No. 7 Oregon Football Hosts No. 22 Wisconsin In Season Opener
NATIONAL RANKINGS . . . After finishing last season with its highest year-end national rankings ever (7th AP, 9th USA Today/ESPN), Oregon broke into the pre-season elite this season for the first time in history. The Ducks are tabbed at No. 7 by both the Associated Press and the coaches in the latest national polls. They climbed to an all-time high of fifth last season by AP before dropping the regular-season finale at Oregon State. Wisconsin was ranked 22nd in the year's initial AP poll and 23rd by USA Today/ESPN.
HEAD COACH MIKE BELLOTTI . . . Ranking third on the Ducks' all-time winningest coaching list (49-22-0), Mike Bellotti now stands as the winningest active coach in the Pac-10 based on conference winning percentage, in addition to leading Oregon to more overall victories during his tenure than any other program in the league. Oregon's seventh-year head coach has accumulated a 30-18 record in Pac-10 encounters (.625), which moves him into 15th all-time among conference circles in terms of career winning percentage and tied for 22nd in career league wins. He has played a vital role in assembling close to 18 percent (88 wins) of the University's all-time triumphs (491) in his 12-year Oregon association (six as offensive coordinator and six as head coach). Only Hugo Bezdek (72.7 -- 1906, 1913-17) has accumulated a better winning percentage than Bellotti's 69.0% among the program's mentors who have coached the Ducks a minimum of three seasons. The 50-year-old former Cal State-Chico mentor owns a 10-year career head coaching mark of 72-47-2.
WISCONSIN'S BARRY ALVAREZ . . . The current dean of the Big Ten Conference, Wisconsin's winningest football coach of all time (80-48-4) has led the school to three league championships as well as a trio of Rose Bowl triumphs among his 6-1 post-season ledger. The Badgers' 12th-year head coach migrated to Madison, Wis., in 1990 following three years as an assistant coach at Notre Dame (1987-89) and eight seasons at Iowa (1979-86).
NON-CONFERENCE SUCCESS . . . Oregon has accumulated a 16-2 ledger in regular-season non-conference encounters since Mike Bellotti assumed control of the program prior to the 1995 season. The lone losses occurred in the 1999 season opener at Michigan State (27-20) as well as a year ago at Wisconsin (27-23). That record includes a 12-0 mark in Eugene under Bellotti's guidance. Furthermore, the school has not dropped a non-conference contest at home since losing to Utah on Sept. 17, 1994. Since that time, the Ducks have reeled off 13 straight non-league triumphs in Eugene, including victories over Iowa (1994), Illinois (1995) and Michigan State (1998).
SERIES RECORD . . . Oregon is looking for its first win ever over the Badgers in four tries, however this year marks the first meeting in Eugene since the first time the two schools got together in 1977. Ironically, the Autzen Stadium game 24 years ago(22-10) marked the only one with a margin of victory greater than four points.
THE LAST TIME . . . Wisconsin running back Michael Bennett ran for 258 of his 290 yards in the second half to hold off the Ducks' upset bid over the fifth-ranked Badgers. Bennett put together a pair of long touchdown runs and ripped off three gallops of 59 yards or longer, including an 83-yard run in the final six minutes, to set up the winning score after Oregon had grabbed a 23-20 advantage with 6:09 remaining to play. Ducks' quarterback Joey Harrington completed 22 of 49 passes for 362 yards and one score, yet was victimized by three interceptions. Tailback Maurice Morris ran for 92 yards, however it was Wisconsin's 302 yards rushing which eventually wore down the visitor's defense and overcame the host's 6-0 halftime deficit.
SEASON OPENERS . . . The Ducks have enjoyed their share of prosperity in season openers, kicking off the year with wins in 15 of their last 17 such encounters. Although its 1999 season-opening setback at Michigan State snapped a string of six straight opening-day triumphs, Oregon has won its last eight home debuts (dating back to 1993) and 16 of its last 17 since losing to Pacific to open the 1983 campaign.
VS. THE BIG TEN . . . Although the Ducks have forged an uninspiring 10-24 ledger against current affiliates of the Midwest's most prestigious conference, Oregon is6-3 in its last nine meetings against Big Ten Conference opponents since 1989, and3-2 vs. the league under the tutelage of Mike Bellotti. Included in the head coach's run was the 1999 Sun Bowl win over Minnesota (24-20), a 1998 triumph over Michigan State (48-14) and a 1995 victory over Illinois (34-31).