Bowl review: Helmets like solar panels

LaMichael James and the rest of the Oregon Ducks probably gave Wisconsin fits with their extremely reflective helmets for the Rose Bowl. Photo by Getty Images

Now that we’ve had a week to reflect on the college football season after a dominant performance by the Alabama defense, we’ll take one last look at the uniforms for these special games.

It comes as no shock that I’ll lead off with Oregon and its very shiny helmets for the Rose Bowl. It’s a wonder Wisconsin did not complain it couldn’t see as the Ducks ran out in the Pasadena sun light wearing what more closely resembled solar paneling than a football helmet.

Overall, I thought the look was neat and innovative for even Oregon. The use of “liquid metal” for the helmets and facemasks was cool to see. It added another dimension to the beauty of the setting for the Rose Bowl.

It was also very cool to see the reflection of the field and the mountains surrounding the Rose Bowl whenever ESPN gave the audience a close-up view of the helmet.

Oregon’s helmets worked for the most part, but the one drawback was the helmet had virtually nothing to do with the uniform. I understand it would require a completely silver uniform for the Ducks that might have blinded the 100,000 in attendance, but it’s justa  pet peeve I’m airing here.

Wisconsin also brought a subtlety to the game with the helmets. If you look really close, you can see the pattern of a rose in the W of the Badgers’ helmets. It’s stuff like that, that makes the Rose Bowl great.

The game presented a contrast of style in both style of play and general style. It was neat.

There was plenty of other fashion statements made over the bowl season, and here are a few highlights in our final installment of quick hits for this season:

Virginia looked pretty gross when they took on Auburn in the Chick-fil-a Bowl and it showed in its performance on the field. Photo by Getty Images

  • Virginia went with a frighteningly bad look in a blowout loss to Auburn in the Chick-fil-a Bowl. I have no idea what the Cavaliers were going for. Maybe they thought since the game was being played on New Year’s Eve night, everybody would be too drunk to notice. Luckily for this blog, I work on Saturday nights so I noticed.
  • Oklahoma State went all-black in their Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford. I still wish they would go with orange and white one time. This look made it seem like it was Halloween, not New Year’s.
  • Baylor more closely resembled the old New York Jets than the Baylor Bears in the Alamo Bowl, but I guess it helped them score a lot of points so that’s great.
  • Notre Dame wore names on the back of their jerseys for the Champs Sports Bowl so there’s that.

BCS of uniforms: Pac-12

The UCLA players are pretty pumped to be named the best uniform in college football according to this blog. Photo by Associated Press

So even though the college football season has come to an end, we’ll have one last look at a major conference before reviewing the style displayed in the bowl games this season.

1. UCLA

These are the best uniforms is college football. The combination of a gold helmet, with purple lettering and a light blue uniform that features gold and white stripes on the shoulders. The uniform is completed by gold pants that complete the uniform in a perfect way.

2. Oregon

The Ducks have to get some credit here for being the pioneers behind this uniform revolution. It’s very difficult to pick one uniform combination because there must have been about 100 over the years. The general idea of green with yellow is cool, and again major credit going to Oregon for starting this craze.

3. USC

This is another example of a classic college football uniform that still works. The stripes on the shoulders are a bit different than the usual, but the combination of red and yellow still works.

4. Colorado

I like black with gold, and the logo on the helmet is subtle, but still works since the buffalo is neat.

5. Oregon State

These are pretty simple uniforms, but still solid. Orange with black is pretty cool, and I am a fan of the font used for the numbers.

6. Washington

The Huskies have a pretty regal look with gold and purple featured most prominently on the uniform. The W on the helmet is a good look.

7. Stanford

It’s a simple look for the Cardinal, but it goes along with the persona of the team. They never try to do anything too flashy and the uniform displays that.

8. Arizona State

The Sun Devils tried to liven up their uniforms this season, but it didn’t quite work that well. I enjoyed the old yellow helmets, but I understand what they were going for with the change.

9. California

If not for some unnecessary changes to the helmet that saw a paw and a weird stripe added to the helmet. The general color scheme is good, but there’s a little too much going on there for me.

10. Arizona

The Wildcats can’t really decide what they want their helmets to be. Sometimes they are blue, sometimes they are white, and I can’t find a rhyme or reason to it.

11. Utah

It’s a look that could be more simple if they wanted to improve it. There’s no need for some of the piping along the sides are crawling up the uniform.

12. Washington State

The Cougars don’t do much to get creative here. They even added some gray uniforms which was completely unnecessary and just looked weird.

Look at Oregon’s helmets

The Ducks are going to make another uniform splash on Monday when they take on Wisconsin during the Rose Bowl. Check out this video of the helmets.

 

Week 12 College football review: What in the world?

South Florida offensive tackle Mark Popek sported a confusing look on Saturday against Miami. Photo by Getty Images

Supporting our troops is a great thing. They put their lives on the line for our country, and do things that most of us don’t have the bravery to do.

This sentiment has made its way into college football in a big way this season, and it came to a head on Saturday with South Florida.

The Bulls came out with some helmets that better resembled a zebra than a football uniform. There was not even an indication of the usual South Florida logo on these helmets.

I will admit I did not get to watch any of this game, but just from looking at the photos, I am taken aback by these helmets. Other teams like South Carolina and Texas Tech have used these Wounded Warrior uniforms in the past, but there was never a huge change like this to the helmet.

The Bulls committed a cardinal uniform sin by stunning the viewer with their uniforms. The pattern on the helmets was very different to figure out, and it’s very tough to be aware of what exactly they were going for with the design.

The original prototypes for these helmets did have the South Florida logo on them, but when they were brought out on the field, they were gone. A swing and a miss here.

After that debacle, let’s move to our quick hits:

N.C. State's Tobias Palmer and QB Mike Glennon had their best game of the season in an all-red alternate on Saturday, Photo by Associated Press

  • N.C. State, who never goes outside the uniform box, went with all-red in a huge upset of Clemson. The look is pretty basic, and would be something the Wolfpack might consider going back to considering the success they had with it on the field.
  • Texas Tech went with all-white against Missouri. Again, nothing too exciting here, just a uniform change.
  • Oregon went with all-black in a loss to USC, but it was somewhat sloppy. Instead of going with the neon on black like they did in the season opener against LSU, these silver numbers with yellow outlining didn’t have the same look to them.

Week 11 College football review: Uniform games

Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd sported the Irish's new green look as Maryland's Trenton Hughes and the rest of the Terps didn't show much Maryland Pride. Photo by Associated Press

As the college football regular season begins to wind down, most of the games do not mean all that much to the national title picture.

As much as it pains me to say it, Notre Dame has participated in many of those over the past years, and Saturday night against Maryland was an example of that irrelevance (unless you’re into placing for the Champs Sports Bowl.)

Instead, this game was about the uniforms.

We had known for about a week the Irish would be wearing a Shamrock helmet with a different background than the helmets they wore against Michigan earlier this season. We also found out last Wednesday that Maryland would be going back to their Pride uniforms they wore earlier this season to defeat their only FBS school in Miami this season.

Clearly, most of that Maryland Pride has worn off for a 2-8 team, that got absolutely no lift from these special uniforms. In my humble opinion, special uniforms like these only work once a season, if even that often. When the Terps came out on the tunnel on Labor Day in those special uniforms, the home crowd got pumped up, and it helped Maryland pick up one of its two victories this season.

However, Saturday night’s game was more of a Notre Dame home game even though it was played in Maryland. The team is down and if these uniforms are used too often, they will have little to no effect on the team.

The same goes for the Irish who wore green uniforms last night. Wearing green at Notre Dame used to be a very rare and special occasion. Usually, this coach would not say anything about the uniforms until the team came out on the tunnel for the game. It was special.

After wearing green against Army last season, and again Saturday night, it’s no longer as special.

Besides the green, the helmets were a little offensive. First of all, with the reflection of the lights at FedEx Field, the helmets looked like golf balls. The facemask was also black instead of the usual gray for the Irish. That bothered me.

The look as a whole was seemingly very futuristic, a departure from what the Irish are usually all about.

Now, let’s move to our quick hits:

It was a tough night for Boise both on the field and in the uniform department. Photo by The Idaho Statesman

  • Boise State had some blinding orange alternates in an upset loss to TCU. The Broncos went with these all-orange uniforms before, but this time, they went with a white helmet to compliment it. They looked very strange, and obviously it didn’t help them in the loss.
  • Texas Tech went with a very patriotic uniform for Veterans Day. The stars and stripes on the helmets were a nice touch to go along with the camouflage on the shoulders.
  • Oregon’s uniforms were very interesting for their victory over Stanford. The helmets looked black from one angle, but when the lights hit it in a certain way, you could see the green. The Ducks also chose to have their names on the back of the jerseys in white so it takes ultra concentration to see. That’s weird.

Week 9 College football review: What to wear

Oregon went with a yellow-on-black look in a victory over Washington State on Saturday. It was a look not yet seen this year, but used against UCLA last season. Photo by Getty Images

Outside of Ohio State’s pro combat uniforms in an upset victory over Wisconsin that we will get to later, the uniforms in college football were pretty standard on Saturday.

Therefore, we’ll take some time to go over the pioneers of this uniform revolution, Oregon.

We all know how how Oregon had come since its plain green-and-yellow look to the safety green that made a splash in last season’s national title game. At first all their uniform changes were viewed as corny and a stunt, but now they are the pioneers of a great recruiting tool that has seen the Ducks rise to national prominence on a consistent level.

One thing that I always wonder with Oregon is what their fans wear to games. We’ve come a long way in fan apparel since the days of fedoras and suits in the stands. The standard look for a fan at any football game now is a jersey of their favorite team.

With all the looks Oregon employs, how can a fan of the Ducks know exactly what to wear as they head to Autzen Stadium. It’s neat to be wearing the same thing as the players on the field, but for Ducks fans, it is more of a crap shoot to see if you can actually accomplish that feat.

On the flip side, it also gives fans an opportunity to show their favorite color of the Ducks. They are not restricted to just one jerseys, but literally dozens. Must be fun (and a little confusing) to be an Oregon fan.

Now back to the Buckeyes and our quick hits:

Quarterback Braxton Miller and the rest of the Buckeyes performed well in pro combat uniforms on Saturday. Photo by Getty Images

  • Ohio State had one of the more unoffensive pro combats for their upset of Wisconsin. A friend said earlier in the week the helmets look similar to Georgia’s from Week 1, which is true. However, the colors of the jerseys and pants look like the Buckeyes. It was a pretty good look.
  • Rutgers again went with an all-black look in a snowy loss to West Virginia. I think they might have gone with these black uniforms to stand out from the white field. Either way, I’m looking forward to the Scarlet Knights actually going back to being Scarlet when they take on Army this week at Yankee Stadium.
  • Oklahoma State finally went with orange uniforms at home, but ruined the look with gray helmets and pants. Maybe they are waiting for the key Bedlam games against Oklahoma to get it right.
  • Virginia Tech looked a bit like the Cleveland Browns in a victory over Duke.
  • Kentucky and Mississippi State changed things up a bit. Kentucky wore these odd all-black with blue accents. While the Mississippi State wore a matte finish to their usual helmets.

Week 7 College football review: Spartans and bumble bees

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson couldn't overcome Michigan State and their new uniforms on Saturday. Photo by Associated Press

The biggest splash in college football uniforms came right off the bat on Saturday. As soon as Lee Corso picked Oregon to defeat Arizona State, ESPN switched to the Michigan-Michigan State game. We’ve known for a long time the Spartans would use a UAB-type look for this game, but Michigan’s throwback look came as a surprise.

The coolest thing about Michigan’s throwbacks was they didn’t warm up in them. The Wolverines were in their usual road unis before that feature maize pants before changing to the 1970s throwbacks for the game in East Lansing, Mich.

I’ll start with Michigan. I was hoping before the game they would go with something similar to the heritage uniforms they wore against Notre Dame in Week 2. The difference here is maize as the prominent color on the shoulder stripes instead of the blue, the number replacing the M on the front of the jersey and no stitch details on the numbers.

It’s a pretty solid look overall. The big numbers on the back of the jersey work well as do the small numbers on the helmets that don’t get in the way of the helmet design.

The only thing that bothers me with these uniforms is the Wolverines basically look like bumble bees. The prominence of maize on the stripes gives off that illusion, and since they are at the shoulders they are always seen by the fans.

Now on to Michigan State.

The Spartans looked totally unrecognizable for this game. The usual green and white combination for home games was totally thrown out for this rivalry game against Michigan.

The color scheme is very similar to that of UAB for home games. Overall, the colors do work together well, but they are not Michigan State’s colors. The gold helmets that had a bit of tint to them in certain places look like real Spartans (since I am clearly familiar with the men of Sparta, Greece.)

Moving on from the state of Michigan, here are your quick hits:

Oregon's Bryan Bennett stepped up for Oregon in a relatively conservative uniform game for these the Ducks and Arizona State. Photo by Associated Press

  • The last game of the night was a uniform special as Oregon and Arizona State faced off. The Ducks’ uniforms were average, nothing too special. Arizona State also looked pretty conservative with their maroon helmets and pants for a road game.
  • Virginia donned some nice orange and blue uniforms for their upset victory over Georgia Tech.
  • I’m still waiting for Oklahoma State to wear white helmets with orange. Their black-on-white-on-black look this week was just all right.
  • Washington State went with an all-gray look against Stanford. The Cougars have been down for a long time, so I guess they were trying to get hyped up for this one. It didn’t work.

Week 6 College football review: Black all over

Rutgers rolled over Pittsburgh in a statement victory on Saturday, and they look pretty good in all-black uniforms doing it. Photo by The Star-Ledger

This week’s choice in college football uniforms was about as exciting as the games. Which is to say there was a very limited amount of excitement to be had.

The biggest splash of the day might have come from the local team as Rutgers decided to ditch its Scarlet-ness and go with an all-black look on a hot day in Piscataway, NJ.

When I first saw these uniforms on ESPN’s famous Uni-Watch before the season began, I was very disappointed in the Scarlet Knights’ decision to become the Black Knights for a day. I was also concerned the players might pass out from heat exhaustion  because of the 85-degree temperatures throughout the Garden State on Saturday.

  • However, as the day turned to night and I started looking at more photos of the game (and probably because of how well Rutgers played) the uniforms grew on me. Guys like Rutgers’ best player Mohamed Sanu looked pretty cool in the uniforms, especially with the pink accents with the mouthguards.

I am usually not a fan of the matte finish on helmets, but over time I think it looks good depending on the circumstances. They seem to me that it would make the player’s head more hot because it looks like the surface of a road, but I guess it worked for Rutgers.

The only thing that bothered me about this uniform was the red Rs on the helmets. It was pretty obvious it was a decal, but I am glad they went with red instead of the usual white R on the helmets.

Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas looked pretty nifty in these uniforms on Thursday night. Photo by Getty Images

There were some other schools who went with black in their helmets and with that, we’ll start the quick hits:

  • Oregon went with these “Fighting Ducks” uniforms in its victory over Cal on Thursday night. These were new looks for the Ducks, but the matte finish on the black helmets and the black pants had been seen before this season, in a loss to LSU. Perhaps the best touch of this uniform was the ducks on the shoulders. It was a bit corny, but it was fun.
  • Oklahoma State wasn’t slowed at all by what must have been a hot day for them in black-on-black-on-orange uniforms in a romp of Kansas. I’m still waiting for them to go with their usual home uniforms once this season.
  • Northwestern kept the all-black trend going with their night loss to Michigan.
  • Arizona State looked like the old Arizona State with these yellow helmets and pants for a road game at Utah.

Cover your eyes

Seattle probably won the U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night by simply blinding Chicago with these uniforms.

Tuesday night while watching SportsCenter after a long night of work because of those damn Yankees, I noticed a uniform that was more than a little shocking to see at 3 a.m.

It was a highlight of the U.S. Open Cup finals between the Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire. Yes, MLS teams play in a tournament outside of the regular season as one of the teams, Seattle, is preparing for the upcoming playoffs.

Don’t ask me why. Soccer is a weird game. Anyway, Seattle was wearing those uniforms that look like someone took a highlighter to the entire uniform.

There seems to be something about teams in the Pacific Northwest and highlighter uniforms. The Seahawks have worn a blinding alternate from time to time. And Oregon introduced us all the “safety green” with their socks in last year’s National Championship Game. Even the Mariners use a teal color that looks pretty awesome for select home games.

Now that we have ventured out into the world beyond football here, expect a few more adventures soon with baseball getting into its League Championship Series starting soon and hockey on the horizon.

Gray Power?

Here we have it, the first post from a contributor. This one comes from a good friend of mine, Alex, who can give a better perspective on the Oklahoma State uniform situation. He attended the school for two years for grad school. Here is his deeper view on the Cowboys’ recent uniform changes.

Oklahoma State receiver Michael Harrison helped the Cowboys begin their gray trend this season in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. Photo by Associated Press

Before the 2006 NCAA football season, the University of Oregon unveiled its 384 different uniform combinations that would forever change college football.  Call it jealousy, or just an overwhelming desire to be the same as their peers (a character flaw that is prevalent in our society), but since then, other college football teams have decided the simple distinction of “home” and “road” uniforms were obsolete.  This has led to a rash of teams trying to outdo (see Arizona State) or out-weird (see Maryland) other teams.

That brings us to my alma mater, Oklahoma State, who, backed by seemingly unlimited funds from oil-tycoon-turned-wind-power-guru T. Boone Pickens, unveiled a uniform combination that, while not as egregious as Oregon’s, is still nonetheless perplexing.  Using the Oklahoma State Combo Creator, fans can choose between four sets of pants (gray, black, orange and white), four different jerseys (gray, black, orange and white), and three different helmet colors (black, orange and gray).  While some regard this as a way to put OSU on the map (as if an AP #5 ranking doesn’t do the trick), lost in the cornucopia of uni-combos is the idea that Oklahoma State (and arguably along with other teams), have lost their identity.

You don’t have to attend grad school in Stillwater to know that the town simply loves orange.  The color is as common as dandelions in the spring. At any and all OSU event, the cheer that is most common is simple: one side of the stadium yells “Orange!” while the other side attempts to outdo them by yelling back “Power!”.  Students are not encouraged but expected to wear orange to games, and wearing any other color, no matter what the weather, makes one stand out (and not in a good way).  So, what is curious to me (and to perhaps many other OSU fans) is why Oklahoma State’s uniforms, with all their national attention, a Top 5 ranking, and an offense that can seemingly score points even while sleep, has yet to feature orange in 2011.

Two seasons ago, Oklahoma State football debuted an all-black look for their Thursday night ESPN showdown with then-conference rival Colorado.  The black jerseys and pants, coupled with white helmets with the black “OSU” were met with mixed results in Stillwater, but looked neat nonetheless under the lights in front of a prime time audience.  But OSU followed the tradition of orange over white at home, and white over orange on the road that season, with the exception of their all orange look for Homecoming (which is, as advertised, the best Homecoming celebration in the country).  In 2010, OSU again donned the all-black getup for their yearly Thursday night game, this time against Texas A&M in a 38-35 thriller.  Despite their 2-0 record in the black, OSU stuck with its regular road home combination.  That is, until their game at Kansas, when they wore their road whites with black pants for the first time since 1994.

Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma State kept up their tradition of black on a Thursday night earlier this season against Arizona. It was slightly different from past years because of the orange numbering and lettering on the helmet. Photo by Getty Images

And thus, it started.  The idea that the orange and white simply was not good enough and that black and gray needed to take a more prominent role, giving birth to the highly questionable uniforms they sport in 2011.  Let’s review:  their opening game against UL-Layfette saw the debut of gray jerseys with white and pants and helmets.  Game two, on ESPN’s Thursday Night prime time slot, featured the return of the all black and the white helmets.  Their third game against Tulsa, played in the early hours of the morning thanks to Oklahoma’s signature tornado warnings (I actually survived a few when I was out there) saw the Fighting Gundys in white helmets and jerseys matched with black pants.  The gray helmets and pants, matched with white jerseys, made their debut in College Station last Saturday against A&M.

So, where’s the orange?  Sure it’s in the numbers and trims, but that still doesn’t mean it’s featured.  Even in what the Oklahoma press called Mike Gundy’s signature win, OSU’s signature color, orange, was hardly visible.

Sure, new jerseys are great, and they certainly create a buzz for a program, but at what cost?  A team’s mainstay is their uniforms, which in turn, helps to create their identity for fans, alums and a national audience.  Besides, a team doesn’t need all kinds crazy uniform combinations  to garner national attention.  Just look at these two teams.