Earlier this summer, CBS Sports compiled a list of the best combined college football and college basketball programs of the past 16 years. The highlights: Florida topped the rankings, Ohio State was a close second and Wisconsin followed the Buckeyes.
For the sake of this article, we’ll focus on schools that have the best outlook in football and basketball for this coming year. Here are seven that could win a lot of games in both sports in 2016-17.
Michigan State Spartans
Football: The Spartans are fresh off of a College Football Playoff berth, and though they lose Connor Cook and two of their best offensive linemen, Michigan State looks formidable in 2016.
The Spartans come in at No. 12 in the first AP poll, and with the combination of L.J. Scott running the ball and Mark Dantonio’s ability to churn out 10-win seasons regardless of his talent, Sparty will once again challenge for a Big Ten crown.
Basketball: Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, Deyonta Davis and Bryn Forbes have departed East Lansing, but Michigan State’s basketball program mirrors its football program. Above all else, trust Tom Izzo. Freshman Miles Bridges will prove to be one of the most athletic players the school has ever seen, and much of the Spartans’ depth will return this season.
Vert test today pic.twitter.com/mCDXBjoRo1— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges01) June 30, 2016
A Final Four appearance is not out of the question.
Football: Clemson is going to be exquisite on the gridiron this season, and that’s no secret. The Tigers nearly upended Alabama to win the national championship last year, and most of their offense remains intact. Clemson is second in the preseason AP poll behind Alabama, receiving 16 first place votes to the Tide’s 33.
Football: Washington went 7-6 last season, and yet, is ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP poll. Why the optimism? There are a few reasons: the Huskies return just about everyone on both sides of the ball, and they were already stout defensively. UW allowed 17 points or less in seven games last season. Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning should improve, and the Huskies’ toughest road game of the season will come at Oregon on Oct. 8. The schedule plays out well for them.
Basketball: It’s all about the freshman phenom. Newcomer Markelle Fultz has drawn comparisons to D’Angelo Russell, and if he lives up to the hype, his teammates will fall into place. Noah Dickerson and Malik Dime showed impressive flashes last season, and if they can progress as sophomores, the Huskies will be in the mix for a good seed in the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Football: The Tar Heels had a banner year in 2015, going 8-0 in the ACC regular season before losing to to Clemson in the conference championship game. Simply put, their offense was electric. The Heels averaged 40.7 points per game in 2015, which was good for ninth in the country. UNC will return stud running back Elijah Hood (1,463 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns last season), and although Marquise Williams is gone, Mitch Trubisky was solid in limited time under center a year ago. Trubisky completed 40 of his 47 pass attempts and tossed six touchdowns compared to zero interceptions.
Basketball: North Carolina was seconds away from a national championship in April, and although it will lose Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels are once again poised for a deep tournament run.
Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks and Joel Berry will lead Roy Williams’ squad in 2016-17, and although they won’t be as highly-touted as Duke, the Heels won’t let their counterparts in Durham cruise to an ACC title. UNC is likely to start 2016-17 as a top-10 team; time will tell if it stays there.
Football: Oregon is ranked 24th in the preseason AP poll, and the football Ducks are hoping they can keep par with the basketball Ducks. What is life? Times are changing in Eugene, but let’s not write off the football program just yet. Oregon went 9-4 in 2015, and it was considered a disappointment. Brady Hoke is on campus to shore up the defense, and if new starting quarterback Dakota Prukop can be solid, he has the surrounding weapons to produce a divine offensive attack.
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Basketball: On the hardwood, things have never looked brighter for the Ducks. That’s not even a uniform joke. Oregon was a No. 1 seed in the 2016 NCAA tournament, and outside of Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin, the band is back together. Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey will form one of the top one-two punches in all of college basketball, and Dana Altman will continue to orchestrate artful offensive sets from the sidelines.
Football: The Pac-12 may not feature a Clemson or an Alabama-like power in football or a Duke or a Villanova-like force in basketball, but the conference features many schools that have solid programs in both sports. UCLA went 8-5 on the gridiron last season, but it was hit hard by the injury bug. There may not be a more exciting backfield in America than Josh Rosen and Soso Jamabo, and Bruin fans are hoping to see their program take the next step in 2016. They’re ranked 16th in the preseason AP poll.
Basketball: Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball has garnered Jason Kidd comparisons, and power forward T.J. Leaf is supposedly a scoring machine. Pick-and-rolls with that duo should be a treat, and Steve Alford has many talented returning players to boast. Three of UCLA’s top-four scorers (Isaac Hamilton, Bryce Alford, Thomas Welsh) are back in the fold, and the Bruins could return to glory in 2016-17.
Basketball: 2016-17 will be a transition year for the Sooners, but they still have the talent to make the NCAA tournament. Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins are gone, but Jordan Woodard is ready to seize a primary role in the offense, and Oklahoma’s depth was a strength last season. That depth returns. Khadeem Lattin, Dante Buford and Christian James are all talented players, and they’ll have a chance to show it in 2016-17.