Top 25 countdown

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

No. 13 Wisconsin

Thought was given to wringing one last angle out of the Brett Favre saga by artificially jacking Wisconsin’s preseason ranking up to No. 4.

But how, intellectually, could Rankman have faced colleagues at next year’s Harris Interactive Pollsters Convention?


Wisconsin football is what it is, which is pretty good -- No. 13 seems about right.

Coach Bret Bielema, 21-5 in his first two years of Madison marriage, has the Big Red Train on track.

What an interesting schedule, though: After opening against Akron and Marshall, Wisconsin heads west to face Fresno State on Sept. 13 in one of the early season’s most intriguing nonconference games.

It’ll be a collision of red seas, the Mountains vs. the Pat (Mole) Hills.


This is risky business: A win in Fresno will fortify Wisconsin’s position as a national player in 2008, but what might defeat do?

Wisconsin has been boringly consistent going back to the Barry Alvarez days -- one of only three schools to have played in a Jan. 1 bowl game the last four years (USC and West Virginia are the others).

With 17 returning starters, Wisconsin has a chance to compete for the Big Ten Conference title. The team needs a new quarterback, with fifth-year senior Allan Evridge probably taking over for Tyler Donovan. The new quarterback will mostly be asked to make clean handoffs to running backs P.J. Hill, Zach Brown and Lance Smith, who combined last season for 2,209 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns.

The Badgers on offense may need to be clock eaters to compensate for a defense that lost three starters who are recovering from knee ligament injuries.


The schedule gets tougher after Fresno State, with Wisconsin playing at Michigan on Sept. 27 before consecutive home games against Ohio State and Penn State.

Wisconsin at 6-0 could be riding high when the first Bowl Championship Series standings are released Oct. 12, but let’s not get carried away just yet.


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.