Christmas parades in shirt sleeves? Yes, warm weather is coming

After a seasonable Thanksgiving, a warming trend is in store for the weekend — with most of the state, sans the Cumberland Plateau, hitting the 60s by Sunday.

The GFS and the ECMWF — the two weather models of preference — both show a sustained warmup, with temperatures in the 60s continuing at least into the middle of next week. The warmest temperature depicted for the northern plateau on the 0z run of the GFS is 65 degrees on Dec. 3. 

The question is when the next cold front will arrive. The GFS yesterday showed 60s through all of next work week before a cool down around Dec. 5-6. Today’s 0z run of the model sped that up a bit to around Wednesday.

Either way, the headline is probably a bit misleading. By the time most communities in East Tennessee have their Christmas parades on Dec. 6, temperatures are modeled to be back to more seasonable levels.

But I wouldn’t write that in ink just yet. Both the GFS and the ECMWF have hinted at times at an even longer period of sustained warmth.

The important thing to remember is that a warm start to December — no matter how long it lasts — doesn’t mean that winter is over before it even begins. I mentioned last week that both 1976-1977 and 1984-1985 featured a lot of warm weather in December, and both of those winters turned brutal in January. In fact, experts have pointed to 1976-1977 as a key analog for this winter. 

Dr. Huxtable’s Mr. Hyde side is way too common

My weekly newspaper column: 

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather the first time I read — sat down and seriously read — the allegations against actor-comedian Bill Cosby.

Oh, I had heard about the allegations in the past. But, like most Americans, I pushed them to the back of my mind; chalked them up as falsehoods perpetrated by a money-hungry opportunist. I mean, who wants to believe that lovable Bill Cosby, the gentle TV star who brought good, old-fashioned, traditional family values into our family rooms in the 1980s, could actually be a monster masquerading as America’s favorite dad? 

It’s funny how these things work. For years, various women alleged sexual assault and misconduct by Cosby. A few stories were written, but the matter never gained traction. Then, well after the fact, a comedian goes on a tangent, calling Cosby a rapist. Within days, the face of one of the best sitcoms in the history of the small screen was plastered on TVs across America — but on the primetime news, a far different spot from the TV Land reruns.

So I sat down to read the true story of Dr. Huxtable and Mr. Hyde. And what I read amazed me. It would’ve been easy to dismiss the accusations of one woman as baseless. But when the victim count reached nearly a half-dozen, the evidence against Cosby became damning.

It was heartbreaking because the Cosby who graces my TV screen has always appeared so honest, so honorable. As a comedian, Cosby is family oriented — a rarity even for the era in which he reached his prime. And Cliff Huxtable was one of the most endearing characters the entertainment industry has ever given us. 

But, probably, the Cosby revelations should’ve been neither surprising nor heartbreaking.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Hollywood types are, after all, actors. They may play ordinary folks like you or I but, off-set, they still embrace a culture that is very different from the culture most of us know.

I immediately thought of Mel Gibson — another actor who I deeply admired. I’ve always been a fan of Gibson’s work; I consider him the best actor of our time, in fact. But I especially respected his family and religious values. And then he became just another womanizer, making headlines for anti-Semitism, alcohol abuse and domestic violence rather than his fine work on the set of Hollywood’s latest blockbuster movie.

Randy Travis has always been one of my favorite country singers, and I became an even bigger fan when he shifted his focus to gospel music in the early 2000s. But the last we heard from Travis, he was found drunk and naked, lying in the middle of a road in Grayson Co., Tex.

We all make mistakes, of course. It just seems that celebrities — even the ones that seem the most like regular Joes — tend to make more than their fair share. 

The lesson here, I’ve come to suspect, is simply this: Don’t put your hope for humanity in entertainers making 7-figure paychecks. They’ll always disappoint you in the end.

UT vs. Missouri: 10 points

1.) I irritated a few fellow Tennessee fans when I said I would wait until I saw Josh Dobbs play against the Missouri defense before anointing him the Vols’ football messiah. I saw him play the Missouri defense today, and color me unimpressed. I’m not saying that Dobbs isn’t a gamer and that he can’t make things happen for Tennessee, but clearly we can all agree that the porous defenses fielded by South Carolina and Kentucky were fool’s gold for Tennessee and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. We knew going into the UK and S.C. games that those defenses were terrible. We also knew going into the Missouri game that the Tigers’ defense was tremendous. Unfortunately, if you drew up a worst-case scenario, it pretty well played out for Tennessee today. Until the Tigers went into prevent mode late in the fourth quarter, the Vols couldn’t muster much offense, and didn’t put a touchdown on the board.

2.) I also irritated a few fellow Tennessee fans when I said I’m not convinced that Dobbs is the quarterback who can lead the Vols back into the SEC East title race. I love what he was able to do with his legs against Kentucky and South Carolina. He made good things happened. But he struggles to throw the ball deep and makes questionable decisions. Can Dobbs get the Vols to Atlanta? I hope so, because UT isn’t poised to sign a clear superstar at QB. But I’m not convinced. And today we saw just how ineffective Dobbs’ playmaking abilities can be rendered by a very good defense that schemes around him.

3.) With all that said, it’s not all on Dobbs — not by a long shot. The most obvious offender was the offensive line. Dobbs was able to mask the line’s shortcomings against a couple of terrible defenses. But tonight, the OL we saw against the likes of Florida and Ole Miss was back, and any hopes we had of that unit having made improvements as the season progressed were pretty much shot. Dobbs simply didn’t have time to think. As soon as the ball was snapped, he had pressure on him. If Justin Worley hadn’t been injured against Ole Miss, he would’ve almost certainly been injured tonight. I’ve said more than once that Butch Jones’ biggest mistake at Tennessee was firing Sam Pittman. Arkansas now has one of the best offensive lines in the SEC, under Pittman’s guidance, while Tennessee’s OL has underwhelmed for two consecutive seasons under the direction of Don Mahoney.

4.) I’ve said this at other times this season — the offensive line not withstanding, the wide receivers corps has been the single most disappointing unit on this UT football team. Receiver was supposed to be a strength for the Vols this season, but that group has underwhelmed. It didn’t help that Josh Smith — the only receiver who could consistently get open — has been out most of the season with an injury. It didn’t help that Von Pearson missed significant time with an injury. And it doesn’t help that Marquez North is now out for the season (and was apparently limited by injury before). But tonight was perhaps the most obvious example of the receivers’ shortcomings this season. Rarely did receivers get open and present good opportunities for Dobbs. One of the few times it happened, Josh Malone (who, for some reason, played very little tonight) dropped a pass that wound up being intercepted.

5.) Tennessee’s defense was one of the nation’s best early in the season but has really struggled as the season has moved along. Tonight was no exception. It doesn’t help when the heart and soul of your defense,  A.J. Johnson, is suspended. But the most disappointing thing was all the missed tackles. I’m not sure how many yards after contact Missouri had, but the number was not insignificant. There were far too many missed tackles due to poor form by the defenders. In that respect, tonight’s Tennessee defense looked very much like the defenses of 2012 and 2013.

6.) Bajakian has caught a lot of criticism from Tennessee fans this season for his play calling. Then, in two weeks where the offense excelled, the criticism quieted. I suspect it’s gonna return after tonight’s game, and here’s one guy who will crow with the rest. Bajakian doesn’t do a good job of calling the game to maximize his team’s strengths and minimize the other team’s strengths. Far too many slow-developing plays were called, and they simply weren’t going to work against this Missouri defense. As the game progressed, it seemed that Tennessee couldn’t get away from the game plan it entered the game with; couldn’t make the necessary adjustments to move the football on Missouri.

7.) By the end of Derek Dooley’s second season, when the Vols lost to Kentucky to miss out on bowl eligibility, he lost much of the fan base — including yours truly. If Tennessee goes to Nashville next week and loses to a truly awful Vanderbilt team to miss out on bowl eligibility, Jones will lose much of the fan base — including yours truly. But, for now, Butch Jones is the horse I hitch my wagon to as a Tennessee fan. He’s done a lot of things right and, while he’s still showing his relative youth and inexperience as a coach in big-time college football (see the time out for a challenge, which cost UT the chance to get the ball back with a few seconds on the clock), the right outweighs the wrong. I do feel that Jones will have to make some changes to his staff if he’s going to be successful at Tennessee, and I’m not sure he has the willingness to do that. He seems loyal above all else — and perhaps loyal to a fault. If he fails at Tennessee, it might be the loyalty that causes him to fail. But that’s looking too far into the future, and we can certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.

8.) Not that I expected to beat Missouri. I thought the Vols had a shot, but I was fearful of the Tigers’ talent-laden defense. And I was fearful of the psychological effect the A.J. Johnson saga would have on the team. And I thought if Tennessee won, it would be close — a field goal or less. That’s why I said before the game started that if I were a betting man, I’d take Missouri. With UT a 5.5 point favorite by game time, it seemed like a fairly safe bet that Mizzou would cover. And they did. The money was going on Tennessee for obvious reasons — Dobbs’ performance had been all the talk for the past couple of weeks. That talk will now be quietened, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s almost surreal to think now that just a couple of days ago a few pundits were mentioning the words “Dobbs” and “Heisman” in the same sentence.

9.) Despite things being as bad as they were tonight, Tennessee was in the game. If Malone doesn’t drop a sure-fire catch into the hands of a defender, Tennessee may very well score the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter. At the very least, the Vols would have been into field goal range (inside the 20-yard-line) and could’ve tied the game. What happens after that? Who knows. It would’ve changed the course of the game. Tennessee might very well have won.

10.) The officiating tonight was despicable. Curt Maggitt — and, to a lesser extent, Derek Barnett — were molested by Missouri’s offensive line. At one point in the third quarter, on Missouri’s go-ahead drive, I counted three consecutive plays where Maggitt was clearly and blatantly held by the offensive tackle. In reality, Maggitt was being held on many of Missouri’s passing plays. Before anyone says it, I know bad calls happen both ways. The offensive pass interference call against Missouri late in the first half, for example, was questionable at best (so, too, was a pass interference penalty against Tennessee that converted a third down and kept Missouri’s go-ahead scoring drive alive in the third quarter). Bad calls are a part of the game. They happen. You deal with them. But when holding is occurring time after time after time in front of the same referee and isn’t being flagged, that’s a huge problem. It’s inexcusable. Missouri was called for holding just once, and then only because Maggitt flailed his arms and made it exceedingly clear that he was being held. Missouri did quite well on third down tonight, and a big part of that was because Maty Mauk had all day to stand in the pocket and wait on receivers to get open. And a big part of why he had so much time to throw was the uncalled holding violations. Along those same lines, there is the following picture. I can’t comment on it, because by that point I had begun making my way back to the Kat bus (hey, it was late…) but this was the onside kick attempt after Tennessee scored to cut the gap to 29-21 with just under two minutes remaining. The Vols actually attempted two onside kicks and recovered both. But they were flagged for touching the ball before it traveled 10 yards on the first and being offsides on the other. I can’t verify that this screenshot actually comes from the offsides attempt, but various angles of the same kick are circulating all over Twitter tonight…and, if true — well, you be the judge of whether UT was offsides:

B3GVFyPCcAEdG92 jpg large

South winds are nice

Did you notice that breeze when you stepped outside this morning? 

Obviously it’s really obvious now, at least here on the northern Cumberland Plateau, where winds are gusting in excess of 20 mph at times this afternoon. But the breeze was evident even before sunrise, rustling the few remaining leaves that are still clinging to the tree branches. 

If you know anything about weather, you paused to check the direction of the breeze (if you hadn’t already paid attention to the weather forecast) and realized it was coming from the south — signaling a regime change from the brutal cold of the past week (especially the last couple of days) to the comfortable warmth that will follow.

In this part of the world, we’re situated between two air masses — the arctic to the north and the tropics to the south. In general, when the wind is out of the north, temperatures are going to get colder (or at least stay cold) as cold, dry air is ushered in. When the wind is out of the south, temperatures are going to get warmer as warm, moist air is ushered in.

It will take a while for true warmth to replace the record-shattering cold temperatures we saw the last 40 hours or so; we likely won’t hit 50 degrees until Saturday, as it takes a while to dislodge an arctic air mass as deep as the one that impacted our weather the last couple of days. But the difference can already be felt. By the time most folks were settling in at work this morning, the temperature was already warmer than it was at any point yesterday, despite another night of near record cold last night.

The official forecast from the National Weather Service in Morristown is for a high of 53 by Saturday and a high of 60 on Sunday and Monday — quite balmy compared to where we’ve been since the middle of last week.

But the warmth won’t last. As these southerly winds pump moist air into the region, another storm system will roll along by the first of next week — dragging another cold front with it. No sooner do we get to 60 degrees than is rain moving in, with cooler temperatures expected through Thanksgiving.

The good news, if you hate winter, is that the next cold front won’t be as powerful as the one we just experienced. But it’ll be cold enough. The NWS drops the high into the 40s for Tuesday of next week. The latest run of the GFS computer model keeps highs in the 30s on Thanksgiving Eve, and in the mid 40s on Thanksgiving. 

Which all leads to the question: when is our next potential winter weather maker? The answer is that there’s nothing solid on the radar, at least right now. You may have heard some meteorologists referring to snow in Tennessee right around Thanksgiving, and it does appear that a weak cold front will move through right around or just after Thanksgiving. But, for now, the weather appears dry. The 12z run of the GFS keeps temperatures in the 30s for Black Friday and the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but then another warmup could begin towards the first couple of days of December.

Current modeling keeps the Arctic Oscillation primarily positive through the end of the month, and the GFS wants to spike the AO right about the first of December. The same GFS, though, tries to crash the North Atlantic Oscillation right about the first of December. So, at best, signals are mixed right now between cold and warmth as we move into December.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that some comparisons have been drawn between the way this season has started and the way the winter of 1976-1977 started, when we saw a pretty brutal winter in East Tennessee. It’s worth noting that November 1976 was quite cold, followed by a very mild December…and then Ol’ Man Winter unleashed his fury after Christmas. In 1984-1985, another brutal winter, a very similar pattern was established: December was very mild — with record-breaking warmth, in fact — before a turn to very cold weather by January. 

So even if December starts off warm, don’t think we’ve escaped with just a glancing blow from winter. The worst may still be yet to come.

Let it snow! Let it snow!

Lake-effect snow is one of weather’s most interesting phenomenons. And it has been particularly brutal in upstate New York this week, with more than 60 inches of snow reported in some areas near Buffalo — and more on the way.

The most incredible thing about LES isn’t the amounts, but the sharp line between the haves and have-nots when it comes to snow. Check out this time lapse of the wall of snow, with blizzard-like conditions across town and nothing where the camera’s position is located:

Check out this report from one Buffalo resident:

We live seven miles as the crow flies from my in-laws. They have over 50 inches and it’s still dumping. We have less than an inch and it’s sunny.

That isn’t an anomaly. Here’s a snow report total from the National Weather Service yesterday evening. Pay special attention to the bolded lines:

3 WSW ELMA 46.0 1215 PM 11/18 COCORAHS
1 N HAMBURG 37.0 330 PM 11/18 NWS EMPLOYEE
ALDEN 34.0 106 PM 11/18 NWS EMPLOYEE

Across a span of five miles, the difference in snow accumulation is 49 inches. Simply incredible.

Hunters: We’re being duped, y’all!

My outdoors column this week:

The opening day of muzzleloader season was a picture of pristine solitude. Shortly before 6 a.m., I was standing on the end of a ridgetop, a full moon casting a silvery glow through the forest canopy and streetlights twinkling in the valleys far below, and no sound in the frost-blanketed woods except for a lone hoot owl somewhere further up the ridge.

And I stank. Boy, did I ever.

Turns out, attempting to hold a scent wick in one gloved hand and a bottle of deer urine in the other, with a backpack slung over one shoulder, a gun over the other and a flashlight held between your teeth, is not a good combination. Long story short: I managed to pour deer pee all down my arm.

Later, as I sat on the stand reeking of doe-in-estrus, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I thought of how many times I’ve been duped by deer gear manufacturers over the years.

Let’s face it: Hunting is a multimillion-dollar industry in no small part because of us over-anxious hunters who snatch up every new thing that comes along in our quest to bag our quarry.

Not that it’s all bad. Research and technology are often good things. Game cameras, for example, have revolutionized the way we scout and inventory the deer populations in our forests, and we’re doing both better than ever before.

But we also can’t deny that our grandfathers and their grandfathers got along just fine back when their muzzleloaders weren’t inline, their bows weren’t compound, their rifles weren’t equipped with five-hundred-dollar optics, and red flannel and brown coveralls were just as much a fashion statement as camouflage is today.

As I sat there flinching every time the wind changed directions and carried a fresh waft of Golden Estrus past my nose, I inventoried the number of times I’ve been duped by unsavory manufacturers who have made their fortunes on the backs of unsuspecting hunters.

And, you know what? I have to start with deer urine. I’ve used it for years and will continue to use it. But how many times do I know for a fact that it lured a whitetail buck to my location? Once. Just once. Some hunters swear by $20-a-bottle deer urine and that’s fine. I’ll continue to use it myself. But at the end of the day, it’s probably little more than a confidence booster for most of us.

On the other hand, everyone from Hunter Specialties to Will Primos has managed to convince hunters that they can mask their odor by applying some sort of cover scent — from bottled critter urine such as raccoon to acorn-scentered wafers that hunters pin to their hats — and they’re making profits on products that aren’t doing anyone a lick of good.

The truth is that a whitetail deer has more olfactory receptors than a bloodhound. While humans can only smell the most overpowering odor that reaches our noses, wildlife biologists have learned that deer have the ability to smell multiple scents at once. In other words — unless you’re eliminating your odor entirely, using cover scents to mask your odor is a waste of effort and money.

It isn’t just scents, either. Before game cameras became mainstream, I visited an outfitters shop and paid $25 for a device that attached to a tree with a string stretched across a game trail. The idea was that when the deer walked by, he would trip the string and the device would record the date and the time he passed by. I grew up listening to stories of my great-grandfather stretching sewing thread across a game trail so he could tell which direction the deer were passing. But my great-grandfather didn’t pay $25 for his sewing thread, and that $25 piece of equipment soon went from my hunting pack to the trash can.

Another time I purchased a call that was supposed to mimic fighting bucks. The way it worked: a clicking wheel was turned, and the plastic-striking-plastic clicking was supposed to sound like two bucks doing battle. It was so worthless that I think I tossed it before I used it even once.

Back to the subject of scent control, try this trick the next time you’re in Walmart: Check the price on a stick of Scent Killer deodorant in the sporting goods section, then walk back to the health and beauty aids section and check the price on a stick of good, old-fashioned Arm & Hammer deodorant. Both are unscented. The only difference is where they’re located in the store. But the price is certainly different.

Corporate marketing is often used to sell us these worthless products. Remember when Tink’s deer lures were all the rage? The Georgia company poured millions of dollars into an advertising campaign featuring a couple of taxidermied deer heads talking on the wall. Hunters rushed out to purchase Tink’s #69.

Last year, after the market became saturated with whitetail rut lures, Tink’s took the game a step further, introducing its first “post-rut” lure. For $10, you can now purchase a bottle of spray that the company calls “Tink’s Salad Dressin’.” As bucks turn their attention from mating to food, the idea is that hunters spray the Salad Dressin’ formula on the vegetation around your stand and deer will rush in to eat it up. “The sweet-tasting Salad Dressin’ vegetation spray makes any vegetation palatable to deer,” Tink’s bragged in a press release.

As outrageous as it sounds, Salad Dressin’ is actually just the latest in a line of food lures from various companies. The best-known example may be C’Mere Deer, which was supposed to be so good that — as one farmer claimed — placing it near a cow pasture caused his cows to break through the fence and eat the leaves on which the product had been placed. A few hunters still swear by C’Mere Deer, but many have dismissed it as just another faulty product.

And every time you think the products taking aim at hunters’ wallets can’t become any more extreme, some company manages to out-do themselves. Code Blue, a maker of deer lures, recently introduced a product called Grave Digger. It is scented soil — direct that has supposedly been urinated on by deer. For $16, you can buy your own dirt to create a mock scrape in front of your hunting stand.

And while I’ve already admitted that I use deer urine on a regular basis and there may be a fine line between deer urine and deer feces, let’s not forget that it has only been a couple of years since you could walk into your favorite sporting goods store and pick up a bag of real deer poop.

Which just goes to prove: as hunters, we’ll buy almost anything.

So long, AJ

As a big-time sports fan, I always cringe when I hear reports that a key player on one of “my” teams has been arrested. I remember too well when news broke that Vols basketball star Isaiah Smith was arrested on gun charges.

But when those reports involve a fan favorite, it’s not just cringeworthy — it’s extremely disappointing.

Such is the case with Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson, who is accused of forcibly raping a 19-year-old woman in Knoxville early Sunday morning.

Johnson is not only one of the best players on the UT defense; he’s also one of my favorite players to ever don the orange and white for the Vols. 

From snap to tackle, Johnson’s attributes speak for themselves. He’s Tennessee’s second all-time leading tackler and has become one of the SEC’s top linebackers over the past couple of seasons. But stats aren’t the only way Johnson has endeared himself to fans. The energy he brings to the football team — from the Vol Walk to pre game to the sideline while the game is progressing — is unparalleled. Arguably, it’s been a number of years since Tennessee had a player who could inspire fans and teammates alike the way that Johnson can.

When I think of UT football, I think of guys who were around when I was cutting my teeth on UT football — guys like Andy Kelly, Chuck Webb, Tony Thompson, Darryl Hardy and J.J. McCleskey. Then I think of guys who came along a little later — like Peyton Manning and Al Wilson. And then I think of A.J. Johnson. It’s rare company that I put Johnson in. 

At least until yesterday.

Losing Johnson will hurt. It will hinder Tennessee’s chances of beating Missouri — maybe significantly, depending on how the team and the coaches handle the news…and if they don’t handle it well, it could even hinder Tennessee’s chances of beating Vanderbilt and obtaining the bowl eligibility that seemed so likely just a couple of days ago. It will hinder the Vols’ chances of winning a bowl game and picking up the 8th win that seemed possible.

But it also hurts because Johnson had been a model citizen during his time in Knoxville. He was one of several students arrested a few months ago for misdemeanor charges, but that was chalked up as a “kids will be kids” moment.

One way, though, Tennessee can be sure it doesn’t hurt any worse than it has to is by responding appropriately. Don’t respond the way Florida State responded, or the way Vanderbilt responded, when sexual assault investigations were opened into some of their players. Butch Jones made the right move by suspending Johnson and teammate Michael Williams from all team activities just hours after this news broke, so that’s a big move in the right direction. 

It’s human nature for sports fans to try and justify things involving players on their favorite teams and if you visit online message boards you’ve already seen it pointed out countless times that women often make false accusations of sexual assault in situations like this. And it’s true that they sometimes do. But it’s also true that the vast majority of sexual assault accusations are legitimate — and countless more go unreported because women fear the assailants will receive star treatment due to their position within the community. 

In other words, as everyone asks themselves the inevitable question of why a star player like Johnson who probably has women vying for his attention and is set to become a millionaire would do something like this, it’s probably more logical to assume that Johnson believed he could get away with something like this because of who he is than to believe that his accuser made up false allegations against him. 

Of course, this is America, and “innocent until proven guilty” still mean something, at least in the eyes of the courts. But it’s probably safe to say that Johnson’s playing days at Tennessee are finished, and his hopes of being an NFL player have been dealt a crippling blow. As we saw with Nilo Silvan in the ‘90s, accusations alone can be devastating, even if the law vindicates you.

But I would hope that reasonable fans can agree that not only should Johnson be kicked from the team and have his scholarship revoked if he committed the acts he’s accused of, but he should also be kicked from the team if he witnessed the attack or had knowledge of it and did nothing to prevent or stop it. 

UT vs. Kentucky: 10 points

1.) Let’s be honest: If you thought the days of Tennessee ever scoring 50 points on an SEC opponent again were days of the past, you weren’t alone. I was right there with you. When the Vols hit 30 points in the first half, it became the first time since the 2010 Ole Miss game that UT put 30 points on the board in the first half against an SEC team. Aaron Medley’s field goal just before the half marked the most points the Vols had scored in the first half of an SEC game in the better part of a decade.

2.) It seems almost surreal now, but there were a number of pundits earlier in the season who were trying to convince us that Kentucky was further along in year No. 2 of the Mark Stoops era than Tennessee was in year No. 2 of the Butch Jones era. We know now that Kentucky’s hot start was largely smoke-and-mirrors due to weaker competition. The Wildcats are nowhere near ready to make a serious run at the SEC East divisional title, and won’t be for at least a couple of years.

3.) With that said, let’s not completely discount what the Wildcats were able to do earlier in the season. They took Florida to overtime in The Swamp, defeated South Carolina, and had No. 1 Mississippi State on the ropes until late in the second half. Not just beating but dominating this Kentucky game was a huge shot in the arm for Butch Jones and Tennessee.

4.) And didn’t it kinda feel like the old days to put 50 on the board against the Wildcats? Yes, I know Kentucky has lost five straight and Georgia thumped them and they aren’t very good right now. But let’s not lose sight of where we’re at here. Tennessee’s wins over Kentucky in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 were largely feel-good wins; morale boosters to end the season. And they were all hard-fought wins, for the most part. Tennessee thrashed Kentucky like it was 1995. And you can’t tell me that didn’t feel good. Now it’s time to hang half a hundred on Vandy.

5.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it’s still obvious every game: Josh Dobbs is not a good down-the-field passer, which makes me nervous about his ability to lead Tennessee to an SEC East divisional title. Sure, it’s easy to scoff at the very notion of the Vols being a contender in the SEC East right now, but by 2016 — and maybe as soon as next season — Tennessee is going to be considered a legitimate frontrunner to represent the East in Atlanta.

6.) Speaking of, that was all the hype after last night’s game, with former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and his fellow SEC Network pundits opining that Tennessee is already the odds-on favorite to win the SEC East next season. Get ready for it, because Tennessee is probably going to be a preseason Top 25 team next season. We’re about to find out how this coaching staff and this team performs under pressure.

7.) And there’s a little pressure right now. Early money has Tennessee as a 3-point favorite to beat Missouri on Saturday. Missouri moved into the Associated Press Top 25 this week after an impressive win over Texas A&M and is currently the No. 18 team in America. And Tennessee is favored to win. The last time the Vols were favored to beat a ranked team? 2012, which was also the last time Tennessee was ranked. No. 23 Tennessee was a 3-point favorite to beat No. 18 Florida that day — and lost.

8.) What in the world has happened to Marquez North?

9.) Jalen Hurd. Yeah, we’ve talked about what a man-beast this true freshman has already become, but can it be overstated? He’s good. Very good. But is he even the best true freshman on the Tennessee team? Derek Barnett is making a strong case for “no.” With two sacks against Kentucky, Barnett passed the SEC freshman sack record — held by a guy named Jadeveon Clowney. Any time you’re being mentioned in the same breath as Clowney, you’re pretty darned good. And Derek Barnett is pretty darned good. (For the record, Clowney’s record was already broken this season by Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett. He currently has 11 sacks; Barnett has nine.)

10.) I hate — HATE! — the NCAA’s targeting rule. I don’t so much dislike the penalty as the automatic ejection that accompanies it. Brian Randolph’s ejection is a perfect example of why this rule is so terrible. In the second half, Randolph was called for targeting when he hit Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles as Towles was sliding to the ground. I’m not going to dispute the fact that the penalty — which replay upheld (but this is the SEC, so take that for what it’s worth) — was called. By the letter of the law, it’s probably legit. But the hit was clearly unintentional. As Towles slid, Randolph was helpless to change his trajectory and collided with Towles’ head. For that, he missed the rest of the game and will also miss the first half of Saturday’s game against Missouri. Meanwhile, a Kentucky player who chose to kick a Tennessee player in the head was flagged for a personal foul. The only penalty for that is 15 yards. An unintentional hit made during a routine play costs Randolph an ejection and suspension, while an intentional cheap shot kick to the head results in no personal consequence. In what world is that fair? 

This is good stuff

Last Christmas, I told you about Pentatonix — a relatively new and incredible a cappella group. They’re back, and their rendition of Mark Lowry’s hit contemporary Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know?”, maybe the best you’ve ever heard.


Shameful police actions

In a time when law enforcement agencies across the nation are coming under increasing scrutiny for their actions, you won’t find many actions more shameful than this stunt by police in Buffalo, N.Y.:

Buffalo Police say they’re determined to get more guns off the streets and now they’re checking to see whether pistol permit holders have passed away and what happened to their gun or guns.

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“We recently started a program where we’re cross referencing all the pistol permit holders with the death records, and we’re sending people out to collect the guns whenever possible so that they don’t end up in the wrong hands,” said Police Commissioner Daniel Derrenda.” Because at times they lay out there and the family is not aware of them and they end up just out on the street.”

Translation: Buffalo police are trying to bully unsuspecting citizens who may not be aware of their rights under state law and the U.S. Constitution into surrendering legally- and properly-owned possessions of a recently departed family member.

Not surprisingly, Second Amendment advocates are all over this, starting with Bob Owens at

While a family is still reeling from the loss of a beloved mother, father, brother, son, or sister, uniformed officers from the Buffalo Police Department are going to show up at their doors and attempt to bully the family into surrendering their recently deceased relative’s firearms… all of them, if they can.

The handgun on the pistol permit is an excuse, but the officers will obviously try to convince the grieving family that they should surrender all of the other firearms belonging to the decedent as well.

The Buffalo PD try to get family’s to turn over what may very well be heirlooms, without allowing the family to pass them along to other family members who might appreciate them.

This is a despicable and heartless practice, and should be ended immediately.