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Balliol College Oxford, Captained By Joey Goldman, To Face-Off In Finale Against Eric Monkman In University Challenge Final

One of them has already bagged a job at NASA.

10/04/2017 11:08 BST | Updated 10/04/2017 20:36 BST

When Joey Goldman first hit our screens back in August, it was clear that he was going to do well in University Challenge

Brilliant, quick on the buzzer and delightfully sassy, the 23-year-old quickly made a impression on viewers and even the famously frosty Jeremy Paxman. 

But compared to the legendary Eric Monkman - who he will take on in tonight’s final - Goldman and his Balliol College, Oxford team have flown relatively under the radar.

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Joey Goldman and Eric Monkman will face off in the University Challenge final tonight 

While hundreds of column inches have been dedicated to discussing #Monkmania, Balliol College have been quietly plugging their way through the competition, stacking up their wins to reach the final. 

But could Goldman and his team shock everyone and knock Monkman off his quiz show pedestal at the last moment?

Analysis of semi-final matches show they may be in a better position than Monkman’s Wolfson College, Cambridge team to take the University Challenge crown. 

Ahead of the showdown, The Huffington Post UK caught up with the Balliol College captain and his team mates Benjamin Pope, Jacob Lloyd and Freddy Potts to learn more about some of the UK’s brainiest students.  

Joey Goldman 

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Goldman first hit headlines when he threw some serious sass at Jeremy Paxman 

Age: 23

Subject: Philosophy and theology. 

Specialist topics: Literature, philosophy, art and history. If there’s a decent enough book on it I’ll probably get keen to learn about it.

Favourite University Challenge moment: Two buzzes stand out for me. First getting a starter on the Byzantine epithet “born in the purple”, or porphyrogenitus, in our round two match against Robinson, Cambridge.

I was also quite happy with my buzz of “Pevsner” in our quarter final against Birmingham, played after our loss to Wolfson, because it gave me the confidence to trust my gut in future matches after that had just gone awry.

Plans after graduation: Oof, a tougher question than anything I’ve faced in University Challenge so far! I hope to find work in London for a couple of years, after which I expect the urge to study will overwhelm me and I’ll end up back at university researching philosophy or modernism in art and intellectual history.

Weirdest thing you have seen about yourself on Twitter: I’ve still not come to grips with the fact that someone called me a “vampire squid”. 

Your star of the series so far: Eric Monkman is amazing. No one has ever brought such a high level mastery of the essential skill of buzzing to University Challenge before. He’s absurdly, or should I say cruelly, fast.

Oliver Sweetenham from Peterhouse, Cambridge and Henry Edwards of SOAS, too, would have certainly developed into stars had they had friendlier draws in the second round and been able to showcase themselves in the quarter final rounds. 

Benjamin Pope  

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Pope's last name has given viewers a lot of laughs 

Age: 26

Subject: DPhil Astrophysics

Specialist topics: Well, aside from astronomy, I had a bit of a background in classics, which occasionally I’ve remembered over this series!

Favourite University Challenge moment: I don’t know about best, but I can tell you the worst - after flunking three questions on Australian deserts, Paxo asked “What’s the point of having an Australian on the team?” Ouch.

Plans after graduation: I’m going to take a nice long break before starting as a NASA Sagan Fellow at New York University, searching for extrasolar planets.

Weirdest thing you have seen about yourself on Twitter: Twitter has taken delight in my surname, but none funnier than this guy.  

Your star of the series so far: I really must say, Freddy Potts at the tender age of 19 was a hell of a lot cleverer than me when I was his age! 

Jacob Lloyd  

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Some viewers have made unfortunate comparisons about Lloyd... 

Age: 30

Subject: DPhil English 

Specialist topics: Literature, especially pre-1900 as Joey covers the more modern stuff, and politics. 

Favourite University Challenge moment: My very first buzz, when I answered “longitude”, was special as it was the first correct answer by anyone on our team. I buzzed quite early and I knew it because I remembered a Channel 4 historical drama I saw when I was 12.

Also, I was really pleased in the semi-final when we got a bonus round combining Shakespeare and US State Capitals, as I know both of those well.

Plans after graduation: Doctorates in English Literature are not high on employers’ list of priorities, but I hope to work either in academia or for the Labour party.

Weirdest thing you have seen about yourself on Twitter: Every time we’re on, someone says I look like a serial killer. 

Your star of the series so far: Our captain, Joey, is the standout player, I think. After quizzing with him for two years, I have seen how consistently amazing he is: fast on the buzzer, highly knowledgeable across a range of areas, and rarely making mistakes.

Freddy Potts  

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The 20-year-old's luscious locks are the envy of many University Challenge fans 

Age: 20

Subject: History 

Specialist topics: History first and foremost, particularly medieval history, but also politics and geography. 

Favourite University Challenge moment: Probably my correct buzz on “Friedrich Engels” way back in round 1; it was about the most ‘me’ question I could possibly have been given, and I got absolutely deluged with Facebook messages from friends watching. 

Plans after graduation: Absolutely no idea. Next starter for 10?

Weirdest thing you have seen about yourself on Twitter: The barrage of comments focusing just on my hair and nothing else, although it’s been pretty positive, which is nice. 

Your star of the series so far: Obviously my answer to this is Joey, not least given his terrifying art knowledge, but that aside I think Edinburgh’s Euan Smith was a seriously underrated player throughout the series.