11/21/2002 12:00AM

Waiting's over for Chippewas

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When betting on football (or any sport for that matter), the objective is to remain objective.

Just like in horseracing when you win a bet on a horse and might be tempted to bet him back the next time out of a sense of loyalty, it's very easy to fall in love with a team after winning a bet.

But you really have to put those feelings aside and try to handicap the next game as a separate event. Do I like this team to cover this week because I'm still getting value in the line or only because it came through for me before?

The same thing goes when a team (or horse) fails you. The gut reaction is to bet against it or him the next time out of spite, but every game is a different handicapping situation that needs to be analyzed without letting emotion be involved.

It's your money and you have to make it a business decision, nothing personal.

Western Michigan at Central Michigan (+2 1/2)

Three weeks ago, I made Central Michigan my best bet in a game against Eastern Michigan. The Chippewas came through with a 47-21 win as a 10-point favorite. I've been tempted to bet them each of the past two weeks, but didn't think I was getting enough value. I'm glad I resisted as they lost 44-17 to Toledo as a 14-point dog and lost 38-21 to Ball St. as a 2 1/2-point favorite. But now they're in a spot I like, playing their final home game of the year (it's usually a good idea to look at teams playing on Senior Day), and are getting points in a game in which they probably should be favored. Central Michigan averages 217 yards rushing a game and should be able to pound away at the Broncos' defense. Central Michigan's weakness is its pass defense (allowing 268 yards per game), but Western doesn't have the aerial attack to take advantage of that. I like going against a team that isn't much of a threat to rally, especially when my team has a ground game to control the clock late.

PLAY: Central Michigan for 2 units.

Washington (-8 1/2) at Washington St.

I've liked Washington St. all season long. I've made bankroll plays on the Cougars twice, losing with them as an 8-point dog in a 25-7 loss at Ohio St. on Sept. 14 and then getting a win with them as a 7-point favorite in a 36-11 win over Stanford on Oct. 12. But I can't play them here, laying more than a touchdown against a quality (but underachieving) team in arch-rival Washington, which has won the "Apple Cup" the past four years and won't give it up without a fight. Besides, the Huskies have played well in recent weeks as underdogs, whipping Oregon (at Oregon, no less) 42-14 last week and Oregon St. 41-29 the week before. Washington St. is trying to remain alive for a BCS bowl, but Washington needs a win to become bowl-eligible, which can be just as much of an incentive. Both teams are stingy against the run, so expect both teams to go to the air early and often with Washington QB Cody Pickett matching Washington St. QB Jason Geeser touchdown for touchdown.

PLAY: Washington for 2 units.

USC vs. UCLA (+5 1/2)

Staying in the Pac-10, I lost the only time I bet on USC (vs. Kansas St.) and won the only time I went against it (vs. California), but that's not the reason I like UCLA in this spot. The Trojans, led by QB Carson Palmer, have been on a roll, winning five straight and covering four in a row. However, UCLA's defense (35 sacks on the season and 14 interceptions) has been coming on strong and should be able to pressure Palmer into some mistakes. Added incentive is the fact UCLA is looking to avenge a 27-0 loss to USC last year. This line opened at 4 and was up to 5 1/2 at most books by press time. You might be able to get +6 by kickoff.

PLAY: UCLA for 1 unit.

Season record: 25-23, including 11-9 on 2-unit plays, for a net profit of 1.8 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).