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Some thoughts on the Bowls as of Dec. 28 December 29, 2012

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From azstarnet.com; try to ignore the Arizona player bumping into the ref and instead, focus on how cool their unis look, along the with the awesome color contrast between Arizona’s and Nevada’s helmets!

The New Mexico Bowl kicked off the season to a surprisingly auspicious beginning.  I say “surprisingly,” because let’s be honest; nobody thought that the first bowl game of the year would be that swell, and moreover,  it seemed as though Nevada had the game well in hand by the end of the 3rd quarter before Arizona managed to make a pretty good game out of things yet and scored 18 unanswered points to pull ahead at the end, 49-48.  And to think that I predicted that the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 would be the bowl season’s “offensive explosion,” yet so far, the results of the New Mexico Bowl have fit that distinction more than any other of the 2012-2013 bowl span.

But wait, there’s more!  As more teams unveil special bowl game helmets (read: Cincinnati, Virginia Tech), the jury will still be out until Jan. 7 to decide this ultimately, but thus far, the Arizona-Nevada matchup is definitely the “most aesthetically pleasing helmet contrast,” with the Wolfpack sporting their dark blue helmets on one side, and the Wildcats sporting their special red domes on the other!

Moreover, it will be very difficult for any other team to top the Wildcats for the “sartorial splendor” award, as they have set a new precedent.  Normally, if a team has dark blue and red for their colors (technically, Cardinal and Navy Blue, as is the case for both Arizona and Ole Miss), the modern precedents have been something along the lines of 1) dark blue helmets, dark blue jerseys, and either white or gray pants, or white helmets, or 2) white helmets and pants with dark blue jerseys, or 3), dark blue helmets, red jerseys, and white or gray pants.  What Arizona did was break through normal precedents and set a whole new one with red helmets, dark blue jerseys, and red pants.  It does not get much better than that!

Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of good games, this year’s MAACO Bowl of Las Vegas turned out to be a ‘dandy’ of a game, folks!  There are times when you swear that ESPN does actually have a crystal ball in some secret location on their Bristol, Conn., campus, because they sent their front-line crew of Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit to call the game, reflecting on the fact in real time that it was worth tuning in to see!  Either that, or it was an elaborate rouse to get Musburger in touch with Chan Lo and the Chinese Triads to settle his gambling debts:  who knows?  That having been said, what on Earth was Boise State doing wearing those god-awful matte black helmets instead of their pretty metallic blue domes?  Sometimes it pays to leave well enough alone; such is what Washington did with their tasteful combination of metallic gold helms, white jerseys and purple pants.

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Of all places, this pic came from Bengals.com!

The Belk Bowl also exceeded expectations in terms of a competitive, watchable game.  Only two things overshadowed Duke’s first bowl game since the mid-1990s:  1), Cincinnati’s garish, red, carbon fibre-colored helmets, a first in football helmet decor, and 2), the Bearcats ultimately won.  Still, it was nice that the Blue Devils wore their tasteful royal blue helmets instead of their generic-looking white ones, which overall made for a nice helmet contrast between the two teams as they played each other in Charlotte.  Moreover, keep in mind that the Bearcats pulled off the win with basically a five-man coaching staff (for purposes of comparison, college teams usually have about 10 coaches on staff, not including graduate assistants).

Another very interesting teams’ helmets contrast took place on Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl, formerly the Champs Sports Bowl, formerly the reincarnated Tangerine Bowl (basically, the other bowl game they play in the Citrus Bowl before the real Citrus Bowl game, which is now called the Capital One Bowl.  Got all that?).  Rutgers put up one heckuva fight against Virginia Tech, but came up a field goal short in overtime of tying the Hokies after the first round in overtime.  But the contrast was nevertheless unique in that the Scarlet Knights had their newly characteristic chrome shells, while the Hokies sported new, matte maroon helmets with an orange decal of a “Hokie,” which, from what us fans can deduce, is basically a turkey bird on a roid rage.  Virginia Tech has undertaken numerous helmet styling experiments during the 2012 season, some kind of interesting, some downright head-scratching.  The white helmets with turkey feet clearly belonged in the latter category!

Oh, and the guys at EDSBS, you boys have some ‘splainin’ to do!  You ranked the Meinecke Car Care Bowl of Texas last among your list of the 35 bowls for this season.  In the words of Musburger, the game turned out to be a real ‘dandy.’  Thanks to the realignment of bowls, this Texas Bowl is about the only B1G vs Big XII matchup we have to look forward to, as the Alamo Bowl no longer affords us that luxury.  The game did not disappoint, as Minnesota and Texas Tech butted heads in dramatic form practically from the whistle giving the green light for kickoff.  The game remained close and competitive for the whole 60 minutes, though a turning point came when a Red Raider receiver pancaked a Golden Gopher defensive back in the end zone and walloped him — right in front of the back judge.  That led to the player, No. 22, to be summarily ejected from the game (and due to an arcane NCAA rule, he shall also have to sit out the opening game next year, too).  LeGarrette Blunt would no doubt be proud.  A third and goal near the one became a third and goal at about the fifteen.  The next play was botched, leading to a field goal.  Minnesota called a timeout just as the ball was snapped, and on the next, true snap, the Gophers blocked the kick!  A sure TD was reduced to, well, nothing.  Yes, in the end, the Red Raiders won on a last-second field goal.  Still, the game was riveting from the opening kickoff to the very last play, and that’s all we fans can ask for in any of these bowl games.

In all frankness and honesty, the 2012-2013 bowl season has been overall underwhelming this far.  The Little Caesars Bowl and the Independence Bowl (oh, my, have the mighty fallen!) have been nothing about which to write home, and similar things can be said for most of the other bowls up to this point.  But having said all that, it is worth pointing out that there have been some high points thus far, and odds are, it can only get better from here.  After all, Ronald Reagan himself was known to joke that if one searches through enough mounds of manure, sooner or later one is bound to find the pony!

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College Football Week 8 Awards October 22, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 8, pre-week 9] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Glad I’m not him: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Lucky guy: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Poor guy: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking a clue:  Charlie Weis, Kansas
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: David Cutcliffe, Duke

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Desperately seeking … anything:  Kyle Whittingham, Utah

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 10 USC  (beat Colorado 50-6)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 12 Georgia (beat Kentucky 29-24)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Kansas (lost to No. 8 Oklahoma 52-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Navy (beat Indiana 31-30)
Thought you wouldn’t get your butt kicked, you did:  No. 17 South Carolina (lost to No. 3 Florida 44-11)

Dang, they’re good: Florida
Dang, they’re bad: Auburn
Did the season start? Iowa
Can the season end?  Boston College

Can the season never end?  Kansas State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 18 Texas Tech 56, TCU 53
Never play this again: No. 2 Oregon 43*, Arizona State 21
What? No. 4 Kansas State 55, No. 25 West Virginia 17
Huh?  Duke 33, North Carolina 30
Are you kidding me? Toledo 29, Cincinnati 23

Oh – my – God:   Navy 31, Indiana 30

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 8 Oklahoma (notwithstanding Georgia vs. No. 3 Florida in Jacksonville)
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Kent State @ No. 18 Rutgers
Best non-Big Six matchup: Navy @ East Carolina
Upset alert: No. 13 Mississippi State @ No. 1 Alabama

Must win: No. 20 Michigan @ Nebraska
Offensive explosion: No. 15 Texas Tech @ No. 4 Kansas State

Defensive struggle: Missouri @ Kentucky
Great game no one is talking about: Cincinnati @ No. 16 Louisville, Friday, 8 PM

Intriguing coaching matchup: Bob Stoops of Oklahoma vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame
Who’s bringing the body bags? Colorado @ No. 2 Oregon
Why are they playing? UMass @ Vanderbilt

Plenty of good seats remaining: Hawaii @ Colorado St.  (notwithstanding Indiana @ Illinois)
They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 22 Texas A&M @ Auburn

*If Oregon did not call off the dogs at halftime, they could have scored 86 points, not just 43.

Offensive Explosion, C-USA-style:  Who’da thought that the Thursday night Houston-SMU matchup would have led to such offensive fireworks?

Two trends in helmet design:  One of which is the matte epidemic that must be discussed in a future article, having infected teams such as TCU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Baylor (their green helmets in the recent Alamo Bowl), Michigan State (sort of), and a host of others.  But another emergent trend, one more becoming of ultra-modernity, is the “chrome” effect.  Oregon debuted it during the most recent Rose Bowl, where they triumphed over Wisconsin wearing helmets with chrome [duck] wings on a chrome shell.  Recently, they demolished Arkansas State with chrome [duck] wings on a plain yellow shell.  Now, Michigan State has furthered the trend with a special helmet they wore in their narrow loss to rival Michigan, sporting a chrome-green shell with a silver chrome decal.  Not bad!

Will Muschamp seems like “the guy” after all:  “The guy,” meaning the guy who is capable of maintaining the high level of success that Florida fans have come to expect during the tenures of Steve Spurrier, followed indirectly by Urban Meyer.  Having established his credentials as an excellent defensive coach while at Texas, Muschamp has finally carried that over into a smothering defense on the part of his current team.  Indeed, the Gators have held opponents to just an average of roughly 12 points per game, and that includes a lackluster performance on both sides of the ball during their season-opener against Bowling Green.  Offensively, the Gators have shown considerable signs of life, thanks in part to the able QB skills of one Jeff Driskel.  On that side of the ball, Florida has averaged 33 points per game for the past five games.  Fourteen points was enough to overcome LSU’s stingy ‘D,’ while the Gators put up a whopping 44 points on South Carolina’s reputable defense yesterday in The Swamp.

The “So What” for the SEC:  If these shadows remain unchanged, it will be a Battle Royale in Atlanta between Florida and Alabama come early December.  But first, Florida must take care of Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, while Alabama has to contend with undefeated Mississippi State.  Bama also has LSU left on their slate, while the Gators’ only major challenge after the Bulldogs (UGA, not MSU) will be a regular-season closer at rival Florida State (thankfully for the Gators, a non-conference foe).  Stay tuned!

The current race in the Big XII:  Kansas State remains firmly in the driver’s seat after dispatching with yet another viable challenger in West Virginia.  Geno Smith might very well be leading a high-powered offense, but the Mountaineers’ defense is clearly another matter entirely, one that Coach Dana Holgorsen would be well-served to shore up at some point.  The challenge for head coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcats is to turn around after a big win against a formidable team on the road, and be ready for the same level of performance at home, as Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech Red Raiders are about to come calling.  A loss on the part of KSU could make for a very rather muddled race for top spot in the conference.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is determined to maintain its insurgent conference championship run, but a number of potential challenges remain with Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and TCU awaiting their respective confrontations.  Having said that, Bob Stoops & Co. have the opportunity to get back into the national conversation, as No. 5 Notre Dame comes into Norman for the biggest challenge the Irish are likely to face the entire year.  The season for both teams hangs in the balance.

Oregon, meanwhile, keeps motoring along up in the Pacific Northwest.  The Ducks remain undefeated, and their scores have been so high, they have practically required oxygen to read them, averaging 51 points each game thus far.  Their no-huddle offense is so fast-paced that it has caused Nick Saban of seemingly invincible Alabama to grumble.  But it will not be a smooth road to Miami for the Ducks for the BCS title game.  In two weeks, they must face resurgent USC.  Just two weeks after that, Stanford will not be playing dead just because Oregon is, well, Oregon, and they close their regular season with in-state rival Oregon State in the annual match-up known as “The Civil War.”  Given that the Beavers have crept into the No. 8 ranking, the game between these two teams this year could very well live up to such an august game title/nickname.  Moreover, that game this year will be in Corvalis, not Eugene.  If the Ducks end up making it to the Orange Bowl part II, they will certainly have earned it.

Purdue debuts new football uniforms August 7, 2011

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As a former student manager for the Purdue football team, I, along with a handful of other lucky souls, have more than intimate knowledge about Boilermaker football uniforms, and college football equipment in general.  Needless to say, whenever I receive news of a total redesign of the Boilers’ gridiron game unis, my interest is more than a little engaged.  At first glance of this redesigned series of gameday garments, part of me says “neat!” while the other part of me says “what on Earth were they thinking?”  First off, I get it.  Young players these days love the latest and greatest football fashions.  It’s the marketing, stupid, and fresh uni designs have been smartly used as a recruiting tool these days.  Hey, it worked for Oregon.  Meanwhile, has Penn State gotten this memo?  Will they ever?

Before further discussions proceed, a full gallery of the new Purdue uniforms can be seen via this link.

First of all, here is what I like, either sort of, or all the way.  Let’s start with the numbers, which I sort of like.  Of all the number designs, do I find this font to be the most aesthetically pleasing?   No, I do not.  Frankly, the traditional jersey numbers have worked just fine for traditional powers such as Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, and so on, so part of me asks, ‘what makes Purdue so special?’  That being said, the press release on Purdue’s athletics website points out that these numbers are in the “DIN” font, a typeface first developed in 1923, and since the mid-Twenties has been adopted as the standard font for engineering applications.  It also became the typeface of choice for metal stencil applications in trainyards.  Seeing things along those lines, the engineering and train connection to the DIN font makes this a very appropriate choice.  Plus, a font that’s almost 80 years old, when applied in a new way (new jerseys) can still look current; further proof that what is old is new.

Speaking of the numbers, another thing I love about the new design is the all-gold numbers on the black home jersey.  Those familiar with earlier eras of Purdue football will no doubt recall that “back in the day,” Purdue had a long-standing history displaying gold numbers on black jerseys.  Iconic photos of players in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, as well as the 1960s attest to this (check out some of the photos of Bob Griese and Mike Phipps as Boilermakers, and you shall see what I mean!).  While that started to change in the 1970s and espeically in the 1980s with the introduction of white numbers on Purdue’s black jerseys, gold numbers were still not unheard of as recently as the ’90s, but have been no more for about 14 years, until now.  Kudos to whomever had them brought back, as they are a nice, throwback touch.

Dare I say, I also applaud the choice to go back to a plain black stripe on the helmets.   To be sure, white and thin double-black stripes were a unique touch, one that was without precedence when Coach Tiller had them implemented on his new design (that template essentially being a carbon-copy of his Wyoming uni template, one that he transplanted with him in 1997).  But the single black stripe on the gold helmet again speaks to some of Purdue’s glory days, such as the ’60s and the Mollenkopf era — another nice, traditional touch.

Now on to the more unpleasant matters.  Let us start with the stripes.  To preempt any misunderstandings, I am very happy that stripes stayed on the pants.  I abhorred the 1990s fashion trend of stripe-less pants, and I am glad to see that we in the football community have moved on, with some exceptions.  What I do not like is how the stripes changed.  I absolutely loved our thin, double-stripe pattern.  It was a direct throwback to our older styles of uniforms from the 1940s through the 1960s.  The black pants with the gold stripes looked like an army general’s dress uniform — very classy.  Plus, we, along with Alabama, were the only teams to use such stripes.  I understand that times they are a-changin’, but if marketing is going to modify the stripes on the pants, can they at least have the decency to make sure those stripes are complete?  These new stripes fail to go all the way up the pants, for goodness sake!

In another matter, there is no earthly reason why Purdue should ever be wearing white pants.  Ever.  Period.  The only time I would condone it is if we had a black road helmet to provide the proper aesthetic contrast, say, a black helmet with a metallic gold “P” and a metallic gold 1-inch center stripe.  Then the get-up wouldn’t look half-bad — for a road uniform, at least.  In the meantime, though, my advice is, forget the white pants ever happened, and stick with the black pants on the road.

One recurring issue that nobody seems willing to address is the terrible shade of gold to which Purdue has been chained in recent years.  A simple looking up of our official school colors will show the inquisitive individual that Purdue’s school colors are Old Gold and Black.  Got that?  Old Gold and Black.  Sadly, the last time the Boilers had a real, old gold in their helmets was 1996, and the last time their pants were the genuine old gold was 1995, Mike Alstott’s senior year.  Since 1997, the gold in Purdue’s pants has been a watered-down, urine-specimen shade of gold, and it’s downright pathetic.  The ghastly pale shade is made all the more evident when mated with the white road jersey.  One would have hoped that a total redesign of uniform would have given occasion to rectify this problem.  Yet nothing has been done about this glaring weakness.

Whether the marketing wing of Purdue’s athletic department is at fault for consciously picking this sickly shade of gold, or Nike is being a less-than-responsive provider in imposing a one-size-fits-all shade of gold on all its clientele that use that hue, or both, the bottom line is that it remains unacceptable.  Check out UCLA’s gold pants some time.  They still have a substantive gold in their uniforms, which is proof positive that the proper shade is available.  Get it together, you guys.

The Worst, Good, and Best College Football Helmets July 20, 2011

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As a former student manager in major college football (Purdue, specifically), I am intimately familiar with football equipment, from the uniforms to the helmets to the weight and feel of different tackling dummies and agile pads.  Moreover, as somebody who tends to think visually, I have always had an eye for uniform design and general aesthetics.

Nothing is as iconic to a program as the look of its helmet.  It is what people are most apt to recognize when watching a team on TV, and is, by and large, the enduring symbol of the program, and, to some people, it is what comes to mind when the very school is mentioned.  For example, when Notre Dame is mentioned, who does not think of the plain golden shells?  Mention Michigan, and everyone is apt to think of the dark blue helmets with the distinct yellow patterns.

But as any discerning fan could tell you, not all helmet designs are created equally.  Some look so-s0, some look far better, and others need a re-design faster than you can snap the ball after a hard count.  After years of observation, I have come up with my own list of the helmets that merit distinction over others.  So below are listed the worst, the good, and the best (what, you thought I’d be using the “good, bad and the ugly” cliche?)

The Worst:

Penn State:  Yes, I’ve read other sports blogs that have actually ranked this helmet as one of the best-looking in college football.  (Pause)  Needless to say, those guys need their heads examined.  The whole Penn State uniform is a waste, starting with the helmet.  It needs that oblong-shaped Nittany Lion logo on each side in the worst way.  As it is, the helmet is a symbol of a larger problem with the program, and indeed with the entire state.  Joe Grand-Pa and Pennsylvania are both clinging to a glorious past that is becoming an increasingly fading memory.  A changing of the guard and of head coach — and deciding to the join the late 20th Century with a helmet decal would show that they’re no longer living in the ‘was’ and are finally living in the ‘is.’

Oregon “graphite” helmet:  I hear this design appeals to young people.  I’m still young, but I suppose not young enough.  Moreover, I cannot believe that the team chose this helmet over their beautiful green helmets when butting heads with Auburn in the BCS National Championship game.  They deserved to lose on those grounds alone.

TCU “pewter” helmet:  I have nothing against pewter.  In fact, I think it looks pretty sweet as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ ensemble.  But this is way over the line.  It looks like the T-1000 nemesis from the movie “Terminator 2” threw up all over them.  Worse yet, there’s no sign of the horned lizard on the decal.  The program has those beautiful purple helmets, and yet they have worn these monstrosities?  What in the name of Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien is this world coming to?

The Good (the best honorable mentions):

North Carolina:  Few college helmets rock the Carolina blue.  Only one, to the best of my knowledge, does so at the D-1A (pardon me, the FBS) level.  Plus, UNC has, for a long time, used a tasteful among of dark blue trim, and the NC brand decal looks like its the perfect size.

California:  Given that dark blue is my favorite color, I confess to have a bias in favor of such a shell color.  But the Chicago Bears helmets are dark blue, and yet those helmet look generic as all get-out.  Indeed, there are two things that give Cal’s helmet nice aesthetics.  One, its dark blue is a very, very fine metallic.  Two, if you look closely enough, the yellow-gold “Cal” decal is govered in metallic gold glitter.  It’s a nice combination.

Purdue:  As any marketing consultant will tell you, if you want your product to look prestigious, make it black and gold.  Behold, Exhibit A.  If only the gold were a little darker to make it more commensurate with “Old Gold.”  In years past, that was indeed the case.  That said, can a “P” logo look any neater?

    

Louisville:  Where to begin?  The Cardinal mascot/nickname manifests itself in a number of different leagues, not just U of L:  Ball State, Illinois State, St. Louis in MLB and Arizona in the NFL.  That said, none of them come close to the best-looking Cardinal logo:  that distinction belongs to Louisville.  Its red facemask during the Bobby Petrino (and, regrettably, the Steve Kragthorpe) eras provided the wonderful contrast to the white shell, so it was a shame the Charlie Strong switched to the white facemask upon his inauguration as U of L’s current chief executive.  To be sure, though, his introduction of the black and red triple centerstripes was an improvement over the tapering red centerstripe that they replaced.  If Coach Strong brought back the red grilles, he would achieve perfection of that design.  FYI:  look closely at a U of L helmet, and you shall see that the white shell is (or, at least was) covered in silver glitter, topped off with clearcoat.

Hawaii:  Can a metallic green be any darker and still be green?  That alone gives it a considerable cool factor.  Moreover, the Tapa-inspired “H” decal is most appropriate for the university and geographic setting, and who is not mesmerized by the elaborate pattern in the center stripe?  As an aside, the silver road helmets were a mistake.  All green, all the time, is the only way to go for the [erstwhile Rainbow] Warriors.

LSU:  Some teams prefer the use of a single letter or two or three for their decal.  Others prefer a pictorial depiction of the team nickname.  The Bayou Bengals are one of the very few that do both, and do so with a basic helmet pattern (yellow-gold shell, purple and white triple center stripes) that has remained unchanged since 1956.

Boise State: The metallic royal blue shell makes this stand out.  The orange time on the decal makes for a nice, aesthetically complementary appearance.  To be sure, it was a mistake for the program to switch over to gray facemasks, as the white ones provided a much better contrast.

Florida:  Given that I have included Boise State in this list of honorable mentions on the grounds that their blue and orange are textbook “complementary colors,” it is only logical I include the Gators’ bright orange helm as a contrast yet on the same grounds.

UCLA:  Possibly the nicest color of gold in all of college football.

USC:  I’ll be the first to admit, perhaps the Trojans’ fine tradition might have something to do with this mentioning.  But that aside, Southern Cal’s cardinal color does the helmet a heap of justice, and with the recent addition of a thin, fine metallic top coat, it looks even “deeper” during night games.

    

Florida State:  The Seminoles have traditionally sported a nice-looking metallic gold on their helmets, and my generation has grown up associating the garnet and white spearhead with some of the highest levels of modern success.  If only their gold still looked like it does in the left-hand photo, then they would have the nicest gold of any football helmet, hands down.

Northwestern: To be sure, this photo does the helmet design zero justice.  The television screen, in my experience, gives the same meager result.  NWU’s helmet must be seen in person to be truly appreciated.  Its base, cast-in color of the shell is actually black.  The metallic purple pearl and candy coat gives it the deepest purple of which one could conceive, and the black facemask brings out the purple all the more.  Besides, if you’re going to use the letter “N” for a logo, does the Wildcats’ N get any better (I ask rhetorically)?

Georgia:  Straight red with no frills, and possibly the best-looking “G” logo in the business.  The single, white centerstripe is the same as it was when the program debuted this overall design in 1964.

Cincinnati:  Do not be fooled.  This is not just another black helmet, oh no.  Having seen one of these shells up close and personally, this is actually one of the most uniquely-colored helmets in all of football.  Picture this:  a black shell, lightly covered in red glitter, topped off with a red candy coat for good measure.  Though that color combo is difficult to discern on TV, in person, you cannot take your eyes off it, it looks that cool.

    

South Carolina:  Normally when a team switches from a colored shell to a white shell, my standard reaction is that whoever came up with that idea needs his head examined.  To further augment the irony, prior to Lou Holtz’s arrival, the Gamecocks already had a nice-looking helmet with their garnet shall.  But when one sees things in toto, combined with the knowledge that South Carolina has had the same garnet and black triple center stripe pattern since 1956, it all makes for a very attractive package indeed.  Plus, the “C” logo is quite elaborate.

The Best:

Oregon:  The Ducks did a heckuva job when they unveiled this new helmet design for the 1999 season; in so doing, they set a precedent for what to expect out of early 21st Century helmet design.  Their metallic green is perhaps the most intriguing of that color in all of college football, and the ultra-modern-looking, yellow “O” provides just the right contrast.  It is a wonder they even bother with their white, yellow, black and “graphite” helmets at all.  What were they thinking not wearing these green babies against Auburn?

Ohio State:  By itself, it’s a rather generic design, to be sure.  Covered in Buckeyes, it’s one of the most sublime looks in college football.  It has gotten only better within the past ten years.  What used to be a generic fine silver coat has given way to something much neater:  A heavy silver base coat, combined with a topping of silver glitter, sealed with clear coat, making a very “deep” silver look.  The Buckeyes have set the standard for silver helmets in all of football, college or pro.

San Diego State:  What, the purists ask?  Why this peasant amongst traditional powers’ royalty?  The answer is simple:  the Aztecs have a distinct metallic red that makes it unique in college football, to say nothing of aesthetically pleasing.  My best guess as to their secret?  Possibly a black base shell, painted a gold-tinged metallic, then topped off with a red candy coat.  It’s a viewing pleasure.

Arkansas:  The Razorbacks themselves have a red (technically it’s “Cardinal” like that of USC, Iowa State, even Wisconsin) all their own, giving them arguably the most distinctive red-based shell in the game.  Given that they now have one of the best coaches in the business with Bobby Petrino, chances are more folks will pay attention to this distinct helmet in the near future.

Texas:  Normally, a plain white helmet with a white facemask is the epitome of generic in my book.  But in this case, the iconic Longhorn silhouette logo provides an excellent contrast, one that gives the white shell and white grille a very clean look.  Hook ’em!

TCU:  This helmet is listed for the same reasons that I previously listed Northwestern’s helmet, and then some.  The reason I rank it higher than NWU’s is thus:  does it get any better than a silver-colored horned lizard on a deep purple helmet?  I submit ‘no.’

Kentucky:  Probably the most beautiful blue helmet in football, of any league.  It is almost enough to make you forget that most UK fans have their priorities out of whack, what with their fixation on basketball.

Alabama:  What other legendary football program can take small numbers, put them on the side of the helmet, and call that a fashion statement?  Granted, Bama was not the first with this feature, but they are the ones who have become the best-known for it.  That, plus the crimson helmet and gray facemask combo never goes out of style.  The Alabama helmet is a reminder that, like wearing a nice tuxedo, true elegance comes in the form of simplicity, not flamboyance.

Michigan:  Nothing beats the unique patten of the Michigan helmet.  It is, arguably, the very symbol of the whole Wolverine athletics department, if not the university itself.  Michigan’s hockey team uses this same patten on their hockey helmets.  The football team’s truck has a custom paint job with this famous pattern on the top of the cab.  I was not even ten years old when I first saw these helmets while watching Michigan play USC in the 1990 Rose Bowl.  Fritz Crisler was said to have brought this pattern with him from Princeton and introduced it to the program in 1938.  In all actuality, though, it is an innovation, not on outright invention.  This famous pattern is actually a combination of certain styling queues already prevalent in the 1930s.  Some teams had the “wing” on their helmets, while others used the three lines on their helmets in the ’30s and the ’40s.  Even more fascinating is how the pattern is applied.  The shell itself is actually that pale yellow (supposedly in line with the “maize” part of Michigan’s colors of Maize and Blue).  A stencil pattern is applied, and the ultra-dark blue paint (perhaps the darkest blue in college football) is sprayed over it, followed by removal of said stencil.  Voila — instant iconic helmet.

Ole Miss:  Granted, this is not likely to be given a top-ten spot in most people’s helmet rankings.  As I confessed earlier, though, I am naturally biased towards dark blue helmets.  But so what?  There are a number of them:  what make Ole Miss so special?  To me, nothing is better than dark blue with red trim.  This helmet has that in spades, and carries a genteel tradition befitting legends such as Archie Manning and Johnny Vaught.  It might be a quirky pick to some, but it works for me!

Coulda’, Woulda’, Shoulda’

Some teams used to have great-looking helmets, but have since tried to out-think the room and changed what were good things into not-so-great-looking things.

   

Indiana:  The one on the right is what they used to have.  Granted, the metallic crimson is quite pretty, before and after.  But whereas the “before” had a matching crimson facemask and some nice white center stripes to provide a certain contrast, the “after” now looks like a cheap knock-off of Oklahoma.

Boston College:  To be fair, there are many things to like about this helmet.  Maroon and gold is always a winning combination, especially if the gold in question is of the metallic nature.  The maroon center stripe and facemask provide a nice contrast, too.  The problem?  That’s all there is:  without a decent decal on the side, it is a grossly incomplete design.  A suggested solution to this problem would be to come up with a decal that is a combination of the “BC” logo with an eagle in the middle.  Do that, and the design would merit a spot among the honorable mentions.  Do it not, and the helmet remains an incomplete design and never lived up to its potential.

  

Michigan State:  In recent years, the Spartans have had a really nice-looking metallic green.  Moreover, take out 2001-2002 (where Bobby Williams foolishly went back to the generic “S” decal), and MSU has had an awesome Spartan helmet profile decal since 1995.  A nice metallic green just the right hint of blue, an awesome Spartan decal, and a white center stripe made for a nice-looking helmet design, one that would have merited some sort of ranking.  Not anymore, not with making the green darker, which detracts from the aesthetic, nor with the obtrusive tapering white centerstripe.

  

SMU:  On the right is what the Mustangs had from 2004 to 2007.  During that time, they had one of the nicest-looking shells in the game.  Then somebody (I suspect June Jones, when he took over as head coach) got the bright idea to switch over to white helmets.  Perhaps he wanted to hark back to the program’s glory days of the 1980s (pre-death penalty, at least).   Whatever his intent may have been, the white helmet is come-down compared to the dark blue.  Oh well…at least they got the royal blue and red center stripe combo right on the white shell.  Give them credit for that.

Do any of you dear readers think I am leaving any out?  Sound off in the comments section.  I would enjoy your reading your thoughts.