Nebraska made the right choice

Nebraska made the right decision in letting Frank Solich go, while other traditional power re-asserted themselves over the weekend.

Originally Published: December 1, 2003
By Trev Alberts | Special to ESPN.com

Nebraska fired coach Frank Solich despite a 9-3 record this season, and I have to say I completely agree with the decision made by athletic director Steve Pederson.

Even an overall record of 58-19 couldn't save Frank Solich's job at Nebraska.
Pederson's assertion that the program was headed toward mediocrity is well-taken considering the fact that the Cornhuskers beat Oklahoma 69-7 in 1997, but have been passed by the Sooners in stature and success since then. That very success at OU is one of the reasons Nebraska is looking for a new coach. Peterson is not ready to give up Big 12 dominance.

Most people will look at Solich's 9-3 record this season and wonder why he was let go. But dig a little deeper and issues bigger than simple wins and losses -- a fourth-quarter collapse at Missouri, a blowout loss at Texas and a loss to Kansas State that was the worst home defeat for Nebraska since 1958 -- begin to surface.

There is also a lot more involved in being the head coach of a high-profile program than just the day-to-day tasks of running the team. Most of those things -- media relations and the like -- were quite frankly not Solich's strong suit.

That does not change the fact that Frank Solich is a good man, though. He's honest and hardworking, but there were certain aspects of the job he struggled with. Sure, recruiting and expectations had both slipped, but that aside you won't find a more dedicated, honest or loyal man than Solich.

It would certainly serve the university well to hire a coach who makes fans and observers sit up and say "Wow!", and if Nebraska fans are honest with themselves they'll see that Solich's firing won't really hurt in terms of recruiting. Most of the commitments the Huskers have are Nebraska kids who grew up dreaming of playing in Lincoln and those kids would come to NU if Kermit the Frog were coaching the team.

Saying that Nebraska intends to get the best candidate available is stating the obvious, but it also has to happen quickly. Peterson seems excited about the candidates out there but won't rush into a decision just for the sake of naming a coach, because while the search needs to be quick it also has to yield the right man for the job.

The show at the Swamp
Florida State's 38-34 win over Florida last weekend has to be at or near the top of the list when talking about the best games of the year. The individual efforts on both sides were amazing, and there can be no blame placed on anyone because the game was played so hard and so well.

Florida fans should be excited to potentially have another three years of quarterback Chris Leak after the remarkable progress he has made this year, but the guy I felt best for was Florida State quarterback Chris Rix. He did have a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, but the way he handled himself in leading his team to 14 fourth-quarter points was remarkable.

Rix was making laser throws, but the FSU defense that started the season so well continued to struggle while giving up 445 yards of total offense to the Gators. The shootout was entertaining, though, with the lead switching hands four times in the fourth quarter.

And not only did the game come down to the final play, it also debunked the theory that a playoff would render the regular season meaningless. Florida State had already wrapped up a BCS bid while Florida was still playing for a shot at the SEC East title, but it sure looked like the game was still critically important to everyone on the field.

Look out, LSU
Georgia scored a 34-17 win over rival Georgia Tech and looks pretty good heading into the SEC championship game against LSU. The 'Dawgs are getting healthy again and the transition period seems to be over on the offensive line.

Quarterback David Greene was getting heavy pressure early on as a line with five new starters got its feet wet and it seemed every wide receiver on the roster was injured at one time, making a 10-2 record an amazing feat.

The one constant throughout the entire season, though, has been incredible play on defense. Remarkable speed and pursuit on that side of the ball have Georgia ranked second in the SEC and fourth nationally in total defense (261.9 ypg).

The Bulldogs get another shot at LSU after losing to the Tigers on Sept. 20 in a game in which Georgia played well enough to win. The 'Dawgs outgained LSU 411-285 in that game but were hurt by two interceptions from Greene and a big play from the LSU passing game, and I believe Georgia will find a way to win the second time around.

LSU has certainly had a great season, but a UGA victory will will clear everything up for the BCS, telling us once and for all that Oklahoma and USC are the two best teams in the nation and deserve to be playing in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.

And despite all the talk about the great offensive players in the SEC -- Ole Miss QB Eli Manning, Auburn RB Carnell Williams, LSU WR Michael Clayton and others -- it is the teams with the two best defenses in the conference meeting in the championship game.

LSU's front four of Marquise Hill, Chad Lavalais, Kyle Williams and Marcus Spears might be the best in the nation while Georgia's speed on defense is outstanding, so it looks like quite a game is on tap in Atlanta.

Fulmer's best job yet?
Many people wrote Tennessee off after a blowout loss to Georgia dropped the Volunteers to 4-2, but Phil Fulmer has done one of the best coaching jobs of his career this season and last weekend's 20-7 win over Kentucky was the sixth straight for Tennessee since that loss to UGA.

During their current streak the Vols beat Alabama in five overtimes, won a squeaker at Miami and blew out SEC foes Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, thanks to a more focused effort from nearly everyone. Quarterback Casey Clausen has taken better care of the football -- just two interceptions over the last six games -- and against Kentucky he threw the ball on move as well as he has in a long time.

Guys like wide receiver Mark Jones have also stepped up and given Clausen him a threat on the outside, while Cedric Houston has been running the ball hard and carrying it through tackles in recent weeks.

Tennessee looks to be out of the BCS bowl picture, but whichever team faces the Vols in late December/early January better watch out for a team that has scored 127 points in its last three games.

'Canes run over Pittsburgh
Miami's 28-14 win over Pittsburgh showed that no matter how good a team's offense might be, it can't win if it can't stop the run.

The Hurricanes rushed for 280 yards against the Panthers thanks to terrific efforts from tailbacks Jarett Payton and Tyrone Moss, just the kind of offense coach Larry Coker and his staff envision every week. And there was nothing fancy about the way they ran the ball. The 'Canes simply challenged Pitt up front and ran the ball right at the Panthers all night.

Miami quarterback Brock Berlin was also better than in recent weeks, completing 12 of his 17 passes for an efficient 195 yards, and his one interception did not hurt the team. That is Miami football.

We sometimes get confused when we hear about the spread offense and all the great quarterbacks to come out of the Miami program, but when Ken Dorsey was quarterbacking Miami to a 24-1 record over the last two seasons the Hurricanes went to the run first and followed with play-action passes for big gains.

The 'Canes also did a great job of shutting down Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was hindered by the fact that his team seemingly refused to throw him the ball. I know Fitzgerald is valuable as a decoy and I know tight end Chris Wilson and wide receiver Princell Brockenbrough got more involved, but Fitzgerald didn't even catch a pass until after halftime. At some point you go to your horse, even if you have to force the ball in there.

Still, it seems fitting that Miami and Florida State, two teams left for dead at times this season, are still standing as the dominant teams in their conferences.

Chat with Trev
Missed what Trev had to say in chat on Monday? Click here to check it out.

Trev Alberts is a college football analyst for ESPN and a regular contributor to ESPN.com during the season.