Chris Dufresne's preseason top 25

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

No. 24 Nevada

Sometimes you stumble across a team in early August and get a feeling. Rankman felt a dull, nagging tug in his lower back as he hunched over a desk and flipped a preseason magazine page that landed on Nevada.

Johnny Cash sang, "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die."

Rankman would never sing that, but he might "drive a car to Reno, just to watch Colin Kaepernick play."

Nevada this year could be special/interesting/exciting -- or a complete bust.

Hey, it's Reno, so we're rolling the dice.

As an outside-looking-in team hoping to infiltrate the monopolistic-to-some Bowl Championship Series, you need a quarterback, a coach, a schedule, a national stage and some luck.

Nevada has the first four.

The Wolf Pack has gone to bowls four consecutive years but has been hiding in the standings weeds behind Boise State -- like everyone else in the Western Athletic Conference.

It may be time for Nevada to pull up a championship chair.

The team's "Pistol" offense is led by Kaepernick, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior who put up Tim Tebow-like numbers last year.

Kaepernick led a prolific offense that averaged 37.6 points a game while becoming only the fifth quarterback in major college history to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in the same season.

Kaepernick is so gangly he could be nicknamed Crazy Legs if that name wasn't already taken by Elroy Hirsch, the former Wisconsin/Michigan and Los Angeles Rams star.

And it may surprise you that Chris Ault, Nevada's coach, is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Chris who?

Ault is 198-91-1 over 24 seasons at Nevada and has quietly put together some of the nation's most interesting offensive schemes.

The schedule?

It offers three chances to go from somewhere-near-ranked in the polls to a BCS contender.

The stage?

The Wolf Pack opens the season Sept. 5 against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. It's a national game on NBC and the chance to do what San Diego State nearly did to the Irish in last year's opener in South Bend. The Aztecs came within inches of scoring the game-clinching touchdown in what turned out to a 21-13 defeat.

A Nevada upset this year would give the Wolf Pack instant early season credibility.

Nevada also has the biggest little game in Reno on Sept. 25, against Big 12 contender Missouri, and closes WAC play with a potentially huge game Nov. 27 on Boise State's blue turf.

The problem, as usual, is the defense. The Wolf Pack last year allowed almost as many points per game (32.3) as the offense averaged. The defense was 91st out of 119 last year, so any serious run at a BCS bowl will require tightening a few bolts.


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