Peyton Manning: The humble legend

The man with much to brag about brags very little:

With 510 passes into the end zone, Peyton Manning stands alone as the NFL’s all-time touchdown king. With five league MVP trophies to his name, he is the only player ever to have won a quintet of the prestigious award.

With 66,812 passing yards to his name he is, by far, the NFL’s most prolific passer amongst active quarterbacks.

But while Manning’s stats scream glamor, his persona does not. Read any story about people who have had a personal experience with the record-breaking star, a man who has everything to brag about, and what you’ll find are anecdote’s about a guy who does anything but.

The heat won’t last forever

I blogged a couple of days ago about the impending indian summer that appears on tap for this weekend and next week. But even as this anticipated “heat wave” nears, the cool-down that will inevitably follow is already shaping up, and there are some signs that this could be the coldest air of the season.

Of course, it should be the coldest air of the season. We’re heading into November with no real “cold” air so far, and as we move deeper into fall, we should become progressively cooler. And it’s also very preliminary. Details are sketchy and there isn’t much agreement even from run to run of the same model.

We’ll likely hit 70 degrees as soon as Saturday, and that’s here on the Cumberland Plateau — where temperatures are typically a bit cooler. Nashville could very well see 80 degrees on Saturday, or something close to it. It then appears that the 70s will continue through the first half of next week. Temps will top out on Monday, when most of Tennessee will likely be in the 80s. Even here, temperatures in the upper 70s are possible, if not likely, on Monday. Breezy southerly winds will help pump moisture into the region and increase temperatures even more.

Record temps aren’t likely, at least here on the northern plateau. The ‘60s and ‘70s featured some quite warm Octobers in this region. In 1971, for example, an end-of-October heat wave drove temperatures into the low 80s here on Halloween day. The record high for Monday is 81, set in 1963.

Then the model uncertainty begins. As you know if you read the earlier post, the GFS model in particular was once set on the idea of temperatures in the 70s through the rest of the month and into the first couple of days of October. But the GFS has done an about-face over the last couple of days, and now brings a strong cold front into the region by late next week. 

Yesterday’s midday (12z) run of the GFS was particularly aggressive with the cold front, bringing it in Thursday of next week, with temperatures for Halloween weekend plummeting. That run of the model had temperatures struggling to get out of the 40s on Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 1-2). 

This morning’s (0z) run of the GFS brings the front in even quicker, by a few hours, but isn’t as aggressive with the cool-down. It would still be quite a difference from what the model was showing just a couple of days ago, with the temperature on Halloween struggling to get into the 50s and the temperature on Saturday (Nov. 1) staying in the 40s.

It’s too early to put too much stock into the idea of much colder temperatures by Halloween. But it’s something to keep an eye on.

It does look like that no matter what happens late next week, the temperature rebounds well into the 60s the following week.

Tennessee’s bowl hopes hinge on November

Barring something of a miracle at Neyland Stadium Saturday night, Tennessee will need a strong November run to get to 6-6 and bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. 

Which is exactly where most expected this team to be heading into this week before the season started.

At 3-4, Tennessee’s window of opportunity for bowl eligibility is quickly closing. After the expected loss to Alabama this weekend, the Vols can afford only one more loss if they’re going to be playing past November.

And, yet, 3-4 is exactly where we expected this Tennessee team to be back in August.

Just about anyone who was anyone felt that UT would beat Utah State and Arkansas State, lose to Oklahoma and Georgia, hopefully beat Florida but probably lose, beat Chattanooga, and lose to Ole Miss and Alabama before heading into November.

Here we are, at the end of October, and Tennessee defeated Utah State and Arkansas State, lost to Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida, beat Chattanooga and lost to Ole Miss.

Which makes it something of a mystery that some fans are calling for Butch Jones’ head on the proverbial platter already.

I think there are some coaching concerns on the offensive side of the ball; I’ve detailed those concerns in previous posts. But I also think it’s completely unfair to say that Butch Jones is the wrong man for the job when he’s only halfway into his second season of a job that required a complete rebuild from the ground up.

Obviously, knowing what we know now, Tennessee should have beaten Florida. That 10-9 setback was devastating. 

And, yet, this team is exactly where we thought it would be in terms of overall wins and losses. None of us could have imagined how pitiful the offense would be. By the same token, few of us could have imagined how vastly improved the defense would be.

It’s probably safe to say that if Tennessee’s offensive line and quarterback play don’t improve by November, the Vols won’t make it to six wins. It’s also safe to say that Tennessee’s defense will keep the Vols in every single game they play — perhaps including this weekend’s game against Alabama.

Assuming the loss to Alabama, Tennessee will head into November with a record of 3-5. The remaining slate will feature South Carolina in Columbia, Vanderbilt in Nashville, Missouri in Knoxville and Kentucky in Knoxville. 

It’s safe to say that South Carolina and Missouri will be favored when they face Tennessee. Kentucky could also be favored, although the Wildcats’ shellacking at the hands of LSU — the only team of consequence they’ve faced this season — casts doubt on that. Tennessee will be favored to beat Vanderbilt. 

Assuming wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky — the fact that the game is in Knoxville allows me to make that assumption — Tennessee will need to split its games with Missouri and South Carolina to reach bowl eligibility and play in the Weed Whacker Bowl or something similarly obscure. 

The most likely bet between the two of those is Missouri — again, just as we expected prior to the start of the season. The Tigers have looked fantastic at times this season, but also stunk up the field against Indiana. And although Mizzou drilled Florida 42-13 last week, the Tigers finished that game with just 119 yards of total offense. They scored one — ONE — offensive touchdown. South Carolina is better, but has also looked suspect at times, particularly on defense. 

Coming into the season, Tennessee fans expected the Vols to need a win to split wins against Missouri and South Carolina in order to reach 6-6. Here we are in late October, and that’s exactly how things shape up. Yes, the presumed win over Kentucky will be tougher than anyone thought prior to the season. And scoring an upset split of South Carolina and Missouri will be a little tougher than anticipated, given the unexpected ineptness of the Vols’ offense. 

And, yet, every reasonable goal that was in place before the season is still in place, seven games in. 

Someone please remind me again why there’s so much gloom-and-doom along the University of Tennessee fan base this week?

Dooley vs. Muschamp: Which deserves the Loser’s Cup?

Look up SEC football coaching debacles of the modern era, and you’ll find Tennessee’s Derek Dooley and Florida’s Will Muschamp on just about everyone’s short list.

There’s no doubt that Dooley failed spectacularly at Tennessee. And there’s no doubt that Muschamp is failing spectacularly at Florida. Dooley was ousted after only three years with the Vols; Muschamp will almost certainly be ousted after only four years with the Gators.

There are a few other coaches that are on that short list. John L. Smith inherited an Arkansas team in 2012 that was coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons and proceeded to win just four games, going 4-8 before being promptly fired. Joker Phillips was pretty much a joke at Kentucky, with an overall record of 13-24. Ed “Yaw Yaw” Orgeron was a dismal 10-25 at Ole Miss. And Mike DuBose set Alabama football back 10 years in the mid 1990s. 

But can any of those coaches do less with more than these two — Dooley and Muschamp? I hardly think so.

Derek Dooley’s troubles at Tennessee are well-documented. Hired after a 4-8 season at Louisiana Tech in 2009, Dooley spent more time crafting World War II Nazi analogies with the press and worrying about his team’s shower discipline than he spent on the recruiting trail. His three-year tenure at Tennessee saw the Vols lose to Kentucky for the first time since 1984, get destroyed by lowly in-state rival Vanderbilt, and make it to just one bowl game. UT’s SEC record during that three-year stretch was just 5-19…it was the Vols’ worst three-year stretch in conference play since prior to the General Neyland era. And the repercussions of Dooley’s tenure in Knoxville are still being felt. Dooley signed only five offensive linemen during his three-year stretch, and UT currently has the second-worst offense in the SEC due in large part to a lack of offensive line depth and talent.

But while Dooley was terribly ineffective, estranging both the high school coaches in the region and his program’s football alumni, some of his lack of success was also due to the team he inherited. Let’s look at the four recruiting classes preceding Dooley’s first season at Tennessee, including the 2010 class that he put the finishing touches on. They were ranked by as follows: No. 9 (2010), No. 10 (2009), No. 35 (2008) and No. 3 (2007). 

Okay, so there were some high rankings in there. But those are a bit deceiving. Lane Kiffin’s two classes suffered from significant attrition; most of  those players did not pan out, for various reasons. By 2011 and 2012 — the two seasons that broke Dooley — almost none of those guys were suiting up. Likewise, Phillip Fulmer’s No. 3 class in 2007 suffered from major attrition. Eric Berry was the one true contributor from that highly-ranked class, and he never suited up under Dooley, leaving for the NFL Draft after Kiffin’s lone season in 2009. 

The 2008 class — Fulmer’s last — was emblematic of the entire era. The Vols were coming off an appearance in the SEC Championship Game in 2007, but Fulmer managed the single worst recruiting class — on paper — of his entire tenure at Tennessee. That was the first major red flag that Fulmer — by that time already embattled, despite winning the SEC East in ’07 — was finished at Tennessee. The Vols signed only four 4-star recruits that season to accompany a bunch of 3-star guys — E.J. Ebrams-Ward, Aaron Douglas, Marlon Walls and Gerald Williams.

Bottom line: Dooley had a bare cupboard to work with. He needed to be fired, because he was a terrible head coach. But it isn’t like his predecessors did him any favors.

By contrast, let’s review the four recruiting classes preceding Will Muschamp’s first season at Florida, beginning with the one he put the finishing touches on in 2011. They were ranked by as No. 12 (2011), No. 2 (2010), No. 11 (2009) and No. 3 (2008).

Muschamp inherited loads of talent, especially on the defensive side of the football. Florida had four players drafted into the NFL in 2014, eight (including two first-rounders) in 2013 and two in 2012. By comparison, Tennessee had five players drafted after all three seasons of Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee — combined. 

After a mediocre season — by Florida standards — in 2011, the Gators rebounded to finish with an 11-1 record in the 2012 regular season. Muschamp and his team appeared to catch lucky breaks at every turn, finding ways to squeak by Vanderbilt and Louisiana Lafayette, as well as several others. The Gators’ loss to Georgia was ugly, as was their loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. Many non-Florida football fans speculated that Muschamp had simply gotten lucky and could not sustain that success. 

As it turned out, they were right.

Florida started the 2013 season with a 4-1 record and was ranked No. 17 in the country. And then the wheels came off. The Gators lost the last six games of the season, featuring an anemic offense that scored 20 points just twice. Florida was drummed by Vanderbilt, 34-17 — in The Swamp, where the team once seemed invincible. And while Muschamp had narrowly avoided losing to Louisiana Lafayette in 2012, he would not do the same the next season, falling to Georgia Southern — an FCS team — by a score of 26-20.

Fast-forward to this season. Florida needed three overtimes to beat Kentucky in The Swamp, and last week was drummed by Missouri in The Swamp, 42-13. The Gators are 3-3, and two of their wins (Kentucky and Tennessee) came on controversial plays after the play clock had expired but delay of game was not called. The Kentucky play was a fourth-and-goal play; the Tennessee play was a 49-yard field goal attempt. Either of those plays would have likely turned out differently had the penalty been called.

But that’s neither here nor there. What is worth focusing on is this past Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Missouri. The Tigers marched into Gainesville and emerged with the 42-13 win despite amassing only 119 yards of total offense. Read that again: Missouri had only 119 yards of offense, and won by four touchdowns. And it was 42-0 at one point.

With Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State remaining, it’s conceivable that Florida will miss bowl eligibility for a second consecutive season.

As bad as Dooley was at Tennessee, he never finished with a record of 4-8. He never lost to an FCS team. And, just for good measure, he never signed a recruiting class lower than No. 17. The 2015 Florida recruiting class is currently ranked No. 45 by FORTY-FIFTH!

Is Will Muschamp the worst football coach in the SEC’s modern era? It’s hard to make a convincing argument that he isn’t.

Indian summer possible next week

As major cool downs — not uncommon in a typical October — continue to evade the eastern United States, there is growing confidence that massive ridging will set up over the nation next week, bringing much warmer temperatures to the Southeast.

The warmup actually begins this weekend, with a return of 70-degree temps. But those may just be a precursor for even warmer weather later next week.

Raw numbers from today’s 12z run of the GFS model shows the high temperature topping out around 70 each day from Sunday through Wednesday, then temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70s on Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week, with highs continuing in the 70s all the way through the arrival of the next cold front around Nov. 4.

It’s worth noting that the 12z run of the model was several degrees warmer than the 0z run of the same model this morning. However, this isn’t the first indication from the models that we’re going to see an invasion of much above-normal temperatures in the final week of October. High temperatures in the 70s for Halloween appear to be more likely than not, which will make it the warmest Halloween we’ve seen in East Tennessee in several years.

It does look like a substantial temperature swing could be on the way for the first week of November. After starting in the 70s, that week could end with highs in the 40s. But it’s too far away to get into too much detail about that.

We’ve seen temperatures in the 30s just twice this month (Oct. 4-5), and temperatures in the 40s just a handful of days — most of them this past weekend and the first of this week. The average temperature for the month is running more than three degrees above normal (60.4 vs. 57.0) and the average low temperature is running almost 5.5 degrees above normal (51.5 vs. 46.1). 

So what does this mean for the upcoming winter? Maybe a lot. Maybe nothing. The loose consensus has been that much of the eastern U.S. will see below-average temperatures this winter. However, there have been signs over the past couple of weeks that this may not be the case. Temperatures in the Arctic are running above normal for this time of year, and cold air intrusions aren’t being released into the lower latitudes of North America. Just last week we saw a sharply negative Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation, but the cold air stayed bottled up well north of the Canadian border.

It’s still too early to know exactly what the months of December-February have in store, but for now a warmer-than-average fall is certainly taking shape.

UT at Ole Miss: 10 points

1.) Managing Expectations: I didn’t expect Tennessee to beat Ole Miss. I said before the game that I would consider it a victory if the Vols stayed within 17 points and Justin Worley stayed healthy. Unfortunately, neither happened. There were some things that concerned me about the loss, even though I fully expected a lopsided win by Ole Miss, and I’ll explain those in more length further down. But one thing that leaves me scratching my head is the UT fans who are throwing in the towel on Butch Jones. So let’s repeat: Tennessee wasn’t expected to win this game. Tennessee wasn’t supposed to win this game. Tennessee shouldn’t have won this game. I know that’s obvious to most, but judging from Twitter tonight, not everyone got the memo. This was always going to be a loss. UT is an improving football team, but not good enough to go on the road and upset the nation’s No. 3 team — a team that, in my opinion (and I said this before tonight) is the best team in America right now.

2.) Where does OL fault lie? There is a growing rift within the Tennessee fan base over whether the Vols’ offensive line should be criticized. And it goes all the way to the top, as Jones implied this week that UT fans should lay off the line. But after UT gave up seven sacks to Ole Miss tonight and finished with negative yards on the ground, we’ve once again reconfirmed what we’ve known for a few weeks: This is the worst offensive line in recent UT history. That much isn’t debatable. What is debatable is where the fault lies. Some blame youth . . . and, make no mistake, this is also the youngest offensive line in recent UT history. Clearly, youth plays a role. But I can’t be honest and say that I don’t have concerns about the coaching at that position. When Jones fired Sam Pittman (who is now at Arkansas, coaching an offensive line that is averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground) to make room for his own hire, I felt it was a mistake. Now I’m convinced it was a mistake. It isn’t fair to criticize Don Mahoney, the offensive line coach, for a completely green and inexperienced OL. But when you throw in the fact that last year’s line, with NFL-caliber talent, turned in an underwhelming performance, I think there’s cause for concern. And let’s point out the obvious: we’re more than halfway through the season. If UT’s offensive line woes are due only to inexperience, the line should be getting better. It isn’t. Tennessee has now allowed 19 sacks in its last three games. Nineteen!

3.) Regressing Worley: UT quarterback Justin Worley impressed me with his toughness at Oklahoma. Running for his life with a porous offensive line in front of him, Worley made a couple of crucial mistakes but nonetheless played pretty well. When he followed that up with a really good performance at Georgia, I was sold on his newfound abilities. It had been obvious after the Utah State game that 2014 Worley was improved over 2013 Worley. That was even more obvious after the Arkansas State game. By the end of the Georgia game — which I still maintain Tennessee would have won if Worley hadn’t been injured and missed most of the third quarter — Worley was looking like the SEC’s most improved player. Some red flags started to pop up during the Florida game. Worley did not play well at all. He didn’t look much better against Chattanooga, though it’s hard to take too much away from what was essentially a glorified scrimmage. Tonight, though, Worley had one of the worst games of his life. The offensive line shoulders plenty of burden for UT’s offensive woes against the Rebels, but Worley has more than enough blame to share as well. He repeatedly made bad decisions, made poor throws, and just didn’t look at all comfortable. My biggest concern coming into the game was that Worley would be injured and not be able to finish the season. Ironically, by midway through the third quarter, I was more than ready for Jones to burn Josh Dobbs’ redshirt and insert the sophomore into the game.

4.) Still the best option: Was anyone really surprised that Nathan Peterman fumbled on his second play in the game? I mean, really? I hate it for Peterman, I really do. But he just doesn’t have it. I was still hopeful after a complete debacle at Florida last season. But his third quarter showing at Georgia last month pretty much had be convinced that he isn’t an SEC-level quarterback. I don’t know what “it” is, but Peterman doesn’t have “it.” If the coaches believe that Dobbs isn’t a better option than Worley — which they must believe if they’re going to redshirt him — I will defer to their judgment. As a fan, there’s no way I could possibly be in a better position to judge than they are. So, apparently, Worley — despite his regression — is still Tennessee’s best option. Which means if the Vols are to return to SEC prominence, the quarterback who will lead them there isn’t yet on campus. And that’s sorta depressing, when you think about it.

5.) Bowl eligibility a stretch: After the Utah State game, I said that Justin Worley was much improved, but I still didn’t think he was a good enough quarterback to win SEC games. After the Georgia game, I had completely changed my mind. I said UT would beat a team it wasn’t supposed to beat at some point this season, and Worley would be a major reason why. After the Florida and Ole Miss games, I’m concerned about Tennessee winning any of the remaining games on their schedule, given the way Worley is struggling. If you’re keeping count, you know the magic number is two for Tennessee. That’s all the Vols can lose and still hope for a bowl game. With a visit from Alabama on tap for next Saturday night, that magic number is probably about to become one. There’s very little margin for error. And Missouri — which just drubbed Florida — is still on the schedule, as is a much improved Kentucky team (and South Carolina).

6.) Really, Bajakian? I’ve tried to avoid jumping on the criticism band wagon of Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, but let’s far it: there’s a reason Tennessee fans have been so critical of his play calling. We saw two perfect examples tonight. One was the first drive of the second half. Tennessee had moved inside Ole Miss’s 30-yard-line and had a second down play. Bajakian called a double-reverse trick play, which resulted in a loss of 10 yards and eventually forced a punt. It was a MAC-level play call against the SEC’s best defense. You try a high-risk trick play when you have nothing to lose and need a spark. Not when you’re in position to score. A double-reverse is certainly a high-risk play. A field goal there would’ve made it a one-possession game at 14-6. Late in the game, with Tennessee facing fourth and about a foot at the Ole Miss 41, Bajakian calls a handoff . . . on a night when the Vols had negative yards in the rushing column. With a sizable QB like Peterman under center, why wouldn’t you try a quarterback sneak? The play calling has been mystical at times this season, especially inside the 20-yard-line.

7.) Butch’s stubbornness a problem? Let me make one thing clear: I’m still completely in Butch Jones’ corner. Just about everything he has done with this program has been the right thing. He’s reenergized the fan base (though he’s gonna have to win soon to keep that energy level up), he’s reversed recent trends on the recruiting trail, he’s sold the program to former players and area high school coaches — two groups completely alienated by Derek Dooley. But a lot of UT fans feel the offense is being hamstrung by Mahoney and Bajakian. If that is, in fact, true, and Tennessee will only take the next step with some shuffling on the staff, will Butch Jones be willing to make that move? Mahoney was with him as offensive line coach the entire time he was at Central Michigan and the entire time he was at Cincinnati. The same is true for Bajakian (as offensive coordinator). Clearly, they’re more than just assistants. They’re friends and confidants. Will Jones be willing to pull the trigger on coaching changes even if it’s obvious that they’re needed? Or will he prove loyal to a fault, very similar to Phillip Fulmer? Jones has shown he is pretty stubborn, so that has to be concerning if you’re in the camp who feel that some staff changes might be necessary.

8.) Defense not at fault. Tennessee’s defense played exceptionally well in the first half of the game. Two consecutive busts by true freshman cornerback Emmanuel Moseley led to Ole Miss’s first touchdown, but the second touchdown was mostly on the offense, which gave the Rebels a short field to work with off of a turnover. Coming into the game, I said that Tennessee’s defense would keep the game close and respectable, unless offense and special teams gave the Rebels a short field. The offense (three turnovers) and special teams (one turnover) gave Ole Miss a short field, and it did get ugly. (By the way, don’t fault Evan Berry too much for his fumbled kickoff. It was a disastrous play, but those things happen — especially to freshmen who are brand new to the position. Berry has shown flashes of being a very good return man in just two games at the position.) By the fourth quarter, the defense was simply gassed. The young contributors on the defense continue to be super impressive. Derek Barnett finished with four tackles for loss and two sacks . . . and he’s a true freshman. The incoming recruiting class might be, on paper, the best defensive line recruiting class in recent Tennessee history. Add those guys to John Jancek’s defense and the Vols could be an absolute force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the football in this league. Let’s not forget that Cam Sutton and Jalon Reeves-Maybin are just sophomores. By 2015, this defense is going to be very good. By 2016 that unit could be one of the best defenses the SEC has seen in a while.

9.) A little quit, maybe? One thing I’ve much admired about the Butch Jones brand of football, despite his 8-11 record at Tennessee, is that his teams don’t have an ounce of quit in them. That was true last season, even though UT’s lack of talent was often exposed in a big way. That has especially been true this season. Tennessee didn’t give up at Oklahoma; they didn’t give up when it appeared Georgia had busted the game wide open down in Athens. They fight until the final second has ticked off the clock. For the first time in the Butch Jones era, I saw a Tennessee team that appeared to quit a little bit tonight. What does that mean? Maybe a little; maybe a lot. Only time will tell.

10.) RUTS, Hugh Freeze. I’m not a fan of running up the score. Although it’s a completely different level, that’s one reason I’m a big fan of Tony Lambert’s brand of football at Oneida High School. No one pulls his starters quicker once the game is in hand than Lambert does. I don’t think you prove anything by rubbing salt in the wound. Tonight, when Ole Miss picked up a first down inside the 10-yard-line with under 1:30 to play, Hugh Freeze could have easily taken a couple of knees and ended the game at 27-3. With that said, do I blame Freeze? I’m not sure. It wasn’t like he was out there throwing passes. He was running the play clock down, then running the football. Tennessee still has a responsibility to tackle the ballcarrier. But one thing I’m absolutely sure of: ESPN’s Brad Nessler — who I’m a big fan of — sounded pretty dumb with his assessment of the situation. Before Ole Miss’s final scoring play, Nessler said, “Ole Miss doesn’t want to score again.” Then, after the touchdown run, he said, “Look at him — he didn’t want that to happen.” Seriously? Brad, really? Didn’t want it to happen? Fault him for doing it, or don’t; I’m kinda “meh” either way. But I’m pretty sure that if Hugh Freeze didn’t want to score again, he’s heard of the victory formation.

Shepard Smith blasts media on Ebola

One of the reasons I like Shep Smith is because he is one of the few cable news personalities who isn’t so caught up in Republican-vs.-Democrat politics that he loses sight of right-vs.-wrong politics. Today, he blasted the news media for the Ebola hyperbole:

He explained: “We do not have an outbreak of Ebola in the United States. Nowhere. We do have two healthcare workers who contracted the disease from a dying man. They are isolated. There is no information to suggest that the virus has spread to anyone in the general population in America. Not one person in the general population in the United States.”

The Fox News host emphasized that political gamesmanship is skewing media coverage. “With midterm elections coming, the party in charge needs to appear to be effectively leading. The party out of power needs to show that there is a lack of leadership,” said Smith.

Where this rainy October stacks up

Halfway through the month of October, we’ve had more days with measurable rain (10) than without (5). So where does this rainy October stack up historically?

According to the National Weather Service’s data, a total of 5.11 inches of rain have been recorded in Oneida. (As I have stated in the past, I always consider the Oneida weather station’s precipitation numbers suspect. By comparison, Crossville has recorded 7.07 inches of rain at the airport and 8.53 inches at the Expo Center.)

But using the Oneida number, this already ranks as the second-wettest October in the 21st Century. 2009 featured the wettest October, at 7.11 inches. Only one other October since 2000 has recorded more than 4 inches of rain (4.19 inches in 2006).

Historically, there have been a number of Octobers wetter than this one. Records-keeping began in Oneida in 1952. Here are our wettest Octobers since then:

1.) 8.01″ (1984)
2.) 7.11″ (2009)
3.) 6.99″ (1983)
4.) 6.62″ (1995)
5.) 6.61″ (1970)
6.) 6.59″ (1981)
7.) 5.95″ (1975)
8.) 5.77″ (1986)
9.) 5.66″ (1990)
10.) 5.55″ (1959)
11.) 5.53″ (1973)
12.) 5.29″ (1976)
13.) 5.11″ (2014)
14.) 5.04″ (1979)

I pointed out on another post a few days ago that October is often a volatile month — it can be really dry, or it can be really wet. So while there have been no shortage of wet Octobers in these parts, what really makes this year’s rainfall total stand out is just how dry October can oftentimes be. Consider the 10 driest Octobers on record in Oneida:

1.) 0.12″ (1963)
2.) 0.42″ (1953)
3.) 0.57″ (2000)
4.) 1.02″ (1952)
5.) 1.13″ (1958)
6.) 1.50″ (1991)
7.) 1.53″ (1982)
8.) 1.77″ (1998)
9.) 1.79″ (1954)
10.) 1.91″ (1980)

Part of it is also physiological. October 2013 was one of the driest Octobers on record in Oneida (1.94 inches of rain, making it the 13th-driest October overall). And we’re just coming out of September, which was one of the driest Septembers on record locally — and the single driest September ever in the greatest Knoxville area.

And you also have to consider that we’ve reached these historically-impressive rainfall totals in just one half of the month. (The medium-range models look much drier for the remainder of October, so we may not see these numbers climb too much between now and November. However, today’s 12z run of the GFS model shows a fairly robust system around Oct. 28-29, which could push this October at least into the 10 wettest Octobers on record in Oneida.)

By the way, in Crossville, where 8.53 inches of rain have been recorded: It is already the second-wettest October ever there, dating back to the start of records-keeping in 1912. The wettest October was 10.85 inches of rain, in 1925.

Ebola: Teetering on the edge

The CDC is now asking 132 passengers on a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas to check in after revelations that the second Texas nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola flew on that flight the night before she tested positive.

The real story here isn’t the nurse’s flight. Let’s be honest: the chances that she transmitted the disease to anyone else on that flight are miniscule. 

The real story is that a second nurse has the virus to start with. 

Every day, new revelations are coming out about Ebola in America that should make all of us downright angry. Maybe even a little scared, but definitely angry, as taxpayers.

The CDC’s annual budget is well over $6 billion dollars. That’s $6,000,000,000. And, at least on the disease preparedness and response end of it, this Ebola test has been a complete failure.

The fact that the Texas hospital did not catch on to the significance of a patient who had just arrived stateside from Liberia experiencing Ebola-like symptoms. The fact that hospital staff were caring for the patient without proper infectious disease protocols in place. The fact that two healthcare workers have now tested positive and are were milling about before their diagnosis, potentially exposing dozens (hundreds?) of others to the disease.

And how long did we have to prepare for this? This outbreak didn’t begin last week, or even last month. America has one of the best health care systems in the world. It wasn’t a question of if someone would carry Ebola to the U.S. seeking treatment. It was a question of when.

It’s one thing when a single patient from Liberia flies into Texas and immediately starts experiencing symptoms of Ebola. The CDC is monitoring dozens of people who had contact with him and, thus far, none have become sick. That’s why I maintained in an earlier post here (and why many people who, unlike me, are actually knowledgeable on this subject say the same thing) that it will be difficult for a disease like Ebola to become a pandemic in America. Unlike the cold or flu, Ebola isn’t an airborne illness. It’s transmitted by bodily fluids — much like, say, the common stomach virus…but it’s also much less contagious than the stomach virus, which is why none of the non-healthcare people who had contact with the original Ebola patient have become sick. 

But when a health care worker exhibits symptoms, that’s dozens more people who have to be monitored because they were potentially exposed to the virus. Then a second health care worker exhibits symptoms, and that’s dozens more. 

It’s not hard to envision a scenario where this soon begins to become uncontrollable. 

It’s a long ways from uncontrollable now, obviously, despite the hyperbole from the news media. But with our nation’s resources, protocols and wealth, there’s no excuse for it even getting to this point.

Kentucky, you ol’ basketball school you

Kentucky isn’t a football school.

Never has been; never will be.

The Wildcats, under the direction of second-year head coach Mark Stoops, are off to one of their best starts in the past half-century. They’re 5-1 for the first time since 2007, and most folks will tell you that UK is the most-improved team in the SEC this season (which is saying a lot, given the surge of the two programs down in Mississippi). 

Yet the Wildcats are having more trouble filling their stadium than any team in the SEC.

Take a look at this season’s attendance numbers. An average of only 55,612 are attending home games at Commonwealth Stadium this season, but that only tells half the story; Kentucky has one of the smallest stadiums in the SEC. The full picture is seen when you look at the capacity percentage of the stadiums: 

1.) South Carolina – 103%
2.) Ole Miss – 101%
3.) Texas A&M – 100%
3.) Auburn – 100%
3.) Georgia – 100%
6.) Alabama – 99.5%
7.) Mississippi State – 99%
8.) LSU – 99%
9.) Tennessee – 97%
10.) Florida – 97%
11.) Missouri – 95%
12.) Arkansas – 94%
13.) Vanderbilt – 84%
14.) Kentucky – 82%

Yes, even Vandy — where Derek Mason is crashing-and-burning in his first season as a head coach — is coming closer to selling out its stadium than Kentucky.