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Top 25 countdown

August 18, 2008|Chris Dufresne

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

No. 11 Auburn

Here's how good the Southeastern Conference is compared to all those other Triple-AAA impostors that call themselves college football leagues:

The SEC boasts five coaches who have won major college national titles: Current Florida Coach Urban Meyer and former Gators coach Steve Spurrier, now at South Carolina, have hoisted trophies. Alabama Coach Nick Saban won it all at Louisiana State in 2003, Les Miles won at LSU last year and Tennessee's Phil Fulmer, in 1998, won the first BCS trophy ever hoisted.

Mark Richt is good, and leads No. 1 Georgia into this season, but the best SEC coach not to have won a national title is Auburn's Tommy Tuberville.

Didn't Auburn win it all in 2004?

No, that's just a retelling of the story by SEC followers still incensed Auburn didn't get invited to the White House after finishing 13-0. That was the year, remember, USC defeated Oklahoma, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl.

Tuberville bought championship rings for his guys anyway.

Tuberville is in fine company.

Nolan Ryan, in 1973, won 21 games, struck out 383 batters and threw two no-hitters -- and didn't win the Cy Young.

Alfred Hitchcock never received an Academy Award for best director.

Tuberville may get his title yet.

"The competition is fierce," Tuberville says. "I think that's the reason the coaching is getting better and better."

Tuberville overachieved with last year's 9-4 team and Auburn should contend this year in the SEC West. The Tigers hired Troy offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and will switch to the ever-popular spread because Tuberville got tired of opposing SEC teams stacking eight and nine players to stop his running game.

Good coaches keep looking for ways to get better.

Auburn gets the tough SEC games -- LSU, Tennessee and Georgia -- at home, and also misses Florida until a possible conference title-game match-up. Alabama's Saban recently made the cover of Forbes Magazine billed as "Sports' Most Powerful Coach."

Here's a stronger statement: Tuberville has won his last six games against Alabama.

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The countdown so far:

25. Notre Dame; 24. California; 23. Fresno State; 22. Florida State; 21. Rutgers; 20. Illinois; 19. Penn State; 18. Oregon; 17. Tennessee; 16. Arizona State; 15. Texas Tech; 14. Brigham Young; 13. Wisconsin; 12. Kansas; 11. Auburn.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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