In preparation for Saturday’s season-opener between Georgia and Clemson, Saturday Down South is taking a look at the key matchups that may decide the showdown between the Bulldogs and Tigers.

Clemson Passing Game vs. Georgia Secondary

The Clemson offense ranked No. 10 in the nation in passing in 2013.  They ranked ninth in college football in points per game.  Georgia was No. 60 last season is passing yards allowed and 45th in total defense.

So who has the edge on Saturday in Athens?

I like the Bulldogs.

It has been widely noted that Georgia’s secondary struggled in 2013 (see here and here and here, too).  The Bulldogs couldn’t really do much of anything in the defensive backfield last year.

But new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who happens to coach the defense himself, arrived in Athens back in January, and he’s spent the spring and preseason camp shuffling guys around in attempt to find a secondary that works.

Related: Georgia releases depth chart; LB Wilson left off

For the Tiger offense, it’s a game of “this guy is gone, so is this guy, oh and he’s gone, too.”

But there’s a key returner: Chad Morris.  His offensive scheme allows for guys to step right in and produce in a big way.  (Remember that coach named Gus? Similar to the way a JUCO transfer named Nick ends up being a 1,000-yard rusher as a quarterback last year.)

Cole Stoudt gets the start under center on Saturday for Clemson.  Tahj Boyd’s replacement played well last year, though he mainly saw the field in clean-up time.  Morris’s offense is somewhat fail-proof for quarterbacks; get the ball into the hands of your playmakers and let them make plays in the open field.

Stoudt’s an unexperienced senior, though.  And he doesn’t come close to the physical gifts of lauded true freshman Deshaun Watson, who’s waiting in the wings as Clemson’s quarterback of the future.  Expect Morris to lean on his stable of running backs — it’ll be a committee approach with D.J. Howard, C.J. Davidson and Wayne Gallman all getting carries — to take some of the pressure off Stoudt.

Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant are gone on the outside.  That hurts.  Adam Humphries, Charone Peake and Mike Williams are listed as the starters for Saturday’s opener.  Humphries is a senior slot receiver who’s durable, but won’t put up eye-popping numbers.  Charone Peake returns from injury and could be that big play guy, while Mike Williams has impressed in the preseason. Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester and Trevion Thompson are all young guys whose names you need to know.  They’ll see playing time immediately at receiver.

The Tigers lost too much at their skill positions, though.

Pruitt has transformed a Georgia defense through this offseason.  They’re lighter, they’re faster and the fly to the ball better.  His hybrid 4-3 has 3-4 tendencies and confuses opposing offensive lines.  Pruitt can simplify the scheme and still disguise looks.

Related: Reinvigorated Georgia defense matches up with Clemson better

Senior Damian Swann is poised to have a big year under Pruitt.  He has the talent of a lockdown corner and will be freed up to make plays on the strong side of the defense.  Junior Devin Bowman is starting at the boundary corner position opposite Swann.

The safety positions and nickel packages are sured up with redshirt freshman Aaron Davis getting the nod at free safety.  Veteran Corey Moore will start at strong safety.  Freshman stud Dominick Sanders will start at the star position in nickel packages.

The talent is there for the Bulldogs in the defensive backfield.  Pruitt will simplify schemes to ensure his guys can execute.  Bad communication plagued the Georgia secondary too many times last year, and so as the position coach, Pruitt will be sure his guys can call and execute the proper plays.

Morris loves to use the run game to space out the defense and open up the big play for his Clemson offense.  The Tigers lost a 1,000-yard rusher and their big play threat, however.  There are simply too many question marks for the Tigers and the skill positions.

We’ll see what Cole Stoudt is able to do and how much Morris opens up the offense for him.

Sanford Stadium is a tough place to play, and the Bulldogs have somewhat of a chip on their shoulder after a disappointing 2013 and South Carolina getting all the love in the SEC East.  Jeremy Pruitt has made his living coaching top-10 defenses.  Expect a huge improvement in the defense you see on Saturday from the last couple games of 2013.

For this matchup: advantage Georgia.