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What we learned: Lattimore heartbreak; No. 2 debate alive, but No. 1 not in question

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On a Saturday when No. 2 (Florida), No. 7 (Oregon State), No. 8 (Oklahoma), No. 9 (Southern California), and No. 11 (Mississippi State) all lose there was plenty for us to learn. So where do we start?

How about here:

1. Lattimore's heartbreak

I talked to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier on Sunday. The Head Ball Coach is not one to get overly sentimental about anything. But he was clearly troubled about the horrific season-ending injury (dislocated knee) to running back Marcus Lattimore on Saturday against Tennessee.

"It's a tough thing because Marcus is very popular with his teammates and with the players from other schools," Spurrier said. "We have to move on and wish Marcus the best. It's going to take some time for him to heal and come back from this. But we believe that he will."

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When Lattimore got hurt, players from both teams huddled around as he was put on a cart and taken off the field. That tells you everything you need to know about Marcus Lattimore. "That shows you how much respect all the players have for Marcus," Spurrier said.

Lattimore, in this third season at South Carolina, has not taken a redshirt year. He could take that next season while he rehabs the knee, looking to return as a fifth-year senior in 2014.

Lattimore pushed himself through one grueling rehab after he injured his knee at Mississippi State in October of 2011. The hope here is that he can come back. I'm not supposed to pull for players. But with this guy I'm going to make an exception to that rule. I am pulling for Marcus Lattimore.

No. 1 not open to debate

Alabama was supposed to play flat Saturday night against No. 13 Mississippi State (now ranked No. 17). It was a classic sandwich game between an old rival (Tennessee) and Saturday's mega-game at No. 5 LSU, which we've been talking about since we left New Orleans in January. A normal football team in that situation is supposed to be a bit unfocused, play a little sloppy and win in the second half because of superior talent.

But Alabama is not a normal football team. On a cool, crisp night in Tuscaloosa against an opponent that viewed this as its Game of the Year and one of the biggest games in school history, Alabama dispatched Mississippi State with cold-blooded efficiency (38-7).

Consider this: The Crimson Tide has won 21 of its past 22 games (its only loss was to LSU last November). Each of those 21 wins has been by 16 or more points. Also during this stretch, no FBS opponent has gained more than 300 yards of total offense. The only team that posted more than 300 yards was Georgia Southern, an FBS team that runs the option.

3. Is Jimbo Fisher kicking himself?

On Oct. 6 Florida State blew a 16-0 lead at North Carolina State and lost to the Wolfpack 17-16. At the time the Seminoles were ranked in the top five.

Since then, Florida State has beaten Boston College, Miami (Fla.), and Duke while scoring 132 points. After watching Florida State pound Duke 48-7, Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said that he thinks Florida State is the best team in the country.

"We got whipped," Cutcliffe told The Raleigh News & Observer. "And there is no recipe that could have changed it."

I reached Cutcliffe on Sunday and he said that Florida State was the best team he had seen this season "by far."

Unfortunately for Florida State (8-1, 5-1 ACC) there is no way to change that inexplicable loss to N.C. State. The Wolfpack lost to North Carolina on Saturday so Florida State is tied with Clemson atop the ACC's Atlantic Division. If both teams win out the Seminoles win the tiebreaker and go to the ACC Championship game because they beat Clemson 49-37 on Sept. 22.

So Florida State has a chance to win the ACC championship. But the BCS national championship appears to be out of the picture. Florida State was ranked No. 9 in Sunday's BCS Standings. With a non-conference schedule that includes Murray State and Savannah State, it will be almost impossible to get back into the mix for the BCS championship. Florida State has games left vs. Virginia Tech, Maryland and No. 7 Florida.

4. Georgia's D can play with anyone, even Bama

After underachieving to the point of embarrassment all season, Georgia's defense got excited about playing a football game on Saturday against then-No. 2 Florida in Jacksonville. The last time Georgia faced a moment of truth like this, South Carolina kicked their collective butts (35-7) in Columbia on Oct. 6.

But on this day Georgia made Florida pay for its limitations on offense, forcing six turnovers. Georgia needed every one of those turnovers to win 17-9. Now Georgia can get back to the SEC Championship game (where the Bulldogs were pounded by LSU last December) by beating Ole Miss at home and Auburn on the road. I don't know if Georgia will revert back to its old ways now that the emotion of playing the Gators is gone. But if Mark Richt's team does get back to Atlanta and faces Alabama, it will be a very interesting matchup. I'm just sayin'.

5. Is Chizik on way out at Auburn?

Last week was a horrible one for Auburn coach Gene Chizik. He lost his mother, Rita, on Monday. How in the world do you focus on football at a time like that? But it is part of the job description. Saturday's 63-21 loss to Texas A&M was rock bottom for this football team (1-7, 0-6 SEC).

Some of the numbers from this game:

 The 42-point loss tied for the largest home defeat in school history. Tennessee beat Auburn 42-0 in 1980, which was Doug Barfield's last season as coach.

 The 63 points allowed was second-most ever scored against Auburn. John Heisman's 1917 Georgia Tech team beat Auburn 68-7 in Atlanta.

 Auburn gave up 671 yards of total offense to Texas A&M, the most an Auburn defense has allowed since it started playing football in 1892.

I'm actually wrong when I say this is rock bottom for Auburn because the Tigers still have No. 6 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama left in SEC play. Auburn has not been winless in the SEC since 1980, the year before Pat Dye was hired as coach.

Things got so bad last week that Auburn President Jay Gogue sent out a letter to the fans asking for patience and that the football program will be evaluated at the end of the year. Not good. Not good at all.


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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