MADISON, Wis. - A column I wrote after the Sandusky scandal broke entitled, "PSU should stay home for the holidays," brought more than its share of negative reaction.
And while I do think there is merit to ending the season as soon as possible and thus getting Penn State off the field and out of the public eye, suggesting that the current players be denied a chance to play in a bowl game - any bowl game - after what they've been through is wrong.
My original premise outlined the possibility of three straight losses to end the regular season and wondered if by then the players wouldn't have suffered enough.
So allow me to backtrack on that - especially now that the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State and head into today's matchup with Wisconsin with a chance to play for the Big Ten championship.
Various media reports have indicated Penn State - even at 9-3 - won't have their usual sway over the bowl committees because of the national publicity that has accompanied the Sandusky allegations and the subsequent firing of Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier.
You'd think even if the Lions lose today and are bypassed by the Outback and Gators Bowls, that they'd land in a TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2 in Dallas or someplace comparable.
PSU (9-2, 6-1) at Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2)
Where: Camp Randall Stadium
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
Line: Wisconsin by 15
Updated injury/status report: RB Silas Redd (collarbone) is probable but was not expected to be involved in contact drills during practice this week.
But the politically-correct climate in which we live makes it possible that if the Lions lose today (and they're 15-point underdogs), this could be the last you see of them until the Blue-White Game.
I'm not saying that will or should happen, but you'd have to be naive to think that it couldn't.
Either way, bowl or no bowl, the December window is often looked upon to more closely evaluate the younger players, and given the tumultuous time we've endured, no one has even peeked at next year.
So let's do that now.
The next coach's first challenge will be to distance the past from the future and convince any disgruntled players capable of helping the team to remain on board.
A look at the roster shows there is plenty of talent scheduled to be back.
Matt McGloin will return as an experienced quarterback poised for a chance to complete his third year as a starter. Silas Redd could be one of the best returning backs in the country.
Derek Moye leaves, but Justin Brown's back along with Devon Smith and Shawney Kersey, and new horses like Curtis Drake and Bill Belton that were just let out of the stable.
Michael Zordich has another year, and the tight end position, with Kevin Haplea and Garry Gilliam, should be fine.
Most of the offensive line graduates, but center Matt Stankiewitch, guard John Urschel and tackle Mike Farrell have experience. Maybe we'll finally see what Eric Shrive can do.
Defensively, Devon Still will be gone, but Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley are cornerstones, and the linebacking corps, with Michael Mauti joining Gerald Hodges, Khairi Fortt and Glenn Carson, should be outstanding.
The secondary will need totally rebuilt, but Adrian Amos, Malcolm Willis and Stephon Morris have shown potential.
Placekicker-punter-kickoff weapon Anthony Fera, who has been very solid, returns.
There's a strong enough nucleus to be optimistic about the future, once the future is defined, and one that could benefit from extra practice sessions the bowl window offers.
This may be jumping the gun and underestimating the Lions' chance to beat the Badgers today. They've played with character all year, particularly in the clutch.
But whether they're playing in Indianapolis next Saturday night or not,
2012 will be interesting in many ways.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.