Coaches mused on whether the decline in J.J. McCarthy’s production since the NCAA investigation became public was due to the sign stealing (or lack thereof), injury or Michigan’s backloaded

schedule — or a combination of all of the above, the latter being most significant.

McCarthy threw 14 touchdowns in the first seven games and averaged 10.6 yards per attempt; in the last six, he threw five touchdowns and averaged 7.7 yards per attempt. In the Wolverines’ final five games, McCarthy only threw one touchdown pass.

“It does make you wonder,” said one defensive analyst whose team faced Michigan in the last month of the season. “Going into our game, I thought he was among the best in the country. Afterward, I didn’t think the same. Once all that stuff happened, he just doesn’t look the same. I don’t know if he’s hurt. I thought he was a Heisman candidate. Heisman quarterbacks don’t throw only eight passes in a game. I think before, he was ready for it and he was confident.”

“I don’t know what’s causing him to be hesitant and not as decisive as he was earlier,” said a Big Ten head coach who played Michigan. “He seems out of sync lately.”

One of the head coaches was adamant that the Wolverines had a significant advantage with signal-stealing intel, but he also pointed out that Michigan’s schedule was backloaded. The Wolverines faced the nation’s top three defenses (by yards allowed per game) in their last four games — and their other opponent was Maryland, which ranked No. 20 in the country in yards per play allowed. Coaches also buy that McCarthy has been bothered by a leg injury.

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