There's been so much talk about Michigan State's star-studded defense that it's easy to overlook the offense, which averaged 31.0 ppg last year, the 37th-best mark in the country.
By all accounts, first-year starting QB Andrew Maxwell has a firm grasp of the offense, but it's junior RB Le'Veon Bell who may benefit from the inevitable growing pains Maxwell will endure.
Bell split nearly half of his carries last season with Edwin Baker but still managed to rack up 948 touchdowns and 13 touchdowns. His 5.2 yards per carry ranked him fourth in the Big Ten behind Montee Ball, Michigan's Fitzgerald Toussaint and Indiana's Stephen Houston.
“Bell is a beast,” according to the Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart, who's traversing the Midwest, stopping at each school in the conference. “I have seen some big backs on tour, and Bell matches up with anyone of them. He looked good running between the tackles. Bell broke a lot of tackles.”
The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Bell should benefit from a veteran offensive line that returns four starters. Without any proven receivers, Bell, who had 35 receptions last year, could be a viable option for Maxwell out of the backfield.
Numerous writers, including CBSSports.com's Chris Huston as well as ESPN's KC Joyner have chosen Bell as a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Kirk Herbstreit even elected Bell as his number one sleeper candidate in all of college football.
“I'm ready to carry the load,” Bell told Josh Slagter of mlive.com at Michigan State's media day. “I'm ready to do whatever I have to do to win with this team.”
Bell's “darkhorse” Heisman candidacy will start when Michigan State opens their season on national television vs. Boise State on Aug. 31. As the top running back on a team expected to compete for the Big Ten title, Bell's name won't be a secret for much longer.
For more Big Ten coverage, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen.