Ready or not, the 12-team Playoff is here.

The start of the 12-team Playoff era means that the entire conversation about being in contention will shift. A more inclusive field doesn’t necessarily guarantee that we’re about to see more variety with national champs. For this discussion, we’re not focused on who’ll win a national championship; we’re just focused on who’ll play for one.

The goal for this series is to predict the first 12-team Playoff with 100% accuracy. It’s never been done before. I’d like to think I can become the first person in human history to do that.

Every day of this series, I’ll unveil 1 of my 12-team Playoff picks, starting with the No. 12 seed and working all the way down to the No. 1 seed. Remember these parameters with the seeding of the 12-team Playoff:

  • ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC champs get an automatic bid
  • The top-ranked Group of 5 conference champ also gets an automatic bid
  • The 7 remaining teams are selected and receive at-large bids
  • The 4 highest-ranked conference champs are seeded 1-4 with a first-round bye

Need any other clarifications? I think we’re good.

So far, here are the teams I have in the field:

Let’s continue with the No. 3 seed … Florida State.

Why the Playoff path exists

I have to get the obvious out of the way — if FSU’s Playoff path didn’t exist at 13-0, why should it ever exist?

Well, it’s a 12-team field, guy. Also, I have FSU making the field with a first-round bye as the No. 3 seed, which is in play now for the highest-ranked conference champs. In other words, it won’t even be up to the selection committee to give the Noles a bid if they repeat as ACC champs.

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Despite the significant roster turnover, I believe that’s how 2024 will play out. (Vegas isn’t so sure; DraftKings Sportsbook put the Noles’ over/under win total at 9.5.) Perhaps more than any other coach in America, I’m putting some blind faith in Mike Norvell. What he’s done with evaluating talent in the transfer portal is second to none. He had 10 players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, 9 of whom were transfers. That includes first-rounder Jared Verse (Albany) and second-rounder Braden Fiske (Western Michigan).

In other words, I’m not concerned if there is a lack of household names entering the season. And for what it’s worth, there are still household names like former Clemson/Oregon State quarterback transfer DJ Uiagalelei and All-ACC defensive lineman Joshua Farmer.

This year’s squad won’t have the benefit of being No. 1 in America in percentage of returning production like last year’s squad, but even at No. 89 in FBS, I’m confident enough that Norvell’s system can overcome that in an ACC without proven contenders.

The potential roadblock

The potential roadblock is the selection committee.

Sorry. It’s not too late to fire off some 2023 jokes. It plays.

The actual roadblock, whether it comes down to the selection committee or not, is the passing game. Even if Uiagalelei is ready to take on all the leadership responsibilities in his last college season, it’s fair to wonder about his surroundings. It’s not just that the top 3 targets from the 2023 squad are gone. It’s that only 5 of last year’s 25 receiving touchdowns are back, 3 of which are from running backs. The only returning FSU wide receivers who caught a TD pass last year were Hykeem Williams (1) and Darion Williamson (1).

Related: Who will win it all in 2024? SDS has the latest betting odds for who’ll win the next national championship!

Yes, FSU added former No. 1 overall JUCO receiver Malik Benson from Alabama. But he’s not nearly as proven as Keon Coleman was coming from Michigan State. Benson was expected to be a go-to guy for the Tide. Instead, he had 2 games with multiple catches, 1 of which was against FCS Chattanooga … which was also the game he caught his only TD pass. Benson’s snap count took a hit in the latter half of the season and he became an afterthought. In other words, FSU is putting a lot of faith that Benson can break through in his new surroundings.

The same is true of Williams, who played 94 snaps in his true freshman season, 31 of which came in that scrimmage/bowl game. Williams has monster expectations as a former 5-star recruit. That could prove to be justified. But we’re talking about someone who had more than half of his 2023 production come on 1 play in garbage time of a 41-3 win against Syracuse.

Destyn Hill was expected to step into a bigger role, but then he suffered a season-ending injury in the spring. For a room already searching for answers, that added to the uncertainty.

Uncertainty in the preseason could clear up in a hurry. Again, that’s sort of the Norvell way. But it does feel like if FSU looks like a team that experiences a significant drop-off from 2023, we’ll point to the passing game as the main culprit.

Odds that they win a Playoff game

This will sound confusing, but hear me out — 41%.

Remember that by winning the ACC — I have the Noles at 12-1 to earn the automatic bid — FSU will likely get a first-round bye. If that’s the No. 3 seed, that means it’ll get the winner of the 6 vs. 11 matchup. For this prediction, that would be No. 6 seed Oregon beating No. 11 seed Utah. If it’s Oregon-FSU at a neutral site in the Willie Taggart Bowl, I give the edge to the Ducks. But if Utah wins that game, I’d take FSU to win a low-scoring affair in the quarterfinals.

See why that percentage is confusing for a team with a first-round bye? Oregon would be a challenging matchup for FSU. Let’s not forget that it was Dan Lanning who dialed up that masterclass defensive showing as Georgia’s DC back when Uiagalelei made his 2021 debut as Clemson’s starter. It’s hard to envision that group keeping pace with the Dillon Gabriel-led Oregon offense.

But even if it doesn’t look quite as easy as the Noles made it look with Jordan Travis last year, repeating as ACC champs and getting a first-round bye in what should be a “floor” season for Norvell would still be a massive victory.

Predicting the Playoff will continue on Monday with No. 2 … Georgia.