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Utah State vs. Tennessee final score: 3 things we learned from the Volunteers' 38-7 win

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In what was expected to be a close game, Tennessee destroyed Utah State on Sunday night. Does this mean that the Vols' rebuild is a year or two ahead of schedule?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

In an unexpected 38-7 blowout, Tennessee demolished Utah State in its season opener on Sunday night. It was a performance so complete and impressive that it might (might) warrant an acceleration of the Volunteers' timetable for being a serious contender in the SEC East.

The Vols drew first blood with a quick-strike second drive on offense and followed it up by capitalizing on a Utah State fumble deep inside Aggie territory. Just like that, UT was out to a 14-0 lead seemingly before the game had ever started, and the outcome was never again seriously in doubt. Budding stars Pig Howard and Marquez North made big plays early, allowing the Vols to slowly widen their advantage over the remainder of the game.

The Volunteer defense completely shut down Utah State's star quarterback Chuckie Keeton, allowing 18 of 35 pass attempts to be completed for just 144 yards. When the Aggies looked like they might be on the verge of sneaking back into the game late, an interception from Tennessee's all-everything linebacker A.J. Johnson slammed the door shut.

Three things we learned

1. The "Tennessee is still two years away" narrative might be wrong. Could the youthful Volunteers run into a buzz saw as soon as they begin SEC play -- or a week earlier in Norman, Okla.? Sure. But Tennessee's blue chip freshmen and sophomores made enough big plays on Sunday night to make it seem like the young Vols might just be able to exceed expectations in 2014, possibly by a wide margin. Senior quarterback Justin Worley was cool and collected at the helm, distributing the ball with ease to the likes of underclassmen Marquez North, Pig Howard, Josh Smith and Jason Croom. Worley connected with 11 different receivers on the night on his way to 273 yards passing and three touchdowns.

2. Tennessee's front seven might be passable after all. The Volunteers lost every starting defensive lineman and linebacker from its 2013 team save for All-American linebacker A.J. Johnson. This was expected to be a massive flaw that opposing teams would be able to exploit with ease. Through game one, Tennessee's front seven looked just fine.

3. Tennessee is apparently going to play 'Turn Down' For What on every third down. The SEC has eased its restrictions on the playing of artificial noise in its football stadiums this year, and the Volunteers have seized this opportunity to create a new tradition.