This week’s threat level is a bored third grader at a bad science assembly
Everyone has seen the baking soda volcano trick.
Because of YouTube and social media and everything, by the time kids are approaching double digit numbers, it’s next to impossible to surprise them with basic rote science experiments; your Alka-Seltzer in a liter of soda, your dancing raisins, your balloon cars. But in the 80s and 90s, it was the bread and butter of edutainment entertainment aimed at much more easily entertained children. Add some roller coaster stuff, and you have Newton’s apple, a show that for 15 seasons captivated viewers with segments about Rube Goldberg machines, sea lions and what happens when you chew on tinfoil.
That’s kind of what it was like to watch Michigan beat the hell out of Colorado State 51-7 on Saturday; a captive audience who can enjoy a cool segment on a rocket car, but the rest of the time will be spent on an experience that lasts twice as long as necessary.
Said experiment, of course, is the quarterback audition that Harbaugh decided to let happen in the first three games of the season. Cade McNamara was the first, and he was… usable? Poor? I’m trying to think of a word that expresses the feeling of having peanut butter stuck to the palate. You’re bored, but it’s okay because it’s still peanut butter.
Either way, McNamara was 9/18 for 136 yards and a touchdown behind an offensive line that did a pretty good job against expectations; they were dealing with injuries but were still keeping quarterbacks upright and opening up holes for running backs Donovan Edwards (12 carries for 64 yards) and Blake Corum (13 carries, 76 yards). Wolverine’s wide outings were also solid, if not spectacular, though Harbaugh refused to challenge Colorado State so far downfield.
Then JJ McCarthy came along and immediately became Michigan’s most electric offensive player.
I wrote last year that if Michigan wants to take it to the next level as a team, McCarthy is the only guy on the roster who can get them there from quarterback. He’s dynamic, exciting and holds other teams to account for him in a way that opens up the offense more than McNamara ever could.
But hey, that’s good! Let’s ask Cade how it all goes:
“I would definitely say that’s pretty unusual,” McNamara said after the game. “It was kind of a thing I didn’t expect at the end of camp. I thought I had done my best camp. I thought I was putting myself in a good position, and that was just the decision that the coach made.”
See? Nothing to worry about! It’s okay, no one is angry, everything is fine.
This game taught us little about Michigan’s defense. Colorado State’s offensive line is tinkered with bits of string and half-chewed Juicy Fruit. Even by Mountain West standards, it’s terrible, and Rams quarterback Clay Millen ran for his life for most of the game. Colorado State’s fun-and-gun offense would, in theory, help mitigate some of that, but that’s assuming their quarterback would have more than a tenth of a second to clear a pass. What he didn’t do.
For that reason, it’s probably also not a shock that Michigan turned in a bunch of guys on defense. More than 25 different players have had at least one tackle in the game, and it’s to Wolverine’s credit that they’ve always kept the Rams locked out throughout, allowing just 219 total yards.
But again: Colorado State is a very bad team. Michigan was favored by 30 in this one for a reason.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
This JJ McCarthy has already won the quarterback battle and there will be a lot of hurt feelings until Harbaugh gets the stones to publicly admit it. Overall, Michigan played well on Saturday, but here’s a worrying stat: the Wolverines were just 3-10 on 3rd Down. McCarthy gives them an extra dimension on offense to improve that stat that McNamara just doesn’t have.
Maybe Harbaugh just wants to give the team captain the opportunity to be the clear second choice, and maybe he realizes that literally anyone on the roster could play well enough to beat. his next opponents, but it’s still not a completely risk-free choice.
As a professional hater, my personal hope is that McCarthy somehow looks like the butt against Hawai’i (a Michigan team is preferred to beat by 40) and no one knows what to think before the UConn game after that. But until that happens, Michigan still looks a lot like it did last season, and the threat level will remain. HIGH.