Ranking the Big Ten's 2016 Football Uniforms
Which Big Ten team is the best dressed on the gridiron?
One word frequently mentioned when people try to explain what makes college football so special is "pageantry." At the heart of college football's pageantry are the colorful, iconic and sometimes unique uniforms worn by the hundreds of teams at every level.
The Big Ten Conference is full of teams that fit at least one and sometimes all three of those categories.
I ranked the Big Ten's uniforms a season ago, however, my reasoning and tastes have changed — for better or worse. It's time to roll out a new list.
Before we get started, I think it's fair to lay out and explain some of the things I look for and value in uniforms. I like simplicity, so long as it's original. I also enjoy colors that pop — especially those that we don't get to see very often in sports uniforms. That said, keep it classy. If your uniform is nothing but a mix of colors that look like they are better served as a design on a Hawaiian shirt, you'll find yourself at the bottom of my rankings.
Let's see how your favorite Big Ten team's uniform measures up.
— Rankings by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
For the second consecutive season, Maryland occupies the lowest spot in the rankings. That's what happens when you take an already busy state flag and try to incorporate it into a college football uniform. My advice to Maryland would be to recognize that you are not Oregon and just go with a more classic-looking style that highlights the school's colors.
From the neck down, Indiana meets my criteria of simplicity. The problem is a lack of originality. The general design is stuck somewhere between Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Hoosiers need just a little something more to separate their look from some of the iconic programs in the Midwest. And I'd advise them to stick with one primary helmet going forward — preferably white.
This is a uniform that I've changed my tune on from a year ago. I like the maroon and gold combo, and I normally like the flat finish on helmets. But the more I look at these, the more I feel like it's a fairly bland look. The combination always causes me do a double take to make sure I'm not watching a Central Michigan game. I'd like to see the Golden Gophers switch to a glossy, gold helmet or even replace the yellow-gold with a Notre Dame-like metallic gold.
Yes, the Badgers nailed a clean, simple look. The only issue is, they look exactly the same as Nebraska — aside from the cartoonish "W" on the helmet. One of the two teams needs to step up and figure out which one of them is going to change uniforms. I'd lean toward Wisconsin making the move first. The Badgers could easily outline their numbers in black and perhaps even toss a black stripe between the two red ones on the pants.
The Cornhuskers are only one notch above the Badgers because of the iconic block "N" on the helmet. Everything else I said about Wisconsin can be said for Nebraska. The school has money. The athletic department can afford to invest some time and resources and switch up their look. The fans will cry about tradition and everything else, at the same time ignoring previous uniform changes in the program's history. I'd like to see the Huskers roll out a design similar to what they wear in practice, where the stripes are more on the upper shoulder instead of on the sleeve.
9. Michigan State
Michigan State fans are going to be insulted that I ranked their team this low. Please understand, this is only a product of your competition. The Big Ten has some pretty solid uniforms. I like the green, as you don't see enough of it in any sport. I like the silver trim around the numbers and the Spartan on the helmet. Some things in life aren't fair, and Michigan State's uniform ranking is one of them. But hey, I had Sparty as the conference's best mascot! That should count for something.
You'll never confuse Iowa with anyone else on Saturdays. Sure, the Hawkeyes'& look is a ripoff of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it's colorful and iconic. I love the Hawk on the helmet and truly believe it's one of the best logos in all of American sports. If the Hawkeyes ever went away from these and adopted the all-black getup they wore against Minnesota in 2015, they'd more than likely be right at the top of this list.
Purple is another color we don't get enough of in sports uniforms. Northwestern's mix of black and purple is and always has been all class. I'm still loving the striped jerseys, merging a throwback look with sleek, modern style. Solid uniforms all around for the boys in Evanston.
As if orange alone wasn't awesome enough, Illinois sports a metallic version of the color. The block "I" on the helmet is perfect. The Illini could go with the white, orange or blue helmet as the primary and any of them would still be in the conversation for best-looking helmet. Hopefully for the Illinois faithful, new head coach Lovie Smith can get the product on the field to the same level as the uniforms.
As I've hinted previously, I'm a sucker for metallic gold. Pair it up with black and we're in business. Like Illinois, Purdue's uniforms deserve to be worn by a more successful team. The one change I might make would be to put the same railroad tracks on the helmet that Purdue featured in its alternate uniforms last season.
No program in college football in recent memory has undergone a better makeover as far as uniforms go. I love the red and black mixed with the worn metal. The number design is terrific, keeping with the theme of the mascot without being too tacky. Again, a uniform that deserves more success from those who wear it.
3. Ohio State
You must be careful when it comes to messing with a classic. Ohio State has been very good at staying loyal to its traditional look while making subtle changes to modernize the appearance. The black accent makes both the helmet and jersey pop. Moving forward, I would like to see wider stripes on the helmet, but all in all, no complaints.
2. Penn State
Arguably the most iconic uniform in college football. Two colors, no logo and it's still enough to announce to the world that the Nittany Lions are here and it's time to play football. It's the most basic design, yet unlike some other iconic programs, theirs is never duplicated. Penn State owns the clean look.
When Jim Harbaugh broke out the old all-whites for road games last year that sealed the deal for me. Let's be honest though — it's all about the helmet. Michigan wasn't the first or last to sport the winged helmet, but the Wolverines have made it their own. Like Penn State — and arguably more so — Michigan's helmet is more powerful and recognizable than any of its logos. Additionally, nothing signals the arrival of autumn and football season like the sight of those maize and blue uniforms under the lights in Ann Arbor.