10 Keys to 10 Wins: #10

For the first time since 2003, the Clemson football team will play a 12-game regular season schedule. And for the first time in a long time, Tiger fans are realistically talking about what it will take to get back to the 10-win plateau for the first time since 1990.

"This is again a very challenging schedule," said head coach Tommy Bowden. "We will face seven teams that won at least seven games last year, including two of the top teams in the ACC within our first three games, both on the road. Plus, we have to go to Virginia Tech, who won more games than any other ACC team last year."

While it's true the Tigers won't have to face Miami and Texas A&M this year, the team will face its fair share of challenges, including road games at Florida State and Boston College in two of the first three games of the year and playing 11 consecutive weeks to open the season.

"That is a positive if you get on a roll, like we did in 2000 (when Clemson played the first 10 weeks of the season), but it can be a negative if you run into injury problems," said Bowden.

So what will it take to win the ACC's Atlantic Division, challenge for a BCS berth and win 10 games for the first time in 15 years?

For the first part of a 10-part series, CUTigers takes a look at what must happen in 2006 to get the football program to the proverbial "next level."

10. No Slip-ups
It seems to happen every year.

Clemson, entering a conference game as a substantial favorite, somehow manages to lose to a team it has no business losing to. In 2003 it happened against Wake Forest. In 2004, it was Duke and in 2005, again, it was Wake Forest.

All three games were on the road, and this year Clemson will once again travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. to face off with the Demon Deacons.

If head coach Tommy Bowden and his team have any hopes of winning the Atlantic Division championship and challenging for a BCS bid, there can be no slip-ups against the lower half of the conference - especially against Wake Forest, where Clemson is now 0-2 in the last two years on the road.

Don't forget about an early season home match-up with North Carolina after back-to-back road games at Boston College and Florida State.

Head coach John Bunting has recruited well in Chapel Hill the last few years and has enough returning talent to make this match up extremely dangerous after two tough road games in the ACC.

The Tigers have struggled mightily against Wake Forest in recent years, especially on the road. In fact, the last time Clemson beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem by more than nine points was nine years ago in 1997.
Recent history between the two schools as also shown that the Heels generally prove to be a difficult win, even in games played in Death Valley.

In 2003, Clemson safety Jamaal Fudge forced a fumble from UNC QB Darian Durant as he was crossing the goal line for the potential game-tying touchdown (and two-point conversion) with just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to preserve a 36-28 nail biter.

Two years before, North Carolina blasted the Tigers 38-3 on Homecoming.

But still, the biggest concern when it comes to Clemson falling short against an underdog has to be Wake Forest.

For whatever reason, each of the last two trips to Winston-Salem have seen more bizarre plays and bad breaks for the Clemson football team than any two games of the last 10 years. From failed fake field goals to tipped interceptions, the Tigers have had more than their fair share of bad luck in Groves Stadium.

But don't let that overshadow the real truth- the Tigers simply have yet to execute for four quarters against the Deacs and have come out flat in each of their last two trips to Winston-Salem.

Yes head coach Jim Grobe has done a great job recruiting the kind of players needed to run his misdirection offense, and yes it may be hard to get motivated to play in a stadium comparable to that of Dorman High School, but there is no excuse to losing to Wake Forest twice in three years.

And if the Tigers want to get to 10 wins and have the opportunity to win the ACC title, there can be no excuses, and no loses to Wake Forest this year.

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