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.

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Week 5 College Football Review: What’s that say?

The pattern inside the numbers cause problems for South Carolina and the officials Saturday.

There was an event yesterday in the uniform world that I had never heard of happening before. If you watched the South Carolina-Auburn game Saturday, you might have noticed the Gamecocks helmets and pants looked different than normal, but their shirts were pretty much the same.

Well that comes from a decision made by the officials prior to the game. South Carolina was wearing their “Wounded Warriors” uniforms for Saturday’s showdown with Auburn, which it eventually lost, 16-13, in pretty dramatic fashion. The Gamecocks have gone to these uniforms in the past as have other teams.

Basically it is supposed to honor our armed forces by putting names like “Courage”, “Honor”, “Pride, and “Serve” on the back of the players’ jerseys. A very good idea in theory, although it lends itself to inevitable, “there’s a lot of guys with the same name on this team” jokes.

South Carolina has done this in the past, but the numbers have looked just the same as always.

Anyway, the names were not the problem Saturday, but rather the numbers. The patterns inside the number made it very difficult to read, and that is why officials told the Gamecocks to change back to their regular jerseys after coming out for warm-ups.

As a friend of mine with a history of working in athletic departments said, “It’s about time they started considering their sports information people.”

I completely agree with this. The point of a uniform is to identify what team you play for and who exactly you are. That’s why there are uniforms in the first place, to figure out which team is which just by sight, otherwise, there would be mass confusion in every single game.

Identifying the player is also very important to the uniform. While those of us watching on television can do that by reading the names on the back of the uniform (in most cases) those who are actually working the game (the officials and score keepers) rely on the numbers, and that is what caused the biggest problem on Saturday.

Illinois wide receiver Spencer Harris matched the orange end zone Saturday in this orange uniform. Photo by Associated Press

And with that, here’s your quick hits:

  • Illinois went with an orange look in their comeback victory over Northwestern. I think the look works pretty well since the rest of the field and the helmet has copious amounts of orange in it.
  • Stanford went with their alternate black uniforms. At first sight, I was not a huge fan of these uniforms, but after further review. They actually do look pretty nice. The red and black works for me.
  • Arizona State did a bad job Saturday after a nice look the week before. The white helmets with the red jersey and white pants, makes it look like a practice jersey.
  • It was interesting to see Michigan go back to the helmets it used to defeat Notre Dame in Week 2. I really like how the helmets have the numbers on them. They are not that noticeable and work well for me.
  • Air Force wore a nice uniform against Navy Saturday. I believe the color is supposed to look like the suit an Air Force member would wear. It’s nice.