Tennessee ranks seventh among SEC teams in both pass defense (163.8 yards per game) and pass-efficiency defense. Only one league school, Arkansas, has allowed opponents to complete a higher percentage than Tennessee (57.9).
Clearly, the Vols are vulnerable against teams that can pass, and the Georgia squad that visits Neyland Stadium this Saturday can pass about as well as anyone Tennessee will face this season.
After patiently waiting for Stafford to turn pro, Cox is making the most of his lone year as Georgia's starting QB. He ranks second among SEC quarterbacks in passing touchdowns (11) and third in passing yards (241.8 per game).
"I'm very impressed," Vol safety Eric Berry said this week.
Although Cox lacks the arm strength of Stafford, Georgia's offense is essentially the same in 2009 as it was in 2008.
"I wouldn't say it changed it all," Berry said. "They're still that Georgia Bulldog team that has that fight. Their running backs still run hard. Joe's arm might not be as strong as Matthew Stafford's but he still has the heart. He makes good decisions and makes plays for his team. That's what's scary."
Cox's stats for 2009 stack up quite well against Stafford's stats from 2008. Cox is completing 59.0 percent of his passes, down slightly from Stafford's 61.4. Cox has a 146.4 passer-efficiency rating, down slightly from Stafford's 153.5. Cox is on pace to throw 28 touchdown passes, three more than Stafford threw last fall.
Replacing Matthew Stafford is a tall order but Joe Cox is doing a credible job. That's why the Dawgs are throwing the ball almost as effectively in 2009 as they did in '08.
"I don't think they are very much different at all," UT head coach Lane Kiffin said. "I don't think they are different from 15 years ago (when head coach Mark Richt was offensive coordinator) at Florida State.
"They do what they do. They don't change very much. As you watch last year's stuff and watch this year's stuff, I don't really see that big of a difference at all."
That doesn't bode well for the Vols since "last year's stuff" was good enough to produce 310 passing yards and 458 total yards in a 26-14 defeat of Tennessee.