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INDIANAPOLIS — Iowa will be playing in its highest-stakes game since the 2015 season in Saturday’s Big Ten championship game. That also comes with one of the most talented teams Iowa has seen since 2015, too.
Here are five Michigan players to know ahead of Saturday’s fight for a Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl.
DE Aidan Hutchinson
Aidan Hutchinson probably is the most talented player Iowa will face in 2021.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end is the fifth-best prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class, per ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
Don’t just take Kiper’s word for it.
CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso projected Hutchinson to be the No. 1 overall pick in his Nov. 24 mock draft. Mock drafts from his colleagues Ryan Wilson and Josh Edwards also project Hutchinson to be a top-six pick.
Hutchinson has a Big Ten-high 13 sacks this season, more than Iowa’s top two players combined. The 13 sacks are a Michigan school record.
When talking about Hutchinson on Sunday, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz brought up stars like J.J. Watt, Reggie White, John Randle and Howie Long.
Only one of those players — Watt — doesn’t have a bust sitting in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that’s because he’s still playing in the NFL.
Hutchinson could be especially troublesome for Iowa’s offensive tackles, the least experienced part of the offensive line.
QB Cade McNamara
Cade McNamara is far from the highest-volume quarterback in the Big Ten, but he has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks.
The junior from Reno, Nev., has completed 64.4 percent of his passes and thrown 14 touchdowns versus three interceptions.
Two of the three interceptions came against top-10 teams.
McNamara is consistent, too.
The 6-foot-1 hurler completed at least 60 percent of his passes in six of his last eight games.
Before Michigan’s win over Ohio State, McNamara had at least two touchdown passes in four straight games.
McNamara also has the benefit of a good offensive line in front of him. He has only six sacks in 2021 — the same number of sacks Iowa’s quarterback tandem took in the Wisconsin game alone. The only defense to take him down multiple times is Penn State.
RB Hassan Haskins
Michigan is known as a team that can run the ball, and Hassan Haskins is at the center of the rushing attack.
Haskins has enjoyed a breakout season in 2021, rushing for more yards than in 2019 and 2020 combined.
His 1,232 yards are second in the conference to Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III. His 5.0 yards per carry makes him one of the more efficient running backs in the Big Ten.
Haskins had an elite performance against Ohio State last week, rushing for 169 yards on 6.0 yards per carry and scoring five touchdowns.
The Ohio State game was his third 150-plus-yard performance in the last four weeks.
LB David Ojabo
While Hutchinson gets many of the headlines, edge rusher David Ojabo also has been quite productive on the opposite side of the defensive front.
Ojabo ranks second in the Big Ten, trailing only Hutchinson, with 11 sacks.
He had one of his best performances against Wisconsin, recording seven tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and sacks.
The Nigerian had a fast learning curve. He grew up playing soccer and basketball and didn’t play football until high school, according to a feature on ESPN’s College GameDay.
“I’m still learning the rules now even,” Ojabo told College GameDay. “I remember yesterday, I was like, ‘Why did he spike the ball? Oh, to stop the clock.’”
WR Cornelius Johnson
Iowa isn’t the only team with a playmaking wide receiver with the No. 6 and the surname Johnson.
Iowa has Keagan Johnson. Michigan has Cornelius Johnson.
Michigan’s Johnson leads the Wolverines with 36 receptions and 587 receiving yards and shares the team lead with three touchdown receptions.
The former Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut has averaged at least 15 yards per reception in each of his first three years on campus.
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