Can Auburn control Chubb, Michel, the second time around?

Athens, Ga.--Their backgrounds are very different.

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Sony Michel grew up in Plantation, Fla., less than 20 minutes from Ft. Lauderdale., Fla. He’s a city kid who produces his own rap music.

Nick Chubb is from rural Cedartown, Ga., and is majoring in Agricultural and Applied Economics. He comes from a family of farmers.

Michel is decidedly outgoing. Chubb is a bit shy but his words carry weight with his teammates.

They have been roommates for two years and have a very important thing in common: Both could have turned pro after the 2016 season and would be earning a very nice living in the NFL right now. Instead they both returned for their senior seasons at Georgia with the hope of making a run at an SEC championship while becoming two of the best tailbacks to ever play at a place that considers running backs to be royalty. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

 Mission accomplished.

Chubb and Michel will enter Saturday’s SEC championship between No. 6 Georgia (11-1) and No. 2 Auburn (10-2) as the No. 2 and No. 3 running backs in Bulldog history. Chubb is No. 2 behind the great Herschel Walker (5,259 yards in just three seasons) with 4,522 yards. He needs just 68 yards against Auburn to become the SEC’s No. 2 rusher of all-time (also behind Walker).

Michel is No. 3 on Georgia’s all-time list with 3,314 yards.

This season Chubb (1,098 yards) and Michel (903) have combined for 2001 yards. They definitely have two more games to play together. If Georgia beats Auburn and makes the College Football Playoff, they could have as many as three games left.

“We’ve been doing this for a while together,” said Michel, who has averaged 7.3 yards on his 124 attempts. “We’ve had our ups and downs and have had to work our way to the top. At the end of the day we respect each other.”

When the two went to SEC Media Days together last July, Chubb was more than happy to let his roommate take more of the spotlight.

“Sony is a lot more outgoing than I am,” said Chubb who has averaged 6.2 yards on 175 carries. “But we both like to win.”

And because they like to win they (independently) decided in the offseason to come back to Athens instead of turning pro. And when they did other seniors like Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy decided to join them, hoping to do something special.

“I think if only one of them had come back then we still would have been okay because we have other good backs,” said Kirby Smart, the Georgia head coach. “But I think both of them coming back solidified other guys coming back.

“And if one of them had left maybe the other guy doesn’t come back because he was concerned that it (the work load) would have been too much on them.”

It is rare in college football to have two seniors occupy the top two running back spots. But what it has done is save the wear and tear on each of them.

“Over the long run that’s been the best thing for them,” said Smart. “(They know) that stats aren’t going to get them drafted. It’s what you do with the carries you have.”

Michel said he’s never been a big stats guy.

“I’m not big on getting (a lot of) carries anyway,” said Michel. “Once I get 15 carries I don’t want any more. If I haven’t gotten what I want done in 15 carries I don’t need any more. We all try to maximize our opportunities.”

This much we know: If Georgia is going to have any shot at upsetting Auburn at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Chubb and Michel will have to be more productive than their first meeting with Auburn on Nov. 11 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. In that game, won by Auburn 40-17, Chubb was held to 27 yards on 11 carries while Michel had 21 yards on nine carries.

Georgia leads the SEC in rushing with 265.67 yards per game. Georgia’s 46 yards rushing on 32 carries against Auburn was easily its lowest total of the season.

“They’ve got a great defensive line and not a lot of people can just line up and block them,” Smart said. “We’re going to be a little more creative (because that defense) is playing at a very high level now. Fundamentally, we have to play better than we did last time. This is right up there with one of the best Auburn teams I’ve seen.”

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn said his defense will have to give quite an effort to match what happened on Nov. 11.

“When you look at those two guys you’re looking at two of the most talented running backs in the country,” said Malzahn.