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Projecting FSU through the playoff

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles project well in a rematch with Auburn. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The Florida State Seminoles are the defending national champions, and with Jameis Winston back on campus to pick up right where his Heisman-winning 2013 campaign left off, Florida State is one of the top candidates to contend for another title this fall. Our most recent projections tabbed the Seminoles with a No. 3 overall ranking in opponent-adjusted drive efficiency, but when we factor in the level of competition they'll face, there is no team more likely to grab one of the four coveted spots in the inaugural college football playoff at the end of the year.

We analyzed each matchup that lies ahead of FSU in the regular season, their projected competition in the ACC championship game and the potential opponents they would face in ESPN's playoff scenario. There are a few potential hurdles in the way, but Florida State has the edge in every projected matchup ... until the championship game in January.

Aug. 30 vs. Oklahoma State (projected No. 14)
Chance of victory:
74 percent

Our projections are supported primarily by program trajectory, so despite the fact the Cowboys have a significant number of holes to fill in their depth chart and that they've recently been dinged with lost practice time due to APR penalties, the projection model gives Oklahoma State a good chance to be a Big 12 contender. The Cowboys could pull off an upset in the neutral-site opener against the Seminoles if they can strike with big plays. Oklahoma State has averaged better than 10 yards per play on more than 18 percent of its possessions in the past four seasons.

Sept. 6 vs. Citadel (FCS)
Chance of victory:
100 percent

Last season was a banner year for FCS programs and their upsets against FBS opponents, with 16 victories in 111 games across the country. The likelihood of such an upset to occur against a projected top-10 opponent is virtually zero, however. The top-10 teams according to our FEI ratings last year won their games against FCS opponents by an average score of 59-6.

Sept. 20 vs. Clemson (projected No. 23)