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Top 25 countdown

August 20, 2008|Chris Dufresne

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

No. 9 West Virginia

Last year's inspired victory over 28-point underdog Pittsburgh led to a national title win against Ohio State, a parade through Morgantown, a street renamed for Rich Rodriguez and musical merriment that included tooting on jugs.

Wait, that's what was supposed to happen.

Instead, a crushing 13-9 home defeat to Pittsburgh led to a program's implosion, Rodriguez leaving for Michigan, a legal feud the Hatfields and McCoys might have found unsavory and a football team left fractured.

To think, UCLA's 13-9 stunning victory over USC the year before only cost the Trojans a trip to the national title game.

Pittsburgh's victory remains mind-boggling.

Had West Virginia won, and advanced to the Sugar Bowl, and beaten Ohio State to win the national title, it's hard to imagine Rodriguez would have bolted for Michigan.

The Pittsburgh gut punch, though, set off a chain-saw reaction that led to assistant coach Bill Stewart taking over the team, leading a rousing upset over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, Stewart getting carried off the field and being named head coach the next day.

It is believed to be the first job interview ever concluded with a Gatorade shower.

How it all shakes out in 2008 is, well, why people wait for the sun to rise.

West Virginia lost a coach, dubbed "Rich Rod" by fans who think they know a money grab when they see one, and a star running back, Steve Slaton, but has enough returning talent on offense to win the conference.

Pat White at quarterback is in a Big East league of his own and is a legitimate Heisman candidate. Sophomore tailback Noel Devine, who averaged 8.3 yards a carry as a freshman, has already made some people forget Steve what's-his-name.

The offense might have to score 50 points a game to outpace a defense that gives up 45, but that might be doable.

The schedule includes an intriguing home game against Rutgers on Oct. 4, a more intriguing home matchup against Auburn on Oct. 23 and a trip to Pittsburgh on Nov. 28.

That could be interesting.

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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; 10. Texas; 9. West Virginia.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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