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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. 15 Texas Tech

Mike Leach never played college football, graduated from Pepperdine law school at age 25, pursued coaching on a whim, now collects pirate paraphernalia and has a copy of Geronimo’s death certificate on his office wall.

OK, but is he different?

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Just a Texas tad.

Leach is so “mad genius” the New York Times Magazine in 2005 conscripted Michael Lewis, the author of “Moneyball,” the ode to quirky baseball management behavior, to examine the Texas Tech coach’s teachings.

Now entering his ninth season, Leach has taken innovative offense to a higher West Texas plain, yet his program’s winning ways have been undervalued by some who think the unconventional Leach is about as “out there” as Lubbock.

For example, Texas Tech quarterbacks have been breaking records for years but never seem to draw much national acclaim. The program, by and small, gets overshadowed because it plays third trumpet behind Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 South marching band.

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Texas Tech has never had a Heisman Trophy winner and hasn’t won an outright conference title since 1955. Maybe this is the year when pass comes to shove.

The Red Raiders are hell bent for change after a 9-4 season in which they rallied to beat Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

Ten starters return on offense, including quarterback Graham Harrell, coming off a 48-touchdown season, and receiver Michael Crabtree, who had 134 catches and 22 touchdowns . . . as a freshman.

Oklahoma and Texas had better watch their defensive backs.

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And, for once, the notion of eight starters returning on defense does not send fans screaming into the night.

Texas Tech hosts Texas in Lubbock on Nov. 1 and might be 10-0 when it plays Oklahoma in Norman on Nov. 22.

Texas Tech has defeated Oklahoma twice in the last three years, knocking the Sooners out of national title contention last year.

In relative obscurity -- or is that relative humidity? -- Texas Tech has recorded 13 consecutive winning seasons, the last eight under Leach.

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Who knew?

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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.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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