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Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

College football: Michigan's quarterback competition, MSU vs. Akron, and the origin of "Zips."

University of Michigan football quarterbacks J.J. McCarthy (9) and Cade McNamara (12). McNamara started started the Wolverines' opener, but McCarthy will start on Saturday.
Carlos Osorio
/
AP Photo
University of Michigan football quarterbacks J.J. McCarthy (9) and Cade McNamara (12) are competing for a starting role. McNamara started the Wolverines' opener against Colorado State, but McCarthy will get his chance on Saturday.

Week 2 of the college football season is here. After winning their season openers, Michigan is ranked No. 4 in the country and Michigan State is No. 14.

But despite a convincing victory last weekend, Michigan is changing quarterbacks this week.

Michigan Radio Morning Edition host Doug Tribou talked to sports commentator John U. Bacon about what to expect for the Wolverines and the Spartans this weekend.

Saturday's games: University of Akron at Michigan State - 4 p.m.; Hawaii at Michigan - 8 p.m.

Doug Tribou: The Wolverines' defense looked great against Colorado State. The offense was not as sharp. Cade McNamara started at quarterback. He went nine for 18, passing for just 136 yards. Now it's time for head coach Jim Harbaugh's big experiment. As planned, he'll start J.J. McCarthy Saturday night against Hawaii. What does McCarthy have to do to win the starting job for good in week three?

John U. Bacon: All he's got to do, near as I can figure, is simply play better than Cade McNamara. Now, by all accounts, Cade McNamara had a great training camp in August. He was said to be slightly ahead of J.J. McCarthy, but he did not play that well in his first game. And in fact, he was 1-8 in what they call the red zone. That's the last 20 yards that lead up to a touchdown, if you're lucky. So it was a rough start for him, although I've got to say, it is a long season.

DT: Does a tie go to last season's starter? In other words, if J.J. McCarthy just has a comparable performance, does that mean Cade McNamara, who started throughout last season, gets the nod?

JUB: I would think that's probably true. The flipside is, J.J. McCarthy adds the element of speed — running speed, that is — that Cade McNamara really does not have.

My guess is against a woefully bad Hawaii team — the point spread is 50 points — and I think they're going to get it. So I think I would I might do pretty well [by myself] against Hawaii tomorrow. [laughs]

DT: Harbaugh's strategy of "give each quarterback a start to sort it out" feels very much like the product of the transfer portal era that we're in now. Does that sound right?

JUB: It does sound right. In the old days, not that long ago, if you wanted to transfer to a different program, then you've got to sit out an entire season before you can play. Now you can transfer immediately and play immediately. So, if either one of these quarterbacks is bored on the bench, don't expect them to wait around very long. By starting both of them, you keep them engaged, and the odds of transferring are at least less.

DT: Okay, Michigan hosts Hawaii at 8:00 [Saturday] night in Ann Arbor. Let’s turn to Michigan State. The Spartans beat Western Michigan 35-13 last weekend, but at the start of the fourth quarter, the Broncos were only down by eight. Can we chalk that up to some opening weekend clunkiness or jitters for the Green and White?

JUB: I think so. Look, Western Michigan is a better team than Colorado State, who Michigan played. [Former Michigan coach] Bo Schembechler always said, "The team always improves the most from the first game to the second game." And that, I think, is the case here. I think you'll see the Spartans do very well this weekend.

DT: Up next for the Spartans, the University of Akron. Kick off is at 4:00 Saturday afternoon in East Lansing. MSU is a heavy favorite, so let’s skip the analysis and talk about the Akron Zips. You briefly referenced this last week, but I think we need to dig into more of the history of that name. How did Akron settle on the name Zips?

JUB: You're going to love this one. In 1927, they had a contest to pick the mascot, and student Margaret Hamlin suggested Zippers, which is not for the zipper we have in our pants. No, it was the name of a popular rubber overshoe sold by Akron's own B.F. Goodrich Company. They make, of course, car tires. And then in 1950, then-athletic director Kenneth "Red" Cochrane shortened the name to Zips to make it, I think, more intimidating.

DT: And I don't know about you, John, but a few years later, they added their mascot, which they still have today, and when I think Zips mascot, I think kangaroos. I mean, that is the next logical step. [laughs]

JUB: Two-foot putt. Two-foot putt right there, Doug.

DT: I do love the name Zips.

Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can hear the full interview near the top of this page.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Radio staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
John U. Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, a public speaker, and a college instructor, winning awards for all three.
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