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March 14th, 2006

Hoops & Helmets 2005/2006
Ranking from 1-119 the schools with the best combination of football and basketball

By Richard Cirminiello

If you’re a graduate, current student or fervent backer of a particular school’s football program, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re investing some discretionary time into the hoops team as well.  That’s especially true when the month on your calendar tells you it’s March.  If that program happens to be Texas or Ohio State, for instance, the odds are even better that you haven’t stopped grinning since Labor Day.  As a fan, your school has given you plenty of reasons to smile, sing fight songs and pump out your two-tone chest these past six months.

Some campuses like Penn State, Virginia Tech and Georgia have had little to crow about since the bowl season ended.  Countless others, such as Washington, Duke and Syracuse, couldn’t wait until the football season was over and Midnight Madness commenced.  And then there are Texas A&M and Tennessee fans, neither of whom can understand how their football teams dragged down the basketball squads in 2005.  Only the truly fortunate have feasted their eyes and their emotions on quality products in both major sports.

As in the past, the focus of this unconventional dynamic dozen is on those fans that have had their cake and dunked it too.  They bowled in the winter and now they’re preparing to soft shoe on into the Big Dance. So here are the rankings from 1-119 of the D-I football schools that also can play some hoops. 

1. Texas – Well, unless UConn or Duke was the team losing to Texas in the Rose Bowl, the ‘Horns were pretty much going to be a lock in this discussion.  One thrilling BCS championship plus a share of one regular season Big 12 basketball title is an unbeatable Hoops and Helmets recipe.  Texas ran the table in football, beating Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC in one of the most memorable games in college football history.  On the hardwood, they went 27-6, falling short against Kansas Sunday in the Big 12 tournament.  In show-stopping quarterback Vince Young and versatile forward P.J. Tucker, Austin was home to the Big 12 Player of the Year in both sports.                  
Winter co-MVPs – QB Vince Young and F P.J. Tucker  

2. Ohio State – Late in the fourth quarter last Sept. 10, Vince Young connected with Limas Sweed for a game-winning touchdown pass, giving Texas a 25-22 win over Ohio State.  You knew then the Buckeyes would have an uphill battle catching the ‘Horns for Hoops/Helmets supremacy.  And yet, they almost pulled it off.  The Buckeyes went on a tear, winning the Big Ten title and the Fiesta Bowl over Notre Dame before handing the baton off to Thad Matta’s cagers.  Basketball won 25-of-30 and an outright regular season Big Ten crown.  Even the recent news that the program has been placed on three years’ probation can’t douse the excitement over being a No. 2 seed in the Minneapolis bracket.        
Winter co-MVPs – LB A.J. Hawk and C Terence Dials

LSU – Not much has eluded the Tigers this winter.  Not titles.  Not big bowl efforts.  Not high rankings.  And certainly not wins.  LSU has gone 34-10 since September, getting ample support from both of its programs.  The Tigers capped an emotionally-draining, 11-win football season with one of the most dominant post-season wins in school history, a 40-3 demolition of Miami in the Peach Bowl.  In basketball, behind the inside play of beefy Craig Davis, LSU was a surprise winner of the SEC regular season crown with a 14-2 record and enters the tournament winners of 15 of their last 18 games and a No. 4 seed in the Atlanta region.                 
Winter MVP – F Craig Davis

UCLA – Save for a couple of tough losses to cross-town rival USC—one each in football and basketball—there wasn’t much to complain about in Westwood this winter.  The two programs are 37-8 combined with Ben Howland’s team ablaze heading into this week’s NCAA Tournament.  Karl Dorrell’s kids had a much-needed breakthrough year in the fall, counting the Sun Bowl among its ten victories, many of which were dramatic and in the waning moments.  Basketball is very young, very talented and fresh off the school’s first Pac-10 tournament title since 1987.  The Bruins also copped the regular season crown, and have won seven in-a-row and 12 of their last 14 games.                   
Winter co-MVPs
– QB Drew Olson and G Jordan Farmar

West Virginia – It’s been a winter like few others in Morgantown, where stirring wins and renditions of “Country Roads” were regular occurrences.  Surprisingly, it’s the football team that carried the old gold and blue banner for the University.  The Mountaineers, pegged to be rebuilding, fell one game shy of a perfect year, capping the school’s best season since 1993 with a Sugar Bowl shocker over Georgia and a No. 5 ranking.  Indoors, a West Virginia team, which rose as high as No. 9 in the polls and had huge road wins at Oklahoma, Villanova and UCLA, never fully recovered from a Jan. 25 defeat at the hands of lowly Marshall, and will limp into the tournament.  With the inside-outside duo of Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey, however, the ‘eers are a battle-tested bunch that can go a long way in March.    
Winter co-MVPs –
C Kevin Pittsnogle and QB Pat White

Boston College – If year one in the competitive ACC is a harbinger of the future, Boston College will have no problem competing at a high level…in either sport.  The Eagles proved in 2005-2006 that a team from the Northeast can win on Tobacco Road, going 26-7, including 13-6 in league games, and taking Duke to the max before losing by a bucket in the ACC tournament finale.  The frontline of Craig Smith, Jared Smith and Sean Marshall makes this a very dangerous team in March.  In football, 9-3 BC settled in behind Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech in the league pecking, which surprised few.  Equally expected was the team’s MPC Computers Bowl win over Boise State, the sixth straight December they’ve ended the season with a bowl victory,                  
Winter MVP – F Craig Smith

Florida – For many years, the Gators have been a fixture in this space.  And as long as Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan are on the sidelines/bench, do not expect that to change.  Meyer wasn’t an instant sensation in his Gainesville debut, struggling at times to get his offense to top gear, but nine wins and victories over Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State and Iowa in the Outback Bowl is not too shabby.  Everyone should be fortunate enough to rebuild in hoops as quickly as Florida.  Tabbed as an also-ran in September, the sophomore-led Gators soared to 27 wins, last week’s SEC tournament championship and an unexpected No. 3 seed in the Minneapolis bracket.  In 6-11 Joakim Noah, Florida has the second coming of former Kentucky Wildcat Tayshaun Prince. 
Winter MVP
– F/C Joakim Noah

8. Wisconsin – Over the past decade, few programs have been more consistently consistent in hoops and helmets than Wisconsin.  Rarely spectacular or on the national radar, all the Badgers do is win.  In fact, since 1996 the school has missed exactly one bowl game (2001) and one NCAA Tournament (1998).  In football, Wisconsin was one of last year’s bigger surprises, riding the legs of Brian Calhoun to 10 wins, a Capital One Bowl upset of Auburn in Barry Alvarez’s swan song and a No. 15 ranking in both polls.  It wasn’t pretty in Madison—it rarely is—but the Badgers found a way to hang on and grind out 19 wins to capture an at-large in this month’s tournament.  
Winter co-MVPs – RB Brian Calhoun and F Alando Tucker

Nevada – Welcome to the big time, Nevada.  All of a sudden, they’ve become the Biggest Little Program in the World.  The Pack has been a WAC power for years in basketball, so this year’s 27-5, league-best club was no surprise.  And in Nick Fazekas, they boast a sensational all-around player with next-level skills.  It’s Chris Ault’s football team, however, that really propelled the program into these uncharted waters.  The Pack, bowl-less for a decade with little hope for a change in direction, emerged from their slumber behind a balanced attack that ranked in the top 30 nationally in rushing, passing and scoring offense.  Nevada won nine games with victories over Fresno State and UCF in the Hawaii Bowl serving as program-defining exclamation points.              
Winter co-MVPs – F Nick Fazekas and RB B.J. Mitchell

Oklahoma – The quality of play in Norman these past six months was hardly vintage Oklahoma, but it was enough to garner it a spot in the Top 10.  Football displayed all kinds of growing pains over the first half of 2005 before finding some degree of consistency, finishing on a roll and beating No. 6 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl to slip into the final Top 25.  Hoops labored all year to find its mojo and looks ripe for the picking this week, not the kind of things normally ascribed to a Kelvin Sampson-coached team.  The Sooners finished the year a respectable 20-8, but got housed in the regular season finale at Texas and dumped by an average Nebraska squad in the opening round of the Big 12 tourney.           
Winter MVP – RB Adrian Peterson

Iowa – Basketball overachieved.  Football underachieved.  Together they make a pretty formidable duo.  Fresh off its first Big Ten tournament title in five years, Iowa enters the Big Dance as one of the hottest teams in the nation.  They’re a fundamentally-sound, senior-led team that’s been together for years, and it shows.  The Hawkeyes’ vision of a Big Ten title in football, on the contrary, dissipated following a 31-6 loss to eventual champ Ohio State late in September.  The school’s worst season in five years was a rollercoaster ride that ended in a 31-24, worse-than-the-score-indicated loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl.                   
Winter MVP – F Greg Brunner

12. Alabama – It was a close call, but ‘Bama squeezed into one of the final at-large NCAA Tournament bids, bursting the Hoops and Helmets bubble for Memphis.  The Tide was just 17-12 on the year, but to their credit, they pulled together nicely after leading scorer Chuck Davis was lost for the year at the midway point of the season.  For the first time in a few years, it was the Alabama football team, which did most of the heavy lifting this winter.  The Tide, fueled by the nation’s most miserly defense, jumped out to a 9-0 start before coming back to planet Earth, and settling for a suffocating Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech.
Winter MVP – LB DeMeco Ryans

13. Memphis
14. Cal
15. NC State
16. Michigan
17. Kansas
18. North Carolina
19. Florida State
20. Louisville
21. Clemson
22. Notre Dame
23. UConn
24. Miami (Fla.)
25. Tennessee
26. Pittsburgh
27. USC
28. Penn State
29. Michigan State
30. South Carolina
31. Georgia
32. Auburn
33. Virginia
34. Colorado
35. Texas A&M
36. Akron
37. Northwestern
38. UTEP
39. Minnesota
40. Iowa State
41. Virginia Tech
42. Nebraska
43. Rutgers
44. Maryland
Louisiana Tech

46. Arizona
47. UAB
48. Miami (OH)
49. Houston
50. BYU
51. Illinois
52. Duke
53. Oregon
54. Kentucky
55. Washington
56. Indiana
57. Arkansas
58. Texas Tech
59. Cincinnati
60. Vanderbilt
61. San Diego State
62. Fresno State
63. Syracuse
64. Air Force
65. Missouri
66. Kansas State
67. Stanford
68. Northern Illinois
69. Utah State
70. Arizona State
71. Georgia Tech
72. Toledo
73. Oklahoma State
74. New Mexico
75. Wake Forest
76. Tulsa
77. Utah
78. Hawaii
79. Kent State
80. Boise State
81. Colorado State
82. Mississippi State
83. Ohio
84. UNLV
85. Purdue
86. Temple
87. UCF
88. UL-Lafayette
89. Middle Tennessee
90. Baylor
91. New Mexico State
92. Oregon State
93. Washington State
94. Ole Miss
95. Western Michigan
96. Buffalo
97. Wyoming
98. TCU
99. South Florida
100. Bowling Green
101. Arkansas State
102. Southern Mississippi
103. Marshall
104. North Texas
105. Rice
106. Florida Atlantic
107. Ball State
108. Navy
109. Southern Methodist
110. Troy
111. Tulane
112. UL-Monroe
113. East Carolina
114. Central Michigan
115. Florida International
116. San Jose State
117. Eastern Michigan
118. Army



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