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GameDay Kickoff: ACC can't lose with Clemson vs. Virginia Tech

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ACC, Pac-12 duels headline Week 5 (1:00)

Virginia Tech will try to take down defending champ Clemson, while Sam Darnold and Luke Falk will air it out in Pullman. Take a look at the best Week 5 has to offer. (1:00)

While it's true the ACC is at its best when Florida State and Clemson are both top-10 teams, right now it doesn't matter to the league's national title hopes that the Seminoles are 0-2 -- not outside of Tallahassee, anyway.

Even with Florida State out of the top 25 and currently irrelevant in the playoff picture, the ACC still owns the national spotlight this weekend when No. 12 Virginia Tech hosts No. 2 Clemson (ABC and ESPN App, 8 p.m. ET Saturday) in a game that illustrates the depth of the conference, as both undefeated teams can afford to lose and still have a shot at the top four.

Yes, Hokies, it's possible.

The knee-jerk reaction, should Clemson lose, might be that the ACC is in trouble, but hold that thought -- and imagine Alabama playing Georgia this weekend. The two undefeated favorites in their respective divisions, in what could be a preview of the SEC championship game.

Nobody -- nobody -- would write off the loser of that game at this point in the season.

Don't do it in the ACC, either.

Granted, it's not even October yet, and the right-now reality is that Clemson and Alabama appear to be on a collision course for Round 3. We still don't know how good Virginia Tech is -- not after cruising to wins over Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion the past three weeks.

When Clemson and Virginia Tech played in the ACC title game last year, the Hokies were a three-loss Coastal Division champ looking to play the role of spoiler, not College Football Playoff dark horse. Instead, Clemson won 42-35 thanks to five touchdowns from former quarterback Deshaun Watson.

"I think a rising tide floats all boats," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. "Good coaches and good athletes are all across this conference. I wouldn't bury Florida State just yet. I wouldn't be surprised to see them win a bunch of games this year, and the season is early -- we're only four games into it. We take all that stuff with a grain of salt and just try to move forward, but I certainly think having good teams helps the profile of the league as a whole."

The only perception of the ACC the coaches need to worry about is that of the 13-member selection committee. The more ACC teams that can finish in the committee's final ranking, obviously the better for the contenders' résumés, but both Clemson and Virginia Tech started on steady ground because of important nonconference wins. Clemson leads the way with its win over No. 13 Auburn, and the Hokies will be helped by their win against No. 23 West Virginia.

During a season in which Florida State might not add much value to Clemson's résumé, the Tigers couldn't ask for a better alternative than a highly ranked opponent from the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech is the best option because of the potential for a rematch in the ACC title game. You want a CFP quarterfinal? That could be it.

Virginia Tech isn't the only option, though.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney pointed to last year's 9-3 bowl record, including the Tigers' win in the national championship, as evidence of the league's depth. He said the ACC's postseason success can be attributed in large part to teams being prepared for that competition by playing a rigorous conference schedule. Swinney also pointed out Syracuse nearly beating LSU, and Virginia's impressive win at Boise State last weekend.

"Whether a team is 3-1 or 4-0, or even 0-2 in Florida State's case -- Florida State has played two really good teams and trust me, Florida State is as good as anybody out there, and that will probably prove to be the case by the end of the season," he said. "This is a deep conference, man, and anybody can beat anybody on any given week."

So far, though, five ACC teams are still undefeated, more than any other Power 5 conference. That's why Virginia Tech could have a legitimate shot, especially if the rest of the Coastal Division continues to look strong.

Duke and Miami are both undefeated entering Friday night's game in Durham, North Carolina. Virginia (3-1) has a week to prepare for Duke. Eventually, they're going to cannibalize each other, but if Miami can stay ranked, Virginia Tech could potentially have ranked wins over West Virginia, Clemson, at Miami and against a one-loss Clemson again in the title game.

If the Hokies can beat Clemson, either on Saturday and/or in the ACC title game, and the CFP selection committee holds the ACC in high regard, there's no reason Virginia Tech can't represent the ACC in the CFP semifinals.

It doesn't have to be Clemson or Florida State. Heck, it could be Miami.

"I've been saying it the whole time," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We're as good as any league out there. Other leagues are very good, too, but this league has depth. It has quality. And there are a lot of good coaches and players."

Somebody is going to lose in Blacksburg, Virginia, on Saturday, but it won't be the ACC.