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2022 CFB: Just who is Pitt’s Record-Breaking Running Back?

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In the first part of our focus on College Football’s most exciting running backs, we look at a player who has really excelled in the 2022 season. His performance against Virginia Tech was a real indicator of what he has to offer, and really put himself on the map with his record-breaking performance.

This RBRB (record-breaking running back) is Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda. The Junior from Brooklyn, New York, rushed for just 635 yards in 2021, with seven touchdowns, but he has already broken both his personal bests this year in half the time.

So just how has Abanikanda gone from being an average running back to one of the hottest in the country right now? We take a deeper dive into what he offers to Pittsburgh and the way he has adapted to be a pivotal part of their offense.

Who is Israel Abanikanda?

Abanikanda is a 5’11, 215lb running back that, in High School, was named as New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year, leading the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) in rushing and scoring as a Senior.

His ability on the High School football field couldn’t be doubted, and as a Senior he rushed for 1350 yards and totalled 166 points (25 touchdowns and 8 two-point conversions). On top of that his athletic nature saw him as a two-time 100-meter gold medallist in the New York City Mayor’s Cup. A physical runner blessed with power and speed; he is really starting to show his worth in Pittsburgh.

Let’s use some of his clips to show what he can do.

In this clip of Abanikanda tying the ACC and Pitt touchdown record, he shows that pure physicality and speed to make the defense look like they aren’t even there.

As soon as he receives the ball there is clearly a bunch of players through the middle, cutting off a clear running route, however, the way he shifts his feet and follows the blocker he targets the open space made for him.

Then the accelerators burst into life, and he drives through the middle of three defenders, ending up in the endzone about ten yards in front of them. Even more impressive was the fact this was nearly halfway through the final quarter, for his sixth touchdown and brought him up to 298 rushing yards. 

His performance was frighteningly good. He was explosive on the getaway, but his ability to turn mid-yardage drive into big drives shows true ability. He racked up nine carries of 10+ yards and seven carries of 15+ yards, accumulating 237 yards on designed rushing attempts of 15 yards, and this came from starting the game with -4 yards after three carries.

The difference between this year and last seems to be a combination of Pittsburgh’s confidence in him being able to create big plays, but also the heavy importance of how the offensive line helps him by creating spaces for him to drive into.

The first clip is a true example of that, if it wasn’t for the block and the space for Abanikanda to drive into, it wouldn’t turn into an 80-yard touchdown.

The reliance on Abanikanda can be seen just by the sheer amount of volume he now sees the ball. He had double-digit carries in games just six times entering this season, and 20+ carries just once.

Now six weeks into the season, Abanikanda has only seen single figures once, in the opening game against West Virginia. Since then, he has broken the 100+ yard mark four times in five games, his least productive outing coming against Georgia Tech.

The last two home games, either side of the Georgia Tech matchup, have really put him on the map. Abanikanda has rushed for 10 touchdowns, and 497 yards, averaging just over nine yards a carry. His explosiveness, his ability to maintain speed over larger distances and his control over the football has been a real pleasure to watch. This has enabled Pittsburgh to turn into a run-first offense, and with Kedon Slovis yet to really kick on, it has lifted the pressure on him following the loss of Kenny Pickett to the NFL.

Has Abanikanda put himself into the NFL draft mix?

With his performances this season, there is no reason why Abanikanda can’t be a high pick in the 2023 Draft, but there needs to be consistency between now and the end of the season for him to be even considered for the mix.

The 2021 season, dominated by Kenny Pickett, didn’t allow him to really stand out as a big threat on the ground, but now in a team that relies on running, Abanikanda has been given a platform to showcase his abilities.

So, will he need to be in a team that focuses more on the ground attack rather than the air attack? Possibly. We are yet to see what Abanikanda can do as a receiving threat due to the issues Slovis has faced so far this year, but that’s something that could be improved upon as Slovis finds his feet a bit more. But there are plenty of offenses in the NFL whose running threats are much greater than their receiving threats so he could be a good fit to a handful of teams.

In Conclusion…

Abanikanda is an exciting running back who possesses the explosiveness, speed and dominance on the ground to be a top-level running back. However, the main concerns will be his consistency and whether he can put up the numbers against the better teams in College Football.

Pitt has a bye week this week but three games against Louisville, UNC and Syracuse could be the real indicator of what he has to offer and if he can produce against the better teams. There are some big divisional matches coming up, and if Abanikanda can produce then Pittsburgh has a great chance of being ACC Champions.

By Jake Tweedie – @ACCAnalysis1

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2022 CFB: Week 6 Winners & Losers

Week 6 of the college football season is in the books and it feels like we are really into the thick of the season now, with storylines developing, draft stocks rising and falling and some huge performances being put in by players and teams around the country.

Let’s get straight into some of those big performances with the Winners section first…

Winners – Lee Wakefield (@Wakefield90)

Jalen Mayden, San Diego State

This is quite a story and the reason why this is the first name in the winners’ column today!

So Mayden transferred to San Diego State in 2021 as a backup QB from Mississippi State but after not cracking the starting lineup and the arrival of Braxton Burmeister, he switched to safety and appeared on the defensive side of the ball for the Aztecs in five games this year.

However, with Burmeister out with a concussion Mayden was required to switch back to quarterback for this weekend’s game against Hawaii… but could he make the migration back to signal caller?

How does 24/36, 322 passing yards and a touchdown sound?

It wasn’t a resounding scoreline by any means but 16-14 and a fairytale story for a young man. 


As an admitted Texas hater, I am not willing to say they’re back, far from it… I mean, they’re 4-2, but I am willing to give them their dues here for a 49-0 win over their biggest rivals. Although, does it say a lot that the other guys are in the other side of this article?

Texas was great though; they were in control, their stars played well and the crowd in burnt orange at the Cotton Bowl were well and truly revelling in it.

Quinn Ewers is a potential star at QB for the Longhorns and as he goes through this season and next, perhaps Texas will get closer and closer to being back, because that’s surely the aim, not least because they will need to get better if they are planning to have any kind of success in the SEC.

On the other side of the QB battle, it was plain to see that they were in trouble when it was announced that Dillon Gabriel wasn’t going to play and my own pre-match prophecy came true… And Oklahoma had five guys throw a pass in the game, which says an awful lot about their play on the day.

A broken clock etc.

The other main star for Texas who needs a quick shout out is running back, Bijan Robinson; 22 touches for 145 yards and two scores on the day to put the Sooners to the sword. He showed his prowess as a runner and as a receiver, especially with this catch below.

Could he be a first round running back to send Draft Twitter into meltdown?

Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh

Israel Abanikanda. Take a bow, Son.

320 yards rushing, on 36 carries and six, yes, six touchdowns against Virginia Tech. What a performance from the Junior runner, doubling his season total for touchdowns in one afternoon and becoming the first Power 5/BCS player to rush for over 300 yards in a game since Ricky Williams in 1998. He also became only the third player in 25 years to score six rushing touchdowns in a game, alongside Williams and TCU and Chargers great, LaDainian Tomlinson. The last player to do so from the University of Pittsburgh was in 1910.

In rushing for 320 yards, he also broke Tony Dorsett’s single game rushing record for Pittsburgh, which had stood at 303 yards since 1975.

So quite the day for the young man. Can he capitalise on his once in a lifetime day and make it to the NFL?

Losers – Will Lane (@TheWillieLane)


There was absolutely no way that head coach Brent Venables and his Oklahoma squad were escaping this one. It was an absolutely miserable performance from the Sooners in the 119th Red River Rivalry, one they will want to forget. The offense was non-existent, five different players threw a pass and they still did not acquire 50 passing yards. They saw some-what more success in their run game, but between the two they didn’t see the end zone once. The Sooners now fall to 3-3 on the year and are last place in the Big XII. 

This was a Saturday to forget for fans and the team alike, being shut out for the first time since  November 7th 1998. Ending a 311 game streak for the Sooners. This was also the first time that the Sooners were held without a touchdown for the first time in 167 straight games. A historic day for Oklahoma, but not in a good way.

Without quarterback Dillon Gabriel, this offense just looked lost. Pitt transfer Davis Beville got the start, and struggled mightily. The quarterback only completed six passes on 12 attempts and had an interception, while also finding nothing on the ground. To see an offense so lifeless is just so shocking from Oklahoma, who have had two Heisman winners in the past six years. Was there anything fans can take away from this game? Not particularly. Just look to regain next weekend Kansas who just fell 38-31 to TCU.


Losing to Notre Dame in 2022 will always get you in the losers column.

Notre Dame was able to accumulate over 500 yards of offense against BYU. The Cougars had a very lackluster first half, the pace was set when on the first play of the game Hall threw an interception. A slow start and a couple of questionable coaching decisions is what led to the loss against the Fighting Irish, who now lead the series 7-2 against BYU.

Jaren Hall was just 9 for 17 with 120 yards on the day, a performance that was all but impressive. The quarterback was definitely not feeling 100% entering Saturday’s game after being dinged up against Utah State. Yet it wasn’t that the offense wasn’t finding success, more like the defense could not get off the field. The BYU offense only attempted 46 plays while Notre Dame attempted 73.

Questionable decisions definitely played an impact in BYU’s upset loss against Notre Dame. Notably towards the very end of the game when on 4th and 1, when BYU strayed away from their power back Christopher Brooks and handed it off to scat back Lopini Katoa. The play got stuffed leaving less than four minutes on the clock and sending the Cougars home disappointed. Blowing it in prime time against fans in the Las Vegas Raiders Allegiant Stadium.

Michigan State

Michigan State is just terrible. No other way to put it.

Both sides of the ball are just abysmal. At half time, Ohio State had already accumulated 429 yards worth of offense while also scoring 35 points. In the second half, the Spartans were held to just seven points. Not something you want to see when you were already trailing big at the half.

Michigan State couldn’t stop anything yesterday, allowing over 370 passing yards and 200 rushing yards. Not something that you want to see from a defense, even if it is Ohio State. For obvious reasons the Spartans could not get their run game going, quite like last year they were down too much too early. Leaving it up to the passing game to try and keep this as a respectable loss. Which one could say they did, the passing attack looked impressive for one half, until bottoming out in the second half and letting the Buckeyes run away with this one.

I guess this is a problem then?

By Lee Wakefield & Will Lane

Check out the rest of our CFB Content HERE.