Will J.J. McCarthy Receive Heisman Votes? Michigan’s Sign-Stealing Scandal Mars Potentially Special Season

    Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy won't be getting Heisman Trophy consideration from one voter because of the program's sign-stealing scandal. Read why here.

    Lost in the Michigan Wolverines sign-stealing scandal has been the effectiveness of this year’s Wolverines squad. The 9-0 Wolverines face off against the 8-1 Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday, marking the biggest game of college football’s Week 11 slate. But it’s been difficult to focus on Jim Harbaugh’s on-field accomplishments in 2023 when there’s been rampant speculation around the program’s off-field antics.

    We may not know how the sign-stealing scandal will affect the program until 2024. But we could see it hurt Wolverines star QB J.J. McCarthy’s Heisman campaign.

    J.J. McCarthy’s Heisman Odds Tumble

    Although McCarthy had nothing to do with Michigan assistant Connor Stalions’ in-person scouting trips and Amazon vacuum sales business, Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star made a bold proclamation this week, saying that McCarthy’s Heisman candidacy should be over due to the scandal.

    Doyel explained in his column, “The first rule of Heisman Trophy voting is you don’t talk about Heisman Trophy voting. This is a serious and volatile undertaking, like ‘Fight Club’ only with more anger, and a Heisman voter who betrays the wishes of the Heisman Trophy Trust runs the risk of losing his or her vote.

    “Or my vote, in this instance, because I’m going to talk about Heisman Trophy voting. Not to identify the three players who will be named on my vote, but to name one player who will not: Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy.”

    Though Doyel admits McCarthy has done nothing wrong, he’s willing to punish a player who has been masterful in his junior season. By completing 75.7% of his throws for 2,134 yards, 18 touchdowns, and only three interceptions, McCarthy has set himself up to be in New York as a finalist. DraftKings has McCarthy tied for the third-best Heisman odds at +850.

    Unfortunately, there’s no question that the scandal has already affected McCarthy, even if Doyel’s logic is flawed and misguided. Since October 22, McCarthy’s odds have dropped from +227 to +300, and now to +850. A big performance against Penn State should better those odds, but it’s clear that Michigan’s antics have put a sour taste in the mouths of at least one voter.

    MORE: Big Ten QB Rankings

    The confounding part of that argument is that Michigan hasn’t needed to benefit from any sign-stealing advantages in 2023. Only one opponent has stayed within 24 points by the final whistle, and surely, knowing every sign in the world wouldn’t even be worth that many points.

    It’s fair to question Michigan’s strength of schedule entering the final three weeks of play, but we’ll learn plenty about where McCarthy and this team are. With pending showdowns against the Nittany Lions and the Ohio State Buckeyes, any confusion will be ended on the gridiron.

    But McCarthy has been brilliant, earning a QB3 ranking for the 2024 NFL Draft at Pro Football Network. Outside of one eyesore performance against Bowling Green in Week 3, McCarthy has been the most consistent passer in the country.

    Michigan deserves punishment for its misgivings, but penalizing the players makes less sense. Mitigating McCarthy’s great play from the record books and giving him no chance to compete for the sport’s greatest legacy award for the program’s actions is a misplaced punishment.

    Hopefully, other voters won’t see things the same way as Doyel and will keep an open mind to what actually happens on the field.

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