The Florida State Seminoles (28-2) earned the No. 3 overall seed Sunday when the NCAA Volleyball Tournament pairings were announced.
If that holds, beginning with this week's opening-round games at Tallahassee and continuing through the Minneapolis Regional, the Seminoles will advance to the Final Four on Dec. 17 and 19 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
For the No. 16-seeded Florida Gators (23-5), meanwhile, the Road to Tampa includes a significant obstacle.
The Gators also begin at home this weekend and could advance to the Gainesville Regional at the O'Connell Center, but the region semifinal opponent Dec. 11 figures to be No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champion Penn State (32-0), which has won 96 consecutive matches.
Even though the Gators failed to win an SEC title for the first time in Coach Mary Wise's tenure - ending a string of 18 straight conference crowns since Wise got the job in 1991 - she said that's a moot point.
"Once you get to the NCAA Tournament, records, ranking and conference titles become a non-factor," Wise said. "Everybody has the same record and it all starts here on Thursday night."
FSU gets a similar boost with opening-round home matches.
"It's going to give us a little bit of comfort initially," FSU coach Chris Poole said. "We don't have to go on the road first, so it's going to give our players a chance to get the butterflies out and go play."
The Seminoles, on a 16-match winning streak, captured the ACC title and lost only against Florida and Georgia Tech (both in five games).
At Tallahassee, the Saturday matchups are FSU (28-2) vs. Alabama A&M (18-10) and Florida A&M (17-9) vs. Jacksonville State (26-7). The winners meet Sunday for a spot in the Minneapolis Regional.
At Gainesville, the Thursday matchups are UF vs. the College of Charleston (18-12) and Florida International (31-3) vs. Miami (18-12). The winners meet Friday for a spot in the Gainesville Regional.
The No. 4-seeded Stanford Cardinal (21-7) and No. 10-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers (23-6) will host regionals. Stanford features middle blocker Janet Okogbaa, a second-team All-Pac-10 selection from Berkeley Prep.