J.J. McCarthy claims that Michigan employed sign-stealing to “even the playing field” against Ohio State.

Addressing the controversy surrounding the alleged sign-stealing scandal during Wednesday’s College Football Playoff teleconference, the quarterback noted that a significant number of college football programs engage in legally stealing signs. McCarthy specifically pointed to Ohio State in 2019 and 2020 as examples.

Highlighting the prevalence of this practice, McCarthy stated, “It’s unfortunate because, in my opinion, around 80 percent of college football teams are involved in sign stealing. It’s just a longstanding aspect of the game that has been present for years.”

McCarthy admitted that Michigan had to adapt to Ohio State’s sign-stealing tactics in 2020 or 2019, emphasizing that it was within legal boundaries. He explained, “We had to elevate our approach to match theirs and level the playing field.”

It’s noteworthy that Michigan did not face Ohio State in 2020 due to the Wolverines opting out of the game amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In their 2019 encounter, Ohio State emerged victorious with a 56-27 win, marking their most recent triumph against Michigan.

Former Michigan recruiting staff member Connor Stalions is accused of leading a sign-stealing operation, wherein representatives from Michigan allegedly filmed the sidelines of upcoming opponents to decipher signals. This action violates NCAA rules prohibiting in-person advance scouting, leading to Stalions’ resignation in November.

In connection to the scheme, linebackers coach Chris Partidge was dismissed in November for instructing players not to cooperate with investigators. Additionally, Jim Harbaugh received a three-game suspension from the Big Ten for violating the conference’s sportsmanship policy.

Michigan’s defensive lineman, Mason Graham, disclosed that his team gathers information on opponents’ tendencies by studying film, emphasizing their high football intelligence. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy highlighted the team’s efforts to enhance their football IQ, analyzing films to discern patterns in the postures of opposing linebackers and safeties, as well as the alignment of cornerbacks.

While McCarthy acknowledged that some might label these activities as sign-stealing, he emphasized the complexity involved and the unnoticed effort due to external perceptions. When asked about potential repercussions, such as vacated wins, McCarthy expressed the hope to be acknowledged for their hard work. However, he underlined that the team’s sense of accomplishment and pride stems from their dedication to the right practices. McCarthy also acknowledged that external controversies and NCAA decisions are beyond their control, and they will focus on appreciating their achievements and the aspects they can control.

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