J.J. McCarthy won the title of QB1 at Michigan over Cade McNamara fair and square. Now, the 2 are still in close contact despite McNamara’s absence from the program.

McNamara underwent season-ending knee surgery earlier this month. And while he might be rehabbing away from Ann Arbor, the veteran passer has stayed close with his teammates in preparation for Rivalry Week and a rematch of ‘The Game’ in Columbus.

“He’s always checking in,” McCarthy told reporters this past week. “He’s still really embracing his leadership role even though he’s in [Los Angeles] rehabbing. It’s just been great to hear from him and know he’s doing good.”

Last season, McNamara led the Wolverines to a 12-1 finish, capped off with a B1G Championship win over Iowa and a College Football Playoff berth. At home against then-No. 2 Ohio State, McNamara went 13-of-19 passing for 159 yards and an interception en route to a 42-27 victory.

McCarthy, who took over as Michigan’s full-time starter in Week 3, will now have the chance to finish undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1997. The Wolverines could be limited offensively as both running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are dealing with injuries prior to kickoff.

McCarthy said that while McNamara’s presence has been missed, little has changed in the locker room among the other passers.

“It’s the same really,” McCarthy said. “Everyone is trying to get better. Everyone is trying to improve and nothing has really changed.”

Kickoff from Ohio Stadium is set for noon E.T. The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to the B1G Championship as the East division’s winner.