Why Michigan is starting different quarterbacks in its first two games of the 2022 season

Michigan’s quarterback battle was one of the most intriguing of the offseason, but it is yet to be decided with a Week 1 game against Colorado State on the horizon. Instead, the No. 8 Wolverines will give Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy a chance to start one game each before a decision is made, marking a continuation of the competition through the 2022 season.

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

we have made a decisionHarbaugh said in a statement. “Both quarterbacks have played very well, done everything they can to win the starting job. Coming out of camp, I feel like we have two quarterbacks, Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy, that we feel very confident that we can win a championship with either one 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 backup and trade option.

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

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

The schedule allows indecision

The old adage says that if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none. However, that is not necessarily the case here.

Would Harbaugh make 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 is using the first two games of the season as tryouts, and then has the luxury of playing UConn in Week 3. The eventual winner of the quarterback battle can get four full quarters under his belt before the The Wolverines host Maryland in their opening Big Ten on September 24.

It’s not ideal that the competition has bled into the season (every coach wants an unquestionable No. 1 sign heading into Week 1), but it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. Harbaugh had the luxury of not being pressured into making a premature decision, and he did.

Is there something good, though?

It’s one thing to decide between two top-tier stallions who have proven to make a difference in college. However, that is not the case here. McNamara was more of a game manager during last season’s Big Ten championship run and landed 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 to the tank than he didn’t show last season? That’s the mystery, and that’s why there’s some question as to whether this is a championship-caliber team heading into 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 fail to live up to the hype? Perhaps he hasn’t been able to pass McNamara despite the fanfare. Those seem like the only two options, and that’s why questions remain about the future of Harbaugh’s Wolverines.

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