NEW ORLEANS – The nation’s focus in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game rests on the quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow. But the game may be decided between players of a different position.
On ESPN’s First Take Friday morning, Marcus Spears and Tim Tebow agreed that the X-factor in Monday night’s game is the running back position. However, the two analysts disagreed on whether Clemson’s Travis Etienne or LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire prove to be the best tailback in this game.
Tebow believes Helaire is one of the best football players in the country despite his size.
“I think Helaire is one of the best players in the country. I think he’s the second most valuable player on LSU,” Tebow said. “This dude is an absolute freak. Yeah, I know he shows up and he’s a short little dude and he wasn’t highly recruited like a lot of the other guys.”
Helaire averaged 6.6 yards per carry this season for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns as well as 50 receptions for 399 yards and a touchdown. The junior LSU tailback poses a significant threat catching the ball out of the backfield.
Etienne, on the other hand, carried the ball just 192 times for 1,536 yards and 18 touchdowns, and leads the nation in yards per carry with 8. He also made significant strides in the passing game with 32 catches for 396 yards and four scores, including 98 yards and two touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl.
Spears thinks national pundits and college football fans have overlooked Etienne’s ability paired with his consistency.
“I think people have slept on Travis Etienne, the running back from Clemson,” he said. “Etienne has been a catalyst even when Trevor Lawrence had his struggles early in the year.”
“At the running back position, I would give Etienne the nod, but both him and Helaire will be the X-factors in this game,” Spears continued.
Clemson and LSU face off in the Superdome on Monday night at 8 p.m. ET in the CFP National Championship Game.