Can Matt Wells save his job at Texas Tech?


After last weekend’s 70-35 depantsing in Austin, the heat on Matt Wells has never been more intense. And certainly, Texas Tech football fans have every reason to be calling for change. But those who are certain that a new man will be calling the shots on the South Plains next year might want to consider that there is one factor working in Wells’ favor, Big 12 mediocrity.

Remember, most believe that all Wells has to do to get a stay of execution from athletic director Kirby Hocutt is to get to a bowl game.  That will require only three more wins, which is entirely possible given how painfully mediocre the Big 12 is.

In the latest Associated Press poll, there are only three teams from the conference ranked in the top 25.  Oklahoma is at No. 6, Oklahoma State is at No. 19, and Baylor is at No. 21.  That’s it.

The rest of the teams in the league are proving to be nothing more than useless punching bags.  For instance, Iowa State already has two losses after starting the season in the top 10.  Then there is Kansas State, which is again unranked after falling to OSU this past weekend.  There was a time when the Wildcats looked like contenders for the Big 12 title game but an injury to starting QB Skylar Thompson has brought them back down to Earth.

Texas Christian is still licking its wounds and removing SMU’s flag from the middle of Amon G. Carter Stadium after the Mustangs handed the Horned Frogs a 42-34 loss on Saturday.  It is the second-straight loss in that historic rivalry for Gary Patterson’s program.

Even this week’s Texas Tech opponent, West Virginia, has been beaten twice and has at times shown difficulties when it comes to putting points on the scoreboard.  Though the Mountaineers are distinct favorites over the Red Raiders on Saturday, they are far from a flawless team as they also have a loss to mightily Maryland on their resume.

But they are being heralded for taking Oklahoma to the limit last weekend in Norman.  However, it is fair to wonder whether or not the Sooners are of their normal quality as well this year.  Remember, they nearly lost to Tulane in the season’s opening week and they had to fight to hold off a bad Nebraska team at home.

The point is that there is no dominant team in the Big 12, that is unless you believe that 4-0 Baylor is a threat to run the table.  And when the entire conference is mediocre, it usually means that middling teams, and even bad teams, can fall into a few wins.

Could that be what happens for Matt Wells and his program over the next eight games?  It isn’t out of the realm of possibility.  After all, in each of the past two years, he’s managed to win at least a pair of conference games.  And last year, he actually won three, which if he was able to do this year would likely save his job by getting him to six wins.

Also, don’t forget that he is 2-0 against West Virginia while at Tech.  That includes last year when WVU was heavily favored to beat a Red Raider team that was coming off of a lackluster loss and which had turned to Henry Colombi to make his first start of the year at QB.  Sound familiar?  Wouldn’t it be the most Texas Tech thing ever for the Red Raiders to find a way to defy logic again this year and beat the Mountaineers for a third-straight time just one week after one of the worst losses in the modern era of the program?

Should that come to pass, Tech would need only two more wins to get to the postseason.  And keep in mind that Wells still has the luxury of playing Kansas this season.  While 2019 taught us to never take the Jayhawks for granted so long as he is the man in charge, should Wells’ team find a way to avoid disaster against the worst team in the Big 12, he would be just one win away from saving his hide.  And make no mistake, a six-win season would almost certainly be enough for Kirby Hocutt.

It would also be a worst-case scenario.  Fans are not going to be happy with a six-win season.  Thus, we would face an offseason full of complaining and declining fan morale ahead of next year.  And, of course, the Red Raiders would be in the same type of Groundhog Day scenario that we saw them go through at the end of the Kliff Kingsbury era, one in which every year was seemingly defined by uncertainty about the head coach’s future.

In that scenario, recruiting would continue to fall further behind as few players would want to commit to a program that appears on the verge of a coaching change.  At the same time, fan interest would fall to an all-time low as fans who are fed up with this program’s repeated failures turn away in droves.  And the future of the program would likely be mortgaged by a head coach who would make every move based on what could save his skin for the immediate rather than making decisions that would solidify the long-term future of Texas Tech football (playing heavily in the transfer portal rather than recruiting high school prospects for instance).

Ultimately, most fans, (myself included) want a change.  But Kirby Hocutt doesn’t.  This is his hand-picked hire and he wants Wells to succeed more than anything else he has wanted in his career as an athletic director.

Therefore, don’t be shocked if Wells finds a way to slip off the hook this year.  And he may be able to do so because the Big 12 is so mediocre that he can’t help but stumble his way to three more wins.

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