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Top 25 countdown

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

No. 23 Fresno State

This will go down as the year Fresno State went unranked in the polls all season and then shocked the world by winning the national championship . . . in baseball.

Capturing the Bowl Championship Series football flag out of the Western Athletic Conference is an almost impossible end-around. It requires a cunning field general, daring invasion plans and probably re-thinking the Sherman Act.

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Fresno State has only two out of the three in Coach Pat Hill and a killer schedule.

Given what they’re up against, the Bulldogs will be happy to seize the WAC for the first time since 1999. It could come down to a Nov. 28 showdown against Boise State.

Curse the television suits who denied Fresno State the chance to tinker with Rick Neuheisel’s UCLA debut at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 30.

ABC worked it so UCLA would instead host Tennessee on Labor Day, with Fresno State slipping back to Sept. 27.

By then, the Bulldogs might be tuckered out after playing at Rutgers (Sept. 1), hosting Wisconsin (Sept. 13) and playing at Toledo (Sept. 20).

Hill could have his strongest team in years, led by senior quarterback Tom Brandstater, and exposure won’t be the problem -- three of Fresno State’s first four games will be nationally televised.

The Bulldogs will jump like bullfrogs up the polls if they somehow get to 4-0. One problem with trying to attack the BCS system with tough nonconference scheduling is sustaining the necessary energy to win your league -- maybe one reason Fresno State recently hasn’t fared so well in the WAC.

Hill, though, believes in big-game hunting. In 2001, Fresno State, led by quarterback David Carr, scored nonconference wins against Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin to rise to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll. But the conference collapse was just as swift, and Fresno State dropped out of the poll by Oct. 28.

Hill’s motto is “Anybody, anywhere, any time,” so who knows?

The baseball team already proved “anything” can happen.

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The countdown so far: No. 25. Notre Dame; 24. California; 23. Fresno State.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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