ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At this point, it’s a guess as to who will start at quarterback for Michigan on Saturday against No. 9 Ohio State.
The No. 24 Wolverines (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten) host the Buckeyes at noon ET, and recent starter Brandon Peters is in concussion protocol, two days after he was sacked hard at Wisconsin. He was taken off the field in a cart and transported to a hospital in Madison.
Wilton Speight started the first three games of the season, but has missed the last seven with cracked vertebrae sustained Sept. 23 in a win at Purdue. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Speight has not been cleared for contact.
John O’Korn has made four starts this season, but only one was a productive outing.
Harbaugh has yet to announce who will start against the Buckeyes. He may not announce a starter and we’ll find out when Michigan’s offense takes the field for the first time against Ohio State. Until then, Michigan will review its options.
“We have full confidence in each of the quarterbacks,” running back Karan Higdon said. “We know that when they step in, they’re going to give it their all in practice, with each and every one of them, throughout the week. That way whoever is in the game is able to produce at a high level.”
O’Korn, a redshirt senior, replaced Peters in the third quarter of the 24-10 loss at Wisconsin on Saturday. He completed 2 of 8 passes for 19 yards against the Badgers and has proven to be nothing more than a stopgap for the Wolverines. O’Korn is 66 of 124 passing for 761 yards and a touchdown, and has been intercepted 5 times.
O’Korn’s only productive outing came Sept. 23 after taking over for an injured Speight at Purdue. O’Korn threw for 270 yards and a touchdown on 18-for-26 passing and was intercepted once. However, his next four starts were subpar, and Peters replaced him in the second quarter of a 35-14 win against Rutgers.
O’Korn joined the Wolverines as a transfer prior to the 2015 season. He has the most substantial experience of Michigan’s five quarterbacks. In two seasons at Houston, he threw for 4,068 yards and 34 touchdowns on 349 of 619 passing, and was intercepted 18 times.
Since O’Korn appears to be the healthiest of Michigan’s quarterbacks, that makes him the odds-on favorite to start.
Chance to start vs. Ohio State: 60 percent
Peters was playing his most productive game when he was sacked by Wisconsin linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and had to leave the field on a cart. He was taken to the locker room in a wheelchair.
Peters hasn’t been overwhelming — he is 37-for-64 passing for 486 yards and 4 touchdowns in five games — but the offense has been its most fluid with him at the helm. The redshirt freshman had his most productive outing at Wisconsin, throwing for 157 yards on 9 of 18 passing.
His availability hinges upon whether he makes it through the NCAA’s mandated concussion protocol. Given that head injuries are nothing to mess with, we’re guessing he doesn’t start.
Chance to start: 25 percent
Speight, a redshirt junior, hasn’t played since Sept. 23, when he sustained cracked vertebrae after he was sacked by Purdue’s Markus Bailey. Speight is 44 of 81 passing for 581 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions.
Speight has been cleared for practice, but Harbaugh said Monday that the quarterback has not been cleared for contact or to play.
Speight’s health and his future should be paramount. It’s a good bet that he doesn’t start. A real good bet.
Chance to start: 10 percent
Malzone, a redshirt sophomore, has had minimal playing time this season. He appeared most recently at the end of Michigan’s 33-10 win Nov. 4 against Minnesota. He has not attempted a pass this season.
Malzone also played last season in a 63-3 win against Hawaii.
He has yet to start a game, and he’s not going to start against the Buckeyes. But if Peters and Speight are out, and O’Korn gets injured, Malzone will get the call.
Chance to start: 5 percent
McCaffrey is a freshman who is redshirting this season. As a senior at Valor Christian in Highlands Ranch, Colo., McCaffrey completed 204 of 306 passes for 2,796 yards, 31 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He led Valor Christian to the Colorado Class 5A championship.
Michigan won’t take the redshirt off McCaffrey for one game. That would be foolish. McCaffrey will have four years of playing eligibility starting next season.
Chance to start: 0 percent