Virginia Tech Virginia Football

Steve HelberVirginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall watches his team warm up before their game against Virginia Tech on Friday at Scott Stadium. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The Virginia football team was ranked 23rd in this week’s College Football Playoff top 25, which was released on Tuesday night.

It is the first time this season that the Cavaliers (9-3, 6-2 ACC) have been in the CFP rankings. UVa also was ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 Poll and Amway Coaches Poll, which were released on Sunday. The Wahoos were 22nd in both of those polls.

The Cavaliers cracked the CFP top 25 after a thrilling 39-30 victory over rival Virginia Tech on Friday that clinched the program’s first Coastal Division championship and berth in the ACC Championship Game.

“It’s off the scale for our program at this time on our quest for national relevance,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said of beating Virginia Tech and winning the division championship. “Last week did wonders for achievement and moving the needle for our program, hitting new benchmarks and metrics. Now all that does is qualify us, and that qualification isn’t a gift and it’s not random, it’s something we’ve earned. It’s qualified us and our team has earned the chance now for the next and significantly bigger opportunity and challenge.”

That bigger challenge will be facing Clemson (12-0, 8-0 ACC), which came in at No. 3 in this week’s CFP rankings. The defending national champion Tigers will be playing in the ACC Championship Game for the fifth straight season. Virginia will be making its first appearance in the game.

“Absolutely it’s a massive moment for what Bronco has done with the program, for them building their program,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s a huge moment. I mean, they just won the Coastal. They’re playing in a championship game. There’s a progression that you go through when you’re really building something special. I think that’s what they’ve been able to do to this point.”

The Tigers and Cavaliers are the only two ACC teams ranked in this week’s CFP rankings. If that remains the case on Sunday, when the final College Football Playoff top 25 is released, Virginia will be heading to the Orange Bowl, which is contractually obligated to take the ACC champion unless they are in the College Football Playoff. If that is the case, the Orange Bowl takes the next highest-rated ACC team in the CFP rankings.

If Virginia beats Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday, it will be guaranteed a spot in the Orange Bowl as the ACC champion. If the Tigers beat the Cavaliers, UVa is still guaranteed a spot in Orange Bowl as long as it remains in the College Football Playoff rankings and Clemson is in the College Football Playoff. If UVa loses to Clemson and falls out of the College Football Playoff rankings, the Orange Bowl gets the choice of which ACC team it wants.

Ohio State (12-0) was No. 1 in this week’s CFP rankings, while LSU (12-0) was No. 2. Georgia (11-1) was No. 4. The top four teams make the College Football Playoff.

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