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New York's rookie standouts set for first pro meeting 

The good people at NFL Network run a series called the "N 'if' L" in which they explore the alternate realities of the game. It just so happens that a lot of segments in the series involve the Giants.

"What if Scott Norwood made the kick?" "What if Tyree didn't make his helmet catch?" "What if Eli hadn't been traded to New York?"

Well, there will probably be another one added to the list. "What if the Giants didn't draft Saquon Barkley?"

It won't be fair to answer the question for at least a decade, but that's in a perfect and patient world. The question has already been asked, and there are people already weighing in on it. Such is life in NFL, especially when the next pick was quarterback Sam Darnold to the Jets. The Giants will get a good look at the third overall pick from USC on Friday night in the annual MetLife Bowl.

"That's kind of really something that doesn't cross my mind," Barkley says of being linked to Darnold. "We play two different positions. I see what you're saying, but I don't really look too deep in that. I only can focus and control what I can control. I'm just thankful that the Giants picked me and I'm here and I'm a New York Giant. I'm playing for the best franchise in the league and I'm going to continue to take advantage of the opportunity every single day and continue to work every single day."

Barkley's real axe to grind with Darnold comes from their college days. Penn State and USC played in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history in 2017, with Barkley's Nittany Lions ultimately falling to the Trojans, 52-49.

In that game, Barkley rushed for a Penn State bowl-record 194 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts. His 79-yard rushing score in the third quarter was the second-longest offensive scoring play in Penn State bowl history. He also caught five passes for 55 yards, including an over-the-shoulder touchdown catch near the end of the third quarter. Oh, and he also returned two kickoffs for 57 yards.

But it was Darnold who was named the Rose Bowl Offensive Player of the Game after throwing five touchdowns and totaling 473 yards of offense. He was 33 of 53 passing, including 10 of 10 for 135 yards in the fourth quarter as he engineered two long touchdowns drives in the final nine minutes to tie the score.

"I got to know him a little bit during the draft process and I wasn't a big Sam Darnold fan after they beat us in the Rose Bowl game my sophomore year, but that's just a competitive thing," Barkley said. "We joke around about that all the time. I got to know him a little more. Actually we were on the whole flight together going to the rookie premiere (out in Los Angeles), so definitely got to know him a lot more. Like I said, not only him, I said about the running backs, but with Sam, with Baker (Mayfield), with (Bradley) Chubb, with all those guys in my draft class, I want to see those guys succeed. I don't want to see Sam succeed much this week against us, but I wish nothing but success for all those guys. I hope they have great careers."

Meanwhile, Giants safety Landon Collins, who will actually be the one facing the rookie quarterback on the field, didn't exactly wish him well like Barkley did.

"I'm excited," the two-time Pro Bowl safety said. "He's a rookie. We feast on rookies sometimes. It's always an exciting game. To see him play, he's going to have a fantastic career once he gets it going and I know he's going to do a great job at the Jets, but you're playing against a good defense and we're going to have fun with it."

Collins caught himself when he said "good" defense. He was about to say "great" but held back. 

"Because at the end of the day we're going to be good regardless of the fact," he said. "But until those stats come out and we put it on paper when it counts the most, that's when we're going to call ourselves great."

The same can be said for Barkley and Darnold.

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