A fake throw to RB Donovan Edwards and magician-like reverse hand-off to WR AJ Henning punctuated the season for Michigan QB Cade McNamara. Perfectly run and beautifully designed, McNamara confidently sold the sleight-of-hand, catching the Ohio State defense confused and on its heels.

Big-time moment on a big-time stage. One that most never saw coming. One that many didn’t want to see coming, because McNamara simply wasn’t the guy.

So they said.

Anyway, that 14-yard TD by Henning started the game-long momentum that resulted in a 42-27 win over No. 2 Ohio State. Michigan, then ranked No. 5, has now taken the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 and will likely be No. 2 or 3 in the upcoming College Football Playoff ranking reboot.

McNamara transitioned into the next phase of his career Saturday and helped the Wolverines reach their next level of achievement, knocking off the Buckeyes for the first time since 2011 and for only the fourth time since 2000.

Michigan is in the Big Ten Championship Game, facing Iowa — which brings back memories of 2016, when the Wolverines needed wins against Iowa and (probably) Ohio State to remain in the CFP conversation. Well, the Buckeyes have been checked off the list and the Hawkeyes await their meeting with the Wolverines on Saturday in Indianapolis.

A win most certainly guarantees CFP status for UM.

Beating Ohio State was a monumental moment for McNamara, but he’ll have up to three more opportunities to really put a stamp on the 2021 season. This year could end up being much more than just beating the Buckeyes, and this postseason stretch could end up solidifying McNamara as Michigan’s unquestioned leader at quarterback.

It’s an important time for the Wolverines. And yes, it’s a team sport — but it’d be illogical to assume that McNamara isn’t thinking about his future. He knows what he has to do from a team standpoint, and from an individual standpoint. Saturday was just the start of “everything he’s dreamed about,” in terms of being in position to win conference and national titles.

Yes, true freshman QB JJ McCarthy did some impressive things this season — most notably, his ability to serve as a 1- or 2-play run/pass specialist. He’s yet to play an entire series, let alone a set of consecutive downs. Until further notice, the top job belongs to McNamara — and that goes for next season, too.

He’s just getting started.

Just think, the QB that nobody wanted — well, a large faction of the UM fanbase — has now become the QB that the Wolverines have been waiting on for years. Funny how things happen, huh?

McNamara is the first QB of the Jim Harbaugh-coached era to beat the Buckeyes, the first to lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten East Division title and possibly the first to lead them to the 4-team CFP postseason.

There is no way anyone is dethroning this kid.

Blocking out constant criticism must be difficult, but McNamara did that during the non-conference season and led unbeaten Michigan into a major showdown with Wisconsin at Camp Randall in Wisconsin. Not only was that the game that began UM’s run through 2021, it was the game that McNamara really showcased his arm to those who said he lacked arm strength.

Completing 17 of 28 passes for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns, he led the Wolverines to a 38-17 victory that caught national attention.

That was Step 1 for McNamara, and Michigan, to get to the desired destination. Confident quarterback, team with some momentum — it was right there for the Wolverines.

Throwing for 383 yards and 2 touchdowns, McNamara did everything necessary to beat Michigan State in East Lansing. However, the rest of his team didn’t do as much, resulting in a 37-33 loss to the Spartans. Despite the loss, McNamara once again destroyed any QB switch conversation.

Following the shortcoming vs. MSU, Michigan needed to refocus and realize that its season wasn’t finished. Wins vs. Indiana, Penn State and Maryland all contributed to McNamara’s confidence boost heading into the week of The Game.

Yeah, he threw a pick that probably cost Michigan a 14-0 lead in the opening minutes of the first quarter … but the fact that he was confident enough to even attempt that pass shows enormous growth. He rebounded and completed 13 of 19 attempts for 159 yards. No touchdowns. Nothing flashy. But he did throw a nice 37-yarder to WR Cornelius Johnson that put UM near the goal line and set up a rushing score by RB Hassan Haskins.

Things that lead to other things … McNamara specialized in that this season. Efficient, he connected on 183 of 284 attempts — 64.4 percent, for those wondering — for 2,301 yards and 14 touchdowns; he threw just 3 picks all season. He never made mistakes that cost a win for Michigan. He took care of the ball. He led and maintained composure.

Without question, McNamara is the No. 1 option for the Wolverines. McCarthy will challenge, as he should. However, as long as McNamara continues to play the way he’s played through 12 regular-season games, it’d be incredibly difficult to imagine anyone but him being Michigan’s leading man next season.