There is so much to love about college football from a fan’s perspective: rivalry games, tail-gating, university bands, historic stadiums, team chants and much more.
One of my personal favorite aspects of college football is the beautiful uniforms so many college teams wear throughout each season.
With over 100 college programs participating at the D-1 level, there is a plethora of colors, nicknames and designs.
Today, I will be ranking the uniforms found in the Big Ten.
The ranking system is fairly simple:
Each team will be graded within the conference based on color, helmet, jerseys and pant/sock combination.
For example, the Big Ten has eleven teams, so a two is a great ranking, while a 10 is not. The lower your total is from the four categories, the higher the team will be ranked.
Each team will also be given two slides, one for each of their primary home and road uniform. The first slide will display each school’s conference category rankings as well as any miscellaneous information. The second slide will be my thoughts on the specific uniform design.
And now, the Big Ten Conference!
White on White
Red on Red
In almost every instance I would favor a more traditional look versus the modern designs that have become so prevalent over the past 10 years or so. With regard to Indiana’s uniforms, though this is not one of those cases.
The main problem, as voiced by many observers, is that this current Hoosier incarnation is a deliberate knockoff of Oklahoma. With the exception of two small differences, the school’s wear the exact same uniforms.
It doesn’t seem appropriate to be a struggling football program AND copy another team’s uniforms too.
That is why I would suggest Indiana design something different to wear, something that could bring a bigger and better identity to the program.
Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed, rumor has it that Indiana will be wearing new uniforms next season and they make look like this. I guess that is a step in the right direction.
In conclusion, Indiana doesn’t have ugly uniforms, but their school colors are dull and they seriously lack originality. That’s just enough to give the Hoosiers the lowest team ranking in the Big Ten.
Yellow on Maroon
Maroon on Maroon
White on Yellow
White on Maroon
Yellow on Yellow
Minnesota’s current uniform set just doesn’t do much for me. First, I’ve never been crazy about their colors and second, they keep reminding me of Central Michigan.
I have always loved the “M” logo which the university uses at its main crest, but doesn’t it seem so insignificant on their helmet? I would make the logo 25 percent bigger and add a white outline to make it more eye-catching.
Another problem is the maroon facemask. For the majority of football teams, having the same color facemask as the helmet is a cheesy and unprofessional look. Not many teams can pull it off, especially if they use maroon.
With the introduction of yellow jerseys in 2009, the Golden Gophers now have nine separate uniform combinations to wear at any one time.
If I were to make changes I would begin using yellow more predominantly to give the program a fresher look. This could include switching the helmets to yellow with a maroon logo (similar to their 1968-‘71 helmets) and wearing yellow pants more often than not.
A good move could be to wear uniforms similar to those of the old Washington Redskins, with the yellow helmets. That would be a sharper look than what the Gophers wear today.
Right now, Minnesota is sort of stuck in the purgatory of football uniforms. They have a modern look, but they aren’t very sharp. And they have a couple uniform combinations that are nice, while some others that are not.
That leaves the Golden Gophers in the Big Ten’s basement.
Let it be known that Iowa lost major points across the board in every category because their uniforms lack originality and are almost exact replicas of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Because of that, it is difficult to grade Iowa’s uniforms without any bias. If they were not stealing the Steelers' thunder, then these uniforms would probably be four spots higher on my Big Ten rankings.
As it is, Iowa’s jerseys are quite amazing and actually are superior to the Steelers, because the Hawkeyes use a traditional number font, whereas Pittsburgh uses a quirky italicized number font.
The pants are pretty decent, but I would hope that someday the program would at least change them so that not every piece of the uniform is like the Steelers.
Iowa’s logo is kind of different and weird in its own way, but it works well for the program and football team.
The best thing Iowa could do is make some subtle and not-so subtle changes to their uniforms, so that they can create their own identity and make up for their lack of originality.
Some people are not fans of the color purple, but I say it is the color of royalty and that there is nothing wrong with using it in sports.
I applaud Northwestern for being bold and using purple so predominantly on their football uniforms and for not succumbing to the pressures of modern times by drowning all that purple in black instead.
For this reason, the Wildcats get high marks for their colors as well as their current football helmet. Their simple, yet different looking “N” logo is one of the more underrated and under-appreciated logos in college football.
However, the jersey and pants for Northwestern are not the greatest in the world. The shoulder stripes on each jersey are uninspiring and a traditional striping pattern would be preferable to the short triangle shaped stripe currently on their pants.
There is a lot of potential for Northwestern with their colors and helmet, but the rest of the uniform lets you down. By simply changing the stripes on the shoulders and pants, the Wildcats could have one of the better uniform designs in the Big Ten.
Black on Black
Coming in at seventh place in the Big Ten uniform rankings are the Purdue Boilermakers with decidedly average uniforms.
Their helmets are pretty sub-par if only because their “P” logo has always seemed a bit weird to me, as it's slightly stretched. I admire the attempt at simplicity and straightforwardness, but the Boilermakers’ helmet doesn’t have the strength and endearment like the lids worn by Nebraska or Tennessee.
Purdue’s jerseys are nothing special, mostly due to the school colors being pretty average and not very inspiring. Also, the programs' tendency in recent years to adopt more black into their uniform doesn’t seem like the right road to travel down.
Ironically, the Boilermakers scored a high grade in the Big Ten for their black pants, which are fairly sharp. Their jerseys are not as nice as they were during the Drew Brees era, but the school has made huge improvements with the pant designs.
Overall, it’s tough to give Purdue a really high grade, even though they do have some redeeming qualities to their uniform set. Perhaps a new helmet logo could make all the difference?
White on Blue
Orange on White
Blue on Blue
For me, Illinois has the most disappointing uniform set in the Big Ten, if only because they have so much potential that isn’t fully realized.
Only a couple of other programs in D-1 football utilize the gorgeous blue and orange color scheme, and the current Illinois uniforms leave a lot of room for improvement.
Specifically with their helmet, the Illini should do something better than just a standard script of the school’s name across the side. It looks like an even more boring version of the New York Giants old helmets.
How amazing would the helmets look with the now banned Chief Illiniwek on them instead? Heck, even the school’s simple "I" logo would be an improvement.
The rest of the Illinois uniform is mediocre and too busy for my taste, with so much piping and stripes. Even still, the team pulls off an inventive upper pant stripe that meets the jersey at the hip. It’s not really my cup of tea, but it’s rather adventurous and it doesn’t look horrible.
The team could probably benefit from sticking to a more traditional look and not using so many different uniform combinations. A blue jersey with orange pants at home and white jersey with orange pants on the road should be the staple Illinois look.
Here we have very basic and tradition-bound uniforms that are very tasteful. However much I respect that tradition, though, I think the Badgers could do better.
The biggest mistake in recent times was the removal of the school’s logo from the left upper-chest area. That was always a nice identifier for the team and something that stood out from the rest of the red and white jerseys in the world.
Other than that, there isn’t anything too spectacular or horrible about Wisconsin’s uniforms. They have a pretty neat helmet with a recognizable logo, but at times it can look a bit cartoonish.
It may suit Wisconsin to go with a really old-school look in the future. I’m talking the late 1950’s era, like the get-ups the team wore in the recent past. Somehow that seems to fit the run-you-over mentality of the Badgers more than a giant bubbly “W”.
Overall, Wisconsin stands in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten uniform rankings.
In a handful of other conferences, Michigan State would be challenging for the best uniform. Unfortunately, they are a step below the other elite uniformed teams in the Big Ten.
Still, the Spartans have made some intelligent changes in recent years to really bring the program back in the fold as one of the better dressed teams in the country.
It was a great decision to remove the green collar from the white road jersey and it was a really smart decision by Mark Dantonio to stay with the white pants and not let the dreaded green pants ruin the school’s traditional look.
I’ve never been a big fan of having script across the front of a jersey, except for some notable exceptions. But wouldn’t it look better to have “State” or “Spartans” across the front instead of the long and tiny “Michigan State”?
Overall, the Spartans have a real solid uniform and there isn’t too much wrong with it. It’s too bad Nike has redesigned their logo and is rumored to be creating new uniforms, not just for football, but for all MSU sports. I guarantee nothing good comes from this.
News update: Due to massive backlash, Michigan State will apparently not be switching logos, but the university has decided to change the shade of green used for athletics.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are the first team on this list from the Big Ten to have great uniforms, putting them among the nation’s elite.
From head to toe, the Buckeyes wear a great helmet, jersey and pants combination.
What makes Ohio State’s uniforms so special is their use of stripes and the color gray. Both combine to give the team a unique and sharp design.
And although their home uniform is nice, I’ve always believed the road jersey really made Ohio State stand out. It has just absolutely beautiful stripes on the sleeves, which are punctuated by the bright red numbers on the front and back of the uniform.
In most other conferences’ this would be a strong candidate for number one.
Total and complete simplicity.
And it works really well.
If there ever was an example of how doing more with less is effective, the Penn State uniform is it.
There are no logos whatsoever on the entire uniform (except those pesky Nike swooshes) and the white helmet with one lone blue stripe is utterly fantastic.
The only issue is, are the home or road uniforms better?
It is difficult not to like the way the team looks when running onto the field in their dark blue jerseys amidst a sea of white. But then again, the Nittany Lions pull off the all-white look perhaps better than any other team in the country.
It is a good problem to have.
Coming in at number one are the Michigan Wolverines.
It is not much of a surprise, as thousands of kids grow up envying the home uniform worn by the Wolverines.
The “winged” helmet is perhaps the best in college football, so it picks up the number one ranking in the Big Ten conference. Even Michgan’s foes want to wear that helmet.
Michigan has made some changes to their uniforms over the past couple years, mostly adding piping and more flair to their road jersey. Luckily, they have maintained their classic home uniform look, but they did take a step back with their road whites.
Doesn’t this look better than this? I liked how Michigan moved the TV numbers to the shoulders and had the “M” logo on the away jersey in the past. Not many teams have ever done something like that.
And since it’s really Michigan’s blue jersey that gives them an iconic look, this allowed them to keep one classic home jersey and a livelier road jersey.
Overall, Michigan has the best set of uniforms in the Big Ten with a combination of helmet, jersey and pants that are traditional but have remained fresh and stylish over the years.