Every so often, I have a feeling about a sporting event. It's a feeling that's often unjustifiable, unexplainable by any bit of data, film, or any other metric in which we assess a team or competitor before taking the field, court, pitch, course -- whatever -- and any attempt to do so results in the twittersphere wrapping you in a straight-jacket and placing you in a padded room. And that's not to mention the superstitious fan-types hate-mailing you with accusations of "jinxing" the game.
To all of you: I apologize in advance for Indiana's likely lopsided loss to Michigan State on Saturday.
But I've just got a feeling about this one.
These feelings likely come from a continual need to search for hope in a season that, to many, is seemingly lost. Nate Sudfeld, separated shoulder, surgery, out for the year. Those words are undoubtedly damning to a team & a fanbase that had high hopes for conference wins and bowl games coming into the season. Undoubtedly damning to an all-timer at running-back that should be a top candidate for the Heisman, if not for the name on the front of his jersey. Undoubtedly damning to a coaching staff that unjustly see its days become numbered with another 3-9, 4-8 season. With Chris Covington now slated not to play for whatever reason, the refrain among both Hoosier fans and national media-types is one in the same. Number three quarterback, Michigan State, on national tv? Ha! Good luck kid.
That's because most people, myself included, don't really know Zander Diamont.
But I do know this number three quarterback is exactly what Indiana football needs.
Don't get me wrong. Two years ago, I said Nate Sudfeld was a future NFL quarterback. Pending what should be a full recovery of his non-throwing shoulder, my position on this hasn't changed. He has the unteachable size and arm strength not often found at that position, knows the game and understands the system, and is, by all accounts, a fantastic kid. He is undoubtedly Indiana's best option at quarterback to put the team in position to win football games on Saturday afternoon. But the game of football is cruel and stupid. And now Indiana's coaching staff has, reportedly, chosen to go with Zander Diamont out of the lot of true freshman arms available to lead the team into the team's toughest battle yet.
A true-freshman from southern California with a past modeling career, that is the son-of-a-soap-star, whose mom appeared in one of the more famous Seinfeld scenes in history, will make his debut against a Top-10 opponent in the 3:30 slot on ESPN on Saturday.
We get these feelings because we want something to be true. We need something to be true.
Indiana football has, certainly, never been a sexy program. But, then again, neither was Oregon. Or Baylor. Or, really -- on a different sort of scale -- Texas A&M. Sure, Anthony Thompson was a all-time great player and the Mallory years were at times successful -- but those teams were, frankly, boring. Antwaan was my childhood idol, those teams were bad. But more to my point, I don't think anyone would accuse either of those guys as being "bright lights, big city" personality types both on and off the field. The attention came from the success on the field, maybe the way it should be.
But, in 2014, Indiana football takes more than the way it should be.
A program with little-to-no-history like Indiana football needs a Zander Diamont.
Indiana football needs a type of Manziellian-type playmaker that Twitter and the internet will love and old, angsty sportswriters will write the hottest possible takes on -- accusing him of being too cocky or too soft or whatever mischaracterization is most fitting a kid like Diamont's backstory.
Indiana football needs a quarterback with ready-made memeability.
Indiana football needs the type of player that when your 13-year-old son walks in the store he heads straight for the the arm sleeves because that's what Zander wears.
Indiana football need the type of player that will make you ever so slightly more concerned about your physical appearance because of his shirtless model-photos all over the internet.
Indiana football needs a larger-than-life character.
Indiana football needs a (positive) off-the-field storyline.
Indiana football needs cool.
Indiana football needs a little sexy.
Indiana football needs a Zander Diamont.
Kevin Wilson's started that process of making Indiana football cool. The talent on both sides of the ball is improving, the offense is high-powered, and, for better or worse, the games are generally fun to watch. But Zander Diamont has the ability and opportunity on Saturday to become the widely-appealing instant star that puts more eyeballs on Indiana football than ever before.
Is it a pipe dream? Probably.
Michigan State is certainly beatable. I watched from the State sideline this past weekend as they struggled to put away Purdue program that has been much worse than Indiana over its last 18 games. The Rose Bowl-champion defense gave up 31 points to Austin Appleby, and despite hanging 45, you didn't watch Connor Cook's offense and cower in fear. But one would think that trip to Ross-Ade would be a wake-up call to a team that has national championship aspirations.
And a letdown loss in Bloomington was certainly more possible with the veteran, proven Nate Sudfeld pulling the strings of the Hoosier offense.
For now it's Zander Diamont's time. Do a quick YouTube search. The kid undoubtedly had major playmaking ability at the high school level in southern California. Will that translate to major college football against the reigning Big Ten champs? Can he play at this level?
If the answer is yes, college football's next big star might reside in a Bloomington dorm.