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Lambert Meadowlands Trophy, Week 12: Penn State, Rutgers Become Bowl Eligible

Eagles, Nittany Lions and Scarlet Knights all with a share of first place with two regular season games to go.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Keeping track of how the 10 programs vying for this year's Lambert-Meadowlands trophy fared last week, and a look ahead to next weekend's action.

Standings

Team Overall Conf Next
1t. Boston College Eagles 6-4 3-3 @ Florida State
1t. Penn State Nittany Lions 6-4 2-4 @ Illinois
1t. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 6-4 2-4 @ Michigan State
4. Temple Owls 5-5 3-3 Idle
5t. Pittsburgh Panthers 4-6 2-4 Syracuse
5t. Buffalo Bulls 4-6 2-4 Kent State (Wed.)
7t. Army Black Knights 3-7 -- Fordham
7t. Syracuse Orange 3-7 1-5 @ Pittsburgh
7t. Massachusetts Minutemen 3-7 3-3 @ Akron (Tue.)
10. Connecticut Huskies 2-7 1-4 Cincinnati


Week 12 Results

Penn State 30, Temple 13
Rutgers 45, Indiana 23
North Carolina 40, Pittsburgh 35
Buffalo 55, Akron 24
Western Kentucky 52, Army 24
Massachusetts 24, Ball State 10

Pretty blah week when it comes to the Lambert Meadowlands Trophy, though four of the seven teams in action were winners in week 12.

We start this week in Happy Valley, where the Nittany Lions became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 with a 30-13 victory over fellow Lambert Meadowlands trophy eligible Temple.

Penn State is going to a bowl game. I cannot tell you how great it feels to type those eight words. There are plenty of players that were on the roster in 2011 that made the trip to Dallas. But in an honest moment, I am sure they will admit they did not really want to be there. For reasons we all know too well, that team deserved better than ringing in the new year on ESPNU in North Dallas.

Rutgers also got that elusive sixth victory with a 45-23 victory over Indiana. The Scarlet Knights actually trailed at half before rattling off 5 second-half touchdowns to put away the Hoosiers.

It was a great day for the Rutgers offense. They accounted for 429 total yards, including a fine senior day performance by Gary Nova. Nova was 16 of 27 for 217 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. He even looked pretty good on some QB scrambles when plays broke down. And with this win, fans can exhale knowing that the Scarlet Knights are going bowling for the ninth time in ten seasons. With any luck, the Knights will get an invite to Detroit (seriously) for the Quick Lane Bowl, or better. Just no Pinstripe. Nothing against the Yankee Stadium folks (although the turf still stinks), but Rutgers needs a change of scenery.

And in Chapel Hill, the Panthers blew a huge chance to become bowl eligible with a 40-35 loss to the Tar Heels. These are trying times down at the Oakland Zoo.

Pitt has now lost six of their past seven games - a streak not equaled since 1998 when the team's only two wins that year were against Akron (how's that for irony?) and I-AA Villanova. Pitt, quite simply, can not be expected to win the majority of its games. A win against Syracuse is possible ... likely, even. But beyond beating the 3-4 weakest teams on the schedule, to expect a Panthers win these days just isn't all that realistic. Not because they're incapable of winning mind you - Pitt could have easily won against Duke and North Carolina, after all. Rather, it's because the team simply finds new ways to lose every week.

Pittsburgh now has to win both of its final games—Syracuse, @ Miami—to make a bowl game this year.

Elsewhere, Buffalo scored two touchdowns in every quarter to blitz Akron, 55-24, in a mid-week #MACtion special. UMass knocked off Ball State, 24-10, but QB Blake Frohnapfel suffered a right leg injury and his status is up in the air moving forward. Finally, Army's miserable season continued with a 52-24 loss to Western Kentucky.

Week 13 Schedule

Massachusetts at Akron (Tue.)
Kent State at Buffalo (Wed.)
Boston College at Florida State
Penn State at Illinois
Rutgers at Michigan State
Syracuse at Pittsburgh
Fordham at Army
Cincinnati at Connecticut

Another week of mid-week #MACtion as UMass travels to Akron on Tuesday and Buffalo hosts Kent State on Wednesday. Pitt and Syracuse meet in a matchup of Lambert Meadowlands eligible teams, though both have likely played their way out of contention at this point (unless BC and/or Penn State finish 6-6). BC (Florida State), Penn State (Illinois) and Rutgers (Michigan) are all on the road this week, while Army hosts Fordham and UConn hosts Cincinnati.

With just two weekends to go, this is shaping up to be a three-team race between Boston College, Penn State and Rutgers. Here are the remaining schedules for the three schools:

Boston College (6-4, 3-3 ACC) -- @ Florida State, Syracuse
Penn State (6-4, 2-4 Big Ten) -- @ Illinois, Michigan State
Rutgers (6-4, 2-4 Big Ten) -- @ Michigan State, Maryland

I suppose Temple (5-5) or Pitt (4-6) could jump back in this thing but seems like a long shot at this point.

Those three schools—BC, Penn State and Rutgers—all have one very winnable game on the schedule (Syracuse, @ Illinois, and Maryland, respectively) and one game where they are or will be significant dogs. I'm thinking BC will have to split the final two games of the season to put themselves in position to bring home some hardware, bowl game pending. It's also entirely possible that BC faces either Penn State or Rutgers in a bowl game, setting up what would be a de facto Lambert Meadowlands Trophy title game.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the ECAC, the group that awards the trophy, also incorporates strength of schedule. So just because one of these teams finishes with the best record of the bunch doesn't necessarily mean they'll take home the hardware. Right now, the three teams are very close together when it comes to SOS per Sagarin:

Rutgers: 53
Boston College: 59
Penn State: 63

Last year's competition also came down to marquee wins, with Penn State's upset victory over a ranked Wisconsin team one of the deciding factors. Right now, BC has by far the most impressive victory of the three—a 37-31 win over then-#9 USC—with the chance at springing another upset this weekend. A Rutgers or Penn State victory over a ranked Michigan State team could change things, but right now BC has the most impressive overall resume of the three.