Hawkeye football team preps for disruptive pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson

The Hawkeye offense will have to go up against Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Aidan Hutchinson on Saturday.



Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson collected three sacks against Ohio State. Syndication Detroit Free Press

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

The Hawkeyes will watch one player’s every move when they take the field at the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday: Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

Quarterback Spencer Petras and the Hawkeye offense are already on the lookout.

“Defensively, it all starts with Aidan Hutchinson,” Petras said. “He’s a great player, and we’re going to have to know where he’s at every play. But the rest of the defense is tough, physical, and well-coached.”

The Michigan defense has allowed just 17.17 points per game throughout the regular season — just below Iowa’s 17.25 average.

Hutchinson has been the Wolverines’ defensive threat throughout the entire 2021 campaign. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year broke Michigan’s single-season record in sacks in the final game of the regular season.

Hutchinson considered starting an NFL career after the 2020 season, but felt he had unfinished business at Michigan after a season-ending ankle injury.

So, Hutchinson returned for 2021. The 6-foot-6 senior has accumulated 13 total sacks and 14 tackles for loss throughout the 12-game season.

And Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh believes Hutchinson’s 2021 resume constitutes a Heisman candidacy, and the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

“I don’t know who has the first pick in the draft, but they should be studying very thoroughly Aidan Hutchinson,” Harbaugh told reporters Monday. “And, they should take him.”

Pro Football Focus has Hutchinson as the projected No. 1 pick in its latest edition of the 2022 mock draft.

The Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year recorded three sacks and 15 quarterback hurries against Ohio State as Michigan punched its ticket to its first-ever conference championship game.

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“This is the best moment of my life,” Hutchinson said following Michigan’s 42-27 victory over Ohio State on Saturday. “I manifested it and I’m here with my family and teammates on this glorious day.”

Now, Hutchinson will bring his talents to the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz compared Hutchinson to Pro Football Hall of Famers Howie Long and John Randle — players that kept Ferentz up at night when he was an offensive line coach in the NFL. Ferentz also compared Hutchinson to former Wisconsin Badger and current Arizona Cardinal J.J. Watt.

“I don’t know what you do to neutralize him, he’s just an outstanding player,” Ferentz said. “Yeah, we’d better know where he lines up. And it’s fairly predictable, but the only problem is the guy on the other side is, I don’t know, I don’t want to say equally as dangerous, but it’s pretty close. It’s a one-two … I don’t know how often we face a team that has two guys outside like that, that can be as disruptive as they are.”

The Hawkeyes are also looking out for linebacker David Ojabo, who has recorded 11 sacks so far this season. The 6-foot-5 junior has notched 33 total tackles, including 11 for loss.

“No. 97 [Hutchinson] and No. 55 [Ojabo] on defense, those guys are a problem,” Iowa running back Tyler Goodson said. “I know they have a lot of sacks in the pass rush game. So, it’s going to be very important for us to, maybe, have us running backs go out there and chip a guy and help those guys in the front to slow them down a little bit.”

Goodson and the Hawkeyes opened as 10.5-point underdogs against the Wolverines. The Hawkeyes will face off against the Wolverines on Saturday at 7:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Conference title. The game will air on FOX.

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