Did you know there is a trophy awarded to the best college football team in the Northeast?
The Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy has been awarded annually since the late 1930s, and recognizes supremacy in northeastern college football. The award has since grown to recognize the best team in the Northeast in Division I FBS. The award has a somewhat convoluted eligibility criteria, but here's the gist of it:
-- School located in the East -- Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
-- Schools located in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia and the District of Columbia qualify if at least half of their schedule features eligible teams.
-- Teams in Eastern-based football conferences, regardless of location, qualify if at least half their schedule is against Lambert eligible teams
When the Big East was a major football conference centered in the Northeast, several Big East members -- including Cincinnati, Louisville, Miami and West Virginia -- were eligible and won the award in the past.
The ECAC, the organization behind the Trophy, uses a mix of total wins and strength of schedule/conference to determine the eventual champion. Last year, Penn State won a record 29th Lambert Trophy which is more titles than any other four programs combined.
The Nittany Lions finished the year 7-5 -- the lowest winning percentage ever for a Lambert Trophy winner. Penn State seems to have gotten an assist from not playing in a bowl game last year. Pittsburgh (7-6), which won the Pizza Bowl over Bowling Green, finished second. Syracuse (7-6), Boston College (7-6) and Buffalo (8-5) rounded out the top five. Had BC won the AdvoCare V100 Bowl game to finish the season 8-5, the Eagles probably would have had as strong a claim as any to last year's Lambert Trophy.
Boston College has won the Trophy five times, but it's been nearly a decade since the Eagles can claim Eastern college football supremacy. Can the Eagles win the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy in 2014? The website PickSixPreviews.com seems to think so:
From my Big Ten Preview, you can see that I have Penn State pegged at 7 wins, with Rutgers closer to 5 wins. The three ACC teams are very closer, and a deeper look at the schedule shows that Syracuse's out-of-conference schedule will bring 2 losses (Maryland and Notre Dame), while BC (USC) and Pitt (Iowa) will each go 3-1 there. All three play each other; Boston College has homefield advantage for both, while ‘Cuse travels for both. Pitt is part of the top-to-bottom competitive Coastal Division where every week is a battle, while Cuse and BC have a few easier division rivals. I look for BC to go 7-5, and both Cuse and Pitt to go 6-6.
Between Boston College and Penn State (both at 7-5), BC has an extra weapon that sanction-ridden Penn State does not: a bowl game. This gives BC that chance to claim the 8th win that would take the title. A respectable, hard-fought loss against a tough bowl opponent would also give them the nod over bowl-less PSU.
Sure, Boston College might be in rebuild mode, but there's probably never been a better chance to reclaim the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy. That's because this year's eligible program field is pretty underwhelming. With the systematic, decade-long breakup of the Big East, only 10 programs remain eligible for the Trophy this season: Army, Boston College, Buffalo, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple.
Given that strength of schedule is factored in, in recent years the Lamberts-Meadowlands has become a title given to the best eastern Power conference program. BC might just be catching Penn State (sanctions), Pittsburgh, Rutgers (B1G Ten n00b) and Syracuse (schedule) at just the right time to win their first title since 2004.
Here are the five Eastern power conference team's schedules for 2014:
|Boston College||Penn State||Pittsburgh||Rutgers||Syracuse|
|at Massachusetts||UCF||Delaware||at Washington State||Villanova|
|Pittsburgh||Akron||at Boston College||Howard||at Central Michigan|
|USC||at Rutgers||at FIU||Penn State||Maryland|
|Maine||Massachusetts||Iowa||at Navy||Notre Dame|
|at N.C. State||at Michigan||at Virginia||Michigan||Florida State|
|Clemson||Ohio State||Virginia Tech||at Ohio State||at Wake Forest|
|at Wake Forest||Maryland||Georgia Tech||at Nebraska||at Clemson|
|at Virginia Tech||at Indiana||Duke||Wisconsin||N.C. State|
|Louisville||Temple||at North Carolina||Indiana||Duke|
|at Florida State||at Illinois||Syracuse||at Michigan State||at Pittsburgh|
|Syracuse||Michigan State||at Miami (FL)||at Maryland||at Boston College|
This year's schedule breaks nicely for BC, which gets both Pittsburgh and Syracuse at home this. Add in a virtual home game against UMass in Foxborough and BC plays all three of their Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy eligible teams in Massachusetts. Win those three games and the Eagles would be well on their way to their sixth Lambert Trophy.
So who ya got? Another boring Penn State title? Or does an ACC team reclaim the title of kings of Eastern college football?