Auburn Tigers star running back Michael Dyer has been suspended for violating a team rule and will miss the team's bowl game vs. Virginia, according to Charles Goldberg. While taking away a mediocre offense's main weapon is never easy to overcome, Onterio McCalebb should fill in nicely.
Dyer finished the season with 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns as one of the few constants in an ever-changing Auburn attack. The sophomore has gained at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Tigers, which is no small feat in the SEC.
His suspension, which still hasn't been commented on by head coach Gene Chizik, opens the door for McCalebb to shine.
The junior actually gained a fraction more per carry than Dyer, totaling 532 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He's also more of a dual-threat option, catching a team-high 30 passes for nearly 300 yards and a TD.
Unlike during a normal week where he wouldn't have much time to prepare for his increased role, McCalebb has nearly three weeks to ready himself.
Can Auburn beat Virginia without Dyer?
He hasn't surpassed 16 touches in any game this season, but that's likely to change against the Cavaliers. With so much turmoil at the quarterback position for Auburn, the running back position has been leaned on heavily.
McCalebb has all the tools to be a successful SEC ball carrier, but he's been caught behind one of the conference's elite talents for two years. A big performance on New Year's Eve would go a long way in proving to the coaching staff that he deserves more snaps next season.
Another name to look out for is Tre Mason. Even though the freshman only carried the ball 19 times during the regular season, Chizik could use the Chick-fil-A Bowl to get a better look at what he brings to the table.
The highly-regarded prospect doesn't have great size, but more than makes up for it with tremendous speed and agility. Look for Auburn to finds ways to get him the ball in space to see if he can work some magic against a solid, yet unspectacular, Virginia defense.
It's unfortunate that Dyer will miss the game since he would have been the most exciting player in it, but his loss is another player's gain. Now McCalebb or Mason needs to seize the opportunity.
One thing's for sure: They'll get more than enough chances to make things happen due to the Tigers' problems under center.