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Pitt, PSU playing losers

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By Guy Junker
Monday, Oct. 23, 2006

After playing -- and losing to -- Rutgers on Saturday, Pitt's now played one team with a winning record this season.

If you are a Penn State fan and enjoy this, forget it. The only team Penn State has beaten with a winning record is Division I-AA Youngstown State, which is 6-2. The combined record of teams Penn State has beaten is 16-23.

Penn State has played a much tougher schedule than Pitt, and they've hung tough with some top-5 teams, but the Lions still lost.

So, let's say Pitt loses to Louisville and West Virginia and finishes 8-4, and Penn State loses to Wisconsin and also finishes 8-4. That's not too much of a reach.

Both will go to bowl games. But will either have a significant win•

• Kristopher Letang may be the Penguins only right-handed shooting defenseman, but that isn't enough to keep him on the team.

During the past three games, he's averaged just 8 minutes, 13 seconds of ice time. That's not enough for a teenager. He should be playing 20 minutes a game or more in juniors, and hopefully, that's where the Penguins will send him.

He played only 5:30 against the Devils on Wednesday, the least amount of ice time of any player on the team. That's fine for an aging veteran, but not a developing kid.

• I love the way Penguins coach Michel Therrien has thrown Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby out on the ice immediately after the Penguins kill a penalty.

Often, the opponents are in need of a line change, and sometimes, they have a forward playing the point. And those two guys going against a tired line and one defenseman makes for a mismatch every time. In fact, those two guys against almost anyone makes for a mismatch.

Still, I'd rather see them center their own lines. They are magic when they play together, but this team isn't deep enough to put them on the same line regularly.

Mario Lemieux made stars of the guys who played on the line with him, and Crosby and Malkin have the same abilities. Crosby proved that last season, and Malkin will prove it this season.

• Pompous announcer Joe Buck criticized the Pirates during the Fox broadcast of Game 7 of the NL Championship Series for letting starter Oliver Perez get away. He called the Pirates "pitching poor."

Do a little homework, Joe. The Pirates get blamed for a lot of personnel decisions, and rightfully so. But anyone tempted to rip them as they watched Perez and another ex-Buc, Jeff Suppan, battle it out on the national stage just isn't paying attention.

Perez wouldn't even have been on the Mets' playoff roster if two starting pitchers hadn't been hurt. His 3-13 record was the worst ever for a pitcher starting a postseason game.

Jeff Suppan is barely over .500 during his journeyman career, although he's done well in the playoff spotlight, something that would be of no use to the Pirates.

But, most of all, consider who the Pirates got for Perez and Suppan.

For Suppan, the Pirates landed Freddy Sanchez, the NL batting champion, and Mike Gonzalez, who didn't blow a save opportunity during the season as the closer. Plus, the Pirates received cash.

For Perez, they snagged Xavier Nady. In 55 games for the Bucs, Nady hit .300 while driving in 23 runs and adding three homers.

Anyone can be a hero or goat on the big stage, regardless of their past success.

Maybe, one day, the Pirates will find that out again. Maybe, one day, so will Joe Buck.



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