Sidelines with John Clay

College football and NFL picks: Are these the new Bengals or the old Bengals?

Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon celebrated a touchdown against Miami last Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday.
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon celebrated a touchdown against Miami last Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday.

Kentucky may be taking the weekend off, but not our weekly picks.

Last week, Ben was 5-5 straight-up and 2-7-1 against the spread. I was 6-4 straight-up and 5-4-1 against the spread. For the season, Ben is 34-26 straight-up and 29-29-2 against the spread. I’m 40-20 straight-up and 26-32-2 against the spread.

Here are our picks for this week:

No. 14 Florida at Vanderbilt

Saturday, Noon, ESPN

Line: Florida by 7

John: Florida 24, Vanderbilt 7

Since its loss to Kentucky back on Sept. 8, the Gators have won four straight mainly on the strength of Todd Grantham’s defense. Vanderbilt generated offense last week against Georgia but had trouble sticking the ball in the end zone. And after a week off next Saturday, Florida gets the Bulldogs.

Against the spread: Florida

Ben: Florida 30, Vanderbilt 17

The Gators have won the last two as underdogs, are 2-0 on the road this season and 5-1 overall against the spread. Vandy hasn’t done anything to elicit much confidence since the near-miss in South Bend.

Against the spread: Florida

Tennessee at No. 21 Auburn

Saturday, Noon, SEC Network

Line: Auburn by 15.5

John: Auburn 28, Tennessee 14

Auburn is still stuck in an offensive rut. And the Tigers defense couldn’t make the key stops during last week’s 23-9 loss at Mississippi State. Still, Gus Malzahn’s club should be able to handle the woeful Vols, who are 102nd nationally in total offense.

Against the spread: Tennessee

Ben: Auburn 33, Tennessee 13

Auburn’s offensive struggles continued in Starkville last week, but Tennessee should be the perfect antidote. The Volunteers have been outscored 125-47 in losses to West Virginia, Florida and Georgia.

Against the spread: Auburn

No. 2 Georgia at No. 13 LSU

Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Line: Georgia by 7.5

John: Georgia 27, LSU 17

LSU will try to bounce back from last week’s tough loss at Florida by knocking off the No. 2 Bulldogs in Baton Rouge. If so, they’ll need a better game from quarterback Joe Burrow, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble against the Gators.

Against the spread: Georgia

Ben: Georgia 28, LSU 24

This will be Georgia’s toughest test of the regular season (unless that comes three weeks from now in Lexington). The Dogs still win, but it’ll be a nail-biter.

Against the spread: LSU

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No. 7 Washington at No. 17 Oregon

Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

Line: Washington by 3

John: Washington 31, Oregon 27

Oregon ranks 14th in total offense while Washington ranks 13th in total defense. Oregon is led by quarterback Justin Herbert while Washington is led by quarterback Jake Browning. Oregon has the home field advantage, but the guess here is that Washington is the tougher team.

Against the spread: Washington

Ben: Washington 34, Oregon 27

Think this one comes down to Jake Browning vs. the Oregon “D.” I’ll side with the Huskies, who have destroyed the Ducks the past two seasons.

Against the spread: Washington

No. 22 Texas A&M at South Carolina

Saturday, 3:30 p.m., SEC Network

Line: Texas A&M by 2

John: Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 21

Was impressed with Texas A&M last Saturday, especially the Aggies defense coordinated by Mike Elko. Had to also be impressed with South Carolina’s moxie last week in 37-35 win over Missouri. Gamecocks played a backup quarterback, survived multiple weather delays and won on a last-second field goal.

Against the spread: Texas A&M

Ben: Texas A&M 24, South Carolina 21

We all saw what Texas A&M’s defense could do last week. Aggies are 5-1 against the spread this season, and it’s just hard to trust this Gamecocks team from week to week.

Against the spread: Texas A&M

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Missouri at No. 1 Alabama

Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN

Line: Alabama by 28

John: Alabama 52, Missouri 21

One of these Saturdays, some team is going to pop up and surprise the college football world by giving Alabama a real football game. Sadly, this won’t be the Saturday. Tua Tagovailoa, Damien Harris and Co. will rip through a Mizzou defense the same way Bama has battered its previous six opponents.

Against the spread: Alabama

Ben: Alabama 55, Missouri 20

It’s going to take a defense better than Missouri’s to come close to slowing down this Alabama offense. Tua and the guys roll again.

Against the spread: Alabama

No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 12 Michigan

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Line: Michigan by 8.5

John: Wisconsin 20, Michigan 14

Going by the stats, Michigan has the nation’s best defense. At least if you go by yards allowed per game. But this is Wisconsin’s chance to make up for that damaging loss to BYU last month. Running back Jonathan Taylor will help the Badgers pull the upset at The Big House.

Against the spread: Wisconsin

Ben: Michigan 27, Wisconsin 23

The first of three interesting games for the Wolverines — at Michigan State and then Penn State at home follow — but they won’t be looking past this one. Michigan in a squeaker.

Against the spread: Wisconsin

Ole Miss at Arkansas

Saturday, 7:30 p.m, SEC Network

Line: Ole Miss by 7

John: Arkansas 35, Ole Miss 28

Given the season Arkansas is having, there’s no real reason to pick the Razorbacks here, however. I’m picking them anyway, based on the fact Chad Morris’ team perhaps picked up some confidence by scoring 31 points on Alabama. And Ole Miss’s defense is, well, not good.

Against the spread: Arkansas

Ben: Ole Miss 38, Arkansas 34

Razorbacks have shown some signs of life the past two weeks. That’s a change. Still don’t think they’re good enough to win this one.

Against the spread: Arkansas

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Cincinnati by 2.5

John: Cincinnati 23, Pittsburgh 20

Are these the new Bengals, who found ways to win after trailing Miami 17-0 last week? Or are these the lucky Bengals, who scored a couple of fortuitous fourth-quarter defensive touchdowns against the Dolphins? The annual grudge match/showdown with the Steelers should give us more of a clue.

Against the spread: Cincinnati

Ben: Pittsburgh 27, Bengals 23

I’m guessing they’re the lucky Bengals. Still not buying ‘em.

Against the spread: Pittsburgh

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: New England by 3.5

John: New England 30, Kansas City 20

Patrick Mahomes, meet Bill Belichick. The Kansas City quarterback has shown himself to be something special, but Belichick is the master of taking away the opposition’s best player. It will be interesting to see how he defenses Mahomes. A quarterback named Tom Brady may also play a role.

Against the spread: New England

Ben: New England 35, Kansas City 21

Pats seem to be back on track. Good luck, Patrick.

Against the spread: New England

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