Not sure if any conference has more alternate jerseys and gimmick uniforms than the Big 12 does. Nike has gone crazy with Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU, Under Armour has done the same with Texas Tech and Adidas has gone completely bonkers with Kansas. But there are also some really good traditional uniforms that don’t get messed with much in this conference. So yes, the struggle here is in how to rate the teams and which uniforms to consider.
As usual, we’ll try to stick with the traditional home uniforms and mention the alternatives when it is appropriate. Still, this isn’t an easy conference to rank.
-- Rankings by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
The Jayhawks are one of those programs that has adopted a myriad of jersey-pants combinations so it’s kind of hard to pinpoint their base uniforms. The blue and red color combos are pretty good, but the basketball team seems to wear them so much better than the football team. On the gridiron the red pants and blue jerseys just seem so loud, otherwise you’d normally think that it would work. The bad part is that the Jayhawk bird on the side of the helmet looks asinine, wears shoes and appears to be crippled. Worse yet, my junior high in Omaha used the same dumb bird for its uniforms too. I guess that’s why I’ve got a bias against it.
9. Oklahoma State
Let me start with this: O-State has had some really putrid alternate uniforms that just looked crappy, especially when they wear the helmet that has a Pistol Pete design that takes up the entire side of the helmet. Black and orange, when done right, can look very very sharp, which makes me think about how good it looks on their basketball and baseball teams. If only football followed those sports' lead. Instead, the gridiron Cowboys seem to love the all-orange or the all-black or the all-white. Mix the colors up a little bit more guys. It’ll be okay.
8. Texas Tech
Truth be told, there is not a lot wrong with the Red Raiders’ get-ups. The black, red and white is a perfect color combination. And as facemasks go, their red ones on a black helmet are decisively solid. Under Armour has suited the Raiders well, even when they’ve caved to wearing grey pants. The red, black and white stripes down the leg are still a good touch. The Double-T emblem on the lids is always very recognizable. But then the Tech went and had alternative uniforms with giant horses (running toward you) for a design on the helmet and the front of the thigh. My gawd! That was just bad.
7. West Virginia
Speaking of color patterns that are appealing to the eye, navy and gold is, well… gold. And I also love the “WV” logo on the helmet and those rifle stickers given out for good plays are a positive. Especially when you consider how the big Buckeye leafs on Ohio State’s helmets seem to overwhelm those a little bit. For the Mountaineers, their number font is very futuristic but also a little bit bothersome. Keeping it a little simpler would score more points, for sure. I don’t know for sure why but when WVU goes white-on-white with the white helmets and white long-sleeps underneath, it just looks sharp.
6. Iowa State
Love these. Especially since they look like USC. Usually when a program doesn’t have long-term sustained success, they’ll crumble to the gimmicky alternative uniforms, but ISU has (mostly) kept it straight and narrow. Their cardinal and gold colors are very classy and well presented with the double-stripe shoulders and pants. The helmets have gone through more iterations than any other part of the uniform, having been cardinal, old gold, bright gold and metallic gold, among others. Now they’ve got a shiny cardinal shell with a block “I” with “State” spanned across it, which is sweet.
The Sooners have stuck with their traditional crimson and white uniforms of the Billy Sims/Jamelle Holieway/Jason White eras, but they’ve also brought about some alternative unis that add a little dash to their collection and it isn’t all bad. The “Pro Combat” set of crimson and cream uniforms embraces the OU tradition nicely with just a wee-bit more panache, adding true “cream” color in the pants and jerseys while also accentuating the neckline and sleeves with a collar-stripe. The white helmet harkens back to the 1950s era Sooner lids and even includes the old grey facemask. All good here.
The Horned Frogs have a good thing going ever since they adopted the slightly bolder purple, white and black color scheme in 1998. Black jerseys have become all the rage in college football over the last 10 to 15 years, but TCU just seems to pull it off better than any other team. When the black jerseys are coupled with the purple pants, it’s a legit winner. Now, the Horned Frogs do have their fair share of alternate unis to go through, but the best facet of that was when they added thin red streaks on their black helmets to emulate a horned frog's penchant for “squirting blood out of their eyes.” How cool is that?
3. Kansas State
The Wildcats went through uniform purgatory in the '70s and '80s, seemingly changing togs every other year or so. From 1968-88 the helmet design alone changed 10 times. When Bill Snyder was hired in 1989 the KSU design department introduced the “Power Cat” emblem for their silver helmets and it has stuck since. The uniforms are very clean, two stripes on the sleeve and on the silver pants. And of course, KSU deserves major points for being one of the few teams in college football with grey facemasks as a permanent feature.
I’m not sure if I’m saying the Bears have great uniforms based on just looks alone or that they’re Oregon-like wild combinations have helped re-energize the program in the last seven or eight years. Yes of course, the 2017 season was flush-worthy, but this is a program that has turned things around and the multiple green, white, black, silver and gold color set just pushes things to the Nth degree in football fashion. They’ve done a good job with all the combinations but I have to say I’m partial to the old gold parts of the uniforms and love when they sport the flashy gold chrome facemasks.
It’s all about tradition and no-nonsense with the Longhorns uniforms. They’ve had the same look for decades and it works well. The burnt orange color isn’t the most appealing in the world, but the Horns fans eat it up like so much Stubb’s Barbecue. And the good part is that they have been sporting the classic white tops and white bottoms look on road games for eons and it’s one of the sharpest looks in all of college football.