Differing paths of QBs Stroud, McCarthy led them to The Game

Nov 24, 2022, 7:45 PM | Updated: Nov 25, 2022, 9:47 am
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws against Illinois in the first half of an NCAA college...

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws against Illinois in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — J.J. McCarthy was a freshman bit player in Michigan’s 42-27 victory over Ohio State last season at the Big House.

A year later, the 19-year-old from the Chicago suburbs is the starting quarterback for unbeaten Michigan, preparing to play in front of the largest and most hostile road crowd he’s ever seen with the season on the line.

“It feels just like the stars are aligning,” McCarthy said. “And now it’s finally here. It’s meant to be.”

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is as weathered as a two-year starter can be. A Heisman Trophy favorite and one of the most prolific passers in the country, Stroud remembers the agony of losing to the Wolverines a year ago despite throwing for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ve been licking our wounds for 365 days,” the 21-year-old Californian said.

Before last year, Ohio State had won eight straight in the series. Stroud, who is eligible for the NFL draft in the spring, wants to make sure back-to-back losses to Michigan aren’t part of his legacy in Columbus.

Stroud has 35 TD passes this season, tying him with Houston’s Clayton Tune for most in the nation. Moreover, he has emerged as a more mature and demonstrative leader. Stroud hasn’t been as sharp in some games — notably when high winds all but grounded the Buckeyes’ passing attack at Northwestern — but has done everything necessary to lead the Buckeyes to 11-0 and on the verge of the College Football Playoff.

“I think his leadership and his consistency has to be on display for 60 minutes for Ohio State to beat Michigan,” said Kirk Herbstreit, the ESPN college football analyst and former Buckeyes quarterback. “There’s going to be an ebb and flow to his game. How he maintains his poise, how he maintains his leadership and pushing his team to try to find a way to win, that’s going to be the culmination of all that growth.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Stroud’s maturation has influenced the entire program.

“I think you can see his attitude on the sideline,” Day said. “He is not concerned about statistics. I think he understands that they’re going to happen and they’re going to come, but he’s focused on one thing and that’s winning and being a leader for his teammates. And when you truly play like that and just have an open heart, I think it carries over to your team.”

In Ann Arbor, McCarthy beat out incumbent Cade McNamara early in the season. McCarthy is nowhere near the talented passer Stroud is, but his mobility allows him to — as coach Jim Harbaugh describes it — “turn water into wine.”

“He’s got that ability,” Harbaugh said. “I’m so glad that he’s on our team. He’s got that grit and determination, too, all in one package.”

McCarthy this season also had the luxury of playing alongside running back Blake Corum, who has rushed for 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns while emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Corum suffered a knee injury in last week’s win over Illinois but said early this week that he expects to play Saturday.

If he can’t, more of the load could settle on the shoulders of McCarthy, one of what Harbaugh likes to call his “happy warriors.”

“J.J. is very loose,” said center Olu Oluwatimi, a transfer who started for three years at Virginia. “I love that from a quarterback. Just being able to like, no matter what the outcome of the previous play is, focus on the next play. And do it while smiling, having fun. I love being in the huddle with J.J.”


AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, goes up for a basket as New Orleans Pelicans forward Her...
Associated Press

Murray, Jokic help Nuggets hold off Pelicans 122-113

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray scored 32 points, Nikola Jokic got his 16th triple-double of the season and the Denver Nuggets held off the reeling New Orleans Pelicans 122-113 on Tuesday night. Jokic finished with 26 points, 18 rebounds and 15 assists as the Western Conference leaders improved to 16-0 when Jokic has a triple-double. […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) drives past Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker (...
Associated Press

Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her. If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel […]
22 hours ago
Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton drives past Charlotte Hornets' Terry Rozier during the second half...
Associated Press

Bucks beat Hornets 124-115 for 5th consecutive victory

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Khris Middleton is making the most of his limited minutes as he works his way back from injuries that kept him from playing for much of the season. Middleton scored 18 points and sparked a third-quarter run that put the Milwaukee Bucks ahead for good as they beat the Charlotte Hornets 124-115 […]
22 hours ago
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, right, slaps the ball away from Chicago Bulls forward DeMar...
Associated Press

Leonard, Powell lead Clippers past Bulls, 108-103

CHICAGO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points and Norman Powell added 27 to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Chicago Bulls 108-103 on Tuesday night. Paul George added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who’ve won six of seven. Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bulls, […]
22 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) defends a shot by New York Knicks' RJ Barrett (9) during the ...
Associated Press

James has triple-double, leads Lakers past Knicks in OT

NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James will soon be the NBA’s top scorer, though that was never his focus. He’s also one of the game’s leading passers, and combining the two — possibly better than anyone ever — is what really makes him proud. “I didn’t get to this point in my career by thinking […]
22 hours ago
Kansas forward K.J. Adams Jr. (24) dunks the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketba...
Associated Press

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 K-State, 90-78

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jalen Wilson remembers every slight. Every criticism. Every chip that’s landed on his shoulder. You can bet the Kansas forward remembers watching Kansas State fans storm the court after beating the Jayhawks. So with revenge on their mind, Wilson and his pals jumped on the seventh-ranked Wildcats in the rematch Tuesday […]
22 hours ago
Differing paths of QBs Stroud, McCarthy led them to The Game