By Andy Staples
October 27, 2012

Snap Judgments from the early Week 9 slate. For more, check out midday Snaps and our complete Top 25 review.

No. 17 South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35: The Gamecocks survived the loss of Marcus Lattimore to a gruesome-looking leg injury and then survived a Tennessee rally when Jadeveon Clowney did what Jadeveon Clowney does: hit the quarterback and jarred the ball loose.

South Carolina will have to rely on Kenny Miles to carry the load at tailback now. Hopefully, Lattimore can eventually recover from his injury and resume his football career. Lattimore is a great player, a great leader and, by all accounts, a fine person. It was obvious Saturday how beloved and respected he is when South Carolina and Tennessee players crowded around him to wish him well as trainers examined him.

The loss brings up a fascinating dilemma for Tennessee, meanwhile. Anyone with eyes would admit the Volunteers are better than they were last year. But that improvement hasn't materialized in the win column. Tennessee's SEC losses have come against teams that, as of 4 p.m. Saturday, had a combined record of 34-3. Unfortunately for coach Derek Dooley, that isn't an acceptable excuse for a program that aspires to be among the SEC's elite on an annual basis.

Sure, Tennessee might beat Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- or it might not -- but fourth in the SEC East is not the Volunteers' goal. Since Florida, Georgia and South Carolina don't appear to be getting any worse, Tennessee officials must make a choice: Are they happy with being an SEC also-ran, or do they want something more? The thousands of seats occupied by Alabama fans at Neyland Stadium last week suggest the team's current state is affecting the bottom line. Sometimes, a program must make a coaching change just to prime the donor pump. This appears to be one of those times. [RECAP | BOX]

Texas 21, Kansas 17: It took a dropped interception by Kansas and some clutch throws by Case McCoy, but Texas survived the snakepit that is Lawrence with a win that certainly must give everyone hope for the future. What? You aren't hopeful? Sure, the Longhorns' final four opponents (Texas Tech, Iowa State, TCU and Kansas State) are all much, much better than Kansas. But imagine the alternative. Texas could have lost to the same team that fell to Rice and then been stuck on five wins heading into that set of completely losable games.

Texas looked terrible in the red zone Saturday and couldn't tackle Kansas tailback James Sims, but remember, it could have been worse. Longhorns coach Mack Brown very easily could have been contractually obligated to spend eleventy-billion hours this week explaining the loss on The Longhorn Network. [RECAP | BOX]

Northwestern 28, Iowa 17:We covered this in The Walkthrough on Friday, but it bears repeating: If the Hawkeyes elect to fire Kirk Ferentz, they're on the hook for $250,000 a month to Ferentz until January 2020. That lead balloon of a contract kept non-existent NFL teams away from Ferentz, and it will probably keep the Hawkeyes under their current leadership for the foreseeable future.

Iowa was never close Saturday. Northwestern led 28-3 in the third thanks to three Kain Colter touchdown runs. The Wildcats bounced back from a painful loss to Nebraska, and depending on how things shake out later Saturday in Lincoln, they might remain in position to make the Big Ten Legends Division race quite interesting down the stretch. [RECAP | BOX]

Ole Miss 30, Arkansas 27: Quite a few coaches have done great jobs this season, but do not overlook the job Hugh Freeze has done at Ole Miss. After taking over a team that went winless in SEC play in 2011, Freeze has the Rebels at the doorstep of bowl eligibility.

Bryson Rose hit a 31-yard field goal as time expired Saturday to give Ole Miss a win in Little Rock against an Arkansas team that had improved dramatically in recent weeks following a dreadful start to the season. The road to win No. 6 won't be easy. Vanderbilt is the most winnable game out of a group that includes visits to Georgia and LSU and the Egg Bowl. But if Freeze can pull it off -- given what he inherited -- he will have done one of the best coaching jobs in the country this season. [RECAP | BOX]

North Carolina 43, NC State 35: Florida State fans, send any fruit baskets or any other thank-you gifts to Floridian Giovani Bernard in Chapel Hill. OK, don't do this. It would be an NCAA violation, and you wouldn't want to jeopardize the eligibility of Bernard, who, with his 73-yard punt return with 13 seconds remaining Saturday, beat NC State and eliminated -- at least temporarily -- the possibility of FSU getting shut out of the ACC title game.

North Carolina took a 25-7 first-quarter lead, gagged it away and then stormed back for 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points to beat the Wolfpack for the biggest win in Larry Fedora's brief tenure in Chapel Hill. There were 13 seconds on the clock last week when Duke scored to erase a North Carolina comeback and beat the Tar Heels. The number 13 was luckier for North Carolina this Saturday, and that luck was felt in Tallahassee. Had NC State beaten North Carolina, the Wolfpack's remaining schedule was soft enough that a win against Clemson in Raleigh on Nov. 17 probably would have allowed NC State to win the ACC Atlantic Division. [RECAP | BOX]

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