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Big Ten Thursday mailbag

Answering some of your burning questions (including many from our Twitter feed) while I make my way to Pasadena ...

John T. (@jdt105) writes: What will the B1G bowl record be?

Brian Bennett: Adam and I did our picks for the Big Ten non-BCS bowls on Monday (and I'm already leading 1-0). You'll have to wait for our BCS game picks. But I had the Big Ten going 4-4 in its non-BCS games, and I'll pick a 1-1 split in the Rose/Sugar matchups. Anything better than a 5-5 record would be a very good accomplishment for the league this year, given its daunting slate.

Brett B. (@MountaindewPSU) writes: With all the turmoil and coaching changes in the B1G. Who has the most solid staff for next season?

Brian Bennett: Interesting question, Brett, and I assume by "solid" you mean both stability and ability. If that is our measurement, I'd have to say Michigan State. Mark Dantonio has really built a solid staff there, and though I thought defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi would get a head coaching job this offseason, for the moment he's still with the Spartans (that could change, obviously). Add in Dan Roushar's progression this year as offensive coordinator, and that looks like the most consistent staff right now. That doesn't mean other schools can't succeed with first-year coordinators or even head coaches; both Big Ten championship game participants had one new coordinator this year, after all.

Jason. M from San Diego writes: Does Penn State still have any potential to win in the seasons to come? If so, what will it take?

Brian Bennett: Let's just examine the 2012 Nittany Lions in a vacuum for the moment. Penn State loses an awful lot off this year's team, including All-American Devon Still, the entire starting secondary, four starting offensive linemen and top receiver Derek Moye. Silas Redd will be back at tailback, and the linebacker position is still in good shape with Gerald Hodges and hopefully a healthy Michael Mauti. Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden return, but obviously the quarterback play has to get better. Penn State has had highly-regard recruiting classes recently, so the talent should be there. Of course, there is going to be a major coaching transition, and it's quite possible that the Lions have no holdovers from the current staff. Going forward, recruiting now and in the near future is bound to dip with all the off-the-field controversy.

So what's it going to take? Penn State has to hire the right coach, and he is going to have to stabilize the program quickly. There is opportunity in the Leaders Division next year with Ohio State ineligible for the postseason and Wisconsin losing a lot as well.

Stephen Z. (@SZarate15) writes: Who do you think is the future starting QB for U of I? IlliniNation needs to know.

Brian Bennett: Nathan Scheelhaase's star sure seemed on the rise before the second half-collapse by Illinois. His confidence looked rattled, and freshman Reilly O'Toole got a lot of snaps. I think the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is big for Scheelhaase to re-establish himself with a good performance. New coach Tim Beckman will need a strong trigger man to run his spread offense. I believe Scheelhaase has the skills to flourish in a system like that.

Jim from Grand Junction, Colo., writes: Nebraska and Iowa are "... programs of similiar stature ...?" You actually said that? True, both are on the Planet Earth and run by human beings, but beyond that, Nebraska is only 5 NC , 3 Heisman, 200 or so wins ahead of Iowa. Iowa is a good program but of similar stature to Nebraska? Don't be ridiculous.

Brian Bennett: I knew that was coming from Nebraska fans, and I can understand why many took umbrage. However, when discussing Rick Kaczenski's lateral move from Iowa defensive line coach to the same position with the Huskers, I was not talking about historical prestige. Kaczenski surely wasn't weighing what Nebraska did in the 1980s or 1990s vs. Iowa. Truth is, while Nebraska has more tradition and resources, the two programs are not that far apart as new Big Ten division rivals right now. In fact, since the 2002 season, the Hawkeyes have been to two BCS games, while Nebraska hasn't been to any. So this is not like a move from, say, Indiana to Ohio State. (Boy, I'm teeing off a lot of fan bases today ... better just move along).

Nate from Council Bluffs, Iowa, writes: Do you think Mike Caputo should be allowed to play in the Capital One bowl after being arrested? I know kids are going to make mistakes, but if you break the law, in my opinion, you should not be allowed to play. Also, does this show a complete lack of integrity at the University of Nebraska both coaches and athletic department?

Brian Bennett: Nate, I think Nebraska and Bo Pelini handled this correctly. He waited for the legal system to run its course, and in the end Caputo was only charged with reckless driving. It's such a minor offense that all he had to do was pay a $100 fine and attend a seminar. Considering Caputo is a senior who by all accounts had a very good track record, I have no problem with allowing him to play in the final game of his career.

Greg from SE Iowa writes: Are those of Tom & Jerry figurines on the shelf behind you in your videos?

Brian Bennett: Crucial question here. No, that's Itchy and Scratchy. "They fight! And bite!"

@Somewhitepunk writes: What offense do you expect to see from the Bucks on Monday? High-octane like the UM game, or conservative if they get a lead?

Brian Bennett: That might be the first time anyone has used the words "high octane" to describe Ohio State's offense. I understand why Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman called a conservative game plan this year with a true freshman quarterback. But Braxton Miller showed in the Michigan game that he could handle a bigger package of plays, and he's had another couple of weeks of bowl practice. These postseason games are a good time to let your freak flag fly (see Danny Hope's onsides kicks versus Western Michigan). Since Ohio State won't play in a bowl next year, and since Bollman isn't coming back, why in the world wouldn't the Buckeyes cut loose and try to have some fun offensively against Florida?