So, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh plans to start Cade McNamara in Week 1 vs. Colorado State, then flip to JJ McCarthy for Week 2 vs. Hawaii.

Roll the dice, Jim!

This is very unorthodox for Harbaugh; maybe he’s trying to placate the Wolverines masses. Apparently, the cries for McCarthy can no longer be ignored. Harbaugh is going to give the rabid fans what they want to see: 5-star 2021 recruit McCarthy with a “fair shot” at taking over the starting duties.

Harbaugh has never done this while at Michigan.

Then again, he’s never had so much talent at the position, either.

So maybe he’s not placating to anyone. Maybe he’s facing a genuine dilemma.

On one hand, McNamara is coming off a 12-2 season with a win over Ohio State — a game really won by RB Hassan Haskins, the O-line and the defense. On the other hand, there is McCarthy, who has incredible athleticism and is entering his sophomore season without having started a game.

Reports from fall camp suggested that McNamara was the No. 1 guy. Days later, McNamara was named a captain, which pretty much said everything that needed to be said … or so some thought.

Now, there is this plan to split the first 2 games. Of course, the better-playing QB will probably end up as the starter for the remainder of the season — that is unless Harbaugh wants to experiment a little more and split another 2-game set down the line.

Michigan’s stability at QB is on the line. Everything, moving forward, will hinge on the results.

For a player who’s confidently said that Michigan is “my team,” this might come as a blow to confidence for McNamara. For one looking to prove himself beyond a shadow of a doubt, this appears to be an ideal opportunity for McCarthy.

“Both quarterbacks have played great and have done everything they could have — in every way — to win the starting job,” Harbaugh said during Episode 283 of the Michigan Football “In the Trenches” podcast with Jon Jansen (the official athletic department podcast). “Coming out of camp, I just feel like we have two — two quarterbacks in Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy — that we feel very confident that we can win a championship with either of those two quarterbacks behind center.

“Great thing for our team, but there is only one ball — so, there can only be one quarterback out there at a time. So we’re not ready to say who that starting quarterback is, but the decision we’ve made is that Cade McNamara will start the opener against Colorado State and JJ McCarthy will start the second ballgame against Hawaii; and then after Week 2 we’ll make a decision going into Week 3 (regarding) starter/backup.”

You know how these things unfold. There can be a couple of outcomes.

Back in 2017, Wilton Speight was injured vs. Purdue, opening the door for John O’Korn, who just couldn’t keep pace with expectations. Then, in 2020, following the reign of Shea Patterson, Harbaugh tabbed Joe Milton as the starter; he couldn’t remain consistent, prompting a switch to McNamara late in the season.

Outside of those two scenarios, Harbaugh has never really changed things up at quarterback. Guys have gotten reps here and there, but Harbaugh has never had two leading candidates heading into a season.

Team-wise, the best-case scenario would be for the incumbent to firmly take control with a dominant performance vs. Colorado State, leaving no question as to who should be the starting quarterback. Having McNamara return to his role would, in theory, maintain continuity.

McNamara is a captain, beloved by teammates, so seeing him struggle would likely decrease team morale. Nobody wants to see their leader fail a challenge, right? He must continue to do what he’s done since late 2020, when he took over for the struggling Milton.

The Wolverines know what they’re going to get from McNamara.

But the curiosity factor in regard to McCarthy can’t be ignored. McCarthy is the superior athlete and has 3 years (including this season) of remaining eligibility. Why not make the most of those years? Due to a previous redshirt and COVID year, McNamara has 2 years remaining.

McCarthy was always viewed, at least by onlookers, as the future; whereas McNamara was primarily viewed as a step-in following the Milton disaster. Nobody thought McNamara would evolve into a captain and Big Ten-title winning quarterback. That was supposed to be McCarthy.

“When you think about what these two guys can do, Michigan is at a bit of a luxury right now. The luxury being time,” Greg McElroy recently said, per Chris Balas of On3. “[Other] coaches we’ve talked about, they don’t have the luxury of time. They better have a dude ready to rock Week 1 because the team they’re playing against could very easily beat them. No disrespect to Colorado State, Hawaii or UConn, but those are the three teams that Michigan starts the season with. So, why is it that right now there is an emphasis on trying to figure out who your guy is gonna be?”

McElroy said the battle will figure itself out through game play.

“You very clearly have time on your side,” he said. “Take your time. If the competition carries over into the first three weeks of the regular season, that might not have an adverse effect on you whatsoever. It’s not a big deal. Allow them to continue on.”

Should McCarthy dazzle vs. Hawaii and take the reins, that’ll leave Michigan with arguably the best backup QB in the nation. Name another team with a conference-title winning QB riding the bench. At least Michigan would know that McNamara wouldn’t be a downgrade from McCarthy, who could end up really opening up the offense with a pool of at least 5 or 6 receivers who will certainly put up some numbers this fall.

Michigan is as deep as it’s ever been in the WR department.

So, let’s say that McCarthy does, indeed, get the starting nod after downing Hawaii. Then, that means that McNamara plays out this season as the No. 2 and either declares for the NFL Draft, transfers, or sticks around to be second fiddle (which seems unlikely). After winning the B1G championship, there is no doubt that McNamara feels like he’s starter-quality, regardless of program.

Assuming McNamara pursues other opportunities, what other dominoes might fall?

Do true freshman QBs Alex Orji and Jayden Denegal stick around to climb the depth chart, or follow McNamara out of town?

Rolling the dice with this season-opening plan could end up causing some ripples along future timelines; however, it appears to be a worthy gamble for Harbaugh, who is going against the grain with this experiment. Win big now and make fans happy, only to sacrifice depth and rebuild for the next 2 years at quarterback? Force a B1G-title winning QB to pursue greener pastures?

So many questions and not many answers.

But yeah, Jim is rolling the dice on this one, and the implications could be massive.