Back in the summer, Arkansas and Tennessee were the two trendiest dark horse picks in the SEC. Many pundits felt they were the two most improved programs in the conference. However, once the season got underway, they experienced some early hiccups and became the object of ridicule amidst a huge wave of backlash. Most people left them for dead; ignoring how they lost some of those games and only focusing on the final result.
Yet, since October 10th, each has gone 4-1 and are playing some of the best football in the conference. This past week, the Vols posted a shut-out on North Texas (24-0, but the offense would've done a lot more had Dobbs' mobility not been limited due to foot soreness) and Arkansas smashed LSU in Death Valley at night. I think it's reasonable to say that Tennessee is playing the best football in the East and Arkansas is playing the second-best in the West behind only Alabama.
There's a lesson in all of this. Sometimes we have to evaluate why things are unfolding a certain way instead of leaping to broad conclusions based only on a given result. Astute observers knew that, despite a little "market volatility," these were still two very good football teams with solid fundamentals in all the important areas.
As for understanding UF's place in all of this, I think a golf analogy is appropriate: We are the golfer who has gotten better results, be it due to bounces, breaks, etc., with a less than stellar swing. Anyone who has played the game has seen this dynamic from time to time. It's known colloquially as, "careering it." All the breaks going your way. Balls headed O.B. hitting the roof of a house and bouncing back into play. An off-line putt catching a grain or hitting a pebble to redirect it back toward the hole. It happens and is part of the game. Golfer A may have a better swing, but on any given day just may not get as much out of his round as the less fundamentally sound Golfer B. You just have to tip your cap and move on; confident in the fact that you're doing all the right things and your results will come. Statistically, Golfer A's more efficient motion will yield better results a higher % of the time than Golfer B's more marginal effort, but on any given day anything can happen.
So, I think that's what we're witnessing this year. Now, it's important to note that this isn't static. We will "improve our motion" as we continue to recruit and build the program to McElwain's standards. I'm just speaking about the odd manner in which this particular year has played out. I believe that Tennessee and Arkansas are the better football teams and each would be favored against us if we played this week, but we're going to Atlanta because we got "a little more out of our round." We'll take it, but we should be mindful of where we really stand and continue working to build the program with the same fervor as if we weren't going to Atlanta this year.