Michigan Football: 5 biggest storylines heading into Wisconsin

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Syndication: Detroit Free Press /
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Michigan football is off to a perfect 4-0 start to its 2021 season — yet the Wolverines still face some major questions as they travel to Madison, WI to take on the Badgers.

Heading into Week 4, Michigan Football was feeling great on both sides of the ball.

Having the top rushing offense in the country, and one of the top-scoring defenses, the Wolverines definitely had an old-school, smash-mouth identity.

Following a slim 20-13 victory in Ann Arbor on Saturday against Rutgers, the effectiveness of that identity is now in question.

Rutgers exposed Michigan in a variety of ways — in a fashion that doesn’t bode well for the upcoming matchup against Wisconsin.

Because so many questions arose, many are naturally searching for answers, and they will get them starting Saturday at 12 p.m. EST.

Is Cade McNamara capable of leading this team through Big Ten play?

One of the more popular questions heard at the postgame tailgates this past weekend was about the quarterback situation.

Of course, a massive talent lurks behind McNamara in 5-star Freshman J.J. McCarthy.

Because of McCarthy’s upside, this game could legitimately define Cade McNamara’s career — at least at Michigan.

That seems harsh considering he has only started five games in his career, and he has only played two games from start to finish, but it could be the reality.

McNamara has been asked to put the team on his back and go win a game for exactly two quarters this season, those being the second half against Rutgers, and he seemed incapable of doing so.

Now, there are a few caveats in fairness to McNamara which are valid, but those are also the reason nobody is, or really should be, calling for a quarterback change this week.

One of those caveats is that the entire offense struggled in that second half against Rutgers.

The offensive line wasn’t nearly as effective, the running backs lacked the vision and explosiveness that we have come to expect, and the playcalling was suspect at times, to say the least.

On the flip side of that coin, the truly elite teams have quarterbacks who can overcome those issues to put a game out of reach against an inferior opponent, and Cade was unable to do that.

Through the first three weeks of the season, McNamara’s flaws were masked by the top rushing attack in the country and an offensive line that consistently dominated its opponents for 60 consecutive minutes.

When faced with less than perfect circumstances, he looked skittish and timid in the pocket, and, more importantly, he didn’t look like a Big Ten championship-winning quarterback.

Having said all of that, I personally believe he should start this weekend and be given the first half to prove that his struggles were just a fluke.

However, if the offense limps into halftime like it did to finish the Rutgers game, it is time to roll the dice with McCarthy.

Unless McNamara unequivocally silences his critics and the Wolverines win fairly easily the next two weeks, I, like GBMWolverine.com‘s own Chris Peterson, believe that McCarthy should be given the chance to start against Northwestern coming out of the bye week.