No. 1 Michigan ‘still polishing’ and ‘still working’ before College Football Playoff National Championship 

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 5: Michigan Wolverines Team Arrival at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on January 5, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by CFP/Getty Images)

J.J. McCarthy is rising through the record books. 

At 26-1, McCarthy stands tied for the third-best winning percentage as a starting quarterback in college football history. He’s tied with Jameis Winston of Florida State, and he’s behind Toledo’s Chuck Ealey, who went 35-0 from 1969-71, and Oklahoma’s Jimmy Harris who went 25-0 from 1954-56, according to Sports Science Stats from IFS.

READ: No. 2 Washington ‘putting in all the preparation’ ahead of College Football Playoff National Championship 

McCarthy’s head coach Jim Harbaugh knows who Ealey is. He’s someone who Harbaugh’s father coached against for two years, and Ealey is certainly someone who stands out to him, just like McCarthy. 

“Chuck Ealey, I know that name. I could have told you that,” Harbaugh said. “He was somebody that was talked a lot about in the house growing up when we were kids. My dad was a secondary coach. What J.J. has done is remarkable. People say I heap praise on him and things like that, I mean, I think I’m hitting it right down the middle of the strike zone. And he’s a great football player. He’s got the got the ‘it’ factor in every way. And so does Mr. Penix. I look at them both. Great quarterbacks, elite talents and they both got that ‘it’ factor. As did Chucky Ealey.” 

McCarthy, Harbaugh and the No. 1 Wolverines will have their next challenge on Monday night in Houston when they face No. 2 Washington in Houston as part of the College Football Playoff National Championship. 

Michigan is searching for its first national title since 1997, and the Huskies seek their first since 1991. 

Rumors continue to swirl around Harbaugh and his NFL coaching prospects. According to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of, interest from NFL teams in Harbaugh “could heat up quickly.” 

Harbaugh said he has “no idea” about how much the result of the national championship will have an impact on his desire to return to coaching in the NFL. 

“There’s a calendar,” Harbaugh said. “I’ll gladly talk about the future next week, and I hope to have one. How about that? A future. I hope to have one.” 

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However Harbaugh’s coaching future shakes out, it won’t come before one more game at Michigan. 

McCarthy is third in the country with a 73.2% completion, and he’s topped 80% completion in two of his past five games. 

When asked if the magnitude of the CFP National Championship has set in yet, McCarthy said it has yet to hit him. 

“I feel like it really hasn’t,” McCarthy said. “Everything that we’ve done to get here, we’re continuing to do the same thing so I think we keep the same approach and treat it as, obviously, it’s the national championship, but it’s a football game at the end of the day, and we got to go out there and execute each and every play.” 

McCarthy’s growth as a quarterback has spanned two seasons since taking over as starter in 2022. During his first season as starter, McCarthy posted near-identical statistics as his second: 2,719 pass yards and 22 touchdowns in 2022 to 2,851 pass yards and 22 touchdowns in 2023. 

READ: Kalen DeBoer, Jim Harbaugh talk College Football Playoff National Championship

McCarthy’s statistics are only going to increase with one more game, but it comes on the biggest stage of the national championship. Harbaugh said McCarthy has been prepared for this game. 

“I think the thing that makes him great is he’s so talented, so athletically gifted, but mentally he’s so sharp,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, you have to be sharp as a coach to keep up with him because, I mean, he comes into those meetings prepared. He’s already looked at the cut-ups. He’s already looked at the games. You could reference a cut-up and he knows it. He’s already previewed the game plan.” 

Michigan also is the home to college football’s leading rusher in Blake Corum. He has 25 rushing touchdowns, and Corum caught his first receiving touchdown of the season to give the Wolverines an early 7-0 lead over No. 4 Alabama in the Rose Bowl. 

Washington holds opponents to 137.1 rushing yards per game, good for No. 41 in the country, and Corum said he’s scouted the Huskies front seven. 

“Washington’s front seven, they’re big, strong, especially the interior,” Corum said. “Big, strong guys. Guys that build a wall and then you go to the D-ends, they’re fast, strong, long. They can play D-end, they can play linebacker so just, they’re great athletes. They’re great athletes that stick to the coaches’ plan, and they’re definitely going to provide us with a challenge but not a challenge that we’re not up for so I’m super excited to get to play the Washington Huskies.” 

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Michigan has made it to the CFP National Championship game amid a season full of controversy and consequences, but playmaking and execution. 

The Wolverines will have one more try to compete for the biggest prize in college football, and they have a chance to silence critics while they’re at it. It all starts at 7:30 p.m. from NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday. 

“We’re honored to be here,” Harbaugh said. “We are going to have to play really good. We’re going to have to play really good. And I think our team is ready. Still the hay is not in the barn. It never is for us. Still polishing. Still working. But super excited, super excited to watch our players go out there and compete tomorrow night.”