Teams located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England are automatically eligible, while teams in surrounding states (Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia) must play half of their games against eligible Eastern teams. An extension of that rule allowed several southern teams to become eligible; as part of the old Big East, Miami and South Florida were included. Similar rules apply to the different levels of college ball, with separate polls and trophies for the Championship Subdivision (1-AA), Division II and III.
Dating back to 1936, the champion has finished unranked just 6 times, yet 3 of those have occurred since 2010. Last year, Penn State (7-5) finished with the lowest win percentage ever by a Lambert champion. Historically, Lambert champs tend to finish in the top 10 and play in major bowl games - several eras of National Champions have roots in the Lambert region.
This year, 10 FBS (Division 1-A) teams are eligible:
Army, Boston College, Buffalo, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple
2014 Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Preview
As stated above, this is by all accounts the first ever Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Preview on the internet or elsewhere. It is apparent that the ECAC (organization behind the Trophy) uses a mix of total wins and strength of schedule/conference to determine their rankings and eventual champion. Penn State and Rutgers are members of the Big Ten, the strongest conference in this region, while Boston College, Pitt and Syracuse come from the ACC. These five have the clear nod in schedule strength and fittingly have more leeway when it comes to win/loss. The other 5 are mid-majors from non-Power 5 conferences, and would need a more impressive record to account for that. With UConn and Temple looking like bottom-half AAC teams, Buffalo rebuilding, and UMass in the MAC cellar, it is possible that Army rates higher than the other 4.
So narrowing it down to the 5 Power Conference teams, it’s basically whoever can win the most games. 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.
So there you have it, the first ever Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy Preview. Boston College will be football kings of the Northeast!