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Tony's Top 10: Is Lattimore healthy? We'll find out against Dawgs

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Now that the calendar has turned to October, it's time to tape your ankles, put on your game face and get serious about the season.

Most of the cupcakes have (mercifully) been consumed. Conference games with a lot on the line -- games that really mean something and will define the entire season -- will fill the schedule from this point forward.

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So with a hint of a cool breeze (finally) in the air, we offer Tony's Top 10 for Saturday:

The Head Ball Coach will lean on No. 21

There is no mystery about what Steve Spurrier, the Head Ball Coach of South Carolina, wants to do when No. 5 Georgia arrives at Williams-Brice Stadium. He will give the ball to No. 21, Marcus Lattimore, early and often.

Lattimore isn't quite up to his previous form as he continues to recover from a season-ending knee injury last Oct. 15. This would be a good time for him to get well because for the last two years Lattimore has owned Georgia.

As a true freshman in 2010 he carried the ball 37 times for 182 yards in a 17-6 win over the Bulldogs. Last season South Carolina won a 45-42 shootout in Athens. With the game on the line, Lattimore carried it 13 times for 95 yards in the fourth quarter.

Is LSU just bored?

Something seems to be missing at LSU, which has dropped two spots in the rankings (to No. 4) the past two weeks after sloppy wins against Auburn (12-10) and Towson (38-22).

My own belief is that the only thing the Tigers are missing is an opponent they can take seriously. In other words, they are bored.

LSU will be anything but bored when it goes to the Swamp to take on Florida, which entered October 4-0 last season and exited the month 4-4.

Here is why Florida is better in 2012. Last season they were outscored in the fourth quarter of SEC games 72-22. In four games this season, including road wins at Texas A&M and Tennessee, the Gators have outscored their opponents 34-0 in the fourth quarter.

Can Texas hold the Mountaineers to 40?

Here is something for Texas to think about as West Virginia, the pinball wizards, come to Austin for a game that might ultimately decide the Big 12 championship.

After last week's 70-63 win over Baylor, West Virginia has now scored 69 or more points in three of its last five games. Bob Huggins' Mountaineer basketball team only did that three times in their final 13 games last season.

If Mack Brown is truly leading the Longhorns back to national prominence, this is a game he needs to win. If it's close, the edge goes to the Longhorns.

After last week's comeback win at Oklahoma State, Brown's teams are 29-6 in games decided by four points or fewer.

"Our defensive coaches spent the first couple of days this week under the table in their meeting room with the lights off," said Brown. "They finally came out. This is a great team and we're going to have to play really well to beat them."

Irish can prove they're for real

When I saw Miami coach Al Golden this summer he already looked worn out. The cloud of NCAA sanctions continued to hang over the program. It was clear that Miami was going to be outmanned in a lot of games this season.

But he didn't want to hear any excuses.

"If we can just stick together and not play the blame game we will be OK," he told me at the time.

Miami is 4-1 as it prepares to play No. 9 Notre Dame in Chicago. The Hurricanes have won two dramatic games in the past two weeks, beating Georgia Tech (42-36) in overtime and North Carolina State (44-37) on a Hail Mary pass with seconds left. They are 3-0 in the ACC Coastal. They get North Carolina, Florida State, and Virginia Tech at home.

Does this mean Miami will beat Notre Dame? Probably not. But it does mean that Al Golden is coaching his butt off when he had every right to pack it in and find another job.

"Al Golden has done a tremendous job of coaching his team," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.

Georgia Tech could really use a win

Georgia Tech has won five of its past six meetings with Clemson and man, it would really help Paul Johnson to make that six out of seven against the Tigers.

The Georgia Tech head coach and his staff have been getting hammered this week for a defense that simply could not or would not tackle in last week's embarrassing 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State at home.

Georgia Tech has given up over 1,100 yards in the past two games and now the Yellow Jackets are about to face the best offense they'll see all season when they go to Clemson. The Tigers are second in the ACC and No. 16 nationally in total offense with over 511 yards per game.

And for all you stat freaks, Clemson is 60-0-1 all time when posting 500 yards or more of total offense.

Pelini, Meyer, have some history

Nebraska is set to make its first trip to Ohio State since 1956 and that one did not go so well for the Cornhuskers, who lost 34-7. Eleven years after that game Bo Pelini was born in Youngstown, Ohio. In 1987 Pelini enrolled at Ohio State where he played free safety for Earle Bruce. In his freshman season Ohio State had a young wide receivers coach named Urban Meyer.

Today Pelini is the head coach at Nebraska and Meyer is the first-year head coach at Ohio State. Their teams meet Saturday at Ohio Stadium in a showdown between two teams that are undefeated in the Big Ten.

Beware of the Boilermakers

Michigan is 2-2 after losses to No. 1 Alabama (41-14) and No. 9 Notre Dame (13-6). But the Wolverines can still win the Big Ten and a spot in the Rose Bowl as they begin conference play at Purdue (3-1).

The Boilermakers' only loss to date was at Notre Dame (20-17) on Sept. 8. And coach Danny Hope could be throwing a little wrinkle at Michigan. Quarterback Robert Marve, who was expected to miss considerable playing time after suffering an ACL injury in September, may be available for the game. That means Purdue could go with two quarterbacks, Marve and senior Caleb Terbush.

History says go with the Sooners

For Oklahoma, the stakes couldn't be higher. After its 24-19 loss to Kansas State in Norman on Sept. 22, the Sooners' margin for error in the Big 12 is pretty much gone. And a trip to Dallas to meet Texas is looming next week.

Oklahoma simply cannot afford to lose to Texas Tech for the third time in four years. Texas Tech (4-0) really hasn't been tested to date with wins over Northwestern State, Texas State, New Mexico and Iowa State. But Tommy Tuberville's Red Raiders have Seth Doege (71.43 completion percentage), the league's No. 2 quarterback behind the incomparable Geno Smith.

But here is what Texas Tech doesn't have on its side: History. Oklahoma does not take losing a regular season game very well. Since 2004, Oklahoma is 18-0 in games following a regular-season loss.

Can Washington post another top 10 upset?

When Washington knocked off Stanford on Sept. 27, it was the Huskies' first win over a Top 10 team in almost three years. Now Steve Sarkisian's team is 3-1 with the only loss coming at No. 4 LSU (41-3). So can the Huskies go to Autzen Stadium and knock off the No. 2 Ducks?

Nope.

Oregon has won eight straight games against Washington and only once have the Ducks allowed 21 points while averaging 42.4 points.

Oregon is pretty good, folks. If Chip Kelly's gang doesn't lose at USC on Nov. 3, they will likely run the table all the way to the BCS championship game in South Florida.

Time for Northwestern to play big boy football

No. 24 Northwestern (5-0) is back in the rankings for the first time since the last regular season poll of 2008. And the Wildcats are coming off a school-record performance, posting 704 yards of total offense in a 44-29 win over Indiana.

But here is the reality of Northwestern's start: Their five wins (Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, South Dakota, Indiana) have come against teams that have exactly zero victories against FBS competition. Still, said Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, 700 yards is 700 yards.

"If not for the Baylor-West Virginia game everybody would be talking about Northwestern gaining 700 yards in their game," he said.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Tuesday at 9 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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