Don't judge a book by its cover.
That's what my elementary school librarian would tell me when I was forced to check out books from the school's library.
That same grade-school concept can be applied to college football as well: Don't always judge a team based on its first game.
Fans sometimes take a team's season opener and blow it out of proportion. Just because a team dominated a Division II opponent or because the third-string running back broke four tackles and ran for a touchdown in a convincing win doesn't mean that team will play in a BCS bowl game in January.
Take last season's Tennessee season opener for instance. UT looked like it had fixed all of the problems wrong with the 2008 "Clawfense" in a 63-7 rout over Western Kentucky, racking up 657 yards of total offense. The very next week against UCLA, the Vols managed only 208 total yards in a 19-15 loss, which included a goal-line stop by the Bruins in the game's final minutes.
That team would finish with a 7-6 record.
In the 2006 season opener and coming off a 5-6 season, UT faced a top-10 California team in front of a rowdy Neyland Stadium crowd. The Golden Bears were considered to be a dark horse team to win the national championship by some experts, or at least by ESPN analyst Lee Corso.
Midway through the third quarter, the Vols went up 35-0 after a hard-earned 43-yard touchdown run by running back Montario Hardesty.
UT would go on to win 35-18 but would fail to capitalize on the momentum from that game, finishing the season with a 9-4 record that included blown late-game leads at home against Florida, the eventual national champion, and LSU.
In UT's national championship year of 1998, the Vols gave up 33 points, 20 in the fourth quarter alone, to a Donovan McNabbled Syracuse team before kicker Jeff Hall connected from 27 yards as time expired, for a 34-33 victory.
UT would only allow more than 20 points in a game twice the rest of the year, which concluded with a 23-16 victory over Florida State in the first-ever BCS Championship game to claim the school's first official national title since 1951.
Even UT's second opponent this year, Oregon, knows how drastically different the rest of a team's season can be compared to its opener. The Ducks traveled to Boise State to open the 2009 campaign. Oregon's spread offense didn't gain a first down against now-UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's defense until midway through the third quarter and finished the game with as many touchdowns, one, as punches thrown, in a 19-8 loss.
That same Oregon team would go on to average more than 30 points a game the rest of the season and win the Pac-10 title, earning a slot in the Rose Bowl.
Regardless of how few sacks the offensive line gives up against UT-Martin or how many touchdowns Matt Simms throws for, be wary to proclaim any Vol an All-American candidate or the team an SEC title contender after just one game.