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What a record-breaking J.J. McCarthy season may look like

Will the junior signal-caller rewrite the U-M record books this season?

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

The current single-season passing records for the Michigan Wolverines are, frankly, a little embarrassing. As it stands, the passing completion mark is held by John Navarre (2003) at 270. The passing yards record is also held by Navarre from 2003 with 3,331 yards, and the passing touchdowns mark of 25 is shared by Elvis Grbac (1991) and Chad Henne (2004).

Just last season, 20 players across the country could have broken Michigan’s passing yards record, 23 could have broken the completions record, and 24 could have eclipsed the touchdown mark.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was not bad by any stretch of the imagination in 2022, but he was a first-year starter (who didn’t even start Week 1) in a run-first offense. McCarthy still finished last season with 208 completions for 2,719 yards and 22 touchdowns, setting up the hype train for him to break at least two of these records in his junior season.

With McCarthy slated to return and everyone on the coaching staff stressing the need for more balance in the offense, these marks should be on their last legs in the record book. But what would a record-breaking season from McCarthy look like?

Let’s examine it from a per-game basis to see what McCarthy would have to average to break 270 completions for 3,331 yards, and 25 touchdowns (all numbers rounded up).

12-game season: 23 completions, 278 yards, three touchdowns

13-game season: 21 completions, 257 yards, two touchdowns

14-game season: 20 completions, 238 yards, two touchdowns

15-game season: 19 completions, 223 yards, two touchdowns

Tangent: If Michigan only plays 12 games due to a 5-7 season, I think I’m done. Play Fleetwood Mac’s Never Going Back Again and quote Tommy Lee Jones lines at my funeral. Moving on.

These averages line up with where the Wolverines want to be this season. A few weeks ago, I detailed where the offense would need to be if it wants to incorporate national championship-caliber balance, and those numbers would place McCarthy around 30 pass attempts per game.

If McCarthy’s pass attempts rise to 30 this season — a seven-pass increase from 2022 — it’s safe to assume he will complete roughly 20 per game, meaning he would need 14 games to break the record.

Twenty completions (67 percent completion) would represent a slight uptick from his 65 percent last season, but optimism is high to raise McCarthy’s floor (two games under 50 percent in 2022) and close the gap to his ceiling (six games over 70 percent in 2022).

Furthermore, if McCarthy is more accurate at a higher volume, the passing yards will take care of themselves. And if Michigan plays a 15-game season as it anticipates, McCarthy’s load will be lightened in every category except for touchdowns.

To hit 26 even, McCarthy would have to throw two touchdowns in every game except four, where he would still have to toss one. With how Michigan’s offense is built, will he get the opportunity down close to the goal line?

The answer should be yes because Michigan was only ranked No. 42 in the country last season in terms of red zone touchdown efficiency. Incorporating more balance, even when deep in opposing territory, will make this Michigan offense more two-dimensional and efficient.

With a nuanced approach and a plethora of weapons, this is Michigan’s best chance to set the new passing standard in the record books. At least until McCarthy shocks us all and returns for his senior season.