The North Texas Mean Green travel to Clemson in hopes of winning their second straight season opener on the road. It will be a tall task, however, as they try to bounce back from a 2-10 season last year against a major conference opponent. Let's take a look at the matchups:
Clemson offense vs. North Texas defense
The Tigers' issues at receiver are well documented, but North Texas allowed an astounding 36 points per game last season. The Mean Green can expect heavy doses of Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper in the early-going as Clemson tries to ease into its passing game. Kyle Parker will probably look to tight end Dwayne Allen for completions as often as any of his receivers. North Texas' top defensive player is senior linebacker Craig Robertson who amassed 107 tackles last season. Safety DaWaylon Cook had 85 tackles a year ago, but isn't great against the passing game. Undersized defensive end Brandon Apunku notched six sacks and 47 tackles in 2009.
Key matchup: Clemson O-line vs. North Texas D-line
Clemson's offensive line is expected to be solid to begin with, and the Mean Green lack any significant size on the defensive line. The Tigers should be able to open plenty of holes for Ellington and Harper, as well as give Parker ample time in the pocket.
North Texas offense vs. Clemson defense
North Texas returns a workhorse in running back Lance Dunbar who ran for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. The Mean Green will be breaking in a new quarterback in former walk-on Nathan Tune, but he has a nice target in senior wideout Jamaal Jackson (71 catches for 701 yards and 6 TDs in 2009). Clemson's defense is led by All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel and a stout defensive line. Tune will be thrown into the fire against one of the ACC's better secondaries, which includes McDaniel along with Rashard Hall at safeties and two experienced corners in Byron Maxwell and Marcus Gilchrist.
Key matchup: Dunbar vs. Clemson linebackers
If North Texas is going to stay in this game, Dunbar is going to have to carry them. After Brandon Maye's injury, the Tigers are basically starting an entirely new corps of linebackers. We'll see what kind of job Corico Hawkins and Co. can do stopping Dunbar.
Clemson loses C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford in the kick return game and will be starting a former walk-on at kicker. North Texas has a solid return man in the aforementioned Jackson, who averaged 27.2 yards on kickoff returns last season. Their punter returns, but they will be starting a true freshman at kicker.
Key matchup: Clemson kick coverage vs. Jackson
Another way for North Texas to hang around in this game would be by way of big kick returns. Jackson has the speed to provide that, so the Tigers will have to contain him to prevent the Mean Green from attaining good field position.
I think it could take the Tigers a little while to get going offensively with the unproven receiving corps, but it shouldn't take too long against an atrocious North Texas defense. Clemson's defense will be able to focus on stopping the running game with the Mean Green's inexperience at quarterback. I expect Clemson to win handily, but not by an incredible margin.
Clemson 35 North Texas 10