Oregon football teams had spent a total of five weeks in the Associated Press top 10 from the poll’s inception in 1936 through the 1999 season.
Mike Bellotti, Oregon’s coach from 1995 to 2008, decided to clear-cut the landscape. The Ducks set out to become the nouveau riche in college football.
Saturday’s TV games
Nebraska at Minnesota,10 a.m., ESPN
» Louisville at South Florida, 10 a.m., ESPN2
» Houston at Rutgers,10 a.m., ESPNews
» Oklahoma St. at Iowa St., 10 a.m., ROOT
» Eastern Washington at Montana, 1:30 p.m. ROOT
» N.C. State at Florida St., 1:30 p.m., Ch. 4
» Tennessee at Alabama, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 2
» Clemson at Maryland,1:30 p.m., ESPN
» Michigan St. at Illinois, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2
» Texas Tech at Oklahoma, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 13
» West Virginia at Kansas St., 1:45 p.m., FS1
» Utah at USC, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
» UCLA at Oregon, 5 p.m., ESPN
» South Carolina at Missouri, 5 p.m., ESPN2
» Wyoming at San Jose St., 5 p.m., ROOT
» Texas at TCU, 5:30 p.m., FS1
» Arizona at Colorado, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
» Penn St. at Ohio St., 6:07 p.m., Ch. 4
» Stanford at Oregon St., 8:30 p.m. ESPN
» Fresno St. at San Diego St., 8:30 p.m., ESPN2
» California at Washington, 9 p.m., FS1
More than a decade later, Oregon sits above those with greater pedigree, ranked second, right behind old-money Alabama.
UCLA players, coaches and fans can look across the field at Autzen Stadium on Saturday and see that promised land.
The Ducks play fast. They climbed fast.
Oregon has finished in the top 10 four times in the last five seasons and came oh-so-close to the national title in 2010. The Ducks lost to Auburn, 22-19, in the championship game.
It’s the type of national prominence the Bruins seek.
"They are a good team," UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt said. "UCLA needs to be on its own level. Shoot, we need to be on a level above Oregon."
Is there one? Alabama, maybe. No one else looks down on the Ducks, who are 7-0, 4-0 in Pac-12 Conference play.
The 12th-ranked Bruins (5-1, 2-1) are trying to work their way up the ladder. Oregon opened as a 23-point favorite over a young UCLA team that is beat up.
The Bruins are without three starters on offense, two on the line. They will start at least six freshmen, possibly as many as eight.
Oregon has already shown the quality of its depth. The Ducks lost star running back De’Anthony Thomas to an ankle injury and Byron Marshall stepped in and had four consecutive 100-yard games. Thomas is expected to play against UCLA.
"Oregon has been able to recruit the type of athlete they think fits their system for a number of years," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "There are quality starters and there is quality depth. Certainly, we want to be a national player every year. It’s a process. We’re a year and a half into that process."
UCLA has been a national contender before, but that level has been reached only sporadically. The Bruins, with Red Sanders as coach, won the United Press International national title in 1954, part of three consecutive top-10 seasons. Coach Tommy Prothro had back-to-back seasons, 1965 and ’66, in the top five. Coach Terry Donahue had five top-10 finishes from 1982 to ’88.
The Bruins have finished in the top 10 15 times since 1936.
Oregon blazed a new trail. "We changed our uniforms. We changed our look," Bellotti said. "We changed the culture at the institution. They never believed they could win. We changed that belief system."
It helps that Oregon has a sugar daddy. Nike founder Phil Knight has poured money into the program. "We had the support of the administration and the boosters," Bellotti said. "So we could gamble."
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