SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Heading into Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal between third-ranked Clemson and No. 2 Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl, everybody is talking about the showdown between Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Buckeyes signal-caller Justin Fields, and rightfully so.
But perhaps an underappreciated part of this matchup on paper is the battle in the backfield with Clemson running back Travis Etienne and Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins.
“The easy thing is going to be for people, with this buildup, is look at Fields and Lawrence,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said recently. “But Travis Etienne and J.K. Dobbins, I think you’re talking about two of the top backs, if not the top two in the entire country. And both of them have to get going to get the quarterback to start to kind of get into that rhythm.”
Dobbins ranks third in the country with 1,829 yards rushing and sixth with 20 rushing touchdowns, while Etienne is No. 7 nationally with 1,500 yards on the ground and No. 10 with 17 rushing scores despite being tied for 76th nationally in rushing attempts per game (14.0).
As a competitor, Etienne says he is certainly excited to face off against Dobbins on Saturday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“You want to go against the best,” Etienne said. “He’s one of the best in the country. We’re definitely going to be out there, fighting awesome, just hoping to play our best game.”
While this will be the first on-field meeting between Etienne and Dobbins, the two met in person this past May at the 2019 All-American Football Camp at Hilton Head Island High School — a camp that brings college and professional players to town to serve as instructors.
“Me and J.K., we met one time at Hilton Head,” Etienne said. “We met at that camp. We were there for a weekend. We became friends at that camp, but outside of that, we haven’t really, like — he’s in Ohio. I’m at Clemson.”
Dobbins was named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which is given annually to the nation’s premier running back, but Etienne was not.
However, Etienne says he is not worried about the Doak Walker snub, and his only concern is helping the Tigers play their best four quarters of football against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
“You can’t put focus onto those things because at the end of the day, they don’t matter,” Etienne said. “I didn’t win an individual award, but I’m here with my team playing for the Fiesta Bowl, which is what you dream of at the beginning of the season.”
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