Michigan football: Heisman or not, Wolverines DE Aidan Hutchinson was best in CFB
Alabama QB Bryce Young won the Heisman by a landslide, collecting 684 first-place votes — about 9 times more than the second-place finisher, Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson.
Based on his incredible season, Young certainly deserved to win college football’s most-coveted piece of hardware. Throwing for 4,322 yards and 43 touchdowns, he was one of the main reasons why the Crimson Tide won the SEC title vs. Georgia and entered the 4-team postseason as a favorite to win the national championship.
Alabama was expected to be there. Young was a preseason pick for the Heisman. Everything came together as predicted. And even without Young, ’Bama would have likely been in contention for an SEC title and playoff berth. It’s ’Bama … that’s what ’Bama does. The Crimson Tide have been in the 4-team Playoff 7 times, the most of any team.
Entering Saturday, Alabama had pumped out 3 Heisman winners since 2009 — and now, make that 4 with Young.
However, Hutchinson, who had a school-record 14 sacks, would have been a worthy choice as well. He was the backbone of a team that entered with low expectations, no ranking, and no chance of doing much of anything — or so most thought in August. Hutchinson proved he was an elite-level star in 2020, but it’s not like people were calling for him to win the Heisman this year — well, up until a few weeks ago, anyway.
During the final stretch of the regular season, Hutchinson became a dark horse candidate, landing among the best-of-the-best this past Saturday in New York. Routinely among the highest-graded during the regular season, he helped carry the Wolverines from basement-level expectations to championship aspirations.
He even scored a touchdown that didn’t count. After an apparent scoop-and-score vs. Michigan State, Hutchinson saw his TD called back because QB Payton Thorne was determined to be down.
But the Big Ten later reviewed the call, apologizing for the error. So it doesn’t count, officially, but it just adds to his phenomenal, highlight-reel senior year.
Right now, Hutchinson is the consensus No. 1 NFL Draft pick, according to experts. His coach has campaigned for that distinction. He’s the top-ranked draft-eligible player, per Pro Football Focus. His 73 QB pressures (15 vs. Ohio State) were the most since 2014, when PFF began tracking the statistic.
Once-in-a-generation type of stuff. It’s almost laughable that Hutchinson didn’t win the Nagurski or Bednarik, both national defensive player of the year honors … yet he was a Heisman finalist.
Former Michigan and Detroit Lions OL Graham Glasgow (currently with the Denver Broncos) recently compared Hutchinson to Joey Bosa, who is regarded as one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL. If Bosa is a 99 or 100, then Hutchinson is around a 90 or 92, Glasgow explained during the Dungeon of Doom podcast (MLive). Glasgow later said he was impressed by Hutchinson’s strength, especially for his age.
Without Hutchinson, Michigan might have not bounced back from the 37-33 loss to Michigan State. The Wolverines may have missed the mark vs. Ohio State. Big Ten championship? College Football Playoff? Without Hutchinson, none of that would have been possible.
There were other contributors. Success is accomplished as a team.
But be honest.
Was there a single player who influenced his team more than Hutchinson? Lauded as an ideal leader by teammates and coaches, he checks all the boxes for a real-deal Heisman contender, which he was this season.
Based on preseason expectations — both individually and team-wise — it’s difficult to say that Hutchinson was the second-best player in the nation. The “Hutch for Heisman” campaign was never supposed to happen. Michigan in the CFP wasn’t supposed to happen, either.
Young won the Heisman. He might do it again next season. But Hutchinson was the best overall player in the country this year.