If Ohio State – or anyone else – is going to win the national championship next season, it seems likely the road to a title will go through Clemson once again.
Clemson was already considered to be the early frontrunner for next season's title, and its chances received a significant boost on Friday, when running back Travis Etienne surprised the college football world and announced he is staying with the Tigers for his senior season.
Etienne was one of college football's best running backs this past season, rushing for 1,614 yards and 19 touchdowns on an average of 7.8 yards per carry, best among all Football Bowl Subdivision running backs with at least 200 carries for the season.
To Ohio State's credit, the Buckeyes held Etienne to just 36 rushing yards on 10 carries – his lowest yardage total of the season – in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl, but he did catch three passes for 98 yards and scored three total touchdowns, including catch-and-run scores of 53 and 34 yards.
With Trevor Lawrence also back at quarterback, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers back at wide receiver and more than half of the starting defense also returning, Clemson is ranked No. 1 in just about every early projection for 2020 – and that was before it was known the Tigers' star running back would be returning.