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Badgers are tough at home

September 01, 2007|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

Wisconsin football Coach Bret Bielema is going to have a hard time topping his first season on the job.

Handpicked by former coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez to take over the Badgers, Bielema went 12-1 a year ago, becoming only the third coach in NCAA history to win 12 games in his initial season.

Rewarded with a five-year, $5.7-million contract about a month after Wisconsin's 17-14 victory over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, Bielema will try for his 10th win in a row when the Badgers open against visiting Washington State.

This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the Badgers defeated the Cougars, 35-26, in 1975 in Madison, Wis.

Washington State, which has been picked to finish near the bottom of the Pacific 10 Conference, is in tough against the seventh-ranked Badgers. Wisconsin is 18-1 at home since 2004 and has won 20 of its last 21 nonconference games. The Cougars, meanwhile, are 0-5 when opening against top-10 teams, including a 40-14 loss to Auburn in 2006.

Two teams conspicuous by their absence from this week's Associated Press top 25 poll are Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.

Perhaps the winner of today's game in South Bend, Ind., will be able to find its way into the poll next week, and history certainly favors the Irish.

Notre Dame has won 15 of 17 against Georgia Tech at home. The last time the Yellow Jackets won at South Bend was in 1959 and they are 0-3 against the Irish in season openers, including a 14-10 loss in 2006.

This will be the first season opener at home for the Irish since a 2003 victory over Washington State and they are 70-9-3 in their history in season openers at home.

Gone from the Yellow Jackets are receiver Calvin Johnson, who was picked second in the NFL draft by Detroit, and quarterback Reggie Ball, but Ball's absence is probably a good thing.

The inconsistent Ball has been replaced by Taylor Bennett, who was last seen throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-35 Gator Bowl loss to West Virginia.

Baseball

On the heels of losing four consecutive games to Philadelphia, the New York Mets are now in the midst of a series with another team that has given them fits in 2007.

Entering a three-game series that began Friday night in Atlanta, the Mets had lost eight of 10 to the Braves.

The good news for New York this afternoon is that Chuck James is scheduled to start for the home team.

Both of the Mets' wins against Atlanta came at the expense of James. In 10 innings against New York this season, James has given up nine runs, eight of them earned.

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bob.mieszerski@latimes.com

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