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Michigan Wolverines defensive end Aidan Hutchinson among 4 finalists for Heisman Trophy

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, left, scrambles away from Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson in the second quarter in Ann Arbor on Nov. 27. Both are Heisman Trophy finalists. (AP file photo)

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud were announced Monday as the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman will be presented Saturday in New York, returning to its usual routine and date after it was forced to delay and go virtual last year due to the pandemic.

After a 2021 season in which a Heisman front-runner took a while to emerge and the race seemed wide-open into November, Young closed strong to become the favorite.

The sophomore led a 97-yard, game-tying touchdown drive against rival Auburn two weeks ago, helping the Crimson Tide rally to win the Iron Bowl in overtime.

Then Young broke the Southeastern Conference championship game record with 421 yards passing in a victory against Georgia’s vaunted defense on Saturday. For the season, Young has thrown for 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns and just four interceptions while guiding the top-ranked Crimson Tide to the College Football Playoff.

Hutchinson would be the first defensive player to win the Heisman since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997. Woodson was also Michigan’s last Heisman winner.

The last Michigan player to be a Heisman finalist also played defense, though not exclusively. Defensive back Jabrill Peppers played some offense and returned kicks when he finished fifth in the voting in 2016.

Hutchinson is one of the nation’s best pass rushers with 14 sacks. The senior led No. 2 Michigan to its first playoff appearance as Big Ten champions and helped end an eight-game losing streak to rival Ohio State.

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III didn’t get an invite to New York, even though he is second in the nation in rushing at 136 yards per game with 19 touchdowns. The Wake Forest transfer jumped to the top of the Heisman watch lists after scoring five touchdowns in the 11th-ranked Spartans’ victory against Michigan on Oct. 30.

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