This year will not be the usual brand of college football weirdness. Navy’s horrible performance against BYU helped solidify that in the minds of every fan. COVID has been talked to death, and rehashing it here seems a touch cruel when all a reader wants to do is relax, but it will impact everything about how this season plays out.
As a result of the pandemic, Wells is in a unique position. Normally, year two of a regime is critical in a coach’s tenure. Year two is when excuses start ringing hollow, and while a bad year two will not equate to a firing offense, it does turn up the heat a few notches. Year three becomes a make or break year, with any coach limping into year four without improvements hanging on by a thread.
This season has upended all of that as not only is there no guarantee any game will happen, a positive test can possibly eliminating an entire unit. As a result some fans will happily just wash this year, enjoy the football and not look for any deeper meaning.
However, while the clock is definitely being pushed back there is plenty to gleam from year two under Wells, and success and failure can be defined.
From a success or failure standpoint the goal has to be five wins. Of course, COVID could easily make that untenable but for the sake of argument this assumes a relatively normal year without a major blow from contact tracing. With easy wins against Kansas (hopefully) and HBU, that means finding 3 wins to add to the total. WVU, TCU, Baylor, and KSU are all very beatable so finding wins in that group should be the goal. OSU and ISU are reach games, but splitting that pair is feasible. After how bad Iowa State looked, that seems like a game moving into the very beatable category.
If the team is unable to do that, no one is saying Wells should start feeling heat. But getting to that 5 win bar is a huge positive step for the program, which from a recruiting standpoint cannot be overstated. Failing to get there could do damage to a program that desperately needs some momentum.
More than just wins or losses a few things indicate the program is moving forward. For one, despite the lack of practice time if penalties are going down year to year that would indicate Wells’ brand of discipline is catching hold. If the secondary is improved and the overall pass defense improves, Patterson is more than demonstrating his system will work in the Big 12. And for Yost, a healthy offense able to consistently finish drives and produce points in the big moment is what the doctor ordered.
So while a fan watches this year, yes get swept up in the simple fact that college football is being played. But don’t let that sheer joy distract from the health of the program. This program can take a step forward this year, or it can take a step back. Either way, let’s play ball!