After an unexpected wrinkle with a stop in New York, the ESPN College GameDay crew next heads to ACC territory for a clash between the No. 2 Clemson Tigers and No. 12 Virginia Tech Hokies.
It's another monster encounter for the defending champions, as the schedule doesn't get any easier. The Hokies would like to start a passing-of-the-torch moment in the ACC, though the Tigers have ambitions of keeping an almost unexpected strong run going.
As for the show itself, Saturday marks the first visit to Blacksburg, Virginia, in more than a decade. At the least, it shows where the Hokies stand in terms of relevancy and ability to compete with the top teams.
'College GameDay' Week 5 Info
Date: Saturday, September 30
Time (ET): 9 a.m. to noon; game is at 8 p.m.
Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
Watch: ESPN; game is on ABC
Live Stream: WatchESPN
As one might expect between these two, this one classifies as a war of wills. The hosts shut down opponents with strong defense; the visitors, new names or not, like to fill the stat sheet.
Clemson still feels like it has something to prove after a massive talent departure despite a strong start to the season. The Tigers stood tall against the ACC by taking down the then-No. 13 Auburn 14-6 and then turned around and outlasted the then-No. 14 Louisville 47-21.
The totals? Kelly Bryant has completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 873 yards and a pair of touchdowns alongside three interceptions. He's scored another seven times on the ground, though he isn't sitting above leading rusher Travis Etienne, who has 292 yards and four scores on all of 23 carries.
Where Clemson seems to catch most off guard, though, is on the defensive side of the ball after only allowing more than seven points in one game. That one came in the blowout of Louisville, during which the Tigers held Cardinals signal-caller Lamar Jackson to a 21-of-42 line with three passing scores.
Based on comments from Hokies head coach Justin Fuente, his side understands the perils of a game against the Tigers.
"Well, you're not going to get away with much of anything," Fuente said, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com). "You don't even have to make a mistake. You can take one step in the wrong direction or hesitate for half a step when you're playing the type of talent that we're going to go up against."
The Hokies have been almost flawless this season too. The opener was a 31-24 dismissal of the then-No. 22 West Virginia. Since, the Hokies have pitched a pair of shutouts and coughed up only 17 points on the road against East Carolina—while scoring 64.
Offensively, Josh Jackson has looked good under center while throwing 11 touchdowns against just one interception, and six different players have scored rushing touchdowns, meaning the usual ball-control approach is still in full effect.
Those Hokies will need to pull off much of the same approach in almost perfect fashion to make an upset happen in what looks like the game of the week.
Clemson is too talented.
It seemed a popular notion to overlook the Tigers after droves of talent on both sides of the ball left the program before this season. But the Tigers have sailed through one of the more brutal-looking schedules out there, and a trip to face Virginia Tech isn't the trap game to ruin the ride.
Which isn't to discredit the Hokies. The program is back as a major ACC contender, but it doesn't have the offensive firepower to match Clemson. It's also worth noting that, while impressive, the Hokies have had a much easier path to this showdown and could have some key lapses under the national spotlight.
Clemson, already tested in tougher games than this and unwilling to give up the throne, will hit on a few key plays that make the difference.
Prediction: Clemson 28, Virginia Tech 20
Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.