Pundits looking to find this season's dark horse candidate for the 2012 Heisman Trophy may not even have to wait until Saturday as Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell announced his presence in a huge way Friday night in the Spartans' 17-13 victory over Boise State.
Rushing for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns, Bell was head coach Mark Dantonio's workhorse the entire night. The junior back carried the ball an astounding 44 times and added six receptions for 55 yards to put the Spartans offense on his back while simultaneously overpowering the Boise State defensive unit.
Accounting for Bell's receiving total, the Spartans (No. 13 in the AP poll) star actually outproduced the struggling Broncos offense by a score of 265 total yards to Boise State's 206.
Bell also worked as a savior of sorts for quarterback Andrew Maxwell who struggled the entire night, throwing three interceptions that included a pick-six that nearly cost the Spartans the game.
Regardless, this night was all about Bell and what it could mean going forward.
While 50 touches a game is wholly unsustainable over the course of the season, Dantonio made it clear who the leader of his offense is going forward.
With a huge performance against Boise State (No. 24 in the AP Poll), Bell announced his presence to the nation. Having come into the season not on anyone's Heisman watch list, that type of performance is exactly what piques the interest of the voters.
Two relative cupcakes against Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan in the next three games linger for Michigan State, so expect huge stats from Bell in both contests.
Nevertheless, it's the Spartans yearly battle against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sept. 15 that will be his next chance to impress on the national level. If Bell is able to sustain his momentum against Central Michigan next week and puts up another great game against the Irish, he may supplant Motee Ball as the Big Ten's best running back.
With Matt Barkley far and away the Heisman favorite heading into this season, Friday night in East Lansing may have been our introduction to his biggest competition.
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