College Football Rankings: The Top 50 by 2012 Team Schedule Posters
Honorable mention: worst poster of 2012.
If you were to walk around a college campus today, you would see posters everywhere advertising sports programs. The posters are as varied as the players who participate in them.
This slideshow will prove to you that the on-field powerhouses of college football aren't necessarily so powerful off the field. The biggest names in college football market themselves. The best marketing departments tend to live in the lower ranks.
Presented from weakest to strongest, here are 2012's top 50 posters.
UPDATE (9/18/12): Washington emailed us with a high-resolution original, so now the Huskies' poster can be seen in its intended state rather than as a photo of a poster.
UPDATE (9/13/12): Baylor's poster is no longer shown as a leaked version. Major differences are the coach's presence in the center and sponsorship logos.
UPDATE (9/9/12): Ohio State has submitted its official poster, and it has been graded and put in its proper position in the list.
UPDATE (9/6/12): Colorado State has submitted its poster. The Rams had an awesome poster this year, and you may be surprised at the position.
Note: Pictured on this slide is this year's worst schedule poster: that of Terry Bowden's University of Akron.
Qualities that received evaluation were:
1. Clarity: Is it obvious what team is depicted?
2. Schedule layout: Is it easy to follow? Was it designed, or does it look like an afterthought?
3. Photo quality: Is the resolution good or bad? Is the photo itself composed well?
4. Uniqueness/creativity: Does it look like a bunch of other posters all over the country?
5. Eye appeal: Does the poster grab your attention? If so, does it keep it?
6. Coolness factor: If this design were applied to something else, would you want to own it?
In the event of a tie, teams with the same score were placed head-to-head (or in a tournament, when the need arose) for a final overall evaluation.
51: South Alabama
South Alabama makes the cut for decent graphics and the "It's our time!" mantra. In all of college football history, there have been great motivators.
"Right now, it's your time!" and various iterations of that mantra are always a great go-to for motivation.
Iowa's poster is not spectacular, but the candid team photo is good, and the schedule is prominently displayed. (Almost like it's the point of the poster.)
The poster is a great sample of what is rolling around the college football world right now.
49: Central Michigan
Central Michigan does an excellent job of mixing team colors with greyscale to offset a potential case of overkill. Our eyes thank them.
The schedule is easy to read, and it's clear that this poster's intent is to inform about upcoming games.
Rice went against the grain this year and went vertical with its poster.
The team colors are eye-catching, but not overly bright. One of the major difficulties when making a poster like this is to find balance between color and "Toddlers in Tiaras."
Minnesota did a great job of incorporating opponents' logos, a prominent schedule and a recognizable program.
Its team colors naturally assist it with the balance spoken of earlier in the article.
Louisville put out a great poster this year. The biggest reason that the Cardinals are not higher on the list is because their glove logos look a lot like an Angry Birds promotion. (In reality, it is an angry bird...)
Washington's 2012 edition almost looks like a movie poster. The team is shot in front of the clock tower, with the stadium flanking the tower itself.
You can almost hear Doc Brown screaming "Great Scott!" as you're reading.
Massachusetts throws down with a clear schedule, a good team shot and a great coach's pose. Though the Minutemen may not finish in the top 50 of FBS football programs, a top-50 finish here is not too shabby.
The Sooners make the list with one of the most recognizable brands in college football. The issue here is clutter.
It looks like there are three different poster ideas all fighting for your attention here. With a little streamlining, the Sooners could jump all the way to the top 10 in 2013.
42: West Virginia
There are microseconds during a quarterback's motion that he looks intimidating and almost invincible. West Virginia did not choose one of those moments for this poster.
On top of that poor decision, they picked a photo with the least-intimidating jersey on him. Overall, this was a good poster, but it seems too easy to fix the issues to place it any higher. (After all, if I can point out the flaws, surely a marketing department should be able to do at least as well as my amateur eyes.)
41: South Carolina
While this was a great submission for the Gamecocks, the lighting effect between the men's legs detracts from what would otherwise be a great stadium shot.
Columbia has a great facility. Taking away from its beauty was a bold move, but it was a swing and a miss.
These guys have the best schedule layout of all. Calling out the 25th anniversary of their national championship was a great move.
Not only that, but they call out homecoming, senior day, a white-out and a breast cancer awareness game. If you go to a ULM game this year, you already know exactly what to wear just by reading the schedule.
39: San Diego State
San Diego State has two poster ideas fighting for attention here. One is the mascot, and the other is a player-centric motif.
Either one would have been a better submission. Someone in charge may have issues making difficult decisions.
Illinois hit the coach's pic out of the park. He doesn't look anything but authoritative. He looks like he belongs where he is, and the team looks like they are ready to wage war for him every week.
If you're going to include the coach in the picture, this is one of the best ways to do it.
Tennessee went with a vintage look for the 2012 poster. Considering Derek Dooley is attempting to return a powerhouse to greatness, this is a great move.
On top of that, Dooley finally has a team that is mostly men whom he recruited. This year was the year to be different. Be vintage, Dooley. Be a winner.
Buffalo is one of those schools that has a stellar team color. It's bright enough to capture your attention, but subtle enough to keep it. The schedule portion is crisp.
There are no extra pieces of information, and there are no invasive advertising logos, either.
Clemson has some eye-catching colors to work with. Had the designers toned the poster down, they could have gotten much higher on this list.
There is way too much happening on this poster, and we will see some later on that show how exactly the Tigers could have counteracted this sensory overload.
34: North Texas
North Texas adds to last year's "Experience the New" mantra with "The Experience Continues."
An excellent choice of words leads you to believe that the Mean Green are moving forward as a team. They aren't leaving last year's stars behind, they are building the program one class at a time.
The green is a strong green, but it is slightly overused in this poster.
Duke's poster reminds me of baseball cards back in the mid-to-late '90s. It's flashy, but not overbearing. It's almost catchy, like a song on the radio that gets stuck in your head for just the right amount of time.
That being said, it does have a familiar tone to it that won't let me place it any higher.
Virginia almost nailed this one. There is a stadium shot, players, a coach and an excellent palette of colors here.
The reason that they came in so low is because the team name is a little too large and the colors are too rich for this style of poster.
Later on, we will take a look at a team that nailed this style completely. After that slide, it will be clear as to how Virginia got so close, yet so far away.
31: Ohio State
Ohio State's schedule poster does a good job of attracting and keeping a fan's interest. While The Ohio State University missed the opportunity to include Urban Meyer in his first year, let's focus on what the Buckeyes got right.
First, the brightness of the poster seems to overwhelm at first, it implies a bright future for the program. It's so subtle that it almost escapes notice.
The background stripe is simple, but highly effective in communicating tried-and-true tradition to the viewer. Even the simplicity of the stripe reminds you that Jim Tressel couldn't hurt the Buckeyes that much.
After all, he was just a man. The program is so much bigger than one man, and the future at Ohio State is brighter than it has been in quite a few years. This poster says all that to me in one shot.
30: Southern Miss
Southern Miss celebrates 100 years of football in 2012, and it doesn't miss the opportunity to express that in larger-than-life fashion on its poster.
The stadium shot under the lights is an excellent move and very fitting with the phrase just above the schedule.
29: Middle Tennessee
Some teams have all the luck, right? Middle Tennessee has one of the best colors to work with. It's not girly, but it's not assaulting.
If the Blue Raiders' football prowess could match their graphic-design department, the rest of the country would be in some serious trouble.
Missouri nailed simplicity at its finest with this one. The only thing holding this poster back from a top-10 finish is the blandness of the schedule section.
If it were just a poster, it would be excellent. The fact that it's a schedule poster demands that the schedule be a little more prominent.
However, the Tigers get some points for the caption that references their move to the SEC in 2012.
Baylor missed the perfect opportunity to unveil this poster last year. Overall, this is a wonderful poster. It's eye-catching, and it holds your attention far beyond the first glance.
However, the caption seems a year late. RGIII just left for the NFL. It seems that the future was yesterday for Baylor. Baylor fans certainly hope I'm wrong.
Purdue's train may or may not be coming, but this poster almost makes a believer out of the viewer. If the power of the poster could translate to the field immediately, Purdue would be a contender for the Big Ten championship this year.
A classic case of overkill. The Ragin' Cajuns should have stopped after selecting roughly half of those background photos.
There is no contrast on this poster, aside from the trophy. If there had been empty slots in the collage that were filled with black space, this poster would have been about 10 spots higher.
Moderation is the key.
24: Georgia Tech
The hexagon is one of the most amazing shapes in engineering. If you look at a honeycomb, you will notice that there is no space between hexagonal cells as there would be if each cell were circular.
This allows for added strength in a structure without sacrificing space that would need to be filled with strengthening substances.
That being said, Georgia Tech's integration of the hexagon in their poster is awesome. It's more than fitting for an engineering school, and the meaning is not lost on this writer.
Although Georgia Tech did a great job with its poster, UNC stepped it up a notch.
Coming from a school that's more widely known for its medical program, this is an out-of-the-box project for the Tar Heels. The designers nailed it.
This poster is a slightly better version of the Virginia Cavaliers' edition. The colors are muted in this print, and that bumped the eye appeal score up quite a bit.
There is still one team that got this style down even better than TCU.
Alabama comes in at No. 21 with a solid entry from Tuscaloosa. The rings were a great idea, even if it does come off to some as arrogant.
Another big point in the Tide's favor is the blanks to fill in the win-loss record and scores as the season progresses.
When we post schedules at home, there are blanks for scores and game results. The only thing stopping the Tide from a perfect layout score was the lack of blanks for kickoff time and channel.
Another category that the Tide could have scored better in was the eye-appeal section. The rings catch your eye, but there's just nothing spectacular about the poster that keeps your attention.
Overall, this was an above-average poster. Contrast, color, photo selection and layout all garnered moderate to good scores.
However, in the tiebreaker round, humor won me over big time.
I don't know if it was on purpose or not, but the "For the 90,000 Faithful" comment was priceless.
USC has some of the most notorious bandwagon fans in the nation. They come out of the woodwork when the Trojans are winning, and they're pulling for Oregon or Ohio State the next year.
"For the 90,000 Faithful" may not have been an intentional dig at the bandwagon fans, but it came across that way to me.
19: Western Michigan
Western Michigan nailed "simple elegance" with its poster this year. It's laid out well, the colors are muted perfectly and the schedule configuration to form a "W" doesn't even look like it was on purpose.
The whole poster absolutely flows.
18: Texas State
Props to Texas State for working in the fact that it is a new team in the FBS. The Bobcats did it without being pretentious or flashy with it.
Although the picture is a bit bland, it fits in perfectly with some of the FBS powerhouse posters. That is why the Bobcats made it into the top 20.
It has everything needed to be a solid entry this year. Maybe an upgrade to the photo shoot is in order for next year. Of course, a top-20 finish is nothing to sneeze at.
Cincinnati used the contrast between its two colors quite well. Only a few mistakes were made here:
1) A little overkill on the splatter effect, though the Bearcats were really the only team to use that effect, so it didn't count off too much.
2) Schedule blandness. It's pretty easy to add your opponents' logos to the layout.
Other than that, the Bearcats nailed it.
Opponents' logos, the team flag, players and a stadium shot got the Buffaloes into the top 50. The buffalo got them into the top 25.
The excellent use of color without being oppressive got them into the top 20.
This is one of those teams that would gladly trade their poster ranking for a BCS ranking.
Michigan went simple, but effective, with the 2012 edition of the schedule poster.
The schedule adds enough color to attract the eye, but not enough to turn you away immediately.
This is the perfect example of getting things right where Louisiana-Lafayette got them wrong. Toning down the pictures in the background was a stroke of genius. (Plus, the background picture selection was spot-on.)
14: Texas Tech
This is another example of what Louisiana-Lafayette could have done to earn a higher spot on this list. Breaking up the red with slate colors is exactly what this style of poster calls for.
Tech picked excellent photos, and the schedule layout was in the upper echelon. If Tech's performance matches the poster, the Big 12 may be in for a big surprise in 2012.
Marshall scored huge in the uniqueness category. Aaron Dobson's gigantic back-handed catch against ECU last year made him the poster child for the Thundering Herd.
Other than that, there is possibly a little too much green in use here, but that's why Marshall is just outside the top 10 instead of in it.
Font size was the big killer for LSU in this year's contest. "Stand right up and roar" is a great slogan, especially if you've been to a night game in Death Valley.
However, the color needed to be different or the font a little smaller to get inside the top 10. The poster on the whole is a little too brightly colored for the brutality that comes with a game in Baton Rouge.
This is likely the only top-10 appearance that the Bruins will make in 2012, but it's a heck of an appearance.
This poster just oozes power and strength. This is a motivational poster if ever there were one. The Bruins still have a lot of growing (and recruiting) to do before they're national contenders, but it would certainly help if the marketing department were in charge of team morale.
Virginia and TCU almost hit the nail on the head this year.
Auburn responded by actually hitting the nail on the head. The combination of vintage and modern concepts in this poster is mesmerizing.
Not only that, but the schedule portion of the poster is just the right size.
9: Michigan State
The rings on the poster are a nice touch. Also, the helmet in the middle must have been cleaned by either a drum major or a Navy boatswain.
That unit doesn't have a speck of anything on it that shouldn't be there. (Not to belabor the point of this list, but I would like to have seen this layout for Alabama.)
The small schedule is a bit annoying. The schedule is supposed to be the point, right?
8: Louisiana Tech
Congratulations to Louisiana Tech for being the only team not to overuse intense color. They managed to have a well-balanced poster without having to mute the uniform colors due to using too many players in the shot.
The power in this poster is a lot like UCLA without borrowing any of the effects from the Bruins at all.
The only bone to pick with this poster is that the doghouse looks like something out of an Amityville flick.
It may be unfair, but Navy is always going to finish in the top 10 as far as originality is concerned. How many teams can put an aircraft carrier on their schedule poster?
This is a well-balanced poster to the point that the carrier is not the first thing you notice when you see it.
Anchors aweigh! to those serving both on and off the gridiron as future officers of the U.S. Navy.
6: Air Force
The reflection of the fighters in the football player beside the players reflected in the pilot's face shield was impressive. Add the core values on the backs of the players in the pilot's shield and you've already got a top-10 poster.
The sky with lightning is another point in the Falcons' favor. The only negative for the Falcons was the unimpressive schedule portion.
Without the schedule, this poster could have won a general-poster competition.
Unlike other posters that didn't make the list, Miami's fans don't look like people straight out of a 1980s Sears catalog.
The incorporation of the fans, the band, the players and the coach is seamless. The logo and the schedule portion of the poster doesn't take anything away from the product as a whole.
Now, if the Hurricanes could just scrounge up a top-four finish in the BCS rankings, they'd be thrilled.
Having a cool nickname to work with is a major plus for the Vandals. Their use of that nickname to produce a movie-quality schedule poster is not just dumb luck.
If it weren't for the team in the next slide, the Vandals would have been champions of the uniqueness category.
That being said, the inclusion of the opponents' logos without sullying the layout with bright colors was perfect.
Vanderbilt included "The Calm Before the Storm" as a mantra on its poster. This means a lot if you're an SEC fan. What James Franklin (coach) is doing up at Vandy is huge.
The Commodores are no longer content to be the kings of education in the SEC; they are aiming to be a powerhouse football program as well.
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but if this poster is in any way helpful to the team, it's as a daily on-campus motivator for every member.
The anchor was a beautiful touch and set this poster apart from the field.
T2: Colorado State Rams
The Rams have an absolutely stunning poster this year. There is so much going on here that it would have been easy to clutter the page.
Due to excellent design, the poster still remains simple and effective. Just so it's not lost on anyone as to how much is going on here, here's a list of everything important that appears on the sheet:
1) Colorado State helmet.
2) Stadium shot from the field. (Reflected in top of helmet.)
3) Shot of head coach and players.
4) Athletic logo.
5) Team schedule.
6) Slogan. (A bold new era.)
Every single aspect of this poster is prominently placed, subtle and in high contrast to its surroundings.
*The tie with Vanderbilt could not be broken. Both posters are almost perfect, and they are so different that it's a matter of taste as to which one you like more.
*All teams that made the original 50 are still here, but pushed down a rank behind CSU's performance.
1: Iowa State
One look at the Iowa State poster will send you immediately flashing back to the gargantuan upset of the Oklahoma State Cowboys by the Cyclones.
If you're an Alabama fan or an Iowa State fan, that moment instantly became part of your lifetime highlight reel.
Iowa State didn't get incredibly fancy with the schedule portion of the poster, but the contrast of the pitch-black sky behind the sea of fans on the football field melds into one awesome poster.
With or without the Cyclones' schedule on this piece, it would fit nicely on any fan's wall.