If we’d ranked the SEC’s five best running back tandems before this season, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel might’ve topped the list. Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara certainly would’ve been on it. But now, neither is the case.
Chubb and Michel have been victims of a bad offensive line and questionable play calling. Hurd turned in seven underwhelming games for the underachieving Volunteers before quitting on his team this week. There have also been a few positive surprises, though.
So who are the top five running back pairs in the league through the first nine weeks?
5. Nick Chubb-Sony Michel, Georgia
With the exception of a few flashes – Chubb rumbled for 222 yards in the opener against North Carolina and the pair combined for 254 yards against South Carolina – their output has been disappointing. Chubb (606 yards, 4.9 ypc, 5 TD) and Michel (360 yards, 4.7 ypc, 1 TD) have fewer than 1,000 yards between them. But we’re giving them a bit of a pass for circumstances beyond their control. Remember, these two have rushed for nearly 5,000 career yards.
— 17 (@YRNConnor) October 1, 2016
4. Boom Williams-Benny Snell (Kentucky)
Williams (821 yards, 7.5 ypc, 3 TD) has 31 career runs of 20-plus yards, nine of 50-plus. He’s the ultimate home-run threat. Snell (661 yards, 5.6 ypc, 8 TD) is the thunder to his lightning. The true freshman has been one of the SEC’s biggest surprises. After not having a single carry in the Wildcats’ 0-2 start, his 110.2 yards per game in the six since then would rank second in the league. The 220-pound Snell is a wear-them-down back, as 81 of his 118 carries and 463 of his yards have come after halftime. He averages 4.9 yards per carry on third-and-short (1-3 yards needed), and Williams has averaged 7.1 yards for his career at Kentucky, amassing 2,162 yards.
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 17, 2016
3. Damien Harris- Josh Jacobs, Alabama
You could also pair the 6-2, 230-pound truck named Bo Scarbrough with Harris on this list, because the Crimson Tide really have three formidable backs. But Harris (697 yards, 8.0 ypc, 1 TD) is the clear workhorse. He averaged 125 yards against Alabama’s five opponents who were ranked at the time. Jacobs (381 yards, 7.2 ypc, 3 TD) and Scarbrough (306 yards, 6.0 ypc, 5 TD) have each turned in a 100-yard game this fall. When he was hobbled against Kent State and Kentucky, Jacobs ran 27 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns in those games, while Scarbrough has caried it 20 times for 198 yards in the last three games.
— Iท βα๓a ไ ㅜяบรт™ RTR (@BamaPride143) September 18, 2016
2. Leonard Fournette-Derrius Guice, LSU
Injuries have limited Fournette (670 yards, 8.1 ypc, 5 TD) to just four games this season, but he’s rushed for 100-plus in all of them. That included a rousing return two weeks ago when he ripped off 284 yards on just 16 carries against Ole Miss. Guice (621 yards, 7.9 ypc, 7 TD) has been a capable fill-in, but he’s much better as a complement to the former Heisman front-runner. The Tigers and Kentucky are the only teams with two of the SEC’s top 10 rushers, LSU’s prized pair will get a test this weekend against an Alabama defense that held Fournette to 31 yards last season.
Well, at least Leonard Fournette sent Vine out in style.. https://t.co/7wF09hQRcO
— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) October 27, 2016
1. Kamryn Pettway-Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
Who would’ve predicted this in the preseason, especially after projected starter Jovon Robinson was dismissed at the start of camp? But Johnson took up the slack early in the season and Pettway, a 6-foot, 240-pound behemoth, has become unstoppable of late. One of them or both has rushed for at least 90 yards in every game this season. Johnson had 517 yards and six touchdowns in the Tigers’ first five games, while Pettway has 597 yards and six scores in the last three. Together, they’re carrying a reborn Auburn team toward a date with rival Alabama at the end of the regular season with a College Football Playoff spot potentially on the line.
Kamryn Pettway finds the end zone early in Oxford. You could say it's becoming a habit. pic.twitter.com/4r5vqRgKFa
— Lauren Shute (@LShute13) October 29, 2016
Honorable mention: Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams and Devwah Wahley (1,124 yards combined); Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford (1,128 yards combined)