Let's take a step back from Saturday's Tennessee-Florida game and the ongoing debate concerning whether fans, players and/or coaches should consider a 10-point loss in The Swamp a moral victory.
Everyone knew the Vols were in for an uphill battle playing Florida. The talent differential was just too great. That was obvious at various times.
But when will the talent between the two teams be more equitable? That leads us to recruiting.
The Vols stood toe-to-toe with Florida in recruiting when they pulled two of the Gators' commitments - Marsalis Teague and Nu'Keese Richardson - in February. Yet two prospects do not a program make, and the Vols will be judged on what they do over a full recruiting season.
Even with a strong staff and a full season, UT's recruiting will be challenged annually to match Florida, which has more talent within its state than any other program in the SEC and most in the nation.
Yet the Vols are more than holding their own this year. UT has 21 commitments for 2010. Florida has 15.
Scout.com ranks the Vols' class as the third best in the country. Florida comes in at ninth. Rivals.com ranks UT and Florida fourth and seventh, respectively, in the nation.
According to Scout, the Vols have four 5-star prospects: receiver DeMarco Cobbs, junior college defensive lineman Bruce Irvin and defensive ends Jacques Smith and Brandon Willis. Florida has three: safeties Matt Elam and Jonathan Dowling and tailback Mack Brown.
If things go according to plan, the Vols should get a more immediate impact from their 2010 class than Florida. UT has commitments from three junior college defensive linemen: Irvin, Patrick Harris and John Brown.
With that trio, the players UT culled from its 2009 class and a few 2010 newcomers, the Vols should be much closer to Florida's talent when the two teams meet in Knoxville next September.
The difference in talent between UT and Florida was no more evident on Saturday than at quarterback. Florida has Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. UT has senior Jonathan Crompton, who has thrown seven interceptions in the Vols' first three games.
Both players are gone next season but Florida still figures to have an edge at quarterback in 2010.
UT will lean on junior Nick Stephens or an incoming freshman. The Vols have a commitment from Tyler Bray, who is considered a 3-star prospect by Scout. Florida sophomore John Brantley won't be able to run like Tebow but many think he is a better pocket passer.
Of course the Vols aren't just competing against Florida. Given the dip in talent at UT, there are a handful of other teams in the SEC that have equal or better talent. That shouldn't be the case for long.
UT ranked eighth in the nation and fourth in the SEC for the Class of 2009 according to Scout. Rivals ranked the class 10th in the nation and fourth in the SEC.
Florida, with a limited number of scholarships to offer, finished behind UT in both rankings.
The Vols rank first in the SEC for the Class of 2010, according to Scout. Rivals ranks UT second, behind LSU, in the SEC.
When comparing UT and Florida, Miami's renaissance is certainly worth watching. Both schools have fared well in South Florida while the Hurricanes have struggled. A return to glory by Miami would make that area tougher to recruit successfully.
UT went to Florida with a deck stacked against it this year but didn't leave the table penniless. By not getting shellacked by the Gators, the Vols showed they can be competitive with one of the elite teams in the nation.
There were dozens of prospects in the stands to check out the Gators. A handful were also considering the Vols, including defensive back Cody Riggs from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., linebacker Jeff Luc from Port St. Lucie, Fla., receiver Chris Dunkley from Pahokee, Fla., and Markeith Ambles from McDonough, Ga., who is committed to UT.
Defensive end Jacques Smith was there as well but the Ooltewah star maintained he was only there as a fan, not a recruit.
While fans debate whether UT should celebrate a moral victory, first-year coach Lane Kiffin knows recruiting benefited by Saturday's showing.
"I think we have a powerful message right now to the country with what's going on in Tennessee football," he said following the Florida game. "I think you see it by the kids that just came here. I think you see it by guys like (freshman tailback) Bryce Brown playing, (freshman safety) Janzen Jackson out there every single snap on defense today and special teams.
"I think there's a real strong message. I think people following recruiting have noticed that as well."
Dave Hooker covers recruiting. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The top 10 teams nationally and SEC teams ranked by recruiting services Scout.com and Rivals.com for the Class of 2010.
4. Penn State
10. Oklahoma State
26. South Carolina
50. Ole Miss
51. Mississippi State
6. Southern California
9. Penn State
10. Texas A&M
27. South Carolina
42. Ole Miss
49. Mississippi State