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Top 25 countdown

August 08, 2008|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time:

No. 21 Rutgers

Even Mr. Magoo, a Rutgers graduate, might consider this a shortsighted ranking, given the Scarlet Knights didn't even crack the top 25 of the USA Today coaches' preseason poll.

Oh, Rankman, you've done it again!

You knew about Magoo and Rutgers, right? As the story goes, the creator of the bumbling cartoon character wanted Magoo to have attended college at a place that "embodied the old school spirit."

So Mr. Quincy Magoo, perilously perched, waved the Rutgers flag from his jalopy.

For years, the football program mimicked Magoo's clumsy escapades, but no more. The Scarlet Knights these days are darn near a football factory.

After advancing to only one bowl game in its first 131 years -- who could forget the Garden State in '78? -- Rutgers has now gone to three straight.

Expectations under Greg Schiano are so high that last year's 8-5 season almost seemed a disappointment.

Rutgers will contend for the Big East Conference title again and put up big numbers. The program is so self-sufficient now that in the off-season it thumbed its nose at an offer to play Notre Dame.

Last year, Rutgers became the first school in NCAA history to have a 3,000-yard passer, 2,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.

The Scarlet Knights move forward without star tailback Ray Rice, who opted out for the NFL, and need to replace three starters on the offensive line, but the foundation is in place.

Kordell Young, coming off a knee injury, could emerge as Rice's successful successor. The Scarlet Knights return senior quarterback Mike Teel and both 1,000-yard receivers, Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt.

The schedule is tricky. Rutgers took on a tough home opener against Fresno State and faces challenging conference road trips -- West Virginia (Oct. 4), Pittsburgh (Oct. 25) and South Florida (Nov. 15).

A fourth straight bowl trip for the Magoos, though, is clearly in sight.

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The countdown so far: No. 25, Notre Dame; 24. California; 23. Fresno State; 22. Florida State; 21. Rutgers.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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