AP Top 25 against the spread: Can Mississippi State inch closer to Top 10 at Kentucky?

Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead is ready for SEC football

Mississippi State's new head football coach Joe Moorhead was in Biloxi with the MSU Road Dawgs Tour talking about his move from Penn State to the Southeastern Conference. Coach talks about defense and wide receiver Austin Williams of Ocean Springs.
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Mississippi State's new head football coach Joe Moorhead was in Biloxi with the MSU Road Dawgs Tour talking about his move from Penn State to the Southeastern Conference. Coach talks about defense and wide receiver Austin Williams of Ocean Springs.

The Mississippi State football team is getting closer to a Top 10 ranking as it prepares to travel to Kentucky for a 6 p.m. contest on Saturday.

The Wildcats (3-0, 1-0) appear to have finally turned the corner in Mark Stoops’ sixth season on the job after taking down Florida 27-16 for the first time in three decades on Sept. 8 in Gainesville.

Kentucky features three big-play backs in Benny Snell, Terry Wilson and Asim Rose, but Mississippi State ranks 13th in the nation in rushing defense with 85 yards allowed per game.

The No. 14 Bulldogs (3-0) are led by an even more dangerous rushing attack behind quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Kylin Hill. The two players have combined for 559 yards rushing and seven touchdowns with Fitzgerald missing the season opener.

Saturday’s game is crucial for MSU with a tough stretch of Florida, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M looming.

Mississippi State is a 10-point favorite on the road.

My pick: Mississippi State covers — Mississippi State 38, Kentucky 21.

Here is how I see the rest of this week’s games playing out against the spread:

6 p.m., Saturday – FAU at No. 16 UCF (-13.5) — In the preseason, this appeared to be a chance for Lane Kiffin’s Owls to make a major statement and hand UCF its first loss since 2016. It doesn’t appear that FAU has much of a chance of slowing down the Knights as they look to extend their winning streak to 16 games. My pick: UCF covers — UCF 45, FAU 24.

8 p.m., Friday – No. 10 Penn State at Illinois (+28.0) — The Lovie Smith era just can’t seem to get off the ground at Illinois. My pick: Penn State covers — Penn State 48, Illinois 20.

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about the team’s quarterbacks during the weekly press conference.

11 a.m., Saturday – No. 2 Georgia at Missouri (+14.0) — Mizzou is off to a promising 3-0 start with quarterback Drew Lock throwing 11 touchdowns and one interception. My pick: Missouri covers — Georgia 35, Missouri 23.

11 a.m., Saturday — No. 8 Notre Dame at Wake Forest (+7.5) — Wake Forest freshman quarterback Sam Hartman is talented, but he’s a little loose with the ball. My pick: Notre Dame covers — Notre Dame 30, Wake Forest 17.

11 a.m., Saturday — Nebraska at No. 19 Michigan (-19.5) — First-year coach Scott Frost will do great things at Nebraska. It just won’t happen this season. My pick: Michigan covers: Michigan 42, Nebraska 21.

11 a.m., Saturday – No. 23 Boston College at Purdue (+6.5) — I smell an upset brewing. My pick: Purdue covers — Purdue 30, Boston College 27.

2:30 p.m., Saturday – No. 22 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama (-26.6) — Not many folks saw this game in the preseason as one to watch, but the Aggies (2-1) have played well early. My pick: A&M covers — Alabama 45, Texas A&M 21.

2:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 3 Clemson at Georgia Tech (+16.5) My pick: Clemson covers — Clemson 42, Georgia Tech 17.

2:30 p.m., Saturday — Kansas State at No. 12 West Virginia (-16.0) — WVU has surpassed my expectations in a 2-0 start. My pick: West Virginia covers — West Virginia 38, Kansas State 20.

2:30 p.m., Saturday — Tulane at No. 4 Ohio State (-36.5) — Tulane is off to an underwhelming 1-2 start. My pick: Ohio State covers — Ohio State 52, Tulane 10.

2:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 13 Virginia Tech at Old Dominion (+28.5) — You have to give credit to Virginia Tech for making this trip, but it will not be pretty in Norfolk. ODU fans should avert their eyes. My pick: Virginia Tech covers — Virginia Tech 56, Old Dominion 10.

2:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 21 Miami at FIU (+26.5) — I feel good about FIU’s chances of putting up a fight. My pick: FIU covers — Miami 34, FIU 20.

3:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 17 TCU at Texas (+3) — Last week’s 37-14 win over USC was a big moment for Tom Herman and the Longhorns, but the task is a little tougher with the Horned Frogs. I think last week’s 40-28 loss to Ohio State may be a drag on TCU. My pick: Texas covers — Texas 30, TCU 28.

6 p.m., Saturday — Army at No. 5 Oklahoma (-32.0) — Army is a good football team this year, but that will matter little in Norman. My pick: Oklahoma covers — Oklahoma 45, Army 13.

6 p.m., Saturday — Louisiana Tech at No. 6 LSU (-21) — It doesn’t appear LSU will be putting up huge numbers on offense this season, but they’re still a very good team. My pick: LSU covers — LSU 38, Louisiana Tech 17.

6 p.m., Saturday — Texas Tech at No. 15 Oklahoma State (-13.0) — I love the Cowboys here. My pick: Oklahoma State covers — Oklahoma State 56, Texas Tech 31.

6:30 p.m., Saturday — Arkansas at No. 9 Auburn (-30.0) — Chad Morris doesn’t have the personnel to run his system in year No. 1 at Arkansas. My pick: Auburn covers — Auburn 49, Arkansas 17.

6:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 24 Michigan State at Indiana (+5) My pick: Michigan State covers — Michigan State 34, Indiana 24.

7 p.m., Saturday – No. 7 Stanford at No. 20 Oregon (+1.5) — I’m thinking this is where Oregon makes a statement in Pac-12 play and QB Justin Herbert makes a name for himself. My pick: Oregon covers — Oregon 31, Stanford 28.

7:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 18 Wisconsin at Iowa (+3.0) — Wisconsin doesn’t appear to be Wisconsin. My pick: Iowa Covers — Iowa 24, Wisconsin 20.

9:30 p.m., Saturday — Arizona State at No. 10 Washington (-17.5)My pick: Arizona State covers: Washington 31, Arizona State 17.

Other games:

11 a.m., Saturday — Kent State at Ole Miss (-28.5) — You can be confident in picking the over when Ole Miss is on the field the rest of the season. The over/under is at 77 this week. My pick: Kent State covers — Ole Miss 55, Kent State 28.

6 p.m., Saturday — Rice at Southern Miss (-14.5) — We’ll find out what Southern Miss (1-1) is made of after falling 21-20 to Louisiana-Monroe the last time out. Rice (1-2) has been competitive against good competition in losses to Houston and Hawaii the last two weeks. Jack Abraham should still get the start at quarterback for USM. It’s hard to see backup Kwadra Griggs, who is back from suspension, being thrown onto the field unless Southern Miss builds a substantial lead. My pick: Rice covers — Southern Miss 35, Rice 24.

7 p.m., Saturday — South Alabama at Memphis (-30.5) — South Alabama (1-2) had to rally to beat a bad Texas State team 41-31 last week and starting QB Cole Gavin is still under suspension for the time being. My pick: South Alabama covers — Memphis 49, South Alabama 20.

Patrick Magee: 228-897-2333, @Patrick_Magee.