I’m not buying it.

Jim Harbaugh can tell himself and tell the media all he wants about it being a true open competition to win the starting quarterback gig. We, and others, will continue to report updates on the Wolverines’ quarterback battle. We’ll continue to act like John O’Korn’s practice completion percentage is going to factor into Harbaugh’s decision as to which guy he’ll start on Sept. 2 against Florida. Wilton Speight will publicly be tied with O’Korn until Michigan’s first series.

I’m just not buying it.

Speight will be Michigan’s opening day starter, and barring injury or a completely horrific performance, the job will be his to keep.

That’s not breaking news or some message board assertion that I’m confirming. It’s a simple observation from watching how Harbaugh handles his quarterback situations. Harbaugh said on Friday night that Speight and O’Korn were the leaders in the clubhouse, and that redshirt freshman Brandon Peters was still in the mix.

“It’s not to say anything is set in stone right now, but I think that the two guys have created a little bit of separation,” Harbaugh said via ESPN.com.

That sounds an awful lot like Harbaugh pushing buttons. It makes sense when you think about it.

Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Break down all three quarterbacks and it’s easy to see why Harbaugh chose to take this route to “decide a starting quarterback.”

For Speight, the reasoning is obvious. Harbaugh might’ve been named “Most Improved Player” by the Michigan coaching staff in 2016. But he didn’t beat out O’Korn and Shane Morris for the job last year because he came into camp assuming the job was his. Why would Harbaugh give him any excuse to lose that mindset?

Harbaugh knows that Michigan can go to that next level if Speight can take his game to the next level. If there’s anything Harbaugh can do to push him to get there, he’s gonna do it. Simple as that.

That leads us to O’Korn, who looked like the early favorite to win the job last year, but ultimately lost to Speight in what was a true competition. If Harbaugh ruled Speight the starter in the spring, what could’ve happened? O’Korn could’ve looked for somewhere else to spend his final year of eligibility as a graduate transfer.

Yes, I remember this tweet:


But that was right after Michigan’s season ended with a loss in the Orange Bowl. Eight months passed. Maybe O’Korn has improved and narrowed the gap between he and Speight.

Still, let’s not forget that O’Korn got the chance to start against Indiana after Speight had his collarbone injury. O’Korn was 7 of 16 for 59 yards and Michigan squeaked out a win at home against Indiana. The next week, Speight started at Ohio State playing less than 100 percent instead of a healthy O’Korn. There’s something to be said for that.

I’m not saying Harbaugh lied to O’Korn and told him he had a chance to win a job that had already been decided. But I think Harbaugh wanted a backup like O’Korn instead of a redshirt freshman with zero game experience.

That’s not a knock on Peters, who has been nothing short of impressive this offseason, according to the coaching staff. He certainly earned himself some supporters by out-playing Speight in the spring game. Still, as I wrote then, that was a spring game.

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By announcing to the world that Peters was a notch below the two upperclassmen during fall camp, all that does is tell a redshirt freshman that he’s not sharp enough to be the starting quarterback at Michigan. That message lets him know that despite all the strides he made, he’s still going to have to elevate his game if he wants to earn the job when Speight and O’Korn move on.

Of course Harbaugh would draw it up this way. There’s nothing wrong with promoting healthy competition. Harbaugh obviously wants that at all positions, not just at the quarterback position.

Take a look back at Harbaugh’s history with quarterbacks, though, and it’ll make that much more sense why Speight is still the guy.

Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows Harbaugh as this quarterback guru, which, if you look at his track record, is a fair title. He takes pride in developing a quarterback and seeing it through. Maybe it’s an ego thing. Whatever the case, he usually picks the right quarterback. Harbaugh doesn’t have a prototypical guy he works with, just as long as he can make the right decisions and execute the throws he needs to make.

The last two quarterbacks Harbaugh started (before Speight) are perfect examples of that. When Harbaugh got to San Francisco, Alex Smith was the incumbent starter. That wasn’t his choice. All the while, he drafted a big, mobile kid out of Nevada named Colin Kaepernick. As we found out, he was Harbaugh’s guy. He’s still Harbaugh’s guy.

That situation was unique because Kaepernick was a mid-year replacement in his second season (Harbaugh wasn’t about to start a rookie). After Kaepernick took the job from Smith in the middle of the 2012 season, he was the 49ers’ starter every game for the rest of the Harbaugh era. It didn’t matter that Smith was 19-5-1 as a starter. Kaepernick was Harbaugh’s guy, and he picked him for a reason.

Jake Rudock was a vastly different quarterback, in a vastly different situation. Still, we saw how loyal Harbaugh was to the graduate transfer from Iowa. Rudock was hand-picked by Harbaugh to join Michigan. When some called for Shane Morris to start after Rudock’s slow start, Harbaugh announced not only did he not want Morris to take over, he wanted to redshirt him.

That’s how much confidence Harbaugh had in his guy.

As a result, Rudock became the second Michigan quarterback to join the 3,000-yard club and he’s now in the NFL. Harbaugh was determined to prove that under the right tutelage, Rudock had what it took to start at Michigan. He did that.

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If you recall, we didn’t know Rudock was starting until the first series against Utah. The same thing will probably happen with Speight. Why give a defensive-minded coach like Jim McElwain any extra time to prepare for a specific quarterback? It’s what Harbaugh always does.

You wouldn’t know that based on how the starting quarterback was announced in each of Harbaugh’s last two seasons. Last year was the only true battle in Harbaugh’s three fall camps.

So why didn’t O’Korn win the job if Harbaugh hand-picked him to be on Michigan’s roster? Because it was actually a competition. Speight out-performed O’Korn and won the job fair and square. In a limited sample size, 2016 showed that Speight was the better quarterback.

Before the collar bone injury, Speight led Michigan to a 9-0 start after completing 65 percent of his passes for 228 yards per game with a 5-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Don’t forget that Harbaugh was talked him up as a Heisman Trophy candidate after the Maryland game.

At the same time, Michigan was 0-3 in Speight’s final three starts of the season. Harbaugh admitted at B1G Media Days that he wanted Michigan’s ugly finish to motivate his team in 2017. You can bet he wouldn’t mind if it motivated his quarterback, too.

There’s a psychological game that’s being played here, as is usually the case with Harbaugh. He’s pushing buttons because he knows if done right, he can maximize the production he gets out of the quarterback position. It’s what he should be doing.

Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that Speight is about to get leapfrogged for the starting job.