By Seth Gruen–

(CBS) The idea of “fit” as it pertains to a coach has always seemed like a manufactured ideal. I always thought a football coach was evaluated by a game’s score and not some notion of cultural symmetry.

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A coach doesn’t need to be a laid-back country bumpkin to work in the SEC (see: Alabama’s Nick Saban and LSU’s Les Miles). In image-conscious Los Angeles a team with a buffoon as its coach might very well make the college football playoff (see: USC’s Steve Sarkisian.)

Yet it seems Nebraska and its drowning athletic director, Shawn Eichorst, were so focused on “the right fit” when it came to hiring Mike Riley as its their coach that it forgot about the football stuff altogether.

Full disclosure: I loved Riley’s predecessor, Bo Pelini, whose off-the-cuff, sometimes boorish tone made him seem so real. That’s really what we want out of a sports figure, right? To say what’s on their minds. Well, that’s exactly what Nebraska — specifically Eichorst — didn’t want.

Now that didn’t necessarily make Pelini a good football coach. His success in the field did. In each of his seven seasons as Nebraska’s coach, Pelini won at least nine games. Eichorst ignored that. As coach at Oregon State last season, Riley won five games. In 14 seasons — part of two stints — coaching the Beavers, Riley lost at least four games. Eichorst neglected that.

Said to have wanted the Nebraska job is Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, who quarterbacked the Huskers to the 1997 national championship. He had the potential to have outrecruited Pelini. At 40, he could have been a more permanent solution than the 62-year-old Riley, Frost’s connection to Nebraska notwithstanding. Frost may have come with too much celebrity, though.

Riley is a good fit, at least based on what Eichorst appears to think Nebraska’s coach should be. Riley blends in. He’s as pleasant as Big Ten coaches come — so much so you would think he’s about to invite you to dinner. But pleasantries don’t transcend scheme, preparedness and game-planning.

Riley and the Huskers find themselves 1-2. In Week 1, they lost on a last-second Hail Mary to BYU. Last week, Nebraska lost in overtime at Miami in a game it wasn’t prepared to play. By halftime the Huskers trailed the Hurricanes, 20-3. Now tied with Purdue for the Big Ten’s worst record, Nebraska has nearly been jettisoned to irrelevancy by its newly hired coach.

It appears that the Riley experiment has gone awry. It never really had a chance. Nebraska has too much tradition and expectation to settle for a middling Pac-12 hire. Then again, Pelini never should have been fired anyways. His undoing wasn’t his work product on it, but instead his behavior off of it.

Riley fits well with Nebraska’s Midwestern sensibilities, which isn’t what the school needed. How could I criticize Riley for being nice? He’s giving us an early reminder of just where nice guys finish.

Big Ten power rankings

1. Michigan State (3-0, 0-0) — The Spartans own the conference’s best win.

2. Ohio State (3-0, 0-0) — Questions at quarterback could spell problems.

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3. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0) — I’ve yet to see any reason they won’t win the West Division.

4. Northwestern (3-0, 0-0) — In three games, the Wildcats’ defense has allowed one touchdown.

5. Minnesota (2-1, 0-0) — Ten points against Kent State makes the Gophers look less impressive.

6. Iowa (3-0, 0-0) –The Hawkeyes are unbeaten but should expect a rough start to the Big Ten season.

7. Michigan (2-1, 0-0) — The Wolverines are trending up at the right time. BYU visits Ann Arbor Saturday.

8. Indiana (3-0, 0-0) — An easy schedule gets a little tougher with Ohio State in two weeks.

9. Penn State (2-1, 1-0) — Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has looked nothing like a first-round pick.

10. Illinois (2-1, 0-0) — Early drops killed the Illini at North Carolina.

11. Maryland (2-1, 0-0) — I’m still holding a loss against Bowling Green against them.

12. Nebraska (1-2, 0-0) — The Huskers could spend some quality time down here this season.

13. Rutgers (1-2, 0-1) — It’s still kind of weird they’re even in the Big Ten.

14. Purdue (1-2, 0-0) — No upward movement expected here.

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Seth Gruen is columnist for, focusing on college sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SethGruen.