The 50 Most Instantly Recognizable College Football Helmets

Dan Vasta@CI_StatsGuruSenior Writer IIIJune 22, 2012

The 50 Most Instantly Recognizable College Football Helmets

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    College football loves their colors and the helmets are what often fills the pagentry up during the fall.

    The prestigious programs and their helmets light up the landscape of college football arguably more than any other sport.                                       

    However, the best are based on the prestige of the program, which is often considered the most recognizable.

    In other words, the non-die-hard's could still pick out these helmets without having to think twice. Plus, many believe that winning traditions will play a vital role as well.

    Regardless, here are your 50 most instantly-recognizable helmets in college football.

    Note: Make sure you give the Helmet Project a fair look, as it goes over the history of every helmet in all of college football

Ole Miss

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    Yes, these Ole Miss' Rebels are one of the few that spell their team name out (don't be silly and want them to spell out Mississippi).

    However, the Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue (plus the creative cursive lettering) colors help not only make the helmet look solid on gamedays, but recognizable as well.

South Carolina

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    As a child, I didn't have any clue as to what that logo looked like, but I sure as hell knew it was South Carolina's helmet thanks to the black and garnet.

    The SEC is the king of college football, but even their helmets stand out wherever you may be watching (at home or live in person).


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    One of the rare helmets that not only spells out the entire team name for you, but it also underlines it as well.

    All joking aside, the Fighting Illini have not been getting a ton of love (helps to win more), but their helmet should be considered a recognizable one with the easy orange and white look.

Northern Illinois

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    Perhaps the Huskie helmets are not the first ones you think of in terms of legendary and recognizable, but they have to rank in your top 50.

    The simple "NIU"  lettering right below the team's mascot helps put Northern Illinois on this list, but they would rank highly for underrated lids since they do not come to mind right away.


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    Kevin Sumlin and Case Keenum recently made the on-field squad recognizable, but the classic white "UH" along with its red background has always been ranked among the tops.


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    Not a whole lot of media support shown outside Salt Lake City.

    Still, they love their football, and the helmets that the Utes posses rank well among the more recognizable Pac-12 helmets (the eagles wings always stand out).


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    Poor Ralphie would be embarrassed if you could not pick out the black and gold helmets that we see fly around Boulder during the fall.

    These helmets are arguably iconic (new updated version shown above), and it doesn't matter which conference they play in, the helmets are both legit and recognizable. 


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    It shouldn't matter if you believe Kentucky is one of the worst BCS programs (they have been respectable going to bowls still), the blue shaded helmets are recognizable.

    The simple white "UK" letters just work perfectly with the gorgeous blue background. 

Georgia Tech

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    Call it plain boring if you will, but the Yellow Jackets' helmets are as simple and recognizable as you will see across the country.

    Outside of the squads that have nothing on their helmets, Georgia Tech's "GT" does not draw up any controversy or confusion.

Fresno State

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    Most people always forget about the "V" that stands alone on the back of the helmet, but you seriously cannot beat cartoon-like animals.

    Any cartoon drawing, for that matter, is clever in my book, and the Bulldog makes Fresno State a fairly recognizable helmet for a non-BCS school.

West Virginia

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    Geno Smith can sure thread a needle, but most fans who aren't the die-hards have a better chance at knowing who the helmet is compared to who the star player might be.

    The same could be said for the majority of teams, but the simple "WV" has been solidly underrated since 1980 (when the helmet picture above officially started).


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    I'll make it clear that the Stanford Cardinal helmet pretty much is despised by everybody who judges the helmet similarly to a beauty contest.

    There is nothing much to look at other than a boring "S" with a plain, white background.

    However, in terms of the recognizable, you have to feel that the average fan would never have any issues pointing out the Cardinal helmet (for the record, I love nearly any helmet with white background).

Colorado State

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    Maybe their helmets aren't quite as recognizable as their in-state rivals, but the signature Ram design on the logo makes it easy for everybody to pick up and remember.


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    Similar to Notre Dame’s gold helmet that shines brightly on fall Saturday’s, the Bruins helmet does not fall too far away.

    The blue cursive “UCLA” lettering with an underline underneath allows the Bruin faithful to be proud of their school, and this helmet just lures you with its charm and dignity.

Washington State

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    It certainly is helpful that the “WSC” is near perfection thanks to the creative ability to turn it into a Cougar.

    Plus, I will gladly give a helmet some bonus points if it is clever, and despite the colors not resembling the greatest look in the world, we do need to show the Cougars some love here with their solid logo look.

Virginia Tech

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    Frank Beamer has instilled the recognizable "VT" logo not only in Blacksburg, but around the country. This is a "what you see is what you get" type of helmet.

    Still, whether you love it or not, this helmet is not difficult to recognize. 


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    Winning and playing in the SEC certainly help your case for your helmet becoming recognizable. The "AU" is better than the decent look that most will call it, but the "AU" lettering looks strong thanks to the Tiger colors (burnt orange and navy blue) .


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    The Wildcats have used white helmets (and white facemasks) before (see Holiday Bowl, 2010), but the ‘Cats are at their best when they have the blue helmets.

    The “A” fits so well as the blue background; it's neither sloppy, confusing nor too much for an average fan to tell that it is indeed Arizona.

    However, their recent addition of a new helmet is still being judged by all the fans because, quite frankly, I am not sure if I dig the new look from above. Talking about the more recent helmets, I hope they do not ultimately stay with the new look.


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    Cincinnati may play in the Big East and not receive much love for the teams they beat (they beat a solid Vanderbilt team in Liberty to go 10-3!), but they certainly deserve some recognition for the solid logo they possess on their helmets.

Oklahoma State

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    The Pokes could have worn anything on their heads last year, and they would have looked just fine with Mike Gundy’s high octane offense in full force.

    However, the classic orange trim on the white is always a classical look, but many really dig their new look too.

    Keeping the orange trim of “OSU” with either a black or grey background not only is perfect with their new jerseys, but it almost makes the players seem like they are trained robots who perform with near perfection (or maybe Weeden-Blackmon just wasn't human).

Texas Tech

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    When the Red Raiders use their all-black uniforms (see Texas, Harrell to Crabtree game, ’07), it becomes an instant winner (especially on national TV).

    Although I do not believe they should permanently throw out those starship trooper (per se) white helmets, the black helmets are respectable lids.  


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    The Volunteers easily make this list because that special "T" has so many more meanings than just what you see on the helmet.

    The all-orange Dreamsicle looks are sensational at Neyland Stadium when they decide to bust them out, but the orange "T" with the white background has always made the Tennessee helmets among the most recognizable in the SEC and beyond.


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    Mizzou’s black and gold is a deadly combo if I may so, but some aren’t fans of the team essentially stealing the Michigan Wolverines' block M on the helmet.

    Whether we are talking about the classic black helmet with the gold M trim or the Nike Pro Combat types they have come out with, both are respectable, even by SEC standards.


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    Although Hawaii was absolutely shellacked in the 2008 Sugar Bowl by Georgia (41-10), I was digging the grey helmets.

    Throw in the green or black lids, it doesn't matter; they all look legit and make me feel as if I live in Hawaii every time I look at them.

Boise State

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    If we were just ranking the Nike Pro Combat helmets, Boise State would rank fairly high since they are quite the look.

    The white Starship Trooper look is relentless, and I actually like the blue one just as much. But since 2002, we have seen a consistent, solid Smurf Turf helmet dominate college football.

Brigham Young

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    We know Miami is all about "The U," but how about the BYU Cougars?

    They are all about the "Y," and just like the recognizable list of legendary quarterbacks, the helmet is right there with it.

Texas A&M

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    The Aggies are moving to the SEC, and they will have no issues competing with them based off their looks.

    The aTm logo on the helmet is legit. They have been able to pull it off in all-whites a few times (Arkansas, 2009), but some argue that nothing in the state of Texas beats the all-maroon look (helmets, jerseys and pants).


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    The Badgers lid obviously works for the folks at Camp Randall, but even non-Big Ten or Wisconsin fans should realize the solid mixture between red and white.

    Overall, the big red “W” on the and solid red stripe going down the helmet may be jumbled, but is still easily recognizable. 

Arizona State

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    The good-old, new pitch-fork look (yellow background (and the cartoon devil was good til they discontinued the look in 2011)) is a solid lid whether you love the Sun Devils or not.

    There are a few Pac-12 teams that should be a tad jealous, though the Trojans and Ducks look like they have an argument for the best lids in the conference as well.


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    The Ducks' uniforms get a ton of hype due to all of their killer (or retina annoying) combinations, but they were able to pull off a special look at the Rose Bowl.

    That glossy, grey liquid metal finish that was used certainly fits the bill, but the seemingly millions of different looks they use is beyond impressive and quite absurd.

Air Force

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    The Air Force Falcons' helmet should always remain recognizable thanks to the eerily similarity to the San Diego Chargers.

    That lightning bolt is a killer for the kids that helps remember their special lid.


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    The Razorbacks have a nice look for having a pig being on their helmet, and the cardinal background certainly makes the white lure you in.

    Plus, even though we are not discussing jerseys, these new looks would only help make their helmets look that much more amazing.


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    Whoever thinks purple is not an attractive color better not say that while they are in Fort Worth because clearly you have not seen Gary Patterson's program.

    Not only can the team lay the wood, but these lids (or the grey ones too) have been rocking these days in college football.


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    The Bayou Bengals looked darn good obliterating Auburn last season in their 2011 Nike Pro Combats, but that white helmet stood out with the purple trim (LSU) with the classic picture of the Tiger on the helmet.

    However, nothing in my mind will ever dethrone their yellow (or gold if you prefer to call it that) helmets with the purple lettering, since it is simply filled with too much tradition to ignore when looking at some of the best lids in the country.

Michigan State

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    Michigan State's helmets may not be quite as recognizable as the Trojans helmet, but some argue that is because of their color and prestige of the program when comparing the two.

    However, Sparty still can rock out in their Spartan green and white (and the Pro Combats too).


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    The helmets donned by the Hawkeyes are recognized nearly everywhere thanks to the eye-popping gold and black colors that cannot help but distract your eyes.


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    The Bulldogs’ red lid with the dark and black “G” resembles the Packers, but the dog bones gives you a feeling as if you are between the hedges.

    A great helmet to begin with (red background), the more dog bones the better for Georgia players. Either way, this helmet is a good one, which is just the norm in the SEC.


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    The Sooners' helmet should get talked about more because it too is a classic look that is simple yet smart.

    No prestigious program should be changing their helmets often, and this crisp crimson background (filled with the cream colored in OU) makes it a solid lid. 


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    The Tigers' paw grabs your attention, and how often do we say that the color orange is a great look?

    Well, the Clemson Tigers' helmet is legit, regardless of what jerseys are being used by the team. Whether we witness the white, purple or all orange looks, Clemson has donned quite the lid since the 1970s.


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    Similar to most of the SEC schools, the Gators' helmet is filled with a storied tradition. The blue “Gators” letter trimming allows the orange background to glow quite a bit, especially during a night game at the Swamp. 


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    Some call it boring, but there aren’t many helmets in all of sports that are more recognizable than the Nebraska Cornhuskers'.

    The history and prestigious tradition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers is quite the story, but their helmets are signature among all of college football.

    The red stripe alongside the red “N” is flawless with the white background, but let us all be honest that the faithful in Lincoln would dig these, regardless of what the public thought of them. 

Penn State

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    Before 1974, the Nittany Lions had numbers on their helmets, but I must say, the change has made those “White Outs” a bit more thrilling.

    More importantly, all of college football digs these lids (they should if not) because it is a rare so-fresh and so-clean type of look.

    The Nittany Lions' white helmets (and blue stripes down the middle) cannot help but make you think of a fall sold-out night at Beaver Stadium led by a hostile Happy Valley crowd.


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    Marcus Allen, Charles White, Mike Garrett, OJ Simpson and Anthony Davis were four of the most accomplished and decorated running backs in the history of college football. 

    All but Davis won a Heisman, but it is not as if this program has ever lacked dominant success (473 NFL Draft picks, most ever).

    The Trojans will gladly make you aware that their program ranks among the best in the country, and their cardinal and gold helmets have to rank among the best in the country.

    The V will always stand for victory, but the Trojans' lids are a forever classic look that has hung around through all the excitement and disappointments as a program.


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    Most would say that you could not make a cow look sexy on a helmet, but the Texas Longhorns have done just that.

    The burnt orange colors are legendary, but having that white helmet (outside of the orange colored in cow) background makes this lid rank among the elites in the country.

Miami FL

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    It always has been and always will be about “The U” because their signature U is perfectly placed on the helmet.

    So many schools are known as UM (or MU) and the school originally wanted to get creative, so they did just that by letting “The U” stand out on its own in the Hurricanes' team colors of orange and green.

    Certainly ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary (“The U”) took on a whole new facet in pop culture because everybody around the nation recognizes the Canes legendary helmet.

Ohio State

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    For every Ohio State Buckeye victory, those beloved and infamous Buckeye leaves are passed out, and no helmet tradition seems better.

    Any big plays are always a plus for receiving the sticker, but it is not as if the scarlet and grey color combination isn’t a great sight either. 


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    The Crimson Tide have been cleaning house on the gridiron, but they can rank among the best in just about any category these days.

    The signature numbers on each individual Crimson helmet are just one of the reasons why Alabama is such a storied program. Mix in the crimson and white colors and you start to wonder if there is anything even close to being better than fall Saturday’s.

Notre Dame

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    The fresh gold that is painted on the Golden Domers' helmets on the day before every fall Saturday ranks among the best traditions in all of sports.

    There are only a few colleges that do not have anything on the helmet, but Notre Dame’s prestigious university does not need anything to show off. The fresh gold paint makes the Irish helmets shine above, arguably, the entire country.

Florida State

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    There is a solid debate for which helmet is the best in college football, and the Seminoles have a great case for those eye-popping spears.

    The tomahawk-spear stickers makes it arguably the best helmet in the game, but the garnet and gold mixture make it an even greater sight to see on Saturday’s.

    In fact, ESPN had a fan voting for their own choice of which helmet they felt was the best in college football, and the Noles took care of business (votes) by being declared the best college football helmet in the country.


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    The winningest program in the history of the FBS is a storied program for several reasons, but none may be bigger than their winged helmets.

    Those Maize and Blue helmets that Fritz Crisler started are more than legendary, they are one of the millions of reasons why college football is the best.

    Many recruits have been swayed by the “Big House,” but those helmets are quite the recruiting pitch as well.

    The Wolverines are a prestigious program, but those helmets will forever remain iconic as the most instantly-recognizable in college football. 


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