Texas Tech football: Beating Baylor might secure Matt Wells’ third season

If his team can find a way to beat Baylor today in Lubbock, embattled Texas Tech football head coach Matt Wells will most likely be back in 2021.

I despise the fact that we aren’t even two full seasons into the Matt Wells era of Texas Tech football before being forced to once again head into head coaching limbo.  But here we are.  And the reality is that Matt Wells desperately needs to beat Baylor today if he wants to all but guarantee that he will keep his job beyond the first week of December.

With his team sitting at just 2-5 on the season, Wells finds himself squarely on the hot seat.  In fact, some have had him there since the middle of October.

For that reason, it’s becoming apparent that these last three games of 2020 are all about Wells and not about his team.  There’s nothing that can happen against Baylor, Oklahoma State, or Kansas that will make this odd 10-game season a success short of Tech going 3-0 to close out the year, which is about as unlikely of a proposition as there is in the sport of college football.

But if Wells can get to four wins by the end of the year, he will have at least matched last year’s win total in two fewer games, and that higher winning percentage will be enough for AD Kirby Hocutt to point to as reason to bring Wells back in 2021.   On the other hand, a three-win season (as a victory over Kansas is almost assumable at this point) will make it a rather intriguing end to the 2020 calendar in terms of the Texas Tech football season as cries for Wells’ head will be deafening and lustful.

Of course, keep in mind that Hocutt is desperately searching for any excuse to stay the course with his hand-picked successor to Kliff Kingsbury.  That’s because his reputation is on the line with this hire.  In fact, if Wells flames out, be it this season or next, Hocutt himself will be on the hot seat, if he isn’t already in the wake of controversies that swept up his women’s basketball and softball head coaches earlier this year.

Should Hocutt have to can Wells, it would be a third strike against the upward-motivated administrator when it comes to hiring head football coaches, the most important task any athletic director outside of Lawrence, Kansas, or Durham, North Carolina has to see to.  Already having whiffed on Al Golden while at Miami and Kingsbury at Tech, Hocutt desperately needs Wells to pan out, especially since Hocutt hired him with no input from anyone else in the way of university higher-ups or search firms.

Thus, four wins would almost certainly be good enough for Wells to at least save his hide for another season.  However, you would have to think that there would be changes demanded like possibly a pair of new coordinators (which as sure-fire of a sign that a coach is on the hot seat as tornado sirens are a sign to take cover as both spell impending doom on the horizon.)

But though it would anger the fan base and send this program into 2021 in the college football version of Purgatory, the same place that Tech was in from 2017-18 as we all waited for Hocutt to put Kingsbury out of his coaching misery, that’s almost certain to be what transpires should Tech secure two of the final three games this year.

Of course, the only real way to foresee that happening is if Wells can engineer victories over Baylor and Kansas, the two worst teams on his schedule this year.  While most assume that winless Kansas will offer no resistance in the final game of the season given that the Jayhawks have lost every game this year by at least 15 points, today’s matchup with Baylor is a true tossup.

The ESPN.com matchup predictor gives Baylor a 67.4% chance at coming out on top.  But given the injury woes that have recently struck Dave Aranda’s team, this is a game that Tech should feel it has every right to win.

And win Matt Wells must.  If his team loses today, he will go into a bye week with his team having two weeks to sit around and hear everyone in Raiderland talk about the doomed future of their head coach.   What’s more, they will then have to find the motivation to get up for a road game at no. 14 Oklahoma State, a team that won’t overlook the Red Raiders given that Tech has taken the last two games from the Cowboys in upset fashion.

What’s more, no game on any schedule is guaranteed in 2020.  As COVID-19 numbers rise across the nation, this weekend has seen as many as 15 games canceled or postponed due to outbreaks of the virus.  So far, Tech has been lucky not to have had its season interrupted but the same can be said for other Big 12 teams such as Oklahoma State or Baylor.

So it isn’t a stretch to envision a world in which the Kansas or OSU games don’t happen at all given the uncertain nature of our nation’s public health these days.  Thus, today’s contest takes on an even greater significance and makes the old saying that the most important game is the next game ring all the more true.

The painful truth is that Wells has done nothing to deserve another year as Texas Tech head football coach.  He’s just 6-19 overall and 3-15 in Big 12 play and his program is showing no signs of real improvement.  But his boss wants him back next year if for no other reason than to inflate his own profile and massage his own ego.  Thus, the bar is rather low for Wells.  Just beat Baylor and Kansas and you get to keep your multi-million-dollar per year job.  We should all be so fortunate.

So while the football game that is going to unfold today at Jones Stadium will be nothing but a glorified tickle fight, the Matt Wells conundrum will be the 800-pound gorilla in the room and the only element of intrigue in what will otherwise be a college football waste of time.  And in some ways, that makes today a no-win situation for just about everyone who bleeds scarlet and black because there simply is no good outcome.

You either lose to Baylor or you keep Wells.  Pick your poison Raiderland.  Thank God for Chris Beard and Tim Tadlock.