better on the defensive side of the ball, as evidenced by the low total of 38 points. Nebraska has the decidedly better offense and should break through at some point, and Kansas, which is averaging 18.6 points per game and has turned the ball over 21 times this season, will have a much harder time generating any points. Coming off a 31-24 loss to hated rival Oklahoma, the Cornhuskers should take out their frustrations vs. the Jayhawks.

PLAY: Nebraska for 1 unit

Miami-Fla. (+6 1/2) at Virginia Tech

This is the marquee game of the day, as No. 3 Virginia Tech faces No. 5 Miami. The Hurricanes, who have won six straight since their season-opening loss at Florida St., have the No. 1 defense in the country, and the Hokies are No. 2. Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick may be the best player on the field, but Miami has some offensive weapons that can get the job done, too. Running back Tyrone Moss broke out with 195 yards last week vs. North Carolina. In such a defensive battle, I have to take the points.

PLAY: Miami-Fla. for 1 unit

Wisconsin (+11) at Penn St.

These teams are tied atop the Big 10 at 8-1 overall and 5-1 in conference play and should play an entertaining game Saturday. Wisconsin has the Big 10's top offense and will be tested by Penn St., but the balance between the running and passing game should find success. The key will be the Badgers' defense and whether it will be able to contain Michael Robinson. I've been on the Badgers all season and, getting double digits in a game with this much riding on it, I'm going to trust them again. Warning: I'm going against handicapper Dave Cokin (20-6-1 on the Sunday night "Stardust Line" radio show), so take this pick with a grain of salt.

PLAY: Wisconsin for 1 unit.

Houston at Central Florida (+2 1/2)

I'm going off the beaten path a little bit with this pick, but it's a case where the wrong team might be favored. Central Florida was 0-11 last year but is now 5-2 and on the cusp of being bowl-eligible. Facing a weak defense, the Golden Knights have the ground game to control the tempo and keep the Cougar offense off the field. Nevertheless, this should be a shootout, and I'll side with the more consistent team playing at home.

PLAY: Central Florida for 1 unit.

Arizona St. (-2 1/2) at Washington St.

This game should also be a shootout, and this time I'll take the short road favorite. Arizona St. is fifth in the nation in total offense at 515 yards per game, and I just think the Washington St. defense will have a hard time bouncing back from the 55-13 whipping by USC last week. The Sun Devils should prove they are better than their 4-4 record.

PLAY: Arizona St. for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-1 for a net profit of 1.9 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). College season record: 16-15 for a net loss of 0.5 units.