Texas, Ohio State to headline college football’s top five chambers entering 2022 season

The old adage that to win college football you have to run the ball and play defense still holds true. Sure, the game has evolved into a much more open version that feels more like the CFL than the “three and a cloud of dust” version that dominated in the early 1990s, but teams have to establish the race to open these passing lanes and allow quarterbacks to stretch the field deep. There are plenty of backfields ready to take on that load in the 2022 season.

A good running game starts with a workaholic but is only effective if there is at least one other versatile fullback who can stay involved in the game plan in different ways. Which running back rooms are the best in college football heading into the 2022 season? Let’s break them down.

Texas won’t be “back” until it really fights for a berth in the college football playoffs, but there’s no doubt its backfield will be terrifying this fall. 1 fullback Bijan Robinson is tied for the best Heisman Trophy odds among running backs (+3,000), according to Caesars Sportsbook, and is coming off a 2021 season in which he rushed for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games. Veterans Rocshon Johnson and Keilan Robinson — the Longhorns’ second and third runners last year, respectively — also return and provide incredible versatility for second-year coach Steve Sarkisian. Texas will likely burst in on Quinn Ewers at quarterback this year, and his ceiling is high enough to bring Texas back into the national spotlight. He’ll have a great running back corps to fall back on, which puts Texas in an ideal position to become relevant again in the Big 12 ahead of his impending transfer to the SEC.

The Buckeyes will likely be picked to make the playoffs by several pundits before the season, and the running back room is a big reason for that optimism. TreVeyon Henderson is also +3,000 to win the Heisman Trophy after a stellar freshman campaign that saw him rush for 1,255 yards and 15 touchdowns. He added 312 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns while proving just how versatile he can be in this wide-opening offense. Miyan Williams is an incredible changeover option who led the Big Ten in yards per carry (7.14) among skilled running backs. Evan Pryor will add even more versatility after showing flashes of brilliance in the spring game.

Surprise, surprise… Wisconsin lands on this list. The Badgers are tasked with running this season, led by second Braelon Allen, who rushed for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago. The 6-foot-2, 238-pounder has the size to be a beast between tackles and is quick enough to do a lot of damage on the outside. Senior Chez Mellusi will serve as the “1B” for the Badgers. He rushed for 815 yards and five touchdowns in nine games last year, but just suffered an ACL injury, which is something to watch. However, there’s no doubt coach Paul Chryst will be able to pound the rock in a variety of ways this fall.

Coach Kyle Whittingham has established his program as the most physical team in the Pac-12, and he’ll have a brutal punch again in 2022. Tavion Thomas is one of the best running backs in the country, but won’t does not. He doesn’t get the respect he deserves after rushing for an FBS-best 1,108 and 21 touchdowns last season. Micah Bernard will back him up after rushing for 529 yards and two scores in his first redshirt campaign last season. Pac-12 defenses aren’t used to taking that kind of punishment, but Utah is ready and willing to hand it out every week this fall.

Mohamed Ibrahim is back after picking up a season-ending injury in last season’s opener, but he should immediately regain his position at the top of the depth chart. Ibrahim has 3,003 yards and 33 touchdowns in 28 career games and is playing in an offense under coach PJ Fleck that is perfect for his skill set. Sophomore Trey Potts took on a bigger role in the running back rotation after Ibrahim’s injury last year and gained 552 yards with six touchdowns in just five games. He too is recovering from a season-ending injury. However, it’s clear that, when healthy, Fleck has two true No. 1 running backs to lead his offense this fall.

Honorable Mention

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