The season begins this week but already a much-talked about quarterback controversy is brewing for No. 8 Michigan.
It likely will linger by design as the Wolverines prepare to open the season against Colorado State on Saturday in Ann Arbor.
While winning its first Big Ten title since 2004 and advancing to the College Football Playoff last year, Cade McNamara started every game and played a majority of the snaps.
However, sophomore and 5-star recruit J.J. McCarthy often came in to run select plays and packages last season. In the process, he showcased the arm talent and athleticism that made him such a touted recruit.
The decision seemed to be made when McNamara, now a junior, was voted one of the five team captains. But Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh announced that McNamara would be the starter against Colorado State and McCarthy would start the second game against Hawaii.
A decision on a permanent starter is planned by third game of the season, but even that idea sounded tentative when framed by Harbaugh.
“No person knows what the future holds,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a process that will be based on performance. We’re not going to withhold any good thing. Both have been tremendous quarterbacks. We think that both are capable of leading our team to a championship. That’s good. We are going to keep cultivating that.”
Whichever quarterback is under center will preside over a loaded offense that returns most of its production from their playoff run a year ago.
Running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards could be one of the country’s best tandems, tight end Erick All and wideout Ronnie Bell lead a deep group of pass catchers, while three starters return along the offensive line.
Defensively, Michigan faces uncertainty to the start the season. It will have to replace two first-round NFL draft picks in Aidan Hutchinson and Daxton Hill, and a second-round pick in David Ojabo.
The first test for the Wolverines will be against Colorado State, which is coming off a 3-9 season last year.
That record led to the firing of previous head coach Steve Addazio and the hiring of new coach Jay Norvell, who came over from Nevada.
“I’m really excited,” Norvell said. “We hit a lot in camp, more than I have in years past. We had a lot of live scrimmage snaps. We tried to pour as many reps into this football team as we could. The players have responded really well.”
To help with his transition to Colorado State and a more pass-happy offense, Norvell brought over three transfers with him from Nevada, quarterback Clay Millen and wideouts Tory Horton and Melquan Stovall.
Defensively, the Rams will be a mix of new faces from the transfer portal and key returnees, most notably linebackers Cam’Ron Carter and Daquan Jackson, who combined for 184 tackles last season.
This will be the second all-time meeting between the Rams and Wolverines and first in the regular season.
Michigan won the only other meeting at the 1994 Holiday Bowl in San Diego by a score of 24-14.
–Field Level Media