Why Michigan is starting different quarterbacks in its first two games of 2022 season – CBS Sports

Why Michigan is starting different quarterbacks in its first two games of 2022 season - CBS Sports

The Michigan quarterback battle has been one of the most intriguing of the offseason, but it has yet to be decided with a Week 1 game vs. Colorado State on the horizon. Instead, the #8 Wolverines will give Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy a chance to start a game each before making a decision, marking a continuation of the competition into the 2022 season.

Coach Jim Harbaugh announced Saturday that McNamara, the incumbent starter, will start the season opener against the Rams while McCarthy, last year’s backup, will take the first-team snaps in Week 2 vs. Hawaii. A full-time starter and backup will then be made in Week 3 based on each quarterback’s initial performance.

We made a decision,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “Both quarterbacks played great — did everything they could have … to earn the starting job. Coming out of camp, I just feel that we have two quarterbacks, Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy, that we feel very confident that we can win a championship with either of those two behind center.”

McNamara threw for 2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions last year, while McCarthy threw for 516 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions while serving as a backup and switch option.

“It’s a great thing for our team but there’s only one ball and only one quarterback can be out there at a time,” Harbaugh said.

Let’s break down what this means for Michigan moving forward…

The schedule allows for indecision

The old saying goes that if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none. That is not necessarily the case here, however.

Would Harbaugh have made the decision to go with a different starter in the first two weeks if Michigan played a tough non-conference schedule? Probably not, but he doesn’t have to worry about that with the Rams and Rainbow Warriors coming to Ann Arbor to start the year.

Harbaugh uses the first two games of the season as auditions, and then he gets the luxury of playing UConn in Week 3. The eventual winner of the quarterback battle can then get four full quarters under his belt before the Wolverines host Maryland in their Big One. Ten opening on September 24th.

It’s not ideal that the competition has flown into the season — every coach wants an undisputed No. 1 signal caller entering Week 1 — but it’s not necessarily cause for concern. Harbaugh was given the luxury of not being pressured into making a premature decision, and he took it.

Is there an upside though?

It’s one thing to decide between two top-tier studs who have proven to be difference makers in college. However, that is not the case here. McNamara was more than a game manager last season to the Big Ten championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff, and it showed in the Orange Bowl when the Wolverines couldn’t muster anything offensively against eventual national champion Georgia.

Is that all McNamara can provide, or is there more in the tank that he didn’t show last season? That’s the mystery, and it’s why there’s some doubt whether this is a championship-caliber team entering the season.

Did McCarthy create a culture of competition that raised the bar for both players, or did the former five-star prospect in the Class of 2021 fall short of the mark? Maybe he couldn’t get past McNamara despite a lot of fanfare. Those seem to be the only two options, and that’s why there is lingering doubt about the future of Harbaugh’s Wolverines.

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