5 modern era teams that would've been dangerous 12-seeds in expanded College Football Playoff

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The expanded 12-team College Football Playoff that commences in the 2024 season is the result of decades of attempts to push forward a less mythical national championship narrative. Going back to the early 1960s, power brokers within college football have tried to introduce a bracket to determine a champion rather than relying on polls to make the call.

Efforts to create a playoff system renewed in the 1980s, after the Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA could no longer hold unitary control over television broadcasts. At first schools banded together in the College Football Association, a loose conglomeration of key teams and conferences without real oversight power or a truly fraternal view between the members. That lasted for less than a decade, as athletic departments realized that the strongest bargaining power rested in the hands of conferences.

But while that set college football on course toward conference realignment and consolidation over the ensuing years, it did not answer the question of how to determine a national champion. The Bowl Coalition made the first effort in 1992, then was quickly supplanted by the Bowl Alliance. Both systems suffered short lifespans due to their inability to court the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences into the fold along with their postseason partner, the Rose Bowl game.

When the Bowl Championship Series launched in 1998, its mandate was to pair the top two teams in the country for a one-off title game. A bracket would have to wait 15 more years, and another decade after that for more than four teams to merit consideration.

But what if college football's history had played out differently? What if the Bowl Coalition succeeded in 1992 in bringing the two recalcitrant conferences and their bowl partner on board and all parties agreed to set the playoff parameters around a 12-team field three decades earlier?

Just as the first College Football Playoff offered a surprise in 2014 when Ohio State won as the 4-seed in the tournament, we would likely have seen more Cinderella stories with last-chance teams running the field. So which quintet of 12-seeds would have presented the biggest threat in a hypothetical playoff in college football's modern era?