On3 Roundtable: Michigan could unleash JJ McCarthy early in 2023 to prepare for big stage

On3 imageby:Griffin McVeigh05/12/23

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Two consecutive College Football Playoff appearances have been considered a success for Michigan. Now, it’s time to take things to a new level and get past the semifinal. Those in Ann Arbor are looking to make and possibly even win the national championship. But in order to do so, quarterback JJ McCarthy will have to perform better.

McCarthy has not been called into action too much throughout his career. Never has he needed to be a reason Michigan wins a game. Chris Balas of The Wolverines thinks that might change. When joining the On3 Roundtable, Balas said Michigan should “unleash” McCarthy in the early portion of the season.

“You are gonna have to, to beat a Georgia, I think, to have a better passing game,” Balas said. “So it wouldn’t surprise me at all in the early season if we start to see JJ unleash it a little bit more and maybe prepare for those games later in the season.”

The early schedule for Michigan could be described as generous, not facing a Power Five opponent until Week 4. A Big Ten opener against Rutgers means Jim Harbuagh‘s squad will not play outside the Big House until Sept. 30 vs. Nebraska.

However, if Michigan does attempt to unlock McCarthy, they would be going against their game plan of the last two seasons. Running the ball has been highly successful for the Wolverines, letting Hassan Haskins and then Blake Corum have elite seasons.

Fans are not going to be able to have it both ways. So in order for Michigan to prepare to play somebody big in the College Football Playoff, the play style is going to look different.

“When you go 13-0 at one point, when you running the ball for 300, 400 yards,” Balas began. “Sherrone Moore, the offensive coordinator told us ‘people are going to complain if we don’t throw the ball 30, 35 times a game. But if we’re running it down people’s throats — that is the antidote to beat Ohio State. We’ve seen that the last two years.”

JJ McCarthy looking to learn from Fiesta Bowl mistakes

There is a reason Michigan feels like they need to prepare McCarthy better early on. He threw two crucial interceptions in the Fiesta Bowl against TCU in this season’s CFP semifinals, directly turning into touchdowns. McCarthy wound up helping spark a comeback but it was too little, too late.

Balas believes McCarthy has learned from the experience. Between his postgame presser to the end of spring, the growth from the quarterback has been evident.

“You can’t throw two pick-sixes in a game, in any game, unless you’re playing one of those guarantee games, and expect to win those ball games against a TCU or anybody else,” Balas said. “He made huge strides in the Ohio State game. He can’t throw the deep ball? Well, yes he can. And he was a huge reason they came back against TCU. But you can’t have those pick sixes and he knows it.

“He gave us a one-sentence answer when we got him in his postgame press conference. He was really depressed. That one was one of the reasons he’s really dedicated himself this year to being that guy that isn’t going to make those mistakes on the big stage. I think he understands what his next step is and that’s to avoid those mistakes.”