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With 'The Game' Looming, Michigan's Passing Attack Remains A Concern

As the Wolverines prepare for 'The Game', the sample size is big enough at this point to determine that Michigan's passing attack remains a liability

Eleven weeks into the 2022 season, the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines are (11-0) and will head to Columbus this week for an another epic battle with No. 2 Ohio State (11-0). 

Although perfect on the season, it would be disingenuous to suggest that Michigan is playing its best football at this point in the year. In fact, there are several areas in which the Wolverines must improve if they hope to escape Columbus with a win - but none are more concerning than the ongoing issues with passing game. 

In instances where Michigan does attempt to move the ball down the field through the air, the connection between quarterback and wide receiver doesn't seem to be there - at least not on a consistent basis. Whether it's a bad ball by quarterback JJ McCarthy, or a drop by one of his many talented wideouts, the passing game continues to be a liability in an otherwise solid offense. 

Through the first eight weeks of the season, McCarthy was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country, completing 75 percent of his passes. Over the last three weeks, that number has dropped to just 50 percent...and that's come at a time when the Michigan offense should be peaking, not regressing.

JJ McCarthy: First Eight Weeks

  • CMP: 126
  • ATT:  169
  • CMP PCT: 74.5 
  • YDS: 1,464
  • YDS/Game: 183.0
  • TDS: 10

JJ McCarthy: Last Three Weeks 

  • CMP: 39
  • ATT: 78
  • CMP PCT: 50.0
  • YDS: 488
  • YDS/Game: 162.6
  • TDS: 4

As the Wolverines found themselves in the full four-quarter battle with Illinois last weekend, and without Heisman trophy candidate Blake Corum (who was sidelined with an injury in the second half), the Michigan passing attack was once again inconsistent at best. 

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With the game tied at 10-10 and with a perfect opportunity to take the lead late in the third quarter, McCarthy put the ball on the money and wideout Andrel Anthony simply dropped the ball. Instead of taking what would have been a 17-10 lead over Illinois, Michigan turned the ball over on downs and it would be Illinois taking a 17-10 lead over Michigan on the very next drive. 

With under four minutes left in the fourth quarter and trailing by a score of 17-13, McCarthy had running back Isaiah Gash open in the flat - and Gash dropped the ball. 

On the very next play, McCarthy had tight end Colston Loveland wide open on a crossing route. The ball sailed out of reach for Loveland and the Wolverines would ultimately settle for a Jake Moody field goal, bringing the score to 17-16 late in the fourth.

The good news for Michigan fans is that there are also plenty of examples of the passing game showing tremendous promise, including several instances from last Saturday's contest where the passing attack actually helped keep Michigan's playoff hopes alive. 

Here's a great example of McCarthy stepping up in the pocket, escaping the pressure and delivering a catchable ball to one of his most reliable targets - Roman Wilson.

On a critical play in the fourth quarter and facing third and eight, McCarthy fumbled the snap, scooped it back up and proceeded make an incredible play through the air for the first down. Not an ideal set of circumstances, but it speaks to McCarthy's mobility and ability to make things happen on the fly. 

On that same drive, and with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, McCarthy once again hit Roman Wilson on an out-route to keep the drive alive. Solid ball, solid catch.

At the end of the day, the Michigan passing attack was actually a big reason why the Wolverines were able to pull out the win last weekend in Ann Arbor -making several critical plays down the stretch that put Moody in a position to win it with his leg. That being said, the passing attack - or lack thereof - was also one of the reasons why Michigan was in that position to begin with. Missed opportunities start to add up over the course of a 60-minute game, and Michigan had plenty of them through the air. 

Fortunately for the Wolverines, the inconsistency in the passing attack hasn't prevented Michigan from achieving a perfect 11-0 record heading into the final game of the regular season. The only question now is whether or not those inconsistencies can be fixed within a week, or whether or not the Wolverines can emerge victorious in Columbus in spite of them.

We'll all find out in just five short days.