Grading College Football’s New 2012 Uniforms
F: Notre Dame
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We have been hit with a tidal wave of new college football jerseys and helmets in 2012. Some work. Some don’t. And some really don’t. We grade all of the notable changes.
That means you, Notre Dame “Shamrock Series” uniforms and helmets. For a once-dominant program trying to remain relevant, this is the college football equivalent of getting an ear piercing and buying an $80,000 sports car to stave off a midlife crisis.
Everything about it is wrong. From a distance, the jersey and pants combo make the Irish look like Michigan. But that’s nothing compared to the helmet. 40% is taken up by a leprechaun that looks like it was painted by Picasso. The other 60% can only be described as “gold turtle shell.”
If adidas’ and Notre Dame’s strategy for their Oct. 6 game against Miami was to induce seizures from Hurricane players, then job well done. Otherwise, these need to be burned.
F: Virginia Tech - Turkey Feet Helmets
Virginia Tech’s Sept. 8 home date against Austin Peay featured a white-out crowd eager to intimidate the visiting Governors. On the field, the Hokies attempted to do the same while wearing helmets festooned with ... turkey feet.
We have no qualms with Tech’s old-timey “Fighting Gobblers” nickname. We’ve even come to love the goofy-looking bird mascot that paces up and down the Lane Stadium sidelines. Own the bird mascot and make a helmet with the whole animal, not footprints that resemble downward-facing arrowheads.
And as a general rule of thumb, check with your players before making design decisions. Otherwise your star QB might trash the new look.
With its brown-and-mustard yellow color scheme, Wyoming has one of the more unique looks in college football. But “unique” is not necessarily synonymous with “would work in camouflage.”
The Cowboys, partnering with Nike, learned this the hard way. We like the subtly camouflaged Pistol Pete on the helmet, but using the same patterning on the shoulder pad areas and thin lines in the football pants stands out for the wrong reasons.
Head coach Dave Christensen wanted his team to pay tribute to the military with this ensemble. Instead, it looks like they’re dressed for duck hunting.
People’s interpretation of fashion has changed considerably since 1921–22. Back then, the Hawkeyes’ football uniforms — their attire against Iowa State on Sept. 8 — were fine for the time. Now, they remind us more of a dress that Jennifer Lopez would wear on the red carpet.
The copper-ish color scheme doesn’t work and while a closer look reveals it to be a brighter hue than originally thought, it’s still not the Hawkeye gold we’ve come to expect. And the helmet? It’s essentially a Notre Dame knockoff.
D: Arkansas State
It’s never good when someone puts this video from “The Office” on a message board in reaction to your new uniforms.
We can’t blame the individual. The new cat-scratch look on the shoulders that you’ll find in places like Cincinnati’s basketball uniforms is always terrible. Look, we get it: Your mascot is the Red Wolves. It has paws and sharp nails. Put the logo on the helmet if you want to display your nickname instead of ruining your uniforms. The rest of the new uniform posted on SB Nation looks equally as amateurish.
Congratulations, Southern Methodist football. In your June Jones-led push back to respectability, your new jerseys have TV viewers confused as to whether they’re watching SMU or SEC West bottom-feeder Ole Miss.
And the three-letter acronym for the school that would have removed such hypothetical doubt is gone, replaced by a tiny mustang. These days, uniform changes require creativity. As in more creativity than those folks designing high school uniforms. Which is what SMU’s new togs resemble.
D: Virginia Tech - Turkey Helmet
First things first: The helmets worn by the Hokies on Nov. 17 against Boston College weren’t as bad as the infamous turkey feet lids from earlier in the season. But ... we’re not saying these are good by any stretch.
On one side of these all-white helmets is the player’s number in maroon. Boring, but nice in an old-timey sort of way. Then on the other side is a buff-looking turkey that looks about as absurd as it sounds.
Virginia Tech was a fine program before it went all helmet happy in 2012. Maybe the Hokies’ disappointing 6-6 regular season will table the desire in future seasons to create a new helmet for seemingly every game.
D: Air Force
If this is Air Force’s and Nike’s idea of a blackout in Colorado Springs, we implore the Falcons to step into the light.
Air Force got a bizarre steel pattern on the shoulders and the helmet which, from afar, somewhat resembles the skin of a bee. And the double-stripe look down the middle of the helmet is just downright bizarre.
The one redeeming quality of these uniforms are the nameplates on the jerseys, which had the names of planes like “F-22 Raptor” instead of players’ names. Aside from that, we hope the Falcons stick to their classic uniforms - hopefully forever.
D: Virginia Tech - Bowl Helmets
The Hokies’ season of bizarre helmets paying tribute to their old-timey, alternative nickname of “Fightin’ Gobblers” came to a close in the Dec. 28 Russell Athletic Bowl against Rutgers. Alas, it was not a merciful end for the head-scratching concept.
While the matte maroon color scheme looked nice, the bird decal affixed to either side of the helmet did not. It resembled a crude knockoff of South Carolina’s Gamecocks logo, only it appears to be performing a jump kick from a Kung Fu movie.
It was an ugly helmet appropriate for an ugly bowl game. Virginia Tech managed just 196 total yards and was penalized 14 times for 95 yards yet still managed to win in OT, 13-10.
C-: Boston College
The concept behind the Eagles’ “Wounded Warrior” uniforms is a nice one. After Boston College wears the special-made Under Armour uniforms for its Oct. 27 game against Maryland, the jerseys will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project to aid injured U.S. soldiers.
But stylistically, it’s pretty ugly. We get that the right shoulder is supposed to be stars and the left shoulder stripes, but Under Armour’s obsession with non-matching shoulder designs is a little odd. And the helmet, with a US flag stripe design running down the middle of a gold and red helmet, looks like a superhero wannabe torn between being Iron Man and Captain America.
Still, how critical can you be about something that benefits a cause as noble as the Wounded Warrior Project?
C-: New Mexico
New Mexico’s “Heroes Day” helmet on Nov. 10 had a noble cause but failed in execution.
Instead of choosing to shade in certain parts of the Lobo, New Mexico lazily imposed stripes and stars of different hues across its face. UTSA did a decent job of trying to make its Roadrunner logo not look ridiculous with a USA theme. That’s something UNM failed to do.
Consider this our way of howling over the dissatisfaction of this design.
C: Maryland - 2012 Uniforms
After the Maryland Pride uniforms and helmets worn during last year’s Miami game made it appear as if multi-colored chess pieces had come to life and started playing football, this tamer look isn’t great - but at least it isn’t as hideous.
The home and away jerseys are simple lights and darks, respectively. And the thin Calvert coat of arms-colored lines running along the shoulder blades and pant legs is a nice shout-out to the state insignia. Too bad the look is ruined when you look above the neck.
A helmet that’s equal parts red, white, black and yellow to honor the state flag looks like a paint palette that hasn’t been cleaned in a while. And encapsulating it all in a silly wing design doesn’t make it “fly.”
The Cougars’ makeover for their entire athletic department has a clear message: They don’t want to be thought of as cute, plucky upstarts. They want to be acknowledged as soon-to-be Big East players and the dominant college sports program in America’s fourth-largest city.
Hence a deeper, more regal share of red on their new helmets (top). And a subtle gray shading used on the interlocking “UH” that makes the letters pop more than its one-dimensional predecessor (bottom).
The last helmet wasn’t great, but we think this is a cheesy step back. Why not use the old-school “UH” helmets instead? Maybe we’d be more excited if we knew Case Keenum would be wearing it while setting more NCAA records. (Alas, he’s in the NFL now.)
The “black is better” principle strikes again, this time with an FBS newcomer.
UMass is clearly angling to attract recruits at the next level, and their all-white helmets with the school name spelled out in small-ish letters wasn’t going to cut it. The more prominent “U” and bigger “Mass” is a nice metaphor for how big-time the program hopes to become.
While the idea is good, the look is a dud. Helmet designs should be the domain of graphic artists, not anyone with a Photoshop account. Why not go with the classic script on its old basketball jerseys, the logo most people associate with UMass? Instead, we get a look more fit for the UFL.
Like UMass, UTSA is a new entry to the FBS level and trying to look the part with new helmets.
The Roadrunners have added a white alternate helmet and a one-time patriotic red, white, and blue-themed lid for the fall. The white alternate lid is OK, although it’s hard to give any helmet too high a grade with that ridiculous logo on the side.
As for the USA helmet: We love the spirit but the implementation is definitely lacking. There’s so much going on with the lid we feel like we might go cross-eyed just staring at it.
The capitalized block “M” on the helmet is gone, replaced with the school’s Tigers logo. Replacing the “M” with the logo is fine, but what’s with those hideous Tiger stripes down the middle of the lid that are very Carolina Panther-ish?
Especially considering that the team’s new alternate matte helmets look really nice. Why not just make those the primary helmets? If it weren’t for those, this grade would be much lower.
It makes sense that a team nicknamed for a nocturnal animal (Owls) would have all-black uniforms, which made their debut against Rutgers on Oct. 20. The jerseys themselves are no-frills, almost entirely black save for a maroon garnish on the shoulders.
Then your eyes travel down to the pants. That’s where the C+ grade comes from.
The candy cane pattern running down the legs looks fine on Temple’s normal white pants. Not great, but fine. But when applied to an all-black background, it doesn’t work at all.
C+: Maryland - White Ops
White as a dominant color is fine. We’ve seen it before at Florida State and elsewhere. But when you’re eyes struggle to pick up even a little bit of color, it’s problematic.
As it is, the Terrapins unveiled these variations on the “State Pride uniforms” for their 2012 game against West Virginia and we immediately thought Star Wars storm troopers and/or foot soldiers in Siberia.
These also don’t work from a practical perspective: The opponents will be able to more easily tell how beat up Maryland is than with any other team in any other jersey. White can only get “less white” during the course of a football game. While these uniforms are much better than the original “State Pride” unis, we still aren’t a big fan.
C+: Virginia Tech - White Alternate Helmets
Blacksburg, VA, is in the throes of helmet fever.
A new all-white model (top) first revealed by the Virginia Tech equipment room’s Twitter feed on Oct. 8 was the third alternate helmet worn by Hokies, following the awful “turkey feet” lids worn against Austin Peay on Sept. 8 and the awesome camouflage helmets for the Sept. 22 Military Appreciation Day game against Bowling Green.
The new all-white model, which made its debut in Virginia Tech’s Oct. 13 Homecoming Game against Duke, is a cleaner version of the white alternates the Hokies have worn in recent seasons (bottom). The triple stripe running down the middle is gone, and the maroon “VT” lettering bordered by orange has been reversed.
It’s a clean look but it’s also kind of boring, especially after the camouflage helmets spoiled us in terms of expectations. Personally, we like the old white alternate helmets a lot more.
C+: Bowling Green
The Falcons tried to pay tribute to their postseason game, the Military Bowl, with a stars-and-stripes inspired helmet design. While their attempt was a nice gesture, the execution was lacking.
Attempting to fashion an interlocking “BG” logo decal so as to resemble the U.S. flag looks, up close, like a halfhearted watercolor job. And the red, white and blue color scheme clashes a little too hard with the normal orange and brown that Bowling Green sports, both on the rest of the helmet and the jerseys and pants.
BGSU would have been better off going fully patriotic and making everything red, white and blue. As it is, this Falcons look didn’t fly.
B-: TCU - Athracite Jerseys
A B- from us means these are the “just OK” new looks for 2012.
“Anthracite” is a variety of coal known for its high luster. “Athracite,” on the other hand, is a Nike-made mineral used to highlight the bright present (and hopefully future) of TCU as a new member of the Big 12.
While the dark gray is certainly unique, it doesn’t stand out nearly as much as when the Horned Frogs rock their predominantly purple home unis. Perhaps only LSU can match TCU when it comes to pulling off that hue.
TCU got a whole slew of new uniforms and helmets for their inaugural season in the Big 12, some of which work and some that don’t. Overall, it’s a very minimal upgrade at best.
The perennially moribund Blue Devils switched their unis in 2008 to look almost identical with the wildly successful Indianapolis Colts. The Blue Devils opted to change their look again with two new additional lids.
Like with any team that introduces it to their line of helmets, the matte black look is excellent. There’s no doubt that college football players who love Halo (i.e. pretty much all players) love the idea of looking like a United Nations Space Commands (UNSC) soldier.
The all-blue look with the white trim and facemask is ... “meh.” What gets us down is that we’ll be seeing more of that than its matte black cousin. Which means, during Duke games, we’ll be confusing the Blue Devils with another football team at a basketball school: Kentucky.
B-: Oregon - Offseason New Unis
You didn’t honestly think this list would be complete without Oregon, do you? They’re the catalyst for college football’s uniform craze.
The re-engineered versions of the “liquid metal” helmets worn during the 2012 Rose Bowl are pretty cool, coming in green and carbon fiber. The wings that have popped up on everything from limited edition golf clubs and a dirt bike helmet are artfully placed on the sides in place of the usual “O.”
Too bad the jerseys don’t blow us away. There’s too much plumage on the shoulders — a first-of-its-kind critique for a college football jersey — and the overall look of them took a step back from last fall. Thus, another mixed grade.
B-: Michigan - Cowboy Classic Uniforms
Good for both Michigan and its athletic provider for not doing anything too drastic with their outfits for the Sept. 1 Cowboy Classic against Alabama - like ditching its trademark winged helmet or altering the color scheme/placement.
Having the lyrics to “Hail to the Victors” printed on the gloves? Pretty awesome. As it was put on Twitter, “Words With Friends on acid” indeed. The jerseys themselves are fine (translation: unchanged) until you get to the shoulders. It’s a look better suited for an Autobot than a Wolverine.
For its “Unrivaled Game” matchup against Nebraska on Sept. 29, the Badgers had an old-school adidas look.
The giant white “W” on an all-red helmet harkened back to the days of 1950s star tailback Alan Ameche. As did the giant “W” in the middle of the jersey and the small numbers on the jersey’s left shoulder. While we love throwbacks, we can see why this look was abandoned.
Again, having the shoulders’ tops colored is a fashion faux pas. It kind of looks like a bellhop’s jacket.
The Hawaii “Wounded Warriors” uniforms were unveiled at the same time as Boston College’s. And it’s not just because the former team is nicknamed the “Warriors” that they look better.
Hawaii’s black home jerseys work well with the stars and stripes of the design. And the helmet is much cleaner and cooler than BC’s “Iron Man Meets Captain America” amalgamation. Under Armour didn’t try to force the Warriors’ dark green color scheme into the patriotic look. But not to worry, the tapa design unique to Hawaii runs down the middle of the helmet as a red, white and blue stripe.
If it wasn’t for the odd mismatching shoulder designs, this would grade even higher.
B-: South Carolina
The Gamecocks and Under Armour called their look for the big Oct. 13 game at LSU “Battle” gray. What is normally white on South Carolina’s away jerseys has been replaced by a very strong shade of a color that we actually like.
It’s when camouflage is incorporated into the design that it falls off the rails a little. As the design on the sleeves of the Gamecocks’ undershirts, it looks fine. The pants are another story, particularly since the jerseys don’t offer a matching design. We know the look is military-inspired, but it kind of looks like the South Carolina player featured in the uniform is wearing tight-fitting pajama pants.
If the jerseys and pants had both been “Battle” gray or camouflage, this would have looked great. But since it abides by Under Armour’s mix-and-match principle, it’s not nearly as pleasing to the eye.
B-: Maryland - Black State Pride
The original “State Pride” uniforms courtesy of Maryland and Under Armour were all kinds of ugly. But whether it’s because we’re so desensitized to them by now or because so many other schools have gone down the absurd uniform road, the new State Pride togs worn for the Terrapins’ 2012 Homecoming are not bad.
Lesson learned: Black is better. The predominantly dark jersey makes the black-and-yellow checkerboard pattern on the right side pop a lot more. And while the red-and-white pattern on the left still sticks out like a sore thumb, it’s not what your eyes are first drawn to.
It’s worth repeating that maybe we’re suffering the uniform grade case of Stockholm Syndrome.
B-: Army - Navy Game Uniforms
In terms of clever factor, Army’s uniforms for the 2012 edition of its annual grudge match with Navy are impressive.
From afar it looks as if the Black Knights’ numbers and the black stripe down the center of their helmets features a camouflage pattern. In fact, it’s a map detail from WWII’s Battle of the Bulge. If you zoom in, it’s really quite cool to behold.
But for something as patriotic as the Army-Navy game, it’s a little too subtle. Call us lazy but we like our military-inspired football designs big and bold, like the full camouflage helmets Army sported in the ‘08 Army-Navy game.
Finally, we’re at the new uniforms and helmets we actually give a thumbs up.
When you’re used to seeing a team sporting a white-dominant helmet, it’s nice to see them go over to the dark side once in a while. Nebraska did it for their “Unrivaled Game” with Wisconsin.
Seeing the red “N” on that black background is a treat. Black is part of the jersey too, as the players’ numbers and another giant “N” — right in the middle of the chest — are colored in with it.
Our biggest complaint? The uniforms almost blind us with all that bright red that Uni Watch would refer to as the “blood clot look.” A red jersey with black pants would have been a better call.
B: San Diego State
The new uniforms for the 2012 Aztecs aren’t that bad. After all, they are pretty simple and avoided the dreaded Nike overkill. Plus, the players say they are much more comfortable than the old threads, which is good for performance.
Now the Aztecs just look like Texas Tech copycats.
We are, however, very much on board with the change in helmet design. Gone is the boring “Aztecs” that was once splashed across their helmets. It has been replaced by SDSU’s very unique, interlocking “spear logo.” There’s no doubt Faulk would’ve loved wearing one of these helmets back in the 1990s.
Recruits these days trend toward liking creativity in their uniform designs. So it’s surprising that when the nascent program at FCS Charlotte (which starts play in 2013) asked its first recruiting class what they wanted for a helmet, the overwhelming choice was ... all-white.
That said, it isn’t half bad. The program’s pick axe logo intertwined with “49ers” is nice and neat - which is saying something because logos and letters on a helmet have the potential to be messy.
We’re glad Charlotte decided to err on the side of caution but maybe when the Niners get their feet wet they can start venturing into more daring helmet territory. Might we suggest a matte hunter green background?
We’ve used this site frequently to extoll the virtues of retro designs. UNLV seems to share our views, perhaps wanting to associate itself more with Rat Pack-era Vegas and not Spearmint Rhino-era Vegas.
The Rebels’ new helmets are less metallic than their predecessors and more old-school gray. The lettering is white with a red outline instead of red lettering with black outline. And like the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, UNLV has three stripes down the middle — two red ones sandwiching a white line.
San Fran’s renaissance didn’t start until they went old-school a few years back. While UNLV doesn’t have enough of a football heritage to pursue a renaissance, they’re hoping that a similar uniform change can get them on somewhat of a winning track (33–96 between 2001-11).
Iowa demonstrates how much farming means to the state with ANF (America Needs Farmers) helmet stickers. Meanwhile Arizona is demonstrating how much copper means to its state with alternate copper-colored helmets.
The copper shading on the Wildcats’ new lids is a nice one and, truthfully, turned out better than we thought. Weaving Arizona’s tradition dark blue, red and white color scheme into the whole thing kind of resembles a tour group at the Grand Canyon - but somehow it works.
New Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez probably doesn’t care as long as they don’t resemble Michigan helmets.
B: Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan came out with too many new combinations of uniforms and helmets to count, which are definitely an upgrade for what was one of the most boring uniforms at the FBS level.
We especially like the matte gray helmet and the wings on the side of the jersey shoulders. But we can’t grade these too high considering that EMU’s helmet icon is still a block “E.” You would think that for all the time adidas spent reworking Eastern Michigan’s look, they would actually put a logo on the helmet instead of a letter.
Like the football team’s rise to respectability under Ron English, these new uniforms are a good start but there’s still room for improvement.
Welcome to the Under Armour family, Northwestern. Can we interest you in uniforms that look like a Tim Burton acid trip?
No? Okay then.
After spending many hours looking at pictures of the Evanston campus for inspiration, Under Armour’s designers came up with the “Northwestern Stripe”: Two thin lines abutting a thicker one on either side.
It’s nice that the Wildcats are getting this unique look for a program that’s often forgotten in the Big Ten - even if the away jersey and it’s purple “Northwestern Stripe” resembles a pregnancy test.
B: Mississippi State
Just as Northwestern’s new look is stripe-influenced, so to is Mississippi State’s.
The Bulldogs did away with the various concave lines that cluttered their uniforms in previous years and opted for a more vertical look. Bold stripes run along each pant leg, the shoulders, the middle of the helmet and even the socks.
While nothing fancy, it is a simpler design that encapsulates a “less is more” mentality we can get behind.
All of a sudden we have a craving for orange sherbet.
The Miners decided to go all-out for its Sept. 1 tilt against Oklahoma at the Sun Bowl. Orange jerseys (with blue shoulders), pants, socks and cleats.
Orange jerseys are polarizing when they’re this bright and dessert-like. (Opinion will always be divided on those old-school Denver Broncos jerseys.) Personally, we’re suckers for orange and like this look.
B: UNC - White Helmet
Props to the Tar Heels for turning its helmets inside out, color-wise. Especially in the wake of an academic scandal prominently involving the football team (which isn’t to say the latter necessitated the former).
We’re normally not huge fans of all-white alternate helmets, but UNC’s work for two reasons. #1: There’s only one other color on the helmet. #2: Carolina’s soft shade of blue is a great compliment with white. Think of a robin emerging from hibernation with snow still on the ground.
Here’s hoping that, unlike the current academic reputation of Carolina athletics, these helmets stay clean.
Among the new uniforms and multitude of new combinations that Vandy unveiled in July, we like their new alternate white helmets the best.
When paired with all-white jerseys and pants (new to the uniform rotation in 2012), the Commodores appear dressed as if they are actual commodores (or Navy officers at the very least). Some pundits might think it looks too much like a Star Wars storm trooper outfit, but we’re not one of them.
We also really like the all-black uniforms but the tacky gold uniforms with black shoulders is what’s stopping us from giving the overall look a full, “Anchor Down!”
B: Central Michigan
“Real men wear BLACK!” indeed.
We love the black uniforms and matte black helmets the Chippewas are using this season (minus the stripe down the middle that narrows toward the back). That being said, the other uniforms that include piping on the jerseys are not exactly “to die for.” But give Nike a break, it’s not easy to make Central Michigan look good on the football field if their past outfits are any indication.
If the Chips are really smart, they’ll turn the all-black into fulltime unis. We’re confident that CMU players and recruits would agree.
B: TCU - Purple Chrome Helmet
To quote Jimi Hendrix: “Purple haze all in my brain.”
The purple chrome helmet, which the Horned Frogs unveiled against new Big 12 conference rival Iowa State, borrows from the same “liquid metal” look that Oregon has made popular. But… this is essentially the same helmet TCU currently uses. Only shinier.
Don’t get us wrong, it looks very nice. But we can give only so many props to something that’s essentially the same thing.
Would you ever guess that the Golden Hurricane had six different helmets they could choose from during the 2011 season? Aside from Oregon, we can’t think of any other team with that many.
Tulsa’s latest model made its debut during the Sept. 29 game at UAB. An all-white helmet has “TULSA” written in blue, plain block letters on either side. The stripe going down the middle is pretty clever, as it is made up of a sequence of hurricane warning flags.
The Golden Hurricane’s normal helmet is relatively ho-hum, so props to them for trying something a little different. It’s kind of funky looking, but fun.
B: Maryland - Black Matte Helmet
After being critical of the Terrapins’ and Under Armour’s recent efforts when it comes to helmet designs, Maryland’s matte all-black lids were like a breath of fresh air to us.
Set against a black background as opposed to the normal all-white base, the multi-colored Maryland state flag design looks much more appealing. And it makes the wing design, which we panned before, work better.
B: UNC - Chrome Helmet
The liquid metal helmet movement arrived in Chapel Hill, NC just in time for the Tar Heels’ annual grudge match with NC State on Oct. 27. And the light blue chrome is very nice. You can imagine a sports car having a similar hue. And Giovani Bernard’s game-winning punt return TD definitely brought to mind a sports car for UNC fans.
We understand that these helmets are made in an effort to try and be different, so in that sense we get the giant Tar Heel foot adorning the helmet. But it’s still a little awkward-looking. Especially when most fans of the school identify with the interlocking “NC” logo.
B: Texas Tech
For Tech’s grudge match with Texas for state bragging rights (within the Big 12 anyway) on Nov. 3, Under Armour saw fit to give the Red Raiders “Lone Star State Pride” uniforms. If your first thought when you look at these is the movie Captain America, you’re not the only one.
The black trim that normally runs along the shoulder blades has been replaced by blue shoulders that encompass a giant star of Texas. That star also appears on the players’ red socks.
While the burnt orange Longhorns will always have the heritage advantage over the Red Raiders, Tech does boast the innovation of Under Armour. These uniforms, while not breathless in design, are an attempt to leverage that into an advantage over its more “privileged” state rivals.
B: Texas A&M - All-White
Another solid uniform design for the Aggies to go along with the new maroon ones they’ve worn as their “regular” look and the all-black ones they took the field with against Mississippi State on Nov. 3.
While there’s nothing particularly special about the look, Aggies fans will always have a soft spot in their hearts for them. It was while wearing these uniforms that Johnny Football and company shocked the college football world with a 29-24 upset of top-ranked Alabama.
Someday there might be paintings in A&M’s athletic facilities commemorating that win (if one hasn’t been commissioned already). And it’ll portray the Aggies in all-white.
B: Maryland - Black State Pride
The Terrapins’ final new uniform design of the 2012 season is nicknamed “Black Ops.” If you stare at it long enough, you are indeed reminded of a uniform that might pop up in the recently released installment of the “Call of Duty” video game franchise.
The all-black helmet is the piece de resistance of this ensemble. Coupled with a black visor, it’s sure to either impress or intimidate (or both) at least one opposing player.
Our one criticism of the jerseys are the shoulder pads. The colorful Maryland state flag-inspired designs are still there, only they look covered in oil. Yawn…
The new Nike uniforms made for the Midshipmen’s Dec. 8 showdown with Army in Philadelphia is befitting of the officer’s garb that many players will wear upon their graduation from Annapolis.
Aside from the appropriately block lettered “Navy” splashed across the chest, the jerseys actually resemble an officer’s uniform, with the blue bordering on the neck and shoulders as well as the anchors sewn into the shoulder blade area.
That same blue-and-gold color scheme shows up on the anchor decal that graces either side of Navy’s new helmets. The patterning in those same colors on the back of the helmet is classic Nike overkill, but the whole look does blend well together. It’s sharp to the Navy’s exacting standards.
B: Ohio State
Ohio State’s uniforms for the 2012 edition of “The Game” incorporate elements of the old and the new. The numbers on the jerseys are bigger a la the 1990s. The helmets, meanwhile, get a new chrome finish and now have a massive red, liquid metal stripe running down the middle as well as black facemasks.
While we like the old-timey jerseys, we could have down without the gaudy stripes on the helmets.
B: Cincinnati - Belk Bowl Helmets
Change is afoot at Cincy with the arrival of Tommy Tuberville as new head coach. But before he takes the reins, the Bearcats have made some other changes as well. For its Dec. 27 Belk Bowl matchup against Duke, the Bearcats are wearing wild helmets with a black-and-red checkerboard base and black cat scratches down the middle.
The online masses seem to love this new look. While we’re not averse to it, we’re not as crazy about it as they are. It would look a lot sharper if the cat scratches weren’t there to clutter things up. And even if they weren’t, the lids would still pale in comparison to the matte red look unveiled earlier in the 2012 season.
B: Michigan - Outback Bowl Uniforms
The Wolverines’ uniforms for the Outback Bowl against South Carolina are similar in design to what the team sported in a season-opening loss to Alabama. Where they differ (and where they’re better) is color placement.
The yellow stripe and blue “M” on the shoulders has been inverted, and the blue stripe with yellow “M” works much better. In addition, the Wolverines’ iconic winged helmets gets a color adjustment of its own with a matte, navy finish that’s slightly darker than UM’s normal blue and looks very handsome.
Most important is that the players like the new look. Said QB Denard Robinson, “I love them. We only saw a photo of them early in the year, but I think they look even better.”
Another foray into the All-Black Helmet Realm, but with a cool twist. The Vandal’s new lids are speckled with gold, a nice tribute (we think) to the state’s 1860s gold rush.
While Idaho will never be confused with a BCS power, it needed to stand out more from past helmets (below) - even if its home field, the Kibbie Dome, is the smallest current stadium in the FBS. What if a loyal Vandals fan tuned in on TV and got confused as to why they were watching a Vandy game instead?
Idaho wanted to be the final champion in the history of WAC football. That won’t happen but at least they’ll look good chasing that title.
B+: Texas A&M
While new coach Kevin Sumlin may be bringing in a modern Air Raid offense, the Aggies’ uniforms epitomize “what’s old is new again.”
Where A&M and adidas really get it right is the helmets. The matted look, a staple of newer uniform ensembles, enhances the Aggies’ old-school look. It’s a less shiny product than the past, which is a good thing. The gray facemask in place of the old white one also helps.
It’s hard to give too high a grade for pretty minor changes, but kudos to adidas on these.
B+: Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech opened its season on Labor Day with a new honeycomb-like designed helmet against Virginia Tech that was an absolute beauty. It worked a whole lot better than Maryland’s ill-fated turtle shell helmets last year and has the makings of an instant classic.
Come to think of it, the Yellow Jackets should never go back to their forgettable normal helmets now that they’ve got these instead.
However, we’ve got to mark this overall look down quite a bit for the honeycomb overkill on the uniforms. The honeycomb design on the name plate and numbers is a very XFL move and should be done away with immediately. If Georgia Tech remedies that situation, these uniforms will be immediately upgraded to an “A.”
Photo: Bob Donnan/US Presswire
The matte green helmets were sported during Ohio’s 24-14 victory at Penn State on Sept. 1. Similar to the look Baylor wore for last season’s Alamo Bowl, we obviously love the matte green lid. We also like the single white helmet stripe instead of the usual double stripes the OU lid normally uses.
We would have liked this alternate lid even more if it included the Bobcats’ logo instead of just the word “Ohio,” but Bobcat players would have been justified reacting tot these like they did for all-black uniforms.
B+: Southern Miss - Throwbacks
Celebrating a centennial, as Southern Miss is doing this season, is all about creating nostalgia. The Golden Eagles’ nod to their 1970 team — which upset an undefeated Ole Miss team led by Archie Manning — is right along those lines.
There’s nothing particularly special about what Southern Miss normally wears, so this blast from the past for the Oct. 20 homecoming game against Marshall, is a welcome one. The looks features old-fashioned rings around the shoulders, oversized black numbering and bright yellow pants, all topped off by a yellow helmet with “USM” spelled out.
Yes, there are better throwbacks out there, but Southern Miss deserves high marks for bringing us a taste of the ‘70s. Now if only USM’s players grow out their hair and/or sport Burt Reynolds-like mustaches, we would be forever in their debt.
B+: Western Michigan
Unlike other schools that embraced the all-black movement, Western Michigan kept it confined to the jerseys.
WMU went with a very metallic look for its helmets, not too dissimilar from Oregon’s carbon fiber look. And the bronze horse’s head logo really stands out and looks quite regal.
This is a great way to make the statement, “We are more than a Midwest directional school!”
B+: UNC - Flag Helmet
The interlocking “NC” is such a ubiquitous part of Tar Heel athletics. It’s good to see that the athletic department did a fine job of incorporating the Stars and Stripes into the design as part of the “Military Appreciation Day” game against Idaho.
While Carolina blue and white are fine on their own, an infusion of color doesn’t look bad at all. Plus, it looks like someone taking an “NC” cookie cutter to the American flag. And that’s a good thing.
Illinois took the field on Sept. 29 against Penn State with blue helmets for the first time in the program’s history. (They had always gone with a predominantly orange look.)
And the Illini’s deep shade of blue is very, very handsome in the matte look. We’re also appreciative of the decision to replace a spelled-out “Illinois” with the school’s better-known orange “I” logo. The state logo on the back is just the cherry on top.
We don’t want to see the orange lids go anywhere, though. That will always remain the Illini’s color.
For an FCS team without an illustrious history, Towson has been in the headlines a few times in 2012. First, they stuck with LSU much closer than anyone predicted in a 38-22 loss on Sept. 29. Then, in advance of their Oct. 13 home game against Maine, they one-upped the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” campaign in terms of style.
The Tigers added two pink stripes to their black helmets in support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the U.S. It’s all part of Towson’s “Pink Game” initiative as the players also got pink socks, sweat bands and athletic tape.
The pink and black look pretty good together. Maybe it’s because it reminds us of the opening credits to Drive.
B+: Oklahoma State
When it comes to a multitude of uniforms, the West Coast has Oregon. The East Coast has Maryland. And the Heartland has Oklahoma State.
The Pokes’ latest addition to their wardrobe is a design where in place of the normal “OSU” insignia is the school’s mascot, Pistol Pete, looking delightfully old school. An orange helmet with a white facemask that was first unveiled for their Oct. 20 game against Iowa State, while an all-black model debuted against TCU on Oct. 27.
If a boring acronym or set of initials is replaced with an actual image of something, particularly an old-school image of something, we’re on board. We just wish the Pistol Pete logo was a little bigger.
B+: Northwestern - Black Helmet
An all-black uniform, like the one the Wildcats wore against Big Ten rival Nebraska on Oct. 20, demands an all-black helmet to go with it.
Like Oklahoma State, Northwestern replaced letters - in this case the traditional “N” - with a conceptual rendering of a wildcat. It would have been easier for Northwestern and Under Armour to settle for a generic wildcat, so kudos to them for thinking outside the box.
If this was set on a purple background and didn’t have that zig-zag pattern at the bottom, this would grade even higher. But it still looks very sharp. Keep your eyes out for Northwestern as a surprise leader in the new uniform trend.
B+: UMass - Script Helmet
Does someone in Amherst, MA, read these Uniform Grades?
We won’t claim to be the first ones to suggest that the Minutemen go with the script “UMass” logo America recalls from the men’s basketball team’s “Refuse to Lose” era in the mid-1990s under John Calipari. But our wish that the team’s black helmets be updated with that instead of the giant “U” that they normally wear has come true.
Yes, the team is enduring a rough first season as a full-time FBS team. But at least they look better fashion-wise than they did at the start of 2012.
A team’s Homecoming Game is often a time for alumni to return to their school and experience nostalgia at seeing their team in action again as if they’re still in college. UCLA went in a different direction in 2012.
Instead of sporting its traditional powder blue jerseys for the Nov. 3 game against Arizona, the Bruins took the field at the Rose Bowl with a dark blue look that team outfitter adidas calls “L.A. Nights.” And as much as we love those powder blue unis, we’re very impressed with the new look.
“Alternate uniforms in non-traditional colors represent a 21st century trend that, when done tastefully, synchronizes the familiar with the fresh,” AD Dan Guerrero said when explaining the uniform choice.
The powder blue hue is retained for the numbers, and the shoulders follow the same blue-gold-blue stripe pattern on UCLA’s away jerseys. So any homecoming guests will get their nostalgia after all.
B+: Texas A&M - Black Uniforms
The Aggies’ jump to the all-black uniform bandwagon, unveiled for their Nov. 3 road game against Mississippi State, is a nice one. A&M’s primary maroon color blends very well with, both around the neck and on the white numbering.
Alone, the jersey would be a “B.” What really makes this uniform is the gradient helmet, which starts out as maroon on the bottom before very gradually changing to black once you get to the top. And the Aggies’ unique “ATM” lettering is set on a prominent outline of the state of Texas.
As if Johnny Football (aka QB Johnny Manziel) couldn’t look any cooler than he already is.
B+: Southern Miss - USA Helmet
Enduring its worst season in decades, the Golden Eagles can take solace in a one-of-a-kind patriotic helmet amid a bevy of programs that have trotted them out in 2012.
What makes Southern Miss’ Military Appreciation Day lid different from its stars-and-stripes themed counterparts is that its decal actually resembles the Stars and Stripes. White stars are set on a blue background in the top left, while the rest is alternating red-and-white stripes.
We’re not saying that any moribund team should take consolation in style points, but USM should be proud of this.
There’s nothing quite like a program earning a bowl berth for only the fourth time since 1961 to spur the creative juices of its helmet design team.
In its Dec. 29 Armed Forces Bowl matchup against Air Force, Rice is paying tribute both to the game and its opponent with patriotic headgear. The script “R” on either side of the lid, normally all-white, is colored in with a Stars and Stripes-inspired design that actually resembles the American flag. Down the middle of the helmet are two stripes that follow the same pattern.
We love the script “R” resembling the U.S. flag but could’ve done without the two stripes down the middle. A minor criticism for an otherwise admirable and special helmet.
B+: Kent State
Yes, Kent State’s GoDaddy.com Bowl helmets - with the pair of glaring eagle eyes on the front just above the facemask and the outsized “K” plastered on the back - are bizarre. But how the Golden Flashes came to wear these for their first bowl game in 41 years is a good story.
Kent State has worn these helmets before. In fact, the last time was for the 1972 Tangerine Bowl, which was the program’s last bowl game until this year.
“When [head coach Darrell Hazell] came in, he found a gold helmet and said that would be the helmet that we wore in the bowl game,” explained Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen. “He wanted his team to see that target every time they walked in the office. And that target was that gold helmet.”
Target acquired and target hit.
Give it up for the matted white helmets! The contour of both that and the helmet in Arkansas’ traditional red makes it look like the pig is running at the speed of light. And of course we love the matte red helmet as well.
The uniformity of the Hogs’ three different jersey-pants combinations — red-on-red, white-on-white and gray-on-gray — is nice to see at a time when different color jersey-and-pants combinations has gotten a little out of control.
Our only critique: We’re not huge fans of the gray uniform and the gradient-style numbers are too XFL-looking for our taste.
A-: West Virginia
Two of the things West Virginians most identify with are coal and Mountaineers football. WVU’s new all-gray uniforms melds them together.
A proudly working-class state now has a football team that looks like it should bring hard hats and lunch pails with them to the field. The Mountaineers’ traditional blue-and-gold color scheme makes for nice trim on the helmets and the pants, too.
What are the odds that West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen caught word of Oklahoma State’s new metallic jerseys (he used to be the Pokes’ OC) and asked Nike to help the Mountaineers one-up them?
The only thing holding us back from giving these an A are the vertical lines down the front of the jersey - like on WVU’s regular unis - that just add clutter and the lettering font from the normal jerseys that don’t work.
A-: Oregon - Yellow Liquid Metal
Oregon opened its 2012 college football season on September 1st the best way it knows how: With splashy new uniforms that grabbed everyone’s attention.
Despite unveiling two new variations of their liquid metal helmet from last January’s Rose Bowl just weeks prior, the Ducks of course ran onto the field at Autzen Stadium wearing another variation of their popular look. Instead of using the carbon fiber or green version of the lid, Oregon went with a mustard yellow helmet, bright green jerseys and yellow pants that conjured up images of their 1990s “Gang Green” look – but set 10,000 years in the future.
Yes, the look is over-the-top, blinding and ridiculous. But Oregon once again accomplished its goal of appealing to young people, getting everyone talking and ultimately becoming a recruiting tool.
And we have to admit even as uniform traditionalists, we kind of like them. Maybe Nike has officially brainwashed us.
Photo: Scott Olmos/US Presswire
A-: Mississippi State
There wasn’t a traditional rivalry between Mississippi State and Texas A&M before the latter moved to the SEC this season. But their match-up in the 2000 Independence Bowl played in a blizzard was so memorable that the Bulldogs had to commemorate the occasion.
The subtle interplay of white and gray is very well done. And the outsized Bulldog logo emanating from the side (a la Boise State) is pretty cool. And maroon on white? Always a nice combination.
We almost don’t want to see these get dirty.
A-: Boise State
The all-black college football uniform trend that has been sweeping the nation has arrived at the home of the sport’s darlings.
Boise State turning its Oct. 20 Homecoming Game against UNLV into a “Black Out.” The Broncos ran onto their trademark home blue turf sporting black jerseys, helmets, pants, socks and shoes.
Without question, the foreboding single-sided Bronco helmet is the best part of this uniform. Setting the gray outlined horse head logo against a black background is downright foreboding.
And the all black jerseys and pants are sharp enough. We miss the normal home uniforms - in our opinion, blue-and-orange is the best color combination in all of sports - but for the sake of appearing trendy to fans, current players and recruits, this is well done.
A-: Michigan State
Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis tried staying mum when his football’s team foray into the liquid metal helmet started making the rounds on the internet prior to the game against Michigan. It was no use, as that was in fact what MSU wore for the Oct. 20 grudge match.
If the look reminds you of what Oregon has been wearing throughout the 2012 season, you’re not alone. The chrome-like quality of the green is nice and shiny, and the subtle Spartan logo is similar to Oregon’s duck wings.
The one downside: Michigan State lost the battle for the Paul Bunyan-Governor of Michigan Trophy for the first time since 2007. That means these helmets might be retired for karmic reasons.
We wholeheartedly agree with CBS Sports’ Adam Jacobi when he says that “the flashier aspects of a uniform belong on a helmet.” Exhibit A: The Golden Gophers.
Minnesota’s new jerseys are nicely minimalist. Only the school’s trademark “M” indicates what team it represents, and the numbering looks pretty sleek yet old-school. And we’ve seen plenty of matted black helmets, but this is the first we’ve seen of matted maroon. And it looks really nice.
These uniforms — not to mention beautiful TCF Bank Stadium and the Gophers’ awesome new, stadium-like team room — suggest that Minnesota’s athletic program has a top-notch design consultant.
Now if only the team was any good.
A: Virginia Tech - Camo Alternates
The Hokies bounced back from their embarrassing new turkey feet helmets with a truly awesome tribute to Virginia Tech’s cadet population. (Texas A&M is the only other non-military, FBS school that can still claim an on-campus corps.
It’s a shame that Tech is only wearing these uniforms for its Sept. 22 “Military Appreciation Day” game against Bowling Green. The school’s Chicago Maroon color fits in incredibly well with camouflage, especially on the helmet. And confining camo on the jersey to just the numbers ensures that it won’t look like overkill.
The whole ensemble is also part of a good cause. They’re being worn in conjunction with hats on sale at the VT bookstore, the proceeds from which will benefit the Wounded Warriors Project.
If these uniforms had been unveiled before Greg Schiano took the Tampa Bay Bucs job, who knows, he may have considered staying at Rutgers.
Nike’s designers took the program’s “Scarlet Knights” nickname and sprinted with it. The gleaming metallic helmets gives the team an intimidatingly medieval look instead of the colossal bore of the old lids.
And the jerseys are a massive upgrade over the staid product of recent years. Did you notice the subtle collar design by the neck? They may be football players, but they are also “knights.” Our only complaint? The jersey font could be a little better.
The whole ensemble also makes for a great excuse for team viewings of Game of Thrones.
A: Cincinnati - Matte Red Helmets
ESPN analyst and former Georgia star LB David Pollack tweeted this picture out on September 5th in advance of Cincinnati’s home game against Pitt that Pollack covered for ESPN with the commentary, “These new Cincinnati helmets are off the chains!!!!!” The Bearcats didn’t wear the helmets vs. Pitt but definitely got people talking.
We agree these are “off the chain.” The cherry-red matte look is spectacular, and pops much more than Cincy’s normal black helmet. The Bearcats have had black lids for the last three decades but should put this red alternate helmet into regular rotation based on the wide-spread positive reaction it got.
Normally old-school, conservative BYU has embraced the dark side with these threads for its Oct. 13 “blackout” home game against Oregon State. And we’re very much on board with it.
Only the occasional, well-placed blue trim disrupts the Cougars’ new black jerseys and pants. And the gray matte helmet with the blue-and-white stripe down the middle and white oval surrounding a blue “Y” on either side really helps the black pop.
Very sharp, Cougars. It almost makes up for those horrendous bib-like jerseys you tried a few years back.
A: Rutgers - USA Helmets
The Scarlet Knights are fast becoming one of the nobler looking teams in college football. We thought very highly of the medieval direction in which Rutgers took their normal uniforms, and we hold the patriotic helmets they revealed against Army on Nov. 10 in a similar light.
It’s the same helmet that they revealed in May 2012, only the “R” on either side and the two stripes running down the middle have been filled in with the stars and stripes. With a shimmery, metal gray serving as a background, they look beautiful.
If Captain America ever suited up for a football game, we imagine he’d wear a helmet like this one.
The last time the Orange were still relevant on the gridiron, they were still the Orangemen. Their prospects were like their helmets in the Donovan McNabb Era: brighter.
Going really old school, to the era of Jim Brown and Ernie Davis, didn’t do anything to reverse their on-field fortunes. And their . So now ‘Cuse is trying to bring back the vibes of a more recent golden era with their own HydroChrome helmet, along the lines of Oregon’s Rose Bowl look.
The formula for this is: “Orange + HydroChrome - Terrible Logo = Win.” It may be a while until the Orange finds itself in a BCS game as they did during McNabb’s time. But in the interim, they’ll at least look more like those teams.
A+: Utah State
Nothing quite like being part of a football conference on its last legs to spur the creative juices. First there was Idaho’s helmets, now there’s Utah State’s entire uniform that got overhauled. Which is good because they used to look very much the part of an FBS bottom feeder.
Nike actually went against its instincts with a “less is more” approach to the Utah State uniform overhaul, and it worked wonders. When you look really closely at the Aggies’ new outfits, you see oh-so-subtle texturing on both the numbers and the background of the blue helmets that’s brilliant. If only we could get “The Swoosh” to be minimalistic more often.
USU may play third fiddle in the Beehive State behind Utah and BYU. But an argument can be made that they look better on the football field (literally speaking) than either of those two.
A+: Army - Normal Uniforms
Army has long had one of the most boring (albeit classy) uniforms in college football.
With the help of Nike, Army’s look has maintained classy while getting a huge upgrade. First, the Black Knights got some awesome new threads with numbers that have the feel of actual military lettering. We also love the stripe on the sleeves.
And then there’s the helmet. We never knew a plain gold helmet with just a black stripe could look so good. Hydro Graphics, Inc. did wonders with the lid, ditching the glossy look for a matte-like finish and a massive, intimidating black stripe down the middle. Throw in an American flag sticker on the back and we salute these new unis.
For a team with a nickname (Rockets) that lends itself to creative sports designs, Toledo’s old helmets were incredibly boring. It looks like they hired a new creative designer.
The new, bigger rocket look has more juice. And perhaps realizing that there’s no other FBS team with the Rockets nickname, they got rid of the “Toledo” that cluttered the old helmet.
Add a matte navy blue background and these Rockets are ready for takeoff. The only thing keeping this helmet from the best new look of 2012 is that the right side of the lid has each player’s number. Why create such a great helmet design only to use it on just one side?
As for the rest of the uniform that appears to have gone unchanged: Hopefully those jerseys and pants soon join the old helmet in the waste bin.
Photo: Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
A+: Appalachian State
Finally, we come to our favorite new uniform of 2012: Appalachian State’s throwbacks.
When an old-school (often politically incorrect) logo is replaced by something more modern and “accessible,” fans can get nostalgic for the old look quickly. (New England’s old “Pat Patriot” logo is a great example.)
So props to Appalachian State for resurrecting the old look of their mascot, Yosef. Anti-smoking protests be damned, the Mountaineers showcase a corn-cob pipe in Yosef’s mouth and his homeless man’s beard before topping it off with a raggedy Ranger-like hat.
Give that helmet to a team wearing black and yellow and it looks like they’re bootleggers. Yeah, political correctness is overrated.