Been a crazy week but the long weekend gave me some chance to tinker around! So...here's another update guys.
Looks like the overheating culprit is from the cooler itself! Since I had both cards with me, I figured I'd do some testing. Since I had one card that would run, but overheat and another that would run cool, but was unstable, I swapped the coolers from each card...... guess what, the Lightning that was overheating now runs pretty cool and the unstable card..... well, that Lightning is now unstable and overheats...lol
I've tested each card quite a bit and redid the TIM multiple times to make sure that it was the cooler that was causing the high temps.
So, right now, I have the 2nd Lightning with the cooler from the 3rd Lightning and temps are pretty good. I was able to start OC'ing the card, which I couldn't even do before and have so far gotten up to 1225 on core with volts at 1.193 with temps of around 62C during a couple hours of BF3.
I've settled on 1150 core with volts at 1.125 for now as a good balance. I'm keeping a log of my OC and will post as soon as I complete it. I've still yet to dial in the memory.
Rather than waiting for a 4th RMA, I think I'll just settle with this for now and finally enjoy my rig and get some gaming on!!!
Aloha to all of you that contributed to this thread.
Will post my OC log as soon as I complete it.