J.J. McCarthy wins Michigan starting QB job after strong showing vs. Hawaii: 'He's earned that'

·2 min read

It looks like Michigan has its starting quarterback.

After the Wolverines’ 56-10 win over Hawaii on Saturday, UM head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters that J.J. McCarthy will start next week against UConn. McCarthy started Saturday’s game after Cade McNamara, last year’s starter, got the nod in the Week 1 win over Colorado State.

McNamara and McCarthy battled for the starting role throughout the preseason but Harbaugh was unable to reach a decision in the lead-up to the season. Harbaugh decided to let it play out with both getting chances to start in Michigan’s first two games.

Against Colorado State, McNamara went just 9-of-18 for 136 yards and a touchdown. McCarthy played a few series in that game as well and was 4-of-4 for 30 yards. He also rushed for 50 yards and a TD.

In the Hawaii game, McCarthy had a “near flawless performance,” according to Harbaugh. In his first career start, McCarthy was 11-of-12 for 229 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 16-yard run. By comparison, McNamara went 4-of-6 for 26 yards with an interception.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy throws against Hawaii on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy throws against Hawaii on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

McNamara was Michigan’s starter in 2021 and helped lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance, but McCarthy also saw significant action.

McNamara threw for 2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions while the coaches worked in a package of plays for McCarthy. McCarthy was a top 50 recruit in 2021 who proved to be too talented to keep off the field. He threw for 516 yards, rushed for 124 yards and had seven total touchdowns.

McNamara, a fourth-year junior, was very steady last season but many believe McCarthy has a higher upside. He has shown that through two games — enough for Harbaugh to elevate him to the top of the depth chart.

While McNamara will have the chance at getting some late run against UConn next week if it's another Michigan blowout, that would likely also mean McCarthy played well enough to secure the job full-time.

The Wolverines opens Big Ten play at home against Maryland on Sept. 24.