Bama (Natl Champ)
Alabama Crimson Tide (National Championship)
L, 23-26

Inside local watering holes, sports bars, even town halls and churches, lies the Great Debate for 2009: How will the Dawgs do this year? The preseason awards this time last year raised more statements and definitives than questions and inquiries. Now that the pre-hype winds have cleared from last year's cat-loss-3 hurricane season, the media predicts Georgia as a comfortably good-but-not-great football team that will endure another winning season but may face an extra loss than last year. While the media certainly has its fair share of good reasoning after what happened last season, most of this detailed study lies in one player: Joe Cox. He's undersized, underarmed, and underappreciated according to the so-called football gods who come up with player and team rankings. But what most analysts do not realize is Mark Richt's ability to field a better team when the hype isn't surrounding Athens - and Joe Cox may play a major role in upholding his well-earned reputation. He won't have ESPN asking him to write a daily journal, national reporters won't be sticking microphones in the showers after practice, and few teams will be circling the Georgia game as the biggest challenge they will see all year because of the question mark at quarterback. However, Joe Cox has the potential to make Mark Richt's team very successful and here's why:

1)He doesn't have to be Matt Stafford. Everyone thinks you must have an iconic frontman in order to be successful. Was Josh Huepel a first round pick in the NFL draft? Did Matt Flynn impress anyone with 80-yard bombs and a quick release? Nope. It's about consistency and both quarterbacks made the right plays at the right time with few mistakes along the way. Joe Cox has the potential to get the ball in the playmakers hands and the intelligence to read defenses effectively.
2) All five starters from the offensive line return along with three-fourths of the defensive line. When you have beef and experience in the trenches, it's amazing how well the game works in a team's favor. Georgia should field an inside presence that is virtually unmatched by any other team in the country.
3) Thin but strong at wide receiver. AJ Green is the only proven wide receiver on this year's team now the Kris Durham is out for the year, but other playmakers such as Mikey Moore, Tavarres King, and Israel Troupe have potential to make big plays for this team. Also, watch out for true freshman Orson Charles and Marlon Brown. They won't redshirt and both could be this year's AJ. They may not be fully-developed but athleticism certainly won't be lacking in this position and Joe Cox will have plenty of time to let the receivers beat the defenders.
4) The Four Horsemen. Caleb, Samuel, Thomas, and possibly Ealey could all provide a running attack that may never seem to tire. The more UGA is successful running the ball, the more Cox will have one-on-one matchups and little pressure to make big throws. As long as Cox doesn't have to be the first option, this offense could, and should, run on all cylinders.
5) Undefeated and undisputed. Joe Cox won every game in high school at Independence and hasn't lost as college starter, either. Yes, he beat Ole Miss! While JC won't have the confidence of a future NFL prospect with Heisman potential and proven big-game experience, he will have a certain amount of swagger that comes with winning on any level and that counts for something when you get behind center.
6) Experience. Where he lacks experience as a starter he makes up for as a fifth year senior who understands Richt's complicated pro-style playbook as well as Lieutenant Commander Data knows the operating system on the Starship Enterprise. Mike Bobo can bring the unabridged version to Sanford Stadium and fully utilize the potential of UGA's offensive scheme. So far Cox has been a leader with a positive demeanor and a passion to get after slacking players. All of these traits come with desire for the game and a love for the program.
7) Because no one expects him to be successful. Matthew Stafford carried a ton of hype around Athens for three years and this may have contributed to last year's deflating expectations after just four games into the season. Stafford went 21-5 his last two years as a start, which makes him a fantastic college quarterback. However, once you're labeled the next John Elway and attend fish frys at the Aikman residence as a high school student, the expectations to win every game reach astronomical and almost unattainable proportions. Joe Cox won't be on the cover of Sports Illustrated and I'm not sure he'll be taking pictures on a boat with scantily clad women in an effort to spend his 70 million dollars before he's 25, and that is the very reason why he won't be expected to win every game this year. He'll play with a "nothing-to-lose" attitude that can create a very loose, successful playing environment.

Joe Cox isn't necessarily the dernier cri of quarterback panache but he may be more than serviceable this year for the 2009 Georgia Bulldogs. He doesn't have an easy opening game to get his feet wet when top ten Oklahoma State hosts the Dawgs in Stillwater , but AJ will get all of the hype, the defense will play the biggest role, and a six-point underdog line will allow Joe Cox to play like there is "nothing-to-lose." He's more than capable of carrying this Georgia team into the national spotlight and Richt will lead him every step of the way. Count your blessings, count your steps, but don't count sheep when the Dawgs come to town. You may not be able to count your money at the end.