Michigan will start McNamara, McCarthy at QB in Weeks 1, 2

And the winner of Michigan’s quarterback battle is … well, no one yet.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh announced Saturday that senior Cade McNamara will start Week 1 against Colorado State and sophomore J.J. McCarthy will start Week 2 against Hawaii, and a starter and a backup will be named ahead of the Week 3 matchup against UConn.

“Both quarterbacks have played great — done everything they have, in every way, to win the starting job,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “Coming out of camp, I just feel like we have two quarterbacks, Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy, that we feel very confident that we can win a championship with either of those two behind center.

“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.”

McNamara started every game for Michigan last season, helping the Wolverines win their first outright Big Ten title since 2003 and reach the College Football Playoff. He threw for 2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. 

McCarthy was one of the top-ranked quarterbacks and a five-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class. In his freshman season, he backed up McNamara and was used sparingly in different offensive sets. He threw for 516 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding 124 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. 

Speaking with the Michigan athletic department’s podcast, Harbaugh said he’s evaluating who’ll win the battle between McNamara and McCarthy by “who can make all the throws.”

“Both of them have all the arm talent to make all the throws,” Harbaugh said. “Then, it comes down to accuracy, timing, decision-making, taking what the defense gives you as a passer.”

Harbaugh gave McNamara the edge in the accuracy and decision-making aspects. He also said that McNamara “maybe has a slight advantage” in working as a field general. 

Harbaugh gave McCarthy the edge in the play-making category, but said that both quarterbacks are “neck and neck” in terms of overall performance in practice. 

That’s why Harbaugh wants to see how each QB does in a game setting and outlined which factors he’s looking at to determine the winner. 

“Points per drive is the thing you look closest at,” Harbaugh said. “But the situations — red zone efficiency, two-minute efficiency, third-down efficiency — that really needs to be played out in the ball games for who is the quarterback that’s going to give us the best opportunity by the time we get to that third game, fourth game.

“The only motive here, the only intent, is what’s best for the 2022 Michigan football team.”

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