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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 8:50 AM

Believe it or not, we've climbed to the "other side" of the halfway mark for most of the 124 FBS schools in College Football-land and more than a few interesting wagering trends have developed such as:

Fresno State (6-0 against the spread), Utah State (6-0 ATS), San Jose State (5-0 ATS) and Western Kentucky (5-0 ATS) have covered each/every one of their 22 on-the-board games this year while the Virginia Cavaliers are still searching for their first pointspread win (the Wahoos enter this Saturday's Homecoming Game against Maryland at 0-5-1 versus the vig this season).

And who would ever have believed that by the middle of October these Penn State Nittany Lions would be a tasty 5-1 against the Las Vegas prices while the once-feared USC Trojans would be 1-4 vig-wise ... surprise, surprise!

Still, what piques our handicapping/wagering interests as we gear up for these next batch of College Football games this weekend are those teams in the "first-time" role be it the first time someone is a road betting favorite or the first time this year that some team has been favored in conference play ... you get the idea!

Now, here's a batch of "first-timers" worth examining on this weekend's College Football menu:

ARKANSAS - The Razorbacks showed some real moxie in last weekend's 24-7 win at 7 ½-point home fav Auburn but now for the first time in this under-whelming season for the Hogs they'll be laying points against a fellow SEC foe:

Note that Arkansas was a dog in losses to Alabama and Texas A&M prior to last week's aforementioned tilt with War Eagle and who knows how John L. Smith's crew will react as heavy-duty 17-point favorites against banged-up Kentucky. If QB Tyler Wilson is as healthy as he says, than Arkansas may "turn back the clock" and rub out some folks along the way by 20-plus points.

Maybe this year has nothing to do with the recent past but it's still worth mentioning that Arkansas is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games when laying points against the SEC and that dates back to the start of the 2010 season.

CALIFORNIA - No doubt this 2012 edition of the Cal Golden Bears has been an enigmatic lot considering the season-opening 31-24 loss to 12-point dog Nevada and last week's 43-17 romp over 2 ½-point fav UCLA.

Go figure Jeff Tedford's team this year - it hasn't been easy - but note that now California is a road favorite for the first time this season and a Pac-12 betting fav for the first time as well while laying a TD-or-so- price this weekend at wobbly Washington State. The brotherly love QB Zach Maynard-to-WR Keenan Allen combo is capable of a monster second half of this season but can they cover the price tag here in Pullman?

Note that the Cal kids are 5-0 ATS as first-time betting favorites the past five years ... good stuff!

LOUISVILLE - The U of L Cardinals are sitting pretty in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll at #18 but along comes a major challenge as Charlie Strong's squad will be playing its first Big East road game this year at Pittsburgh.

Okay, so the Redbirds failed to cover recent back-to-back road wins at Florida International and Southern Miss but now we're talking league play and already the Las Vegas line on this game leaped from 'Ville minus 1 ½ points to minus 3 ... hmmm.

Keep in mind Louisville is coming off a bye week - hey, last year's lone post-bye week game was a 17-13 home loss against 11 ½-point road dog Marshall - and that the Cards were a perfect 4-and-oh spreadwise on the Big East road a year ago with covers against Cincinnati, West Virginia, Connecticut and South Florida. So there!

WEST VIRGINIA - For the most part, the 2012 schedule for this first-year Big 12 member hasn't posed any real problems but now's the first time this season the Mountaineers are playing back-to-back road games and that could get tricky.

The 'Neers nabbed that thrill-a-minute 48-45 victory against 7 ½-point fav Texas last Saturday night and now here Dana Holgorsen's gang goes back on the Big 12 road with a game at Texas Tech.

If you wish to take a little WVU history lesson here, than note the Mountaineers have covered the back end of their two-game road swings in each of the past two years - a 41-31 win at 6-point dog Rutgers in 2011 and a 35-10 triumph over 3-point fav Pittsburgh in 2010. Just sayin'!
 
Now, here's the Thursday Night NCAA Football TV Preview ...
ARIZONA STATE (4-1) at COLORADO (1-4) -- 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so this ain't exactly the sexiest prime-time matchup the folks at ESPN have given us this year ... but who's complaining? The visiting Arizona State Sun Devils - a 22 ½-point betting fav at last check here -- rock-n-rolls their way into this game in Boulder off a bye after back-to-back 30- and 10-point wins against Utah and California, respectively, and make sure to keep an eye here on guys on each side of the ball for A-State:

Defensive lineman Will Sutton already has 6.5 sacks for a defense that ranks fourth nationally in pass defense and 11th nationally in total defense - note that Sutton sacked Cal QB Maynard three times in a recent 27-17 win. Meanwhile, RB Cameron Marshall is looking for his first bust-out game of the year. Marshall - who rushed for a season-high 69 yards against Cal - has registered four TDs.

Spread Notes - Arizona State is 4-1 vig-wise this year and the Sun Devils are 12-6-1 ATS in league games dating back to the start of 2010. Colorado has failed to cover four-of-five spread verdicts this season and the Buffaloes are a collective 7-16 against the odds as point-grabbers the past two-plus seasons.

THE NFL THURSDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

PITTSBURGH (2-2) at TENNESSEE (1-4) -- 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Here's a question folks are wondering about this year's Pittsburgh Steelers: Are they playing to the level of their competition so far?

The Steelers kicked away road games at Denver and Oakland - both were eminently winnable (if you ask us!) and barely escaped last Sunday with a 16-14 triumph over 4-point underdog Philadelphia as PK Shaun Suisham nailed a 34-yard FG as time expired.

Speaking of expired, the Tennessee defense has been dead wood so far - the Titans have allowed a league-worst 181 points so far (that's 36.2 ppg) - and no QB Jake Locker (shoulder) again here for the desperate 5-point home dogs in this night-time clash.

Spread Notes - Pittsburgh has failed to cover three of its first four games this season but did you know the Steelers are a rotten-to-the-core 2-10 ATS away while dating back to that Super Bowl loss to Green Bay two seasons ago? Tennessee is 1-4 vig-wise so far this season and the Titans have failed to cover seven of their last 11 non-AFC South games.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NFL Week 6 winners beginning with the Steelers-Titans tilt on Thursday Night Football plus there are loads of NCAA Football and Major-League Baseball Playoff winners straight ahead too -- so go ahead and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper! Check in with us on Game Days either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winners and note the check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday Baseball Winners and than after 1 p.m. ET for weeknight NFL, NCAA and MLB action and than after 11 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

NOTE: Make sure you're with us for tomorrow's Jim Sez as we present out first Heisman Trophy Watch for this 2012 season!

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