Despite a 7-5 record while trying to defend its national title, things were looking up for Auburn when it got a bid to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Virginia.
Now, not so much.
Running back Michael Dyer has been suspended for the game for a violation of team rules. He has rushed for 1242 yards this season for 10 touchdowns while sharing some carries with Onterio McCalebb.
This is obviously a huge problem for the Tigers, who rely almost entirely on the run for yards and points, ranking 106th in the country in passing yards per game. So, how will this affect the game as well as the new betting lines?
So far, no new lines have been released, and Auburn is a 1.5-point favorite in the game. But a suspension of this magnitude will surely change that.
In every loss this season, Auburn has given up 38 or more points. That bodes well for the Tigers, because Virginia only did that against William and Mary with an entirely different offensive scheme from what it is running now.
Auburn has also done a good job of holding mediocre offenses to low outputs. South Carolina scored 13, Florida six and Ole Miss got 23.
The problem is Virginia’s defense is pretty good, giving up just 22 points per game. The Tigers have been held to 17 points or under by every defense that allows less than that, with the exception of Mississippi State.
This was one of the hardest bowls to predict, and it got a lot more difficult now that Dyer will be out of the picture. His 207-pound frame will be sorely missed against a solid Virginia front seven that stopped Georgia Tech but was powerless against Virginia Tech.
In a game that figures to be this close, it’s always a safe bet to go with the team from the SEC, especially since there is so much time before the bowl for coaches to get a different game plan. This will likely mean that the best option is to bet Auburn straight.