Considering how they rang in 2011 back in January — and how they just closed the regular season in November — it's safe to say Auburn fans don't have a whole lot invested in ringing in 2012 with a New Year's Eve win in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Which may be a good thing, actually, because the Tigers' odds against Virginia just got a little lower with news that All-SEC tailback Michael Dyer has been suspended from the game for (altogether now) an undisclosed violation of team rules. "Multiple sources" confirmed to al.com that Dyer will be out of the lineup on Dec. 31.
By the end of the season, Dyer was not only Auburn's best player, but arguably the only reliable positive on the team. The Tigers shuffled through three quarterbacks, struggled through injuries at receiver and finished 104th nationally in total offense. The defense gave up at least 38 points in all five losses, sending coordinator Ted Roof packing for Central Florida. They limp into the postseason with three losses in their last four SEC games, all blowouts.
With 1,242 yards on a little over 20 carries per game, Dyer was the only Tiger on either side of the ball voted first-team All-SEC, and even he struggled to stay involved in the losses to LSU, Georgia and Alabama down the stretch. In his absence, the best-case scenario against Virginia is a solid effort from backup Onterio McCalebb and an expanded role for true freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier that points toward a future as something other than an occasional "Wildcat" option. Otherwise, they're headed in for a forgettable end to a forgettable year.