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J.J. McCarthy leads nation in multiple categories ahead of Penn State game

McCarthy’s numbers are great heading into a big game against the Nittany Lions.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan has a big challenge on Saturday, their biggest of the season. The No. 5 (6-0) Wolverines will be facing off against No. 10 Penn State (5-0) at Michigan Stadium.

The Wolverines have a quarterback in J.J. McCarthy who has been among the most productive and efficient in the nation. McCarthy has started every game since Week 2 and has put up numerous statistics that are top tier.

Michigan has the 20th ranked rushing offense in the nation, and a good rushing attack can make the play action passing game lethal. McCarthy has been lights out in play action situations — McCarthy’s averaging 15.4 yards per attempt on play action with four touchdown passes on 25 drop backs, which is best in the nation.

Defenders are having a hard time distinguishing whether McCarthy is handing it off to Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, if he’s rushing it himself, or if it’s a play action shot. This statistic likely isn’t just a trend and McCarthy should continue to do well utilizing play action.

McCarthy has been the most accurate passer in the country this season. McCarthy’s completion percentage of 78.3 is best in the nation among qualified passers.

McCarthy’s been accurate with a clean pocket, and he’s been dangerous when facing a blitz as well. Per Michigan Football, Six of McCarthy’s nine passing touchdowns have come against a blitz. Penn State’s defense ranks 30th in sacks and 102nd in passing yards allowed.

When it comes to what McCarthy’s NFL passer rating, it's 128.2, which would be the highest in the pros by 15 —Geno Smith is at 113.2, Tua Tagovailoa’s at 109.9, Patrick Mahomes is at 108.4, and Josh Allen’s at 107.4. While this isn’t a meaningful statistic, it’s definitely a fun one.

McCarthy has momentum heading into the matchup against Penn State, throwing for 304 yards with three touchdowns and one interception versus Indiana. Momentum and all, head coach Jim Harbaugh knows that Penn State will be a stiff test.

“It’s a great challenge for our guys, our receivers are excited about that challenge,” Harbaugh said on the Inside Michigan Football radio show. “That’s kinda the vibe I’m getting. We’re going to have to get prepared and be really on point — but early in the week here, that’s kinda the rallying cry. There’s confidence there that they want to test themselves, I’ll put it that way. But they’ve got some really, really top-notch guys on all sides of the ball.”

McCarthy’s thrown for 1,152 yards with nine touchdowns and just one interception this year while rushing for 90 yards and one score. We’ll see if he continues to put up nation leading stats against the Nittany Lions.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Michigan is currently a seven-point favorite over Penn State with the Over/Under at 52.5.

All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.