The Clemson 2009 Season will be determined in the trenches.
Last year, despite all of the talent on offense, the lack of holes for the running backs led to more pressure on the quarterback, which turned into a disaster.
And although the defense performed from a statistical standpoint, the lack of ability to put pressure on the quarterback led to less turnovers and sacks.
Let's look at the key matchups for this upcoming year.
Georgia Tech vs. Clemson
CU offensive line vs. GT defensive line
Clemson returns all but one starter on their line, and many others gained experience in 2008 due to injuries and inexperience. Look for this to be one of the strengths.
GT lost all four starters from last year, leaving a lot of talent to replace.
Give the edge to Clemson.
Paul Johnson vs. Dabo Swinney.
Johnson has been there, done that and has the ability to create a new game plan on the fly. I read an article the other day about facing his offense saying it isn't just about assignment football, which is always talked about. He can find out what you're doing to stop him and adjust.
No one knows what to expect from Dabo. Can he respond to Johnson's changes during the game?
Last year, with only a week experience, the Tigers put on a good fight. However, this year they're in Atlanta, so we'll see.
Boston College vs. Clemson
BC quarterback vs. CU defensive backs
The defensive and offensive lines of these two may counteract each other, so it may come down which quarterback can complete enough passes to keep them in the game.
And if too many of those are caught by the Tigers, it could be a long day for the Eagles.
CU finally beat Boston College last year after two near misses. And this year, the games in Death Valley.
With no Matt Ryan and a new head coach, the Eagles will have to come up with something special to pull off the upset.
TCU vs. Clemson
TCU offensive line vs. CU linebackers
This will be a battle of TCU's inexperience versus CU's use of experience.
Everyone says the CU linebackers will be the weakest link, so if they get overpowered by the TCU line, then it could be a big problem for the Tigers.
The unknown for TCU of playing in Death Valley against the Tigers underestimating the Horned Frogs.
Until you've played Clemson at home, no one knows what it's like.
And although their past record speaks for itself, will Clemson get up for a team from the Mountain West Conference?
Maryland vs. Clemson
CU offensive line vs. MD defensive line
CU's experience versus MD's inexperience will probably decide this game.
If enough holes can be opened up for CJ Spiller, Jamie Harper, and Andre Ellington, it should be a long day for the Terrapins.
Clemson was embarrassed last year by Maryland by giving up a 17-6 halftime lead.
Will the Tigers come out determined to impose their will upon the Terps? Or will a seasoned head coach Ralph Friedgen outsmart the rookie in Swinney?
Wake Forest vs. Clemson
WF quarterback vs. CU defensive backs
Look for the lines to offset each other, making the running game hit and miss.
That will put the pressure on senior Riley Skinner to make the right throws against an experienced Tiger secondary.
Whoever wins this battle probably wins the game.
This is football tradition Clemson versus small school Wake Forest.
That's no disrespect to the Demon Deacons, but it's just reality.
If Clemson wakes up and realizes they should win this game, it's over. However, Wake Forest has gotten the better hand in recent years against the Tigers.
Miami vs. Clemson
Miami lines vs. Clemson lines
Both schools start the season with experience on both sides of the lines, and barring injuries, the game will be won or lost in the trenches.
If the Tigers stop the Hurricanes and can move the ball, they should win. However, if Miami does the same, look for them to dominate.
These two teams have not met since 2005 (a triple overtime thriller, by the way), so what's going to happen?
A lot of this game will be decided by how these two teams are progressing by this time of the year.
Florida State vs. Clemson
FSU offensive line vs. CU defensive line
This one should be fun.
FSU returns a ton of starts on the offensive line, which means tons of experience.
Seeing these big guys line up against Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins, Brandon Thompson, and Sapp will be a true test of manhood.
Look for this matchup to be a key in deciding this game.
Clemson has a way of losing a couple of games each year due to special teams.
FSU is usually stronger than the Tigers in this area, but the Seminoles must replace a kicker, kick returner, and punt returner.
Look for someone to make a mistake or great play on special teams to win this game.
NC State vs. Clemson
NCS receivers vs. CU defensive backs
Clemson's returning corners and experienced saftey will have their hands full with State's returning receivers.
Along with an excellent quarterback in Russell Wilson, this game could be won or lost through the air.
The Tigers have won five straight against the Wolfpack.
This could mean the Tigers have NC State's number, or that State is due for a win.
Also, the game being in Raleigh, although Clemson has beaten them by 22 and 21 the last two times there.
Virginia vs. Clemson
CU offensive line vs. VA defensive line
It's hard to see Virginia scoring many points against the Tigers.
If the CU offensive line, which comes in with experience, can handle the Cavalier defensive line with two out of three returning starters, the Tigers should come out on top.
Clemson is at home.
The Cavaliers have not played in Death Valley since 2003, meaning no current player has faced the tough home crowd.
Considering Clemson won at Virginia last year, it doesn't bode well for the the visitors.
South Carolina vs. Clemson
SC quarterback vs. CU quarterback
Let's see how the on the field generals handle this game.
Stephen Garcia for the Gamecocks and Willy Korn or Kyle Parker should have plenty of snaps under their belt by this game.
Which one of these leaders makes the most mistakes probably will determine the outcome.
It's Clemson versus South Carolina for an entire state's bragging rights.
Also, one must wonder what the results will be for the Gamecocks after trips to Tennessee and Arkansas, followed by Florida at home.
Their up or down state of mind could make a big difference.