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.
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BCS of uniforms: Big 12

Oklahoma State's Richetti Jones and the rest of Oklahoma State went with this look for their biggest victory of the season over Oklahoma. Photo by Getty Images

As we approach New Year’s Day, we’ll start to move deeper into this BCS of uniforms. Today, the Big 12:

1. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys made a huge splash this season by wearing a different uniform combination for every game. Turns out it worked for them as they won their first Big 12 title and are headed to the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2.

I always preferred the normal white helmet with orange uniform, but at least the Cowboys showed  a great effort this season for uniforms, and it’s hard to argue with the success they had in them. The best part about the changes was they did not abandon the primary OSU logo or introduced new colors into the scheme.

2. Baylor

Maybe it’s because the Bears got a little more exposure this season with Robert Griffin III, but I just began to notice how good the primary Baylor uniform looks.

The combination of the gold pants and helmets with the green uniforms is very clean and neat. Nike even introduced a new uniform line for the Bears before the season. The Alamo Bowl uniforms were a bust, but I can forgive them.

3. Texas A&M

The Aggies don’t try to get too flashy with their uniforms, and that works for them. Maybe it’s because my elementary school wore maroon, but I find the combination of maroon and white to be very cool.

The logo works because of the big T that is complemented by the A and M around it. My favorite is when the Aggies host Texas and wear all maroon.

4. Texas

These are classic college football uniforms.

Anytime you see burnt orange, you immediately think Texas and that shows the uniform has done its primary job of identifying a team. The orange is complemented nicely by the white helmets, and the road all-white look is a solid one.

5. Oklahoma

Again, these are classic uniforms. If there was ever a change with the Sooners’ uniforms, I’m sure there would be a riot throughout all of Norman.

There’s really not much to the uniforms, but since they have been around so long and are iconic in college football, they get a decent ranking here.

Jeff Woody and the rest of the Cyclones had a tough time getting going against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Photo by Getty Images

6. Iowa State

Recently, the Cyclones have gone to a retro look that certainly works for them. The combination of red with yellow pants is a nice look and the stripes along the shoulder are nifty, but it’s still a somewhat boring look.

If the helmets could improve here, perhaps they would move up in the rankings.

7. Missouri

The Tigers have a decent uniform, but there is simply too much going on with all the trimming in the uniform. Plus, the helmets are pretty boring.

8. Texas Tech

Again, there’s too much going on here, even more than Missouri. The lines that go up the shoulders are unnecessary, it’s far too distracting for a football uniform.

9. Kansas State

There’s not enough going on here. The purple with the silver is very boring. The part about this uniform that gets me the most is the logo which has been around forever, but could definitely use some work.

10. Kansas

Yawn! Could that helmet get any more boring? The Jayhawks aren’t even trying to do anything smart with the KU. They’re just written on the helmets. Much more effort is needed here.

Championship Week College football review: Numbers game

Southern Miss's Khyri Thomton has three ways of displaying his number as he hit Case Keenum on Saturday. Photo by Associated Press

Although the college football schedule was cut down significantly on Saturday, there was no absence of uniform intrigue. Mostly coming from two teams displaying a subtle, but effective, uniform quirk.

One came from a team that has been using it all season, but finally came to light on Saturday when Southern Miss stunned Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game.

Astute observers would notice that one of side of the matte-finish helmet the Eagles were sporting was the typical Souther Miss logo, but on the other side was the player’s uniform number.

It was pretty cool to see when I first noticed it while watching the game. It’s unusual to see the number on just one side of the helmet while the logo goes on the other, but another team went with the same combination Saturday as well.

Boise State who has changed up their helmet many times this season, went with their nifty Pro Combat helmets, but added a twist as the numbers were featured on one side of the helmet. This one was pretty surprising to see since it is a truly new addition to the helmet.

I have always liked when teams decide to put the numbers on their helmets. It’s not because I need another way to identify the players on the field, but it is a bit of a throwback to the retro helmets when more teams featured numbers.

This season, Michigan has decided to make numbers on the helmets a permanent feature and it has looked great all season. Obviously, Alabama has featured the numbers on the helmets for as long as I can remember.

For two seasons (2005 and 2006) Syracuse experimented with numbers on their helmets before going to a block S on the helmet. It was my favorite feature of my alma mater’s football uniform and I was very sad to see it go.

We only have one quick hit this week, as Oklahoma State continued to change up their uniforms and may have found the perfect combination (for them at least) as their black helmets on orange uniforms with black pants resulted in the program’s biggest victory.

Week 10 College football review: Yawn!!

This week’s uniform changes had about as much action as the Game of the Century. Not one team stood out. It seems most of the uniform surprises were saved  for the start of the season.

Hopefully, things will change as the national title game comes into focus.

With that, we will move directly to a decent amount of quick hits:

The Iowa Hawkeyes got a little patriotic for Saturday's victory over Michigan. They also had a striking resemblance to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo by Getty Images

  • Iowa probably made the biggest splash in a very subtle way when they defeated Michigan. The changes came in two parts. First, the Hawkeyes made their usual yellow decals into a version of the American flag. The second part was a continuation of the Steelers look-a-like uniform. They did not have anything on one side of the helmet, very Steeler-esque.
  • Oregon State went with an alternate orange uniform with black pants in a loss to Stanford. The look is pretty good overall. I like the normal black uniforms as well. Oregon State games are always fun to watch because of the uniforms.
  • Washington State has a very odd away uniform against Cal. They wore gray pants to go with their usual red helmets and white uniforms. The look seems strange. Red or white pants would have worked much better.
  • Oklahoma State kept the tradition of black uniforms for a night game that is nationally televised. The gray helmets with the black uniforms ans gray pants was odd, but as long as the Cowboys keep winning, I’m sure they’ll stick with it.
  • Boise State went with white helmets on the road. Instead of their odd Pro Combat helmets, these had the normal Boise logo, just added the white factor to the helmet.

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.

Helmets like White Elephants

Here we have another entry from Alex. This one regarding the emergence of white helmets in football.

Auburn has employed the white helmet for a long time. Always looking good at home and on the road.

But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?”

– From “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway

Indeed, there was a time, particularly in pro football, when white helmets were considered a white elephant, or rather, a fashion faux pas. When the Houston Texans were born in 2002 and they introduced white helmets, many alleged “experts” bristled at such a uniform statement.  Arguably, an expansion team should have made a better impression on the league with a better helmet idea, or could have actually made the playoffs once in their first nine seasons.  With neither feat accomplished, perhaps the Texans were on to something with their white helmets. Today, the trend toward the white helmet, in the NFL and even more so in college, is quite prevalent.

More and more teams have gone to the white helmet because it offers that classic look. With the constant uniform changes happening in college football, many teams have either opted to keep or have opted for the white helmet. This weekend, LSU, wearing their not-as-deplorable-as-it-could-be Nike Pro Combat looks, opted for a white helmet with purple “LSU” on each side, went up against Auburn in a rare white helmet vs. white helmet matchup.

Also this weekend, Oklahoma State, in their victory over Mizzou, looked good with an all-white getup that included white helmets.  A revisit to the Oklahoma State Combo Creator reveals that OSU, in addition to their gray and black helmets, actually have two white helmets, one that features an orange “OSU” and another that features that same logo in black.  Of course, OSU has always had white helmets, but it was nice that, when they did decide, for whatever reason, to redo their football unis, they kept those two white helmets, rather than discarding for something that looks like this.

Barry Sanders sported a white helmet with Oklahoma State in the late 80s. The letters on the helmets were bigger, but the helmet has largely remained the same.

Like the Cowboys, many schools have had white helmets as far back as anyone can remember, making the white helmet not a burden to an team’s look, but rather an enhancement. Penn State and Stanford have never deviated from their white lids (although Standard will feature a black helmet on November 27th, when they Pro Combat for a primetime game against Notre Dame). Many other schools have also gone to the white helmet in recent years, with even Oregon finding room in their cornucopia of unis for a classic, white topper.

But this trend is not only limited to the college game. In addition to the Texans, the Jets, Cardinals, Dolphins, Colts, and Titans (formerly the Oilers) all sport white helmets. Additionally, both the Bills and Chargers have made the move from their old helmets to white helmets.

Clearly, the white helmet is (and has) made a comeback.  And, rather than being like white elephants, are embraced by teams looking to return to a more classic, and overall better look.

Week 8 College football review: Uniform sanctions

The Mountain West's uniform restrictions for Boise State finally took effect Saturday against Air Force. Photo by Getty Images

The offseason was filled with scandal in all of college football. From Ohio State to Miami to Oregon to even Boise State there were scandals and sanctions galore.

One of the sanctions to Boise State that went unnoticed was the Mountain West immediately putting some restrictions on their newest member by telling Boise it could no longer wear its blue jerseys for conference home games. The trademark blue turf in Boise, Idaho, made for a camouflage look for the Broncos.

Boise finally ran into this problem on Saturday when they hosted Air Force.

Boise has been changing their uniforms a bit over the past few seasons as it has become a consistent national title contender. They’ve gone with all-white at the start of the season against Georgia and used a new helmet for their bowl game against Utah last season.

Yesterday’s look was similar to what they wore to defeat Virginia Tech in the season opener last year. The only difference is the helmet Boise wore yesterday is similar to the helmet they usually go with.

Personally, I was hoping Boise would decide to go with its orange look it employed for a game last season. It would certainly accomplish what the Mountain West was looking for in that they would stand out from the blue field.

At the very least, this adds a bit more intrigue to the uniform selection for the Broncos every week. They might be falling a bit in the BCS standings, but the uniforms should keep us on our toes.

With that, we’ll move on to our quick hits:

A host of LSU defenders dominated Auburn all game in these alternate uniforms. Photo by Getty Images

  • Top-ranked LSU turned some heads with its uniform selection in a blowout of defending champs Auburn. The white helmets and white pants are the primary departures from the normal yellow here. There is also gold weaved into the stripes on the shoulders and the helmets. Overall, the look is fine, nothing too jarring and not that far from the norm.
  • Virginia Tech went with an orange throwback look against Boston College. The Hokies have started to mix in some surprises in the uniform department recently. For the most part, they work.
  • Both Oregon and Oklahoma State went with all-white in road victories yesterday. Sometimes it’s nice to see a simple look from these teams.
  • Rutgers went away from being Scarlet again on Friday night. They chose black helmets, white jerseys and black pants in a loss to Louisville. The only difference between this and the look they wore at home against Pitt was a white R on the helmet instead of the red seen against Pitt. Maybe Rutgers didn’t feel as fierce with the white R and that’s why they lost.

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.

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.