08/28/2002 11:00PM

Wisconsin will pile up plenty of points vs. UNLV


LAS VEGAS - Las Vegas is turning red this weekend, but it has nothing to do with the 100-degree temperatures. It has everything to do with being invaded by red-clad fans/alumni of the Wisconsin Badgers, who play the UNLV Runnin' Rebels Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium and on ESPN2.

There's also a very real chance the locals could be turning red from embarrassment by the end of the weekend, too.

Wisconsin has the benefit of a game under its belt, albeit a less-than-stellar 23-21 win over Fresno State last Friday. But UNLV isn't quite on a par with Fresno State, and Wisconsin should have an easier time against the Rebels.

The Badgers will be able to run (literally) over the UNLV defense with sophomore RB Anthony Davis. That also should open up the passing game for QB Brooks Bollinger.

Wisconsin opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite at the Stardust last weekend and was promptly bet down to -3. The line was still -3 at some books Wednesday night, but it was -4 at most books around town. It will continue to rise with the arrival of the rabid Badger fans, who will probably bet their team at any price, so bet early if you like the visitors.

Wisconsin did show itself as vulnerable on defense vs. Fresno State, so UNLV should be able to put some points on the board. In fact, I see this as being a similar game to last year's UNLV home opener when the Rebels lost 37-28 to another Big Ten team, Northwestern.

For that reason, I also like the game to go over the total of 53. Again, you won't want to wait on this because the Wisconsin fans who come into town will almost certainly bet the over - since fans prefer to cheer for high-scoring games - and will also be parlaying the Badgers to the over.

Play: Wisconsin -4 for 1 unit and over 53 points for 1 unit.

Maryland (+2 1/2) vs. Notre Dame

The wrong team is favored in this year's Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. (Of course, a lot of things are wrong with this game, which is supposed to kick off the season but is preceded by no fewer than 36 major college games.)

Yes, I know Maryland's All-American RB Bruce Perry pulled his groin Tuesday and is out four to eight weeks, but the Terps' offense still returns seven other starters - including four of five offensive linemen - from a squad that averaged 36 points per game last year.

Notre Dame has a lot of holes for new coach Tyrone Willingham to fill. The Irish return 14 starters, but that isn't always a good thing when you were 5-6 the previous year. In addition, QB Matt LoVecchio transferred, leaving the job in the hands of Carlyle Holliday, who is more of a runner than a passer. He will need to run a lot because Julius Jones, the Irish's leading rusher the past two seasons, was declared academically ineligible.

Play: Maryland for 1 unit.

Last week: I won a 1-unit play with Colorado State +2 1/2 as the Rams held off Virginia, 35-29, on Thursday, but then lost 1-unit plays on Saturday with Arizona State-Nebraska under 55 (score was 10-3 at halftime, but Nebraska ended up winning 48-10) and Florida State -22 (FSU held first-half leads of 24-0 and 31-7, but only beat Iowa State 38-31).

Season record: 1-2 (-1.2 units, based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).