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Will Jim Harbaugh's Trust In Cade McNamara Pay Off In East Lansing?

The junior quarterback has helped lead Michigan to a perfect 7-0 start, but his biggest test will come on Saturday against the Spartans.

Barring a shocking move by head coach Jim Harbaugh that would fall somewhere between moronic and genius, junior quarterback Cade McNamara will lead the Michigan Wolverines out onto the field for the first offensive drive of the afternoon this weekend in East Lansing.

In his third year with the program, McNamara has served as the steady hand guiding Michigan to a perfect 7-0 start. It hasn't been flashy and he's certainly not going to appear on the Heisman watch list anytime soon, but the junior quarterback out of Reno (Nev.) has done nearly everything that has been asked of him up to this point. 

Here's how McNamara stacks up against the other 13 Big Ten conference QB's after the first seven weeks of the season:

  • COMP: No. 9 (92)
  • ATT: No. 11 (146)
  • COMP PCT: No. 8 (63.0)
  • PASS YDS: No. 9 (1115)
  • TDs: No. 11 (5)
  • INTs: No. 2 (1)
  • AVG YPG: No. 10 (159.3)
  • EFF: No. 9 (137.1)

Overall B10 rating: 8.6 

For Harbaugh, the gamble on McNamara - and I certainly believe it was a gamble - will prove its worth this weekend in East Lansing one way or another. 

On the eve of what promises to be an epic matchup between No. 6 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State, a large segment of the Michigan fan base still remains concerned heading into Saturday. The concern centers around the growing belief that Harbaugh's decision to roll with McNamara will come back to haunt the Wolverines when it matters most - and it matters a whole hell of a lot this weekend.

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In spite of a highly-rated (and unproven) true freshman quarterback that has dazzled fans in limited reps, Harbaugh has remained loyal to the steady hand of McNamara as the Wolverines enter the teeth of their Big Ten schedule. In fact, Harbaugh says he's been happy with the results so far.

“I’ve been happy with Cade,” Harbaugh told the “Stoney and Jansen” radio show on 97.1 WXYT-FM earlier this week. “He’s doing a lot of things. I know people think they’re experts at quarterbacks — and corners, too, because it’s obvious when you see a guy get beat.

“But Cade’s doing a lot of things right.”

If there's a quarterback controversy in Ann Arbor, it certainly doesn't exist within the walls of Schembechler Hall - at least not yet. With fans clamoring for McCarthy to get more reps, Harbaugh is once again taking the slow and steady approach with his highly rated true freshman QB.

“He’s starting to come on because he’s earned it,” Harbaugh said. “He didn’t earn the starting job in training camp, but he’s gone in, he’s played well and he’s earned more. We’ll continue to put more on his plate - and I think that’s something that is ultimately tough for an opponent.”

The biggest question for Michigan heading into this weekend is this: Is the passing game good enough when it matters most?  

The vast majority of Michigan fans have routinely found themselves asking that same question week after week, even as the wins continued to pile up. Is McNamara the guy? Can he make the big throws in the big moments? Can he be the type of quarterback that Michigan needs to get over the hump? 

Heading into a game that will almost certainly require big time playmakers to make big time plays, it looks like Michigan fans are about to get their answer on McNamara one way or another.