Against the Alabama Football defense, Michigan is fortunate to have a very good quarterback. Based on reports coming out of Ann Arbor, J.J. McCarthy's November ankle problems are well behind him. In the Rose Bowl, he should be 100% against the Crimson Tide.
More than a few Michigan fans think the Wolverines can beat Alabama, but only if McCarthy plays one of the best games of his career. Some go so far to say McCarthy must have a best-ever game for the Wolverines to win.
Alabama football defenders respect the Michigan quarterback. They know of his accuracy on short and intermediate throws. They know he is elusive in the pocket and can burn teams with his speed.
Michigan does not have a problem with McCarthy's ceiling being too low. He has the skills to have an outstanding game. Michigan has a quarterback problem because the Alabama Football defense has a track record of making QBs play at less than their best.
The 2023 Alabama Crimson Tide has been a slow work in progress. In the second-half of the season the progress blossomed on both sides of the ball. Much attention has been given to how much the offensive line and Jalen Milroe improved. Less notice has gone to the progress of the Crimson Tide defense. A close look shows opposing quarterbacks, even when having good games, have been less effective against Alabama. In some cases the difference in their season performance versus their success against Alabama is staggering.
Beginning with the Tennessee game and going through the SEC Championship Game, SEC quarterbacks, including the Heisman winner had their Passing Efficiency Rating (PER) diminished by Alabama.
Tennessee QB, Joe Milton III has an average PER of 147. Against Alabama his PER was 139. Jayden Daniels exploded on the Crimson Tide, with rushing yards, but his average PER of 208 was only 158 against the Crimson Tide. Devin Leary had far less talent around him at Kentucky and his season average of 132 shows it. Against Alabama, his PER was 102. Auburn's Payton Thorne has a season average PER of 135. In the Iron Bowl, the Alabama defense caused that stat to plummet to 75. In a close game for the SEC Championship, Carson Beck's average PER of 166 dropped to 143.
J.J. McCarthy's PER of 170 is not far below Jalen Milroe's 177. Looking at each quarterback's last five games, a gap can be seen. For McCarthy, the PERs were 141 (Purdue), 151 (Penn State), 95 (Maryland), 159 (Ohio State), and 115 (Iowa). In Jalen Milroe's last five games (excluding his huge number against Chattanooga) his PERs have been 176.6 (Tennessee), 145 (LSU), 193 (Kentucky), 185 (Auburn), and 155 (Georgia).
Keep in mind, McCarthy threw only eight passes against Penn State. The ankle was likely a factor, but so was the PSU pass rush causing Michigan to abandon its passing game.
What this deep dive into QB stats indicates is that a best-ever game by J.J. McCarthy, against the Alabama football defense - let's just say the odds are not on the side of Michigan.
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