Michigan's dominant season now has official validation.

The Wolverines are ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff's debut rankings, announced tonight on ESPN.

It was not a surprise for the 8-0 Wolverines to be included in the initial top four teams, as U-M is ranked No. 2 in the Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press poll and is only one of four undefeated Power Five schools.

Alabama is No. 1, as it is in the Amway coaches and Associated Press polls, followed by Clemson. Texas A&M is fourth, followed by Washington and Ohio State.

There are five Big Ten schools in the top 12.

But, unlike the other polls, this ranking matters for Michigan's future as the final four teams in the CFP ranking on Dec. 4 will advance to the CFP semifinals.

ESPN analysts Joey Galloway and David Pollack said Monday they expected Clemson to be No. 2, based on its high-quality wins over Louisville (No. 5 in coaches poll), Auburn (No. 11) and Florida State (No. 19). Michigan's best wins are over Wisconsin (No. 8 in coaches poll) and Colorado (No. 21).

The difference between No. 2 and No. 3 is minimal at the end because it's a neutral site game, either in Atlanta or Phoenix. The only edge is that No. 1 and No. 2 are placed at the "most advantageous sites, weighing criteria such as convenience of travel for its fans, home-crowd advantage or disadvantage and general familiarity with the host city and its stadium. Preference will go to the No. 1 seed."

The CFP committee has been meeting since Monday in Grapevine, Texas. Former Central Michigan coach Herb Deromedi is a new member.

The CFP rankings will be released every Tuesday through the end of the regular season.

Yet the first rankings are hardly a predictor of the final results.

Only two of the top four teams in last year's initial rankings made the CFP: No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Alabama; Only one of the four in the opening 2014 rankings made the final four: No. 2 Florida State.

Western Michigan is ranked 23rd, on spot ahead of Boise State and the highest-ranked Group of Five team, on pace to receive a spot in the Cotton Bowl. WMU is the only undefeated Group of Five team.

U-M coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't planning to watch.

"Not going to be able to work that into our preparations for Maryland," Harbaugh said on today's Big Ten coaches teleconference. "We'll be doing other things. Not to say that we don't check them -- it takes about 15 seconds to check and see where you are. We aspire to be as good as we can be. That's the simple part of it.

"Choosing to spend the time watching the TV production over watching Maryland tape and game planning, it's going to take a backseat. Watching the TV show will take a backseat."

Contact Mark Snyder: msnyder@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mark__snyder. Download our Wolverines Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!

College Football Playoff rankings

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Michigan

4. Texas A&M

5. Washington

6. Ohio State

7. Louisville

8. Wisconsin

9. Auburn

10. Nebraska

11. Florida

12. Penn State

13. LSU

14. Oklahoma

15. Colorado

16. Utah

17. Baylor

18. Oklahoma State

19. Virginia Tech

20. West Virginia

21. North Carolina

22. Florida State

23. Western Michigan

24. Boise State

25. Washington State