Sidelines with John Clay

College and NFL picks: Can UK beat Mississippi State? Will Jimbo scare Bama?

Gluttons for punishment, we’re back for the fourth week of college and NFL picks.

Through three weeks, Ben is 17-13 both straight-up and against the spread. He was 5-5 last week straight-up and 5-5 against the spread.

I was 6-4 straight-up last week but 4-6 against the spread. I’m now 21-9 overall and 14-16 against the spread.

Here are our picks for this week:

Mississippi State at Kentucky

7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2

Line: Mississippi State by 10

Ben: Mississippi State 30, Kentucky 23

Surely the UK crowd will show up for this one — and the Cats should be hyped in their biggest home game of the season — but it won’t be enough against Nick Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs.

Against the spread pick: Kentucky

John: Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 14

Not to throw cold water on UK’s hot start, but the Bulldogs are still better. For the Cats to pull the upset, quarterback Terry Wilson is going to have to make some fantastical plays.

Against the spread pick: Mississippi State

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Louisville at Virginia

Noon Saturday on ACC Network

Line: Virginia by 4.5

Ben: Virginia 31, Louisville 23

Junior-college QB Bryce Perkins gives the Cavaliers a more dynamic offensive look than they’ve had in recent years, and Louisville seems lost on the football field. That continues Saturday.

Against the spread pick: Virginia

John: Louisville 23, Virginia 21

His offense a power failure, U of L Coach Bobby Petrino is already making a quarterback change. Malik Cunningham gets the start in Charlottesville. The Cards hope it’s a fresh one.

Against the spread pick: Louisville

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Georgia at Missouri

Noon Saturday on ESPN

Line: Georgia by 14

Ben: Georgia 41, Missouri 24

Think Kirby’s guys will be looking to embarrass every SEC East foe in their path to another league title game appearance. Mizzou is just the next victim.

Against the spread pick: Georgia

John: Georgia 42, Missouri 35

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Missouri hit two separate touchdown passes of 63 yards on the Bulldogs last year. And quarterback Drew Lock is better this year. And he’s getting better protection. Mizzou makes a game of it.

Against the spread pick: Missouri

Texas A&M at Alabama

3:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS

Line: Alabama by 26.5

Ben: Alabama 48, Texas A&M 17

Alabama is getting whatever it wants this season. The Tide are 3-0 against the spread despite being huge favorites every week. Saban makes another statement in Bama’s first big home game of the fall.

Against the spread pick: Alabama

John: Alabama 38, Texas A&M 14

Alabama can’t make every game a yawner, can it? Yes it can, but the guess here is Jimbo Fisher knows enough about former boss Nick Saban to keep it reasonably close in Tuscaloosa.

Against the spread pick: Texas A&M

South Carolina at Vanderbilt

4 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network

Line: South Carolina by 2

Ben: Vanderbilt 27, South Carolina 24

This might be a different Vandy team. The ‘Dores blew out Middle Tennessee and Nevada and nearly pulled an upset in South Bend. They pull off the home upset here.

Against the spread pick: Vanderbilt

John: Vanderbilt 24, South Carolina 17

Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason set the tone this week. When Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly accused the Commodores of “bad football” for chop blocks, Mason said Kelly should “take his comments and keep it moving.”

Against the spread pick: Vanderbilt

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Florida at Tennessee

7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN

Line: Florida by 4.5

Ben: Florida 28, Tennessee 20

Volunteers get another chance against a quality opponent after getting embarrassed by West Virginia in the season opener. Final result won’t be any different against the Gators.

Against the spread pick: Florida

John: Florida 33, Tennessee 31

Remember when this was the premiere game in the SEC East? Phil Fulmer vs. Steve Spurrier? You can’t spell Citrus Bowl without UT? Oh, how Tennessee and Florida fans miss those days.

Against the spread pick: Tennessee

Arkansas at Auburn

7:30 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network

Line: Auburn by 30

Ben: Auburn 47, Arkansas 10

Arkansas is bad. Really bad. Auburn looking to bounce back after a last-second loss to rival LSU last weekend. This one will get ugly.

Against the spread pick: Auburn

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John: Auburn 45, Arkansas 27

Arkansas fans are ready to put this season in a burn bag, but surely the Razorbacks won’t throw six interceptions as they did last week against North Texas. Auburn will be sulking over that one-point loss to LSU.

Against the spread pick: Arkansas

Stanford at Oregon

8 p.m. Saturday on ABC

Line: Stanford by 1.5

Ben: Stanford 27, Oregon 24

Stanford hasn’t done anything wrong this season. Oregon hasn’t been tested by a quality opponent (and the Ducks are 0-3 against the spread). Slight edge to the Cardinal.

Against the spread pick: Stanford

John: Stanford 28, Oregon 17

Stanford gets star running back Bryce Love back for this Pac-12 meeting with the Ducks. And Love will show the national audience why he was the Heisman Trophy runner-up a season ago.

Against the spread pick: Stanford

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Wisconsin at Iowa

8:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox

Line: Wisconsin by 3

Ben: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 17

The Badgers’ loss to BYU last week sure was a head-scratcher. Iowa’s defense looks stout, but gotta think Wisconsin bounces back here ahead of next weekend’s open date.

Against the spread pick: Wisconsin

John: Iowa 20, Wisconsin 19

All Kirk Ferentz does at Iowa is win games. And so far the Iowa defense is allowing just 209 yards per game. Plus, Iowa is playing at home. The slightest of an edge to the Hawkeyes.

Against the spread pick: Iowa

Bengals at Panthers

1 p.m. Sunday on CBS

Line: Panthers by 3

Ben: Bengals 24, Panthers 17

Are the Bengals for real? Can they actually win the North? That remains to be seen, but don’t think the hype will slow down against what looks like a middling Panthers squad.

Against the spread pick: Bengals

John: Panthers 24. Bengals 22

Had Carolina beaten Atlanta last week for a 2-0 start, I’d like the Bengals in this spot. But Carolina lost and is playing at home. Plus, Cincinnati is so thin at running back Marvin Lewis may have to take a few snaps.

Against the spread pick: Bengals