Sidelines with John Clay

College football and NFL picks: Can Kentucky bounce back against Vandy?

The report from last week’s grid predictions is pretty simple: Ben was up. I was down.

Ben went 7-3 with his straight-up picks while going 6-4 against the spread. I was just 4-6 straight-up and 5-5 against the spread.

For the season, I’m up three on Ben in straight-up picks. Me: 44-26. Him: 41-29. But Ben has me by four against the spread. Him: 35-33-2. Me: 31-37-2.

Here’s what we have for this week:

Vanderbilt at No. 14 Kentucky

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network

Line: Kentucky by 11

Ben: Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt 16

Cats need to get that offense going. Vandy has given up 38.3 points per game in conference play. UK should be more than ready for this one after last week off.

Against the spread: Kentucky

John: Kentucky 20, Vanderbilt 10

Vanderbilt ranks 95th nationally against the run, so look for the UK offense to return to a ground-oriented ball control attack. Also look for the pesky Commodores to keep it close.

Against the spread: Vanderbilt

No. 6 Michigan at No. 24 Michigan State

Saturday, Noon, Fox

Line: Michigan by 7

Ben: Michigan 26, Michigan State 13

Sparty has been tough to figure out this season (and they’re 0-3 against the spread at home so far). Wolverines keep it rolling through the Big Ten schedule.

Against the spread: Michigan

John: Michigan 14, Michigan State 13

Michigan State boasts the nation’s best run defense. Michigan is ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense, so look for a low scoring game in East Lansing.

Against the spread: Michigan State

Auburn at Ole Miss

Saturday, Noon, ESPN

Line: Auburn by 4

Ben: Ole Miss 31, Auburn 27

Tigers are in a tailspin. Hard to believe this team beat Washington and almost got LSU, too. That seems like a long time ago.

Against the spread: Ole Miss

John: Auburn 24, Ole Miss 21

Auburn has been one of the season’s big disappointments, but the belief here is the Tigers hit rock bottom last week in home loss to Tennessee.

Against the spread: Ole Miss

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No. 1 Alabama at Tennessee

Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Line: Alabama by 29.5

Ben: Alabama 40, Tennessee 16

Three of Bama’s last four games have finished within two points of those astronomical spreads Vegas puts here every week. This one seems like too much. Pruitt’s guys keep it close (by Alabama-in-2018 standards).

Against the spread: Tennessee

John: Alabama 28, Tennessee 20

Having been Alabama’s defensive coordinator the past two years, new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt knows the (many) strengths and (few) weaknesses of the Tide offense.

Against the spread: Tennessee

No. 16 N.C. State at No. 3 Clemson

Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Line: Clemson by 17

Ben: Clemson 38, NC State 20

This might be Clemson’s toughest test before the College Football Playoff. Tigers will be ready.

Against the spread: Clemson

John: NC State 27, Clemson 24

Going for the upset here on the shoulders of North Carolina State’s highly underrated quarterback Ryan Finley. Syracuse nearly got the Tigers; Wolfpack will.

Against the spread: NC State

No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 5 LSU

Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN

Line: LSU by 6.5

Ben: LSU 27, Mississippi State 17

Bulldogs are coming off the bye, but LSU is riding high after that win over Georgia. Tigers take care of business here, then they prepare for Bama.

Against the spread: LSU

John: Mississippi State 20, LSU 15

Letdown time in Baton Rouge as Coach Orgeron’s Bayou Bengals suffer from the big head after big win over Georgia. Week off helps Hail State, as well.

Against the spread: Mississippi State

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No. 2 Ohio State at Purdue

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Line: Ohio State by 13.5

Ben: Ohio State 42, Purdue 31

Boilermakers have won three straight (and beat the spread by double digits in every one of those games). I’m not picking Purdue to pull the upset, but Brohm’s bunch will keep things interesting for most of the night.

Against the spread: Purdue

John: Ohio State 38, Purdue 35

If Purdue pulls the upset, Louisville officials should fly into West Lafayette in the dead of night and offer head coaching job to Jeff Brohm without Bobby Petrino’s knowledge.

Against the spread: Purdue

No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington State

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Fox

Line: Washington State by 2.5

Ben: Washington State 40, Oregon 34

Gardner Minshew and the nation’s leading passing attack are 6-0 against the spread this season. Cougars make it happen again in what should be a fun one.

Against the spread: Washington State

John: Oregon 31, Washington State 20

I’ve about had my fill of Mike Leach, and the Cougars are winning with nation’s 15th-ranked defense anyway. But Oregon has the momentum coming off big win over Washington.

Against the spread: Oregon

Patriots at Bears

Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Patriots by 3

Ben: Patriots 30, Bears 20

Pats have scored 119 points over the past three weeks. Chicago’s “D” has been impressive — and they get this one at home — but here’s betting on Brady until someone slows them down.

Against the spread: Patriots

John: Patriots 23, Bears 17

Bill Belichick refused to compare Khalil Mack to the great Lawrence Taylor, but he might change his mind after this one. Still, Tom Brady will find a way to win. Again.

Against the spread: Patriots

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Bengals at Chiefs

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Chiefs by 6

Ben: Chiefs 34, Bengals 27

Sunday night has not been a good time slot for the Bengals. The trend continues here.

Against the spread: Chiefs

John: Chiefs 42, Bengals 24

Bengals defense failed last Sunday to get to Ben Roethlisberger. And Patrick Mahomes is more mobile than Big Ben.

Against the spread: Chiefs

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