Ranking the Top 25 College Football Team Schedule Posters of 2016

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2016

Ranking the Top 25 College Football Team Schedule Posters of 2016

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    What does your favorite college football team's schedule poster say about its upcoming season?

    Is it designed to fire up the fanbase, get them so pumped for the fall that they can't wait to buy their tickets or clear their Saturday schedules to watch on TV, or does it lack inspiration? Does it highlight specific players or go generic, preferring to focus on team rather than individual exploits?

    And most importantly, does it stand out from the rest of the crowd? Every FBS program puts out one of these posters each year, but there are some that are more memorable than others, warranting the distinction of best in the business.

    In 2014 it was Wyoming, which used its poster to introduce everyone to new head coach Craig Bohl while also saying "Welcome to 7,220 feet" as a reminder that the Cowboys' stadium has the highest elevation in FBS. Last year it was Missouri, which was coming off two consecutive SEC East titles but went with a simplistic format instead of gloating about those accomplishments.

    Who will sit atop the list for 2016? We've ranked the 25 best team schedule posters—all of which you can find at Poster Swag—based on how they look and what they say. Think we're way off base? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

25. Iowa State

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    Iowa State is the Cyclones, which is another word for a tornado. Tornadoes are storms, and they can wreak havoc on a landscape, even more so if you're not prepared for them.

    With that in mind, ISU is warning everyone through its 2016 schedule poster that the arrival of new coach Matt Campbell—who won 35 games from 2011-15 at Toledo, including one over the Cyclones last season—is going to mark a changing of the weather in Ames. It's actually been quite stormy there, performancewise, as ISU hasn't had a winning record since 2009.

    At least Campbell is properly prepared, donning a team windbreaker that if not for the ISU logo might be straight out of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's sideline collection.

24. South Carolina

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    Will Muschamp might not have been South Carolina's first choice for its head coaching position, but the school is all in on him now that he's got the Gamecocks on the cusp of the 2016 season. And the team is firmly behind him, as we can see in the 2016 schedule poster featuring Muschamp leading his players out of the fog...maybe a nod to last year's dismal 3-9 season?

    He's looking quite stoic, probably the calmest the fiery Muschamp will be at any point this fall, especially if South Carolina struggles as much as their last-place SEC East prediction would indicate. But it's a strong, positive image, and the addition of Muschamp's signature adds a personal touch that could also make it possible for you to pass the poster off as personalized.

    Using the full-color version of the opponents' logos in the schedule portion of the poster is an added bonus, always welcome when it contrasts the color scheme of the rest of the design.

23. Alabama

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    Alabama fans are so devoted to their team they'd put an 8x10 poster featuring a blank section of the Crimson Tide locker room floor on their wall. There's no need for 'Bama to make its posters memorable, but this isn't a program that's about cutting corners or taking half measures, and thus we get a strong poster that highlights prominent players while also giving a nod to the man who has returned the program to greatness.

    The 2016 season is the 10th under Nick Saban, and to commemorate this we've got a specially created logo. There's also a catchphrase, "Decade of Dominance," which might seem outlandish if not for the fact that the Tide has won 105 games and four national titles in the last nine seasons under Saban.

    And keeping with the theme of 10, the poster also includes that many former Alabama players who have starred under Saban. There are other versions that include current Tide standouts, but since this poster is about what has been accomplished to this point, it makes sense to include the likes of Heisman Trophy winners Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram.

22. West Virginia

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    West Virginia's Mountaineer mascot is one of the most memorable in college football, and not just because he has a musket and can rock that coonskin cap-beard combo. He epitomizes the West Virginia culture and history of the state and is a key part of everything to do with the school and its sports teams.

    Shown in silhouette form with the West Virginia logo embossed on his chest, the Mountaineer holds up his rifle in triumph while a player looms over him in the background. And inside the unidentified player's helmet is an image of Milan Puskar Stadium, making for a picture within a picture within...well, you get it. Very Inception-esque, but it works.

    Everything on the schedule poster is hued in West Virginia's colors, gold and navy blue, which makes the gold stand out all over. This includes the logo commemorating the 125th anniversary of the program.

21. Syracuse

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    We don't know what to expect from Syracuse this season other than that it should be vastly different from past Orange teams. For one, gone is the system that focused on defense and ball control—but produced only seven wins the last two seasons—and it's being replaced by head coach Dino Babers' fondness for going quickly like he did at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green.

    To further this drive, Babers and his staff came up with the "Orange is the New Fast" slogan that's witty as all get out. All that remains now is for Syracuse to turn a catchphrase into results.

    Babers is by far the featured attraction at this point, so it makes sense that he takes up about 60 percent of Syracuse's schedule poster. A year from now, after some key players have been identified, maybe they'll get some recognition alongside their coach.

20. Cincinnati

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    Among the many schools that use a fictitious player wearing a No. 16 jersey to signify the 2016 season, Cincinnati has its fake Bearcat clutching a football tightly and charging forward. It's an image meant to portray a drive and desire to get the job done, fitting with the "The Finish Starts Here" catchphrase splashed across the bottom in hastily made brush strokes.

    And then there's the grin that's just barely visible under the darkened helmet visor, a combination that conveys the message that the Bearcats are fierce but also have some flair to them. This is perfect since their head coach, Tommy Tuberville, has always been considered a wild card—a notion that was furthered this week after naming sophomore Hayden Moore as the team's starting quarterback over fifth-year senior Gunner Kiel.

    Other aspects of the poster that stand out are the jagged edges on the left and right sides, almost making it look like it was a page torn out of a spiral notebook, along with the two-tone color blocks that complement the logos of all 12 of Cincinnati's opponents this season.

19. Colorado

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    Colorado hasn't had a winning record since 2005 and hasn't won more than four games in any of the past five seasons. But there's hope in Boulder this season, the fourth under coach Mike MacIntyre, though it will take a team effort for the Buffaloes to get the program turned around.

    Good thing they have the largest—and, frankly, scariest—animal mascot in college football in their corner.

    The buffalo looms large in Colorado's 2016 poster, though his placement just over senior linebacker Kenneth Olugbode's right shoulder makes it look like Olugbode has a horn coming out of his helmet. But maybe that was the point, to make him look even more imposing than the average two-year starter.

    Ralphie the Buffalo gets released from his pen and runs out onto the Folsom Field turf for every home game, and it's one of the great images in college football. On this poster, though, there are five large beasts shown in stampede form alongside a handful of Colorado players.

18. Tulsa

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    We've already seen evidence that American voters are so frustrated with the two main presidential candidates that anytime a poll includes a third, fake option, that choice gets a surprisingly high percentage of the vote. So if Harambe can get 5 percent of the vote, how much would Tulsa's football get team if it ran?

    That's what the Golden Hurricane's 2016 schedule poster is positing, telling fans "This Fall Vote Tulsa" on a patriotic campaign sign in which head coach Philip Montgomery is listed as the presidential candidate while 10 other Tulsa players—all in dapper suits—are identified by their football positions as well as what ones they'd hold in Montgomery's cabinet.

    And yes, VoteTulsaFootball.com is a real website, one that will then forward you to the main Golden Hurricane site.

17. Florida State

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    The state of Florida has seven FBS programs, and they often face each other during the football season, either during nonconference play or as league foes. Florida State has faced four of its Sunshine State mates, going a combined 56-66-2 against them all-time, but since head coach Jimbo Fisher took over in 2010 that record is 13-1.

    We're assuming that's the criteria the Seminoles used in deciding to put the outline of the state in the background of its schedule poster, giving the impression they own Florida based on their recent dominance of the Gators, Hurricanes and others. There's also the fact they're the most recent winners of a national title among the state's power programs, doing so just three seasons ago, and they tend to send the most players into the NFL each year.

    Another batch of potential future pros join Fisher on the poster, though it's kind of weird that two with the same uniform number—sophomore safety Derwin James and senior wide receiver Jesus Wilson, both of whom are No. 3—are both highlighted. The fact there are duplicate numbers in college football has always seemed weird, though you rarely see both in the same place at the same time.

16. Missouri

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    Our top choice from a year ago, Missouri slides down the list of best schedule posters in 2016 but still has a good one that's worth highlighting. It manages to include the most players of any sign, using their images (and those of some coaches and superfans) to create of the Tigers logo.

    Missouri is starting fresh this season with a new coach (Barry Odom), and thus a new identity, after going 5-7 in Gary Pinkel's final year. It's usually a wait-and-see approach when a program has a leadership change, so we're anxious to see what the Tigers will bring to the field this fall.

    They are too, hence the "Show Me Mizzou Football" slogan that combines the school's shortened name and the official state motto.

15. Memphis

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    Bold, yet simple. This is the best way to describe the 2016 schedule poster Memphis has put together for this season.

    You don't see a lot of neon nowadays, but it works here as a nod to Memphis' ties to the music scene. It wouldn't be a shock to find such a sign on the wall of a smoky blues club with the Tigers logo right next to it.

    This is a program on the rise after previous coach Justin Fuente turned it into a mid-major power and produced a first-round NFL draft pick in quarterback Paxton Lynch. New coach Mike Norvell is hoping to keep this going, possibly getting Memphis into the Big 12 in the near future.

    If that conference were picking additions based on schedule posters, Memphis' chances of getting picked just went up.

14. New Mexico State

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    New Mexico State is arguably the worst program in the FBS, one that hasn't been to a bowl game since the 1960s and hasn't finished above .500 since 2002. Much like Chicago Cubs fans, those who support the Aggies go into each season with hope that this is the year, but eventually end up disappointed and longing for the old days.

    The Aggies' schedule poster taps into the program's limited past successes by using a design that's straight out of a time machine. The old-school trading card motif is wonderful, complete with fonts that are only used when trying to make something look vintage.

    NMSU might actually have a bowl-worthy team this fall, with guys like senior linebacker Rodney Butler and prolific junior running back Larry Rose III capable of leading the Aggies to six or more wins. If that's the case, this posted will become a collector's item—much like the cards it's modeled after.

13. Michigan

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    Michigan has garnered so much press this offseason thanks to its media-savvy head coach, Jim Harbaugh, that there's nothing about its schedule poster that's newsworthy. We already knew the Wolverines were going to be the first football program to wear Jordan Brand Nike jerseys, which were officially unveiled in early August.

    Still, Michigan manages to have its poster stand out without doing anything outlandish. A flexing player donning the iconic helmet and a variation of the new jerseys is all it takes to make a lasting impression, though the use of some black-and-white tones makes the Maize block M stand out.

    Since we're ranking these based on all facets, including the schedule information, the choice to list Michigan's 2016 opponents and dates in a centered paragraph at the bottom is a negative. But then again, most Wolverines fans were probably well-aware of where and when their team was playing who this fall.

12. Oklahoma

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    A quick glance at Oklahoma's 2016 schedule poster doesn't do it justice, because that might make you come away thinking it looks like a lot of the others. The head coach, Bob Stoops, is looking over a group of players in action poses with the stadium in the background. Pretty standard, right?

    But look closer, at the details, and you'll understand why the Sooners' sign comes close to making our top 10.

    There are the numbers, like the seven national championships the school claims and the nine Big 12 titles it has won, including the 2015 crown (which is noted at the top). And the view of Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is of the recently renovated south end, thus the use of "The New Home of Sooner Magic" at the bottom of the poster.

    And then there's the most important feature, at least in the eyes of Oklahoma fans; while all other games on the schedule are colored white (home) or gray (road), the annual Red River Shootout against Texas stands out in gold.

11. SMU

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    SMU's first season under former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris didn't go as well as hoped, with the Mustangs posting a 2-10 record that included a loss to an FCS school. But there was at least one memorable moment from 2015, when a group of SMU students—many of whom were donning similar outfits, sunglasses and confused looks—became an internet sensation after being shown on ESPN during the Mustangs' early-season home loss to Baylor.

    So it's no surprise that SMU's 2016 schedule poster includes plenty of fan images, including some who resemble those famed white-clad bros (though they're shown in red shirts or wearing blue body paint).

    A key to being able to resurrect a program that has fallen on hard times is getting the fans to buy in, and including many of them on the poster never hurts.

10. Tulane

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    Willie Fritz won 17 games in two seasons at Georgia Southern, the same number Tulane has needed five years to accumulate. He was the school's choice to turn things around after consecutive 3-9 records, and the Green Wave's schedule poster indicates he's "Ready to Roll."

    Sure, it's a generic slogan, but Tulane hasn't ever been known for big things in football. Maybe that will change this year under Fritz, especially if it goes with the angry tidal wave logo that new athletic director Troy Dannen tweeted out in June.

    Speaking of helmets, the uniqueness of these lids is one of the great things about college football. Tulane gets extra credit of featuring the helmets of all 12 of its opponents on the poster, which adds some much-needed color contrast to the green-and-blue hue found everywhere else.

9. South Florida

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    The school's official colors are green and gold, but South Florida has managed to include nearly every possible shade of the former into its uniforms. That includes neon/highlighter variations, which take center stage in the Bulls' 2016 schedule poster.

    Say what you want about how it looks on their uniforms, particularly the "So Flo" version they wore last season, but it works well on the poster. Junior running back Marlon Mack, who should become the school's career rushing leader this season, appears to be emitting greenish-yellow vapors as he makes a move up the field.

    The Tampa skyline in the background is a nice touch, too, especially since that's where the national championship will be held in January.

8. Air Force

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    Air Force won the offseason uniform reveal competition with its alternate helmets and jerseys that will be worn for the Sept. 10 game against Georgia State. The "sharktooth" design is inspired by the nose art found on military aircraft dating back to World War II.

    These new lids and uniforms were unveiled recently without much advance warning, but had we looked at the Falcons' schedule poster we might have gotten a glimpse of what's to come since four of those famed fighter planes are shown soaring over a football field.

    It's such a striking image, and now with the new gear to go with it, you don't have to be an Air Force fan to be inspired to run through a brick wall in anticipation of the upcoming season.

7. Rutgers

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    If a football game is a battle, it helps to come to the fight with some extra hardware. A big, long sword isn't a bad choice, especially for a sport that involves a lot of close combat.

    Rutgers' nickname is the Scarlet Knights, and at various times the program has turned to a medieval theme to promote the team. It's also used gunmetal and scratch marks on past versions of its helmets and uniforms, which was kind of weird, but it was at least memorable.

    The same goes for having a Rutgers player stoically posing on the schedule poster, sword pointing straight up and ready for use.

6. Iowa

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    It finally makes sense! Iowa came out of nowhere in 2015 to go unbeaten during the regular season, nearly winning the Big Ten title before appearing in its first Rose Bowl in a quarter-century, and no one could explain how the Hawkeyes did it. But thanks to their latest schedule poster, we know their secret.

    The players could fly!

    Well, not really, but the sight of wings coming out of the back of senior quarterback C.J. Beathard and other Hawkeyes (found on alternate versions of the poster) is a striking image that ties into the team's mascot as well as how they managed to soar above their opponents last season.

    Will Iowa be able to fly high again this year? That remains to be seen, but if Beathard or another Iowa player manages to avoid a tackle when it seemed like they were sure to be taken down, you know why.

5. Boise State

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    This season marks the 21st year Boise State is playing at the FBS level, and in that time the Broncos have gone from an upstart team with an odd-colored field to the best non-power program in the country. But they've been playing football for much longer, as their 2016 schedule poster highlights.

    Boise State began as a junior college in the 1930s and was a powerhouse at that level during the 21-year run of Lyle Smith, the winningest coach in school history who turned 100 in March. The school's famed blue turf is also celebrating a significant milestone, having been installed 30 years ago, and in January it will be 10 years since the Broncos capped a 13-0 season by beating Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

    While Boise State is also focused on the present and improving toward the future, its poster is making sure fans don't forget about where the program came from.

4. Houston

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    No one will ever accuse Houston head coach Tom Herman of lacking confidence. From the moment he was hired in late 2014 (while putting the finishing touches on a national championship as Ohio State's offensive coordinator) he's been pushing the agenda that his Cougars were a force to be reckoned with this.

    This began with the use of the #HTownTakeover hashtag, seen quite often whenever Houston landed a big recruit or after knocking off a power program (three, to be exact) during the 2015 season. And it continues with the Cougars' schedule poster, which has a lot of the usual staples but includes one detail that most other schools wouldn't dare include.

    Houston is scheduled to play 12 games this fall, starting with the big clash against Oklahoma at NRG Stadium on Sept. 3. But there are 13 dates listed, the last being the American Athletic Conference title game that is set for Dec. 3 (and which Houston hosted, and won, a year ago). Every team in the AAC strives to be in that game, but only the Cougars are bold enough to put it in writing.

3. Michigan State

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    OK, so Michigan and Ohio State begin the 2016 season in the Associated Press Top 10, while those teams and presumptive West Division champion Iowa are the only schools that Big Ten media members think have a chance of winning the conference this fall. But who beat all three of those squads last year en route to the Big Ten crown, its second in three years?

    Michigan State's schedule poster has the answer. Just look at the enormous ring that takes up more than half of the sign, along with the image of Spartans players holding up the silver football that's on the top of the Big Ten championship trophy. You know, the rings that every MSU player got after hoisting that trophy in December following a win over Iowa, which came after beating Michigan and OSU during the regular season to claim the East Division.

    It could be a transition year for MSU after graduating the most successful senior class in program history, but the Spartans want to make sure no one forgets who sits atop the Big Ten throne.

2. Penn State

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    The school itself is located in the middle of nowhere in north-central Pennsylvania, but Penn State has always considered itself the program in the Keystone State. To further that belief, for 2016 it's put together a quartet of schedule posters that highlight its presence in places like the state capital of Harrisburg as well as major cities Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, never mind the fact there are other well-established FBS programs in those last two.

    Troll on, Nittany Lions.

    Penn State just happens to play both Temple and Pitt this season, facing the latter for the first time since 2000 (and a year after falling to the former for the first time in 74 years). If the Lions happen to lose either of those games, expect some Owls or Panthers fans to alter the version of those posters that feature their cities to show just who rules that part of Pennsylvania.

1. TCU

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    Why did we pick TCU as having the best college football schedule poster for 2016? Let us count the ways.

    First off, there's a giant lizard on it. That alone is almost enough to warrant top billing, but add in the slogan above it—“Horned and Dangerous”—and it's game over. Everyone else, thanks for applying, the position has been filled.

    There are multiple versions of TCU's 2016 poster, including one that warns if you "Mess with the Frogs" you "Get the Horns" while the mascot stares into your soul. Good luck erasing that image from your memory.


    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.