In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, “Ref” Miguel Gonzalez asked our panel of three experts — Malcolm Luck, Ashton Leber and Michael Battista — three questions: 1. What should be considered more in college football — beating ranked teams or winning conference championships? 2. Which group do you consider to be the “group of death” in the World Cup? 3. Is Eli Manning’s time with the Giants coming to an end?
1. What should be considered more in college football — beating ranked teams or winning conference championships?
Malcolm: I think this answer depends entirely on the program. College teams have to be separated into three “tiers” so to speak. Top tier powerhouse programs such as Alabama or Ohio State should be measuring their success based on conference championships. Every year, these teams are ranked consistently and their fanbases expect to see them competing for a national championship, forget about a conference championship. Non-powerhouse but formidable teams in smaller conferences should undoubtedly prioritize winning conference championships over beating ranked teams. In terms of satisfying their fanbases, beating a ranked team might satisfy them for a week, but can’t be considered sustainable success. Weak teams in smaller conferences should measure their success based on beating ranked teams because conference championships aren’t usually feasible.
Ashton: Personally, I feel like beating a ranked team is more important than winning a conference championship. As a transfer from West Virginia University, one of the biggest football schools, I can remember when we beat Baylor University. The town literally went up in flames — couches burning, dumpsters on fire, the whole nine yards (pun intended). When No. 6 Auburn beat No. 1 Alabama last week in the Iron Bowl, the joy and gratification the players and team felt must have been overwhelming, in a positive way of course. For a team that has been set on defeating Alabama for years, this was an achievement finally unlocked. The Crimson Tide has been a top seeded team for years, with almost every college team trying to defeat them along the way. For example, when Clemson beat Alabama last year in the final seconds of the College Football Playoff national championship, I feel that their mission was to defeat the No. 1 team, and not so much on winning the title.
Michael: I honestly don’t know anymore. I said it with Penn State last year and I’ll say it again now, conference championships should be a big factor in the selection committee’s head. Ohio State got robbed this year by Alabama, and USC got robbed of a sixth place spot by Wisconsin. Alabama and Wisconsin had weak schedules and lost crucial games against Auburn and Ohio State respectively. If you have a weak schedule and lose to big teams, then you shouldn’t make it to the College Football Playoffs. If you have a harder schedule, lose a game or two and win your conference, you should matter more. Yes, Ohio State lost to Iowa by more than 30 points, but that was coming off a grueling comeback against Penn State. Alabama’s best win this year was against LSU and they nearly lost to Mississippi State. Winning a conference, no matter what, should make you a favorite to go to the College Football Playoffs.
Ashton gets 3 points for discussing West Virginia’s win over Baylor. Malcolm and Michael get 2 points for valuing conference championships.
2. Which group do you consider to be the “group of death” in the World Cup?
Malcolm: This World Cup is odd because there isn’t any group of death. In 2014, USA happened to be in THE group of death with the world powers of Germany, Portugal and Ghana. In terms of the best group, I would have to go with Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia). Brazil is a proven team every year and have the second best odds behind Germany. Switzerland is an underrated, solid team with quality players. The veteran presence of Xherdan Shaqiri and Stephan Lichtsteiner will lead younger, talented players such as Granit Xhaka. They have serious potential. Costa Rica isn’t highly favored but have past success, advancing from their group in 2014 with no losses. Serbia is also a solid team that shouldn’t be slept on.
Ashton: For this World Cup, I don’t necessarily see a “group of death,” but to pick one I’m going to have to say Group B – Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran. Usually when you discuss a group of death, there are three dominating teams and one underdog. But I have to say, Group B stands the closest chance to meeting that. Portugal and Spain’s national teams are in the top 10 rankings for the 2017 FIFA World Cup. Portugal is ranked No. 3 and Spain is ranked No. 6. Morocco and Iran will have a tough time as they face two dominating teams, but surprises always come with sports, so who knows what the end result will actually be.
Michael: There are a lot of interesting groups in next year’s World Cup, but Group F is looking like a monster. Let’s go through this from bottom to top. You have South Korea, who are a pretty good team and came in second in their qualification group. Then you have Sweden, whose qualification group included France and the Netherlands. They beat France once and knocked the Netherlands out of qualification. Not only that, but they knocked off four-time world-champions Italy in the playoffs, which I’m still mad about. Now come the real killers that topped their qualification groups. Germany, the reigning champions, was undefeated in qualification matches and Mexico only fell once to Honduras. Germany will advance, but that second spot is going to be a bloodbath between the remaining three teams. It’ll be fun to watch.
Malcolm gets 3 points for mentioning players. Ashton gets 3 points for discussing rankings. Michael gets 2 points for supporting Italy.
3. Is Eli Manning’s time with the Giants coming to an end?
Malcolm: I don’t think Eli is done with the Giants just yet. He will be the starter next year. He’s definitely had a disappointing season but he shouldn’t be blamed for all of his team’s troubles. It’s almost impossible to put up sustainable numbers without your top three receivers and a below average offensive line. He has still managed to put up 14 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The Giants will have a top five draft pick this year and will most likely take a quarterback like Sam Darnold out of USC or Josh Rosen out of UCLA. They will benefit from having him sit behind Eli for a year or two so he can develop. Eli’s career may be coming to an end because of his age, but not because of underperformance.
Ashton: Tough question. Since 2004, Eli Manning has been a key player for the Giants. I’m sure the news that he was benched must have been devastating for him, but at the same time, an entire organization can’t let emotions get in the way. They have to do what’s best for them, and perhaps that was benching Manning. It’s no secret that the four-time Super Bowl champs have been absolutely horrible this season. But you also have to look from a technical standpoint when evaluating this. What does the future hold for the New York Giants? Since they are so awful this season, why not give other quarterbacks a chance? At some point, Manning is going to retire. I think this is a good opportunity for the team to let other players make names for themselves on the field, and benching Manning is a good first step. I don’t know if this means it’s the end of his career with football, but maybe with the Giants. I don’t think he wants to end his prized football career being benched. So that’s why I don’t necessarily believe it’s the end of his career, but it could be for his current team.
Michael: I almost hope so, not as a sign of hate toward Manning. I think the disrespect was too much for a two-time Super Bowl MVP. Manning did not deserve to be benched the way he was. After their loss to Oakland, in which he didn’t start Manning, made two things clear. He plans to play in 2018 and he doesn’t want head coach Ben McAdoo fired. He even went as far to say that “When a coach gets fired, it’s usually because the team, the players and myself haven’t performed up to our duties.” He’s that much of a professional. He’ll still support McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese. If McAdoo and Reese are fired, I can see Manning staying in New York, but it isn’t a guarantee. Emotions are powerful things, and he may follow his brother’s steps and go to the Broncos or he may reunite with Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville. Either way, you’ll see me wearing a Manning jersey next season because that’s my quarterback.
Michael gets 3 points for mentioning Manning’s perspective. Malcolm and Ashton get 2 points for considering the future of the Giants.
Ashton wins ATD 8-7-7
“This one’s for Calabria!”