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Penn State Football Forecast: Watch Out For November

on August 10, 2010 8:01 AM

Weather was lousy during football season last year, especially in late September and October.

First, there was the Sept. 26 Iowa game, an 8 p.m. matchup that was preceded by a full day of rain. Then there was the mid-October Homecoming clash with Minnesota, which came with a branch-snapping snow.

This year, though, we should have some great weather for most of the football season through October. November, on the other hand, has me worried.

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As the chief hurricane and long-range forecaster at accuweather.com, I am a company within a company, and many major businesses subscribe to my work. Since I work in the private, for-profit sector, I have to be correct (or at least close enough to justify the cost).

For example: Last November, a client of mine was at a natural gas conference here and told me they matched my winter forecast, which I gave them four months earlier. His company had a third of the year to get the jump on the market. Needless to say, he was happy when I saw him in May. (I also said in February that we would have a hot summer, so he is happy again.) If I had been wrong…well, “a fool and his money are soon parted,” and I’m still standing during a major recession.

I’m going to put it all on the line for something that is more important to this area than all the economic, political and cultural repercussion of a national forecast: Penn State football. Nittany Lions fans have been starving since the January victory over LSU.

To figure out how this fall will go, we look at ’95, ’98 and ’07. We’ll also consider ’49 and ’54, which have some close links to this one. The Pacific was changing to its cold mode as it is now (an example of global cooling implications, which you’ll see more of in the coming years) and the Atlantic was still warm in the ‘50s, though it cooled in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I have provided some graphs in the gallery to better show how September-October will look.

It will be warmer than normal, and precipitation will be near normal. Nothing wrong with that.

The toughest game of the first two months (in terms of weather) will be the ‘Bama game. It will be hot (close to 90), but the bigger problem will be the frenzied state of the tropics. I would not be surprised if there were a tropical cyclone threat around the time of that game.

That leads me to the season’s biggest problem – November. In years when there are more storms than normal and major hits on U.S. coasts, there is trouble in November. This was the case in 1995, when there was a major snowstorm before the Michigan game.

If we look at ’50, ’85, ’89, ’95, ’05 and ’08, we see that major hurricane hit the coasts and there were more storms than normal, usually starting in November. I’ve combined these years into a chart in the gallery as well.

In the last two weeks of the month, when Penn State plays at Indiana and at home against Michigan State, the cold will come a-calling big time. If you don’t know how sudden wind and cold can change a game, look back for the first set of downs against Iowa two years ago (2008 was used in the above chart, too). JayPa’s Spread HD offense might not work out so well when the QB is trying to throw into a 20-mph wind with temperatures in the 30s.

In the three most recent years used on my chart, the last two weeks of November averaged more than four degrees below normal with snowfall of near four inches. It will be colder and snowier than normal in 2010.

By the way, research by Garrett Bastardi and me has revealed that southern teams have problems when playing in temperature that are five degrees below normal for their home field or if precipitation is falling. It’s the same reason Michigan’s offense won’t work. They must have bought into global warming to believe they can run that kind of attack in the second half of the season in Michigan. I doubt they’ll beat Penn State again until they change that offense. (I needed to get that in. When it comes to football, Michigan is to Penn State fans like Texas is to me, an Aggie fanatic.)

So to sum up the 210 season:

  • Warmer-than-normal weather for football through October
  • Though October might turn wetter, much of the first two months will have less precipitation than normal.
  • November could turn on a dime, and Big Ten schools’ toughest opponent could be the weather.
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