I've heard it. You've heard it. Every football coach says it.
I'm confident Pop Warner put his arm around Jim Thorpe's shoulder in 1907 and said it.
Your biggest improvement comes from the first game to the second.
At face value, it makes sense. You've got a test drive out of the way, so the machine runs more smoothly the next week.
"It's good to get a base starting point to find out where we need to improve,'' Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel Hood said Monday.
The Vols' starting point is a 42-16 over FCS opponent Montana. Game 2 is Cincinnati, a program only 13 games removed from a BCS bowl.
This is quite often a difficult axiom to prove due to the vagaries of early-season scheduling. Last year, for example, the Vols opened by blanking hapless UT Martin 50-0. Then they got overpowered 48-13 by Oregon team that went on to play for a national championship.
Did the Vols improve?
"I felt like we did,'' coach Derek Dooley said on reflection Monday.
"Of course, it was a totally different circumstance because it wasn't just the caliber of team we were playing, but what they did on offense. It was almost like a first game.''
This week, however, will provide a better read. If UT Martin was apple cider, Oregon was orange jet fuel. Cincinnati and Montana have more in common. Cincinnati's just better.
"This,'' said Dooley, "will be a true second game.''
So it's fair to expect significant improvement from game one to game two, right?
"There's a lot of merit to that,'' Dooley said. "We need a big jump and I told our team that.
"Our ability to compete with these guys this week is going to really depend on how much we improve in a lot of these areas.''
Like establishing the running game. But that's another column.
Looking back through the years I can't vouch that the Vols always have improved from their first game to their second. It's no slam dunk.
Maybe the 2008 team did. It lost 27-24 at UCLA on opening night then beat UAB 35-3 a week later, a rare highlight in a grim season.
The '06 team, though, did not. The Vols smoked California 35-18 for openers, then squeaked out a 31-30 win over Air Force by thwarting a two-point conversion.
In '94, UT was stunned by Jerry Colquitt's early injury at UCLA and lost 25-23. The Vols regrouped, went to Georgia and wore their hobnail boots in a 41-23 beating of the Bulldogs.
The Sugar Vols made a statement jump in 1985. On opening day they blew a late lead and settled for a tie with UCLA. A week later they hit on all cylinders, blasting No. 1 Auburn 38-20.
One more example: In 1981, UT went to Georgia on opening day and was humiliated 44-0. Game 2 was a 43-7 loss at Southern Cal. Hey, that's modest progress.
So what happens between last Saturday and this one? A team as young as the Vols clearly has the potential to grow in spurts.
"We played good,'' said linebacker Austin Johnson, "but we can always play better.''
They'd better. It's Game 2.