Auburn Football: Michael Dyer Stakes Place as One of Nation's Top Running Backs

Matthew BrennanCorrespondent IIOctober 2, 2011

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 01:  Michael Dyer #5 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks 16-13 at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Five games into the 2011 Auburn season, there is little dispute that this year’s MVP is running back Michael Dyer.

Saturday’s big victory against South Carolina was the latest excellent performance from Dyer. The sophomore rumbled for 141 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 41 carries. The performance leaves him with 550 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.

The question moving forward is where does Dyer rank among the nation’s top running backs? Can he contend for All-American honors and possibly the Heisman?

There is still plenty of football to be played in 2011, but there is little doubt that Dyer has the raw talent to rank among the best running backs in college football.  Dyer is a tough runner who can take a pounding and keep getting yardage, and also has the speed to break long runs. He’s also proven that he can carry a bigger load with Cam Newton in the NFL and the Tigers breaking in a new offensive line.

Where Dyer stacks up against the competition when it comes to awards time later in the season will result on both his stats and his team’s success.

Dyer wasn’t getting as many carries as most star running backs prior to Saturday, but he now checks in at a tie for 11th in rushing yards. His yardage totals are still behind other top running backs like South Carolina’s  Marcus Lattimore, Alabama’s Trent Richardson and Oregon’s LaMichael James. He will also need to find the end zone a few more times to keep pace. Dyer should be able to catch them if he continues to get the heavy workload he received on Saturday.

Auburn’s win put them back into the AP Top 25, and Dyer’s play will continue to be recognized as long as the Tigers keep winning. The next three games, all against ranked SEC opponents, will be crucial if Auburn is going to stay in the hunt for an SEC title and major bowl game. The Tigers will also need to keep winning if Dyer is going to emerge as a viable Heisman candidate.

Dyer will get more chances to get the ball in the coming weeks with the tough opposition on the schedule. If he continues his success against the likes of Arkansas, Florida and LSU, he could be in line for one of the most successful seasons in the illustrious history of Auburn running backs.