Ranking the ACC's 2016 Football Uniforms
Which team looks the best (and worst) in the ACC?
There are few conferences in college football that have an interesting blend of some of the best uniforms college football has to offer and some of the worst the way the ACC serves them up. On one hand you have some great classic looks throughout the conference. On the other, you have some of the worst that should have been left in the trash bin of the uniform designer's office. The good news is today we are only focusing our energy on the typical home and road uniforms we will see around the ACC in 2016 (your welcome in advance, Louisville fans), bearing in mind some schools may offer a slight twist between now and the first kickoffs of the season.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.
At the bottom of the ACC we have the Syracuse Orange, a program trying to change for the better. They may want to start with a refresh of their football uniforms because what they were in 2015 was absolute garbage. The orange and blue look can work but needs some brightness to highlight the uniform better, either with a white numbering and font or just a white outline of the uniform numbers. This look is just too dark for a team called the Orange. Blue helmets (not shown due to graphic obscene nature) for Syracuse? Toss those aside and never look back.
13. Wake Forest
It is not so much that Wake Forest has a bad look so much as it is not particularly unique. To the untrained eye, Wake Forest looks pretty similar to Army or Vanderbilt. This happens in a sport with over 120 programs of course, but Wake Forest loses some points for trying to be too unique. Last year the Demon Deacons added some weird shoulder stripe design to their uniform. They should have stayed away from trying to do too much, which was the case here. Take away those crazy shoulder stripes and Wake Forest actually does not look too bad and arguably could move up in the ACC uniform rankings.
12. Boston College
Boston College has a look that I tend to like but also feel it could use a small upgrade for 2016. The Boston College uniform approach is clean and simple, and that is commendable. However, it could use a bit of a touch-up. One place to start might be the helmet, perhaps with a metallic reflective chrome gold finish. After all, gold is one of the school's official colors. Why not take that to the next step? That upgrade alone would help Boston College get a little more with the times, because the rest of the uniform is actually pretty solid as is from a traditionalist's standpoint and arguably could be higher on this list.
11. NC State
It is safe to say the Wolfpack tend to try too many things with their uniforms, but when they stick to their basic look it is pretty solid. Forget about the steel-gray motif and focus just on the plain red and white look, be it with a white helmet or red. Nothing about NC State's uniforms will dazzle you, but the simplicity in the design is to be commended. NC State should use the all-red look sparingly, but the red helmet does help the Wolfpack look less like Nebraska.
The Blue Devils have been known to throw in some alternate black uniforms here and there, which is a shame because Duke has a good look when it sticks to blue and white. When black pants get mixed in with the blue jersey, it just looks like a bad combination. When Duke sticks to any mixture of blue and white though, from helmets to jerseys to pants, it seems to go well. Duke's white helmet may be the best option going for it. Keep it simple Duke. You don't need to and should not waste time with the alternate black jerseys.
Cracking the top 10 is Virginia, although it tends to play with its uniform choices a bit too much to establish a true identity. Perhaps that will change with Bronco Mendenhall coaching the program now. The Cavaliers, like Syracuse, have experimented with finding the perfect blend with their uniform and have tried alternate color schemes and helmet designs. All Virginia needs to do is keep it simple though and stick with a blue or orange jersey at home, a complementary color for the pants and a blue helmet. An orange helmet risks Virginia looking the way Syracuse should look. Here's hoping we don't see UVA with an orange helmet and Syracuse in a blue helmet on the same field.
8. Virginia Tech
Just ahead of their in-state rivals is Virginia Tech. The maroon and orange look has been the signature look for the Hokies for a long time, and you know you may have to get down and dirty every time you face that uniform in order to win. Virginia Tech is about being scrappy, not style, and that is the case with the Hokies' look. That does not mean Virginia Tech hasn't experimented with some recent uniform trends, including alternate looks, white helmets and reflective chrome helmets to various degrees of success and failures, but when Virginia Tech suits up in its standard look, you know the Hokies mean business.
The contrast in uniform philosophies between heac coaches Charlie Strong and Bobby Petrino is fascinating. Where Strong opted for a straightforward and no-nonsense look, Petrino has been quick to adopt almost any idea thrown his way. If we were grading all uniforms, Louisville would be at the bottom. However, when the Cardinals stick to their traditional look, they are among the more underappreciated uniforms in the ACC.
For a program that is all about the swag, Miami's uniforms could use some minor tweaks. To their credit, Adidas has done OK with Miami's look since beginning a partnership after Miami spent decades with Nike, but Miami's font is just so ridiculous that it needs to be scrapped right away. Otherwise, Miami's uniforms are actually pretty good. The shoulders and pant striping may be a little too busy, but Miami is not all that far away from having one of the best uniforms in the ACC. Less may be more for Miami.
5. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets have a few different looks they can roll with, and all of them look pretty good. Whether in their white helmets or gold, Georgia Tech looks sharp up top. The jerseys may get a little busy around the nameplate and shoulders may look a little crowded depending on the uniform being worn, but overall it is hard to argue Georgia Tech looks foolish. And yes, I am a fan of the honeycomb helmet, even though yellow jackets are mortal enemies of the honeybee and do not make honey.
Of all the uniform decisions that have been made over the last year or two, few have been as widely applauded as Pittsburgh's decision to return to the old Pitt script. Pitt's helmets once again using the old-fashioned script was a feature that never should have been trashed in the first place, and now the Panthers look more like themselves again at home and on the road. Everything else about Pitt's uniforms is about as you'd expect, although we would all surely love to see one game with the old mustard yellow again, right? The Panthers keep things simple, and that is why they have one of the best looks in the ACC.
3. Florida State
At first glance, it might be fair to suggest Florida State does a little too much with its uniforms. However, when you consider the homage being paid to the Seminole tribe and the relationship between the tribe and the university, you start to accept and praise what the football uniforms do with the design. The Florida State helmet remains one of the best in the country, but there might be a little bit too much going on with the jersey with the pattern around the neck and sleeves. Removing or reducing the work on the sleeves might be a benefit for the overall design for Florida State, but the Noles still have one of the best looks in the conference.
2. North Carolina
The Tar Heels made the wise decision to embrace the argyle pattern last season, and oh boy was that a good call. After years experimenting with black as an official uniform element, North Carolina went back to basics with Carolina blue and white and added argyle to the pants, neckline and helmet. Perhaps not by coincidence, the Tar Heels wound up playing in the ACC Championship Game. Uniform karma was with UNC in 2015. The Heels even look good with a Carolina blue or white helmet when home or on the road. Talk about effective versatility!
The defending ACC champions always have a strong contender in the uniform game as well among its conference rivals. The Tigers rarely step away from their traditional look, and that is a wise decision given how clean and strong their home and road uniforms tend to be. This year they are getting even better with a nod to the 1981 championship season with the return of the trademark paw prints on the shoulder pads.
(Photo courtesy of Clemson Football Twitter account, @ClemsonFB)