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Ranking the Big Ten's 2018 Football Uniforms

Michigan Wolverines College Football

Michigan Wolverines College Football

This is the Big Ten. Land of Mike Ditka, Dick Butkus, Nile Kinnick, Red Grange. It’s meat and potatoes mister. Don’t give me any sushi. Or firecracker shrimp. There is a certain kind of no-nonsense about how football uniforms have historically been worn up here. Usually, the only way to improve a team's uniforms is to add a little blood on the knuckles and dirt under the nails. There, improvement.

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Sure, grass stains are historically the added color on most of the Big Ten uniforms, but they have given in to plenty of one-off, alternative unis the last few years as well. Still, the classics are always the classics here, so points are given for sticking to your guns. With that in mind, here are the worst-to-best football uniforms in this Monster of the Midway conference...

-- 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.

14. Rutgers

Well, there is only so much you can do here. The Knights switched from Nike to Adidas last year and the chrome helmets and various odd stripes on the uniforms were gone. Last year was just straight plain white pants and no-frills tops. The block “R” on the helmet could use some pizazz. I mean, they’re the Scarlet Knights, maybe put a shield or a suit-of-armor helmet on your lids. Just about anything will be an improvement.

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13. Michigan State

It’s hard to make a two-color scheme like green and white look good enough to reach the top five, be it the Big Ten’s or in the country. The Spartans have a no-nonsense approach, mirroring the demeanor of head coach Mark Dantonio. Their uniforms don’t have a lot of flash and dash to them, though the Spartan head on the helmet is better than the block “S” that used to adorn it. Also give a good bit of props for the white-on-white look for the Spartans. Plenty of teams do it, but the two-color teams seem to do it better.

Michigan State Spartans QB Brian Lewerke

12. Wisconsin

Can there be something as “too much” red? Well maybe so. But the Badgers have had their red-on-white look for a long time and don’t sway from the basics. That’s a pretty good thing. The thing that brings the marks down a bit for the boys from cheese land is that the “W” on the helmet is just a little awkward looking. It looks like it’s trying to move on its own. I know it's been a while since it was introduced, but there isn’t anything special to it. Under Armour has added the “W” to the top of the pants along with “Wisconsin” added to just above the knee, which is odd.

Wisconsin Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook

11. Illinois

Let’s give it to the Illini, they’re trying. Nike had been given carte blanche to re-do their togs and it brought out a bunch of different combinations. But the base orange and blue uniforms have improved. Remember the days when the “Illini” word was arched on the bland orange helmets? Those days are long gone as the block “I” has replaced it on both metallic orange and on navy blue helmets. They’ve also brought in the “gray ghost” uniforms, which look a little like pajamas but are still an improvement over what Illinois had for decades.

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10. Maryland

Man that state flag is a mess. I’m sure there are meanings behind every color, but George Calvert’s heraldic banner just adds a bunch of junk to muck up the dressing combinations for this football team. Sure, some may find it cool, and those garish state flag helmets probably have that “wow” factor that resonates with the players they are recruiting, but the truth is it looks more like your 10-week-old puppy busted out of its cage and got into their color palette. The new unis that Under Armour is busting out for this year have a cool factor to them, but it still looks like there were too many cooks in the kitchen on them.

9. Indiana

Give IU an “attaboy” in the uniform department. Or maybe we should say give Adidas an attaboy. There is not a lot you can do with Indiana. I mean there is no mascot to roam the sidelines or put on a helmet. And the colors are just red and white, er, crimson and cream. So there is nothing over the top about the combinations that Adidas comes up with. But the chrome candy-stripe helmets? Now there is a difference-maker. The only thing is I can’t decide if those are a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, they are a thing.

Indiana Hoosiers WR Whop Philyor
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8. Iowa

Okay, it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers' unis. Sure, you can walk into any TV room on a fall Saturday and see the Hawkeyes in a blink and KNOW it’s them by their uniforms. It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers' unis. And yes, back in the late '70s Hayden Fry thought he’d energize a losing program with those sharp black, gold and white uniforms. It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers' unis. I will give them a ton of credit for that hyper-cool Hawkeye logo. It’s unique. But this is still the Pittsburgh Steelers' unis.

Iowa Hawkeyes WR Nick Easley

7. Minnesota

The Gophers may not have a mascot that instills fear in its opponents (I mean really, any mascot that runs scared up a tree when you approach it is just plain weak), but they’ve got a great color combination for sure. The unique serif-heavy “M” on the helmet is decent, but just make sure to use it on the maroon lids, not the bright gold ones. Speaking of, sometimes the Gophers use a little too much of the loud gold in their uniforms. Back in February the Gophers unveiled their new H.Y.P.R.R. ELITE combinations from Nike, which feature highly-stylized and modern unis and will give them over 100 uniform combinations, including a chrome “Dart Gold” helmet that is more like the old gold of The U’s traditional colors.

6. Nebraska

Back when I was a kid growing up in Omaha, I thought the Cornhusker uniforms were blatantly tired and in need of something -- ANYthing -- imaginative. Yes, even a couple of fashion-forward ideas from this 12-year-old native. One time I drew up some mock unis which included black outlines on the numbers and stripes and a script “Huskers” on the helmets. Boy was I wrong. The Husker unis are rather simple, but also classics that should not be futzed with. The double stripes on the sleeves and on the pants just look sharp amid that candy apple red color. And that bland, plain “N” on the noggin? It’s beautiful now.

Nebraska Cornhuskers WR Stanley Morgan Jr.

5. Northwestern

The combination of purple, black and white usually works out pretty well for football. And when you see the Northwestern helmet sitting behind Mike Wilbon on "Pardon the Interruption," that “N” on it looks pretty unique. The smart boys also have to be the only team in the country that has a horizontal stripe through the numbers on the front of the jerseys, which at first just doesn’t sound right, but when you see it you go, “Oh yeah, that’s cool.” Now, as for the occasional grey pants? Meh, keep those in the lockers, guys.

Northwestern Wildcats RB Justin Jackson

4. Purdue

I love what the Boilers have done in recent years. They’ve always had the best color combo out there with their highly-recognizable black and old gold. But they have recently added the matte black helmets and quite possibly the most unique helmet stripe in the history of college football... a train track down the middle. Gimmicky, I know, but that’s just super sweet too. By the way, in this day and age of overwrought helmet concepts, the Boilers’ chromed-out helmets by Nike are secretly some of the coolest one-offs in our sport today.

Purdue Boilermakers QB David Blough

3. Penn State

I’m not going to apologize. You do NOT mess with tradition. Everybody knows Penn State’s plain white helmets, their plain navy jerseys, their plain white pants, their plain everything. These dudes essentially wear practice togs and back in 1978 when Chuck Fusina was rambling around the field it wasn’t so cool. But with teams wearing ridiculous alternate uniforms that look like Christmas trees or military duds, the long-unchanged PSU unis are a refreshing alternative. Dear Nittany Lions, don’t ever, ever change.

Penn State Nittany Lions RB Miles Sanders

2. Ohio State

It’s always hard to make four colors work out well. Just look at the Maryland debacle. But the Buckeyes seem to be experts in making it happen with the red, silver, black and white they sport. You have to love the traditional five stripes on the sleeve that they continue to utilize and of course, the Buckeye leaf stickers the players accrue throughout the season are very iconic. It’s also cool that the helmets look so different depending on the how early/late in the season it is. The only hang-up with OSU is when they veer away from script and Nike forces some alternative uniforms on them.

Ohio State Buckeyes RB J.K. Dobbins

1. Michigan

It all starts with having the best helmet design in the history of football, which is the Wolverines' calling card. And yes, their nickname also is one of the coolest in the country, portraying a fierce and fearless animal that takes down prey three times its size. Michigan also has figured out how to make its hot yellow look turn out to be okay because it gets matched up with that dark blue and it clicks. And when Nike had the Wolverines go back to some of the white-on-white road uniforms, it kicked things up a notch for the Winged Helmet boys. Maybe it’s the helmets, but just about everything is a positive for Michigan in the uniform department.

College Football Uniforms: Michigan Wolverines