ANN ARBOR, Mich. — J.J. McCarthy jogged from the sideline, where he was watching No. 2 Michigan wrap up its latest rout, and was the first teammate to welcome Jack Tuttle back onto the field after a late hit left the backup quarterback crumpled up under a table and up against a brick wall.
On the field, where McCarthy has been almost perfect, and off it, where the selfless star shines as well, the Wolverines are being led by a dynamic quarterback and humble leader.
Jim Harbaugh, serving a three-game suspension that ends after Saturday's home game against Bowling Green (1-1), has been relegated to watching McCarthy play the first two games of the season on TV.
What he has seen in McCarthy's for three years is a player and person who reminds him of coaching Andrew Luck.
“He’s very much like Andrew Luck, a quarterback that’s once in a generation,” said Harbaugh, who coached the future NFL star at Stanford in 2009 and 2010. "I knew it first with Andrew Luck, the way he took the field for his first practice as a true freshman.
“J.J., the first day he walked onto the practice field here at Michigan, that is what came to mind," he said. "This is very Andrew Luck-like. The presence and the demeanor.”
In Michigan's two games so far, McCarthy is 48 of 55 for 558 yards with five touchdowns — all to Roman Wilson — and has not thrown an interception in the two wins. In the opener against East Carolina, he completed 15 straight passes. Last week against UNLV, he connected on his first 13 passes.
He has completed 87.3% of his passes, leading the nation, and ranks fourth in passing efficiency.
While the Wolverines have not faced stiff competition, they have challenged McCarthy to make some low-percentage passes he has delivered.
“The kind of throws he’s making, too, they’re NFL-caliber throws into tight windows,” Harbaugh said. “The accuracy is off the charts. He’s putting balls 6 inches in front of the number, even the throws that are covering 30, 40 yards, they’re right on the number.”
Michigan and Bowling Green are linked in many ways.
Falcons coach Scot Loeffler, who led the school last year to its first bowl game since 2015, was a backup quarterback for the Wolverines in the mid-1990s and coached quarterbacks at his alma mater for Lloyd Carr.
Bowling Green's co-defensive coordinator, Steve Morrison, played for the Wolverines as did Erik Campbell, who also coached at Michigan.
Jim Harbaugh's parents, Jack and Jackie, met at Bowling Green as students when his father was a football player and his mother was a cheerleader.
“The connections between Bowling Green and Michigan are unique and special,” Loeffler said.
That doesn't mean Loeffler expects a warm welcome from a team favored to win by nearly six touchdowns.
“It’s one of the most talented teams I’ve ever seen at Michigan,” Loeffler said. “You don’t see a weak link anywhere and they probably have multiple-first round picks up front. It reminds me of the (late 1990s) era with Steve Hutchinson and Jeff Backus were on the offensive line."
The Wolverines have not given up a sack and have been tackled for a loss a total of three times in two games.
Michigan has 17 straight home victories, its longest run since winning 21 in a row from 1998-2001. The two-time defending Big Ten champions have won 27 of their last 30 games.
$50K SIDELINE PASSES
The package starts on Friday with a tour of Schembechler Hall and dinner with the team. The fans will run out of the tunnel and onto the field with the Wolverines and have a chance to slap a banner, just like the players do, and watch the game with two sideline passes.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.