Nebraska Football: Ranking the Huskers' Opponent's Uniforms
Nebraska football fans have a reverence for tradition in college football. And nowhere is tradition (or, occasionally, the lack thereof) on display than in the uniforms college teams wear on the field.
So in preparing for the upcoming season, it’s a fun exercise to look at the uniforms Nebraska will likely be seeing from each of its opponents. As a fan of Paul Lukas' groundbreaking Uni Watch website, I've found others who share my obsession with sports uniforms and logos (or, in Uni Watch lingo, I'm one of those Who Get It TM). If you're at all interested in anything uniform related, it's an absolute daily must-read.
The ranking of those uniforms, from one to 12, is based on a combination of the attractiveness of the design itself, along with the history and tradition behind the uniforms. Obviously, there is a lot of subjectivity to these rankings, so please feel free to chime in with comments if you feel a team has been sartorially slighted.
No. 12: Southern Mississippi
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The Golden Eagles inked a new deal with Russell Athletic this season, and with the new deal came a new set of duds.
The new road uniform, which they should be wearing when the Eagles arrive in Lincoln, has a lot going on with the jersey, with a whole bunch of striping and piping along with a marble-looking pattern in the numerals. The jersey also says “Southern Miss” in the school’s unique typeface, although the helmet remains unchanged with a different “Southern Miss” script.
But it’s the pants that take the cake, with a white-in-front, yellow-in-back look to them. Look, I get that a team coming off an 0-12 season wants to make a new name for itself. But these really feel like the Eagles are trying too hard.
No. 11: Wyoming
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Last year, the Cowboys got a uniform update from Nike. Many of the uniforms had “WYO” emblazoned across the front, and the new deal provided Wyoming with a number of different color options. Unfortunately, when picking from a color scheme of brown, yellow and white, the options to make a workable uniform are somewhat limited.
The all-white Stormtrooper look, which will likely be seen in Lincoln this year, is probably the classiest of the lot. And the iconic cowboy on the bucking bronco is distinctive and fits well with Wyoming’s image—far more so than the faux-edgy “WYO” moniker.
No. 10: Illinois
Image originally located at http://bit.ly/1162JXr
The Illini appear to be in transition with regards to their uniforms, so at this point, a power ranking may be a bit of a guess. But there is some evidence that Illinois will have some new looks next year. Jaylen Dunlap, a 2013 Illinois defensive back recruit, tweeted a picture of himself with at least three new helmets for the Illini.
It appears that Illinois may be going with a block "I" on the helmet instead of ILLINOIS in italic block lettering, apparently inspired by the old New York Giants helmets (which was always peculiar, given how the Chicago Bears took their colors from Illinois because George Halas was an UI alum).
So the power ranking is a bit of speculation as to what Nike might do with the rest of the uniform based on what we know.
No. 9: Minnesota
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Making maroon, gold and white work as a color scheme is heavy lifting. But when Nike redesigned Minnesota’s uniform set in 2012, the "swooshketeers" did an admirable job.
A quirky and unique block numeral scheme, a matte helmet and the addition of the “Sik-U-Mah” motto on the back of the shirt makes the Golden Gophers’ look work—even with the color scheme.
Although I think we can all hope Goldy doesn't break out the all-gold look when Nebraska comes to Minneapolis this year.
No. 8: At Purdue
Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports
Nike provided Purdue with a new set of uniforms in 2011, previewing in those uniforms some of the elements it would bring to the NFL the following year. The Boilermakers’ uniform set is far more reserved than many, leaving the gold helmet and iconic “P” intact and providing options to mix and match between black, gold and white.
The only distinct additions for Purdue were an italicized and sans serifed typeface for the numerals and player names, which looks sharp and clean while not interfering with a more traditional design. Whether Purdue goes with an all-black Darth Vader look or black-on-gold for Nebraska’s first road game of the season, the Boilermakers should look sharp.
No. 7: South Dakota State
Image originally located at http://bit.ly/17JErYh
Last year, the Jackrabbits got a new uniform set from Under Armor, giving them the option to mix and match between their primary colors of blue, gold and white.
With a clean, sans-serifed typeface for the numerals and the “State” across the chest and a traditional interlocking "SD" logo on the helmet (although, disappointingly, with no actual rabbit imagery), SDSU should look just fine for their trip to Lincoln.
And given how much of a scare the Jackrabbits gave Nebraska the last time they were in town, perhaps, the new uniforms will get even a closer look.
No. 6: UCLA
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The Bruins have one of the most iconic looks in college football. The powder blue and gold color scheme, along with the varsity stripes on the shoulders, screams southern California and makes UCLA instantly recognizable.
Which is why UCLA’s new road uniforms, which have no powder blue and de-emphasize the “UCLA Stripe” on the shoulder (not to mention insist on using block numerals instead of the incredibly-cool script ones) are such a mystery.
According to Paul Lukas’ Uni Watch, UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. has been involved in trying to make the shoulder sleeves more prominent, saying in a tweet:
More on the UCLA Stripe; it is part of the fabric of the jersey, not an insert, but it takes a 2nd layer to include it. Not functional or comfortable to have 2nd layer under armpit. Adidas working on technology to include a rubberized paint that will allow us to extend UCLA Stripe. We all know how important it is to our fans and we promise to keep pushing. Adidas has been great.
When the head coach has to come out and defend (or at least explain) elements of a new uniform, it’s probably a fair guess that the new uniform isn’t working.
No. 5: Michigan State
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In 2010, Michigan State received an all-new uniform set from Nike. The Spartan helmet became the primary helmet logo, and the focal point of the uniform (and, indeed, the rebranding of the entire athletic department) was the new typeface and numerals.
Michigan State’s road uniforms also have a unique green yoke across the shoulder (actually, there is a home version with a white yoke as well, but it appears this is infrequently used), which makes for a different visual effect without being intrusive.
While the Spartans’ new look is certainly not traditional, and the numerals can be a little busy, overall, the look is strong, modern and distinct.
No. 4: Iowa
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Heroes Game in Lincoln will be another matchup of two classic and iconic college football uniforms. The Hawkeyes, who took their uniform design from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the midst of their mid-'70s dominance, sport one of college football’s most unique and powerful logos in the Tiger Hawk on the side of the helmet.
And with the American flag, the oversized numbers and the “ANF” (America Needs Farmers) decals on the helmet, Iowa remains true to its roots of representing an agrarian, heartland fanbase.
No. 3: Northwestern
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Last year, Under Armor did a total overhaul of Northwestern’s uniforms, running a “Northwestern stripe” through the middle of the jersey and making the stripe the central design focus for the athletic department.
A unique block numeral and typeface, with bricks imprinted on the numerals to replicate the bricks from university buildings, completed the redesign without altering the helmets.
A redesign like that is a huge gamble, but personally, I thought the Purples hit a home run with the new gear. The stripe element is unique, logical and (usually) doesn’t interfere with being able to see the numbers on the field. Northwestern went from being one of the most visually boring uniforms to one of my favorites.
No. 2: At Penn State
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After the Jerry Sandusky scandal, there was some speculation in State College that Penn State would modify its iconically plain uniforms in some way to demonstrate a break from the past. While speculation ran wild, ultimately, the Lions added a child abuse awareness decal and added names to the back of the jerseys.
Otherwise, the plain white helmets, blue stripes, blue uniforms and white pants remained intact. So when Nebraska travels to Happy Valley to face Penn State (and a likely white-out of over 100,000 Penn State faithful), once again, we should be treated with seeing two historic uniforms face off on the field.
No. 1: At Michigan
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The red-letter game on Nebraska’s 2013 schedule may very well be the red-letter game with regards to uniforms on display.
If both schools use their base uniforms, the game should match two of the most historic and iconic looks in college football. Michigan’s winged helmet, while perhaps not making a ton of sense for a team called the Wolverines, is instantly recognizable and screams college football tradition.
And the maize and blue uniforms (even if Michigan lately has translated “maize” into “highlighter yellow”) are amongst the best in the country.
But don’t be surprised if those traditional unis are not on display at Michigan Stadium. Last year’s Nebraska-Wisconsin game with the faux-throwback uniforms were the first of what adidas referred to as its “Unrivaled” series of games.
Note the word “series” there. When announcing the Nebraska-Wisconsin uniforms, adidas said in a press release that the game would be “adidas' first Unrivaled Game, an annual matchup of top adidas programs.”
Well, Nebraska and Michigan are two of adidas’ top programs. The game will very possibly pit two undefeated teams in a game that will have implications for the B1G—and possibly for the national, championship.
Michigan has had three different one-off uniforms from adidas in the last two years, meaning Big Blue is clearly open to new threads (and selling a little additional merchandise).
So I would think the Michigan-Nebraska game would be a prime target for adidas’ second Unrivaled Game, meaning new unis for both schools.
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