Weekend Review: Ohio State's in trouble, FIU's on a roll

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After losing to Miami, the road doesn't get any easier for Luke Fickell and Ohio State. (US Presswire)  
After losing to Miami, the road doesn't get any easier for Luke Fickell and Ohio State. (US Presswire)  

It's Monday, and in the immortal words of Bette Davis: "Buckle up boys, it's going to be a bumpy ride."

Since last we gathered, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have joined the ACC. Texas and Oklahoma have threatened to join every conference in America, including the NFC South. Baylor is starting to contemplate life in the Mountain West and Kansas -- dear Kansas -- could be playing its 2013 conference basketball tournament anywhere from Madison Square Garden to the Staples Center.

That's how crazy this week could be. So before that rollercoaster that is conference expansion gets cranked up and runs away from us all, let me humbly share a few things that I DO know after watching the third weekend of college football:

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1. Marcus Lattimore is the best running back in college football: I rate running backs not just on how many yards they gain but WHEN they gain them. To put it bluntly: What do you do when the game is on the line?

Two weeks ago South Carolina was involved in a shootout at Georgia. In the fourth quarter the Gamecocks ran 21 plays. Lattimore touched the ball on 14 of them (13 rush, one pass reception). He ran for 96 yards in the fourth quarter and South Carolina won 45-42.

On Saturday against Navy the Gamecocks were clinging to a 17-14 lead at halftime. The South Carolina defense was having a tough time getting off the field against Navy's triple option.

"Our quarterback [Stephen Garcia] was struggling a little bit so we decided the best way to win was just to keep giving it to No. 21 [Lattimore]," coach Steve Spurrier told me on Sunday.

In the second half, South Carolina ran 37 plays and Lattimore touched the ball 26 times. He finished with a career-high 246 yards on 37 carries and South Carolina won 21-17.

Spurrier has never had a back run for more yards in a game.

"Marcus is one of those special guys," Spurrier said. "He likes getting the ball when the game is on the line. You can't say that about everybody."

2. Ohio State could be in trouble: It's one thing to go on the road and lose at a place like Miami. There's no shame in that even though Ohio State did see its 58-game winning streak against unranked nonconference teams come to end. But it was the way the Buckeyes got beat that should be of concern if you're an Ohio State fan.

After struggling against Toledo (27-22) the week before, the Ohio State defense gave up 240 yards rushing to the Hurricanes. Your quarterbacks were a combined 4-for-18. And, to be quite blunt about it, your team really didn't fight back after it fell behind 17-6.

This was a concern I had about Ohio State after Jim Tressel was forced to resign and Luke Fickell took over. The players on this team were going to say all the right things as long as they were winning and there was no adversity. Now I wonder what is going to happen. October features home games against Michigan State and Wisconsin and road games against Nebraska and Illinois. With everything that has happened to this team (Tressel forced out, Terrelle Pryor forced out) I wonder if there is any glue holding it together.

3. Somebody should be watching Mario Cristobal: It was a nice little story last week when Florida International went on the road and beat Louisville 24-17. It was the first win ever against a team from an AQ conference for FIU. Now the Golden Panthers have stepped out there and done something serious.

They beat UCF, the defending Conference USA champion, 17-10 on Saturday before the largest crowd in school history (20,205). And FIU basically did it without all-world receiver T.Y. Hilton, who left the game after three catches with a hamstring issue.

The Panthers shared the Sun Belt title with Troy last season after starting 0-4. This season they are off to the best start in school history. Look at the schedule. Yes, FIU could win them all.

"When you have a victory like this the eyes continue to open and open wide," said Cristobal, in his fifth season as a head coach, who said that FIU is "a program on the rise." He just signed a new five-year deal this summer.

4. Georgia Tech has some home run hitters: Just before Georgia Tech's game with Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 10, coach Paul Johnson saw a mismatch from his film study. The first play of the game resulted in a 73-yard touchdown pass for Georgia Tech. On Saturday against Kansas, Johnson saw that the Jayhawks defense tended to cheat to one side on a particular formation. So on the first play of the game Johnson put his team in that formation and called for a run in the opposite direction. It turned into a 95-yard touchdown run by Orwin Smith, the longest in school history.

Georgia Tech had 768 total yards, 604 rushing, against Kansas. Both are school records. The Yellow Jackets have scored 178 points in three games. The only reason that is not a record is that the 1916 team, coached by John Heisman, settled a grudge by beating Cumberland 222-0 in the second game.

Georgia Tech is 3-0, and granted, it's not against top-flight competition (Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee, Kansas). But this is worth noting as Georgia Tech opens ACC play on Saturday against North Carolina: The Yellow Jackets now have 10 touchdown plays of 50 yards or more.

5. The best comeback of the weekend belonged to Houston: Iowa was a close second as the Hawkeyes rallied from 17 points down in the final 12 minutes to beat Pittsburgh 31-27. After the 44-41 triple overtime loss to Iowa State, the Hawkeyes needed that one.

But on the road in Ruston, La., Houston and Case Keenum seemingly had no shot when Louisiana Tech scored with 5:11 left in the third quarter to take a 34-7 lead.

No lead, however, is safe with Keenum on the field as the Cougars scored 28 unanswered points. Keenum threw the winning touchdown to Patrick Edwards with 1:36 left in the game.

Houston (3-0) now has wins over UCLA, North Texas and Louisiana Tech. If you are looking for a BCS dark horse other than Boise State, keep your eye on the Cougars.

"You look at the guys who made those plays at the end of the game -- our senior class -- these are guys who have been in a lot of big ball games and they understand it and know how to win," said coach Kevin Sumlin.

Keenum, who has thrown for 1,119 yards in his first three games, needs 2,367 more to move ahead of Timmy Chang and become the NCAA's all-time leading passer

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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