On Thursday, the NCAA denied former Auburn running back Michael Dyer the opportunity to play immediately for his former offensive coordinator, Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn. A Red Wolves squad with some SEC flair will play in Lincoln, but the void left by the ex-Tiger could end up doing the Huskers a severe disservice.
We’ll never know if Dyer could top Arkansas State’s depth chart leaving sophomore Frankie Jackson, junior Sirgregory Thornton and Sherodrick Smith in the dust.
What we do know is that he ran for 2,335 yards and 15 touchdowns in two seasons against SEC defenses.
The Red Wolves’ current top three backs have totaled 789 yards and six touchdowns in their careers.
To be fair, do-it-all junior quarterback Ryan Alpin was the team’s leading rusher by a longshot this past season. However, having to also account for a player like Dyer who’s seen the biggest and baddest of FBS competition would’ve made life that much more difficult for Bo Pelini.
With a defense trying to find a new identity following the loss of Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard, the opportunity to corral such a wily back was a unique one for the 2012 front seven.
Nebraska will face stiff tests from a Southern Miss team that always shows up ready to play followed by a UCLA squad fully confident that it can topple the Huskers to kick off Jim Mora Jr.’s tenure.
The Big Red’s razor-thin interior defensive line can’t get enough practice against the best backs its opposition can offer. Absorbing some battle damage would be a major plus before going up against the likes of Montee Ball, Silas Redd and Fitzgerald Toussaint in Big Ten play.
With Dyer removed from the picture, Nebraska has two likely wins set up before welcoming one of the best running backs in the conference to Lincoln when Wisconsin visits.
Should the Huskers manage a comfortable victory over the Golden Eagles and hold off the Bruins, the Red Wolves’ offense will still likely prove a challenge through the air.
Consider if Nebraska had the opportunity to face an even more potent dual-threat attack led by Malzahn featuring Alpin and Dyer. Pelini could’ve made adjustments thanks to a Sun Belt team under an SEC-sized spotlight.
Testing the Big Red Machine’s new tire pressure against Idaho State before facing the Badgers’ punishing style post-Dyer might’ve given the the Huskers an even better chance to chalk up another homecoming victory.
That’s not to say that Nebraska won’t be ready when Wisconsin, Michigan or Penn State come calling, let alone for their trip to Urban Meyer country. Regardless of the 2012 season’s outcome, keep the absence of No. 5 from Malzahn’s backfield in mind.
After all, you don’t win all of the Tostitos on college football’s grandest stage just by showing up.
Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces