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Michigan football: 10 takeaways from College Football Playoff rankings

What do we know about No. 3 Michigan?

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Tuesday was a great night for college football fans across the country.

After spending nine weeks with polls that don't matter, the College Football Playoff committee released its first rankings and gave fans an idea on how it views the college football landscape.

But the first rankings are always the hardest to understand. There are always teams that appear to be overrated or undervalued by the committee compared to other polls and ratings.

Here's a breakdown of what we learned about the committee's opinion of Michigan football and other teams around the country.

Michigan and Clemson are almost interchangeable

It's fitting that one of the hottest debates about the first CFP rankings is over two spots that don't matter. Clemson edged Michigan at No. 2 for the first week of the rankings, but the only difference between the two spots is whether a team will wear white or dark jerseys. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said the debate between Michigan and Clemson was one of the longest and fiercest conversations of the week, but whether Michigan is No. 2 or No. 3, it would still end up playing Clemson in Arizona on a neutral site.

Big Ten is king

We knew the Big Ten had a good chance to have four teams ranked in the top 12, but the committee surprised everyone by putting a fifth team in the top 12. Penn State is No. 12 in the first rankings and is the third-highest two-loss team in the poll. Ohio State is No. 6, Wisconsin is No. 8 and Nebraska is No. 10. That means that nearly half of the poll's top 12 teams are from the Big Ten.

CHECK: Big Ten football power rankings

Michigan has three excellent wins

In the AP and Coaches polls, Michigan has three good wins, but in the CFP rankings, Michigan has three excellent wins. The Wolverines are the only team in the country with three wins over top 15 teams -- No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 12 Penn State and No. 15 Colorado. If all three of those teams can finish with nine or 10 wins, it would give Michigan an excellent resume at the end of the season.

Washington has to be perfect

The biggest surprise Tuesday was the committee's decision to put one-loss Texas A&M ahead of undefeated Washington for the fourth and final playoff spot. Washington fans shouldn't panic; if the Huskies win all of their games, they'll make the field of four. But the committee's message rang loud and clear: Washington's weak schedule crippled its resume and there's no breathing room. The Huskies picked up their first big win of the season Saturday when they went into Salt Lake City and knocked off No. 16 Utah. But four of their wins have come against 2-6 teams and their best non-conference win came over Idaho, so the schedule has been incredibly weak. If Washington loses one of its final four games, it might be left out of the playoff, even as a conference champion.

Lack of road games hurts Michigan

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We've already covered the strength of Michigan's resume, but it's clear that the committee was more impressed by Clemson's ability to win on the road. The Tigers have wins over Florida State and Auburn on the road, while Michigan has played only a pair of 2-6 teams outside Ann Arbor. Michigan will have a chance to prove itself on the road when it travels to Iowa and Ohio State down the stretch. If the Wolverines pick up a win over a solid Iowa team in two weeks, that will greatly add to their resume.

Eight teams control their own destiny (I think)

Only four teams can make the College Football Playoff, but with five weeks to go, I see eight teams that will make the playoff if they win out. From the Big Ten, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska would all make the playoff by finishing with one or fewer losses and a Big Ten title. Alabama and Florida would be locks to qualify for the playoff if they win the SEC, and Auburn would likely slip in as a two-loss team with a win at Alabama and in the SEC championship game. Outside the top two conferences, only undefeated Clemson and Washington control their own destinies. This list of teams will change Saturday, when Ohio State and Nebraska battle in Columbus. One of those teams will drop out, and if Ohio State wins, Wisconsin will join the list as the leader in the West Division.

Michigan needs to return to dominance (just ask Louisville)

Louisville took perhaps the biggest hit in the initial rankings, as it stands no chance of winning the ACC and now sits behind two one-loss teams from other conferences. Louisville would need both Texas A&M and Ohio State to slip up to become the top one-loss team, and even that wouldn't guarantee it a spot in the playoff over conference champions. What lesson did we learn from Louisville? The CFP committee values dominance and notices when lesser teams finish closer than they should. Louisville was one play away from a loss at Virginia (2-6) Saturday, and three weeks ago, the Cards struggled with Duke at home. Michigan has been impressively dominant this season, winning games by 60, 37, 78 and 33 points and blowing out top-15 opponents by 17 and 39 points. Last weekend's nine-point win over Michigan State (2-6) was a bit of a speed bump, but Michigan has a golden opportunity to return to dominance against a Maryland team with a winning record on Saturday.

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Big 12 in big trouble

Saturday was a disastrous day for the Big 12, as both of its remaining undefeated teams lost to lesser opponents. Baylor lost to Texas and checks in at No. 17 in the rankings, while West Virginia got crushed by Oklahoma State and is No. 20. Oklahoma is the top team in the Big 12 at No. 14, but the Sooners already have two ugly losses -- a 10-point defeat against now unimpressive Houston and a 21-point shelling at home against Ohio State. Saying that the Big 12 doesn't control its own destiny is an understatement; the conference needs absolute mayhem to break out around the country to have a chance.

Michigan rooting for UCF

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One of the key phrases we hear from the committee every season is "wins over teams with a winning record," and this season appears to be no different. Texas A&M was rewarded for seemingly average wins over Arkansas and Tennessee, while Washington was penalized for lacking in this area. Central Florida is 4-4 on the season with an overtime loss to Maryland, a one-point loss to Temple and a seven-point loss at Houston. The Knights coughed up huge leads against both Temple and Houston and are just a few plays away from being a 7-1 team. If Scott Frost can find a way to get to 7-5, it would be another solid resume builder for Michigan in the committee's eyes.

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Western Michigan on track for New Year's Six

Western Michigan is No. 23 in the opening rankings, but what matters is that WMU is ranked ahead of the other Broncos from Boise State (No. 24). If Western Michigan keeps winning, it will be the highest-ranked team in the Group of 5 conferences and, with a MAC championship, would play in a New Year's Six bowl. The Broncos already knocked off Ball State on Tuesday, so the season is counting down to a huge home matchup with Toledo on Nov. 25. What a huge opportunity for P.J. Fleck's crew.

There are still five more sets of rankings to be released, and a lot will change before the final four are announced on Dec. 4. But the first week gave us a look into the committee's mind and set the tone for the final month of the regular season.