Back Travis Etienne’s Run To History

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Travis Etienne’s Run To History

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Travis Etienne, national championship ring in hand, is fresh off one of the most impressive seasons in the history of college football.

We know that Clemson running back Travis Etienne is good. Really good. Great, even. Unfortunately, none of those distinctions are good enough. Etienne, national championship ring in hand, is fresh off one of the most impressive seasons in the history of college football. He is so dynamic, so fast, so elusive that maybe our platitudes just can't keep up. Etienne is the type of talent where words don't do him justice; here, you may ultimately need the letters G.O.A.T., instead.

Think such talk is too much? Take a look inside.

Etienne, a year ago, rushed for 1,658 yards and a national-best 24 touchdowns on just 204 attempts, a remarkable average of 8.13 yards per carry. He is the first player in major college football history with a 1,600-yard, 20-touchdown season at over eight yards a try. The only Power Five running backs this millennium with a 1,600-yard season and eight yards per attempt are Reggie Bush, Bryce Love and Etienne; the Clemson superstar had a half-dozen more total offensive scores than both. 

The big play potential Etienne brings to the field is unparalleled -- by most teams. He had more runs of 20 yards or more than Florida State, Iowa and Texas combined. 

Since, at the latest, the beginning of the Interstate highway system, Etienne has the third-highest career yard per carry average, at 7.8, of any running back with at least 300 attempts. He has taken to the open field like the open road. Etienne's current average is, far and away, the highest margin in ACC history, nearly a full yard higher than iconic former FSU and NFL star Warrick Dunn in second place.

For point or reference, he averaged more yards carry last season than recent NFL Draft pick Drew Lock averaged per pass.

Historic production is framed by its setting, an area where Etienne has also been both an All-American and an all-timer.

Though Etienne has produced some now-timeless highlights currently on replay and repeat, he has also proven to have a feel for the moment. After an injury to Trevor Lawrence left Clemson reeling against a talented Syracuse team that defeated the Tigers the year prior, Etienne responded with the signature performance of his career. Against loaded defensive fronts, Etienne, when his team needed him most, ran for 203 yards and three touchdowns, the game-winner with 41 seconds remaining included. Etienne ran 27 times and Clemson scored 27 points.

The big stage has often been where Etienne has been at his best. With the pressure mounting down the stretch, Etienne scored ten times over the Tigers' final five games. He closed out the regular season by rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns against rival South Carolina. Fittingly, Etienne opened the ACC Championship Game with a 75-yard score on the very first play from scrimmage. In the College Football Playoff, Etienne ran for 109 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries versus Notre Dame, reaching the endzone both rushing and receiving.

In a football era where efficiency is the goal, Etienne has made it the proverbial goaline. He just recorded one of the best seasons ever in the ACC in a year where he carried the football more than 16 times just twice. Etienne finished 4th in the nation in rushing yards while slotting merely 44th in attempts. Notably, he had eight 100-yard rushing games, reaching 153 yards versus Louisville on just eight carries.

Adding to Etienne's prominence is the fact that he was a key leader on the first and only major college team to go 15-0. In terms of wins and losses in one year, no FBS running back in history has had more success. Etienne set records for a side that sprinted right past iconic programs Notre Dame and Alabama to another national championship. He and his teammates outscored their opponents by more than 30 points per game along the way.  

Just as the 2018 Clemson Tigers have to at least be in the conversion for "greatest ever", Etienne's sophomore season, for running backs, has to be in the discussion as well. Etienne, still with more to come, has a resume, by some measures, that simply stands alone.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports