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Savran: 'Bettor' believe Irish no good

Saturday, October 06, 2001

Is there a more dramatic indicator of how far the mighty have fallen than oddsmakers declaring Notre Dame a puny 6 1/2-point favorite against Pitt?

That's 1-2 Pitt -- 0-2 against Division I programs, with South Florida barely qualifying. And the game being played on the hallowed turf in South Bend to boot. Normally, the Irish would be favored over the Green Bay Packers at home.

The creation of the betting line is based more on the public's perception of the two teams, not necessarily a barometer of their relative strengths.

There is that segment of the population that bets on Notre Dame for sentimental reasons -- no matter the opponent, no matter the spread.

So why not make those loyalists pay at least the price of a touchdown as the tariff for betting on their dearly beloved?

Because Nevada understands the wagering public perceives this to be one of the worst Notre Dame teams in history, and they're convinced no echoes will awake this season.

If Pitt should lose today -- by whatever margin -- Walt Harris must consider playing underclassmen wherever and whenever possible.

A 1-3 start would have Pitt staring hard and fast at a 6-5 record. That would be a disappointment given the schedule's first three games and the fact their toughest competition will be played at home.

That's not to suggest you roust a senior just because he is. But if all things are virtually equal at a position, it would be prudent to begin preparing for brighter days.

With the influx of European players, hockey in the NHL has become a speed game.

Some muscle still is needed, but speed kills.

Therefore, it was gratifying to see the Penguins able to go blade-to-blade Wednesday night with the Colorado Avalanche, perhaps the best skating team in the league.

The infusion of younger, quicker skaters has upgraded the Penguins' team speed, and it showed against Colorado.

You still have to put the puck in the net and, at the opposite end, keep it out. But getting to it first helps accomplish those tasks.

Hockey isn't a relay race, but the Penguins handled themselves well against the Avalanche. And that skating ability should pay dividends this season.

Playing five forwards on the power play is a foreign concept -- literally. But if you have to, you have to.

Last season, Ivan Hlinka had to.

He had an abundance of skilled forwards and, more important, he didn't have the proper type of defenseman to man the points. Even without Jaromir Jagr, the former remains true, but the latter does not. Andrew Ference proved his mettle as a point man in the playoffs last spring.

His goals were not nearly as impressive as his hard, accurate shots, which led to rebounds and goals for others. He has a feel for the game and a knack for knowing when to move in.

He has the speed to recover to a defensive posture, and no matter how fast a forward might be it doesn't much matter when he is forced to skate backward. I would keep Alexei Kovalev where he is, but I would team him with Ference.

If Mark Brunell was an offensive lineman or a tight end, would Cleveland's Gerard Warren have been fined $35,000? Or fined at all?

Everyone will recognize the guys in the fashion-challenged helmets tomorrow are the Cincinnati Bengals. But underneath the headgear, are they still the Bungles of those disastrous days of yesteryear?

Was the victory against Baltimore a fluke?

Or are all those years of drafting high in the first round actually beginning to pay off?

Do these guys really believe in Dick LeBeau?

And, if so, how will they react after their first loss?

And if the San Diego game was any indication, how well do they play on the road?

Another key factor: The Bengals have great speed at wide receiver. Myron Bell earned his NFL stripes on run support and has never been considered a great cover guy. Cincinnati offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski knows that. Will Bell, replacing Lee Flowers, be a target tomorrow?

The relative silence from the media and public greeting the accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson is deafening.

You reap what you sow.

Maybe the two could play cards in the clubhouse once the playoffs begin.

Given their personalities, most likely it would be solitaire.

Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 8-9 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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