When you hear a college's name one of the first images your mind conjures up is that of the school's football helmet. A symbol which is an undefiable representation of both the football program and the university as whole.
At one time most helmets looked the same. In the late 1800s you mainly saw plain leather head caps that all resembled one another. Some schools such as Princeton and Michigan had taken the winged look to distinguish themselves. Still they weren't very flashy or identifiable.
In 1939 the game of college football experienced a sweeping transformation thanks to John T. Riddell and his son. It was that year that the football helmet we relate to now a days was invented and patented.
Since that time they have become a fashion statement and a way in which universities brand themselves.
When watching a pregame show you always see the two opposing teams helmets facing one another. It serves as a prelude to the impending collision which will soon occur.
As a kid you'd look at those helmets in pure awe. You'd notice the little details. The way in which they shine in the sun. How they appear with rain drops sliding off of them or the manner in which they blend with a back drop of falling snow.
Whatever the case they were ingrained in you and became permanent images which you related to that school because of.
Many teams have tweaked and revamped their helmets to garner more attention from fans.
Team helmets, colors and logos are big money. Fans and alumni buy tons of college apparel and merchandise.
Kids get replica helmets and pretend to be football players for that school. They dream of one day being able to run out of a tunnel or into an end zone with that helmet on their heads.
It also influences some recruits. They picture themselves with that look on national television. In some cases it even sways them on which school to attend.
We will now take a look at the Top 20 helmets in college football.
26. North Carolina Tar Heels
27. Purdue Boilermakers
28. Kansas State Wildcats
29. Virginia Tech Hokies
30. Oregon State Beavers
31. TCU Horned Frogs
32. Boise State Broncos
33. Washington State Cougars
34. SMU Mustangs
35. Wyoming Cowboys
The Hawaii Warriors might not be a BCS contender but they are looking good while being mediocre.
Hawaii has a helmet and logo that is both pleasant to look at and consistent with the islands tradition. The tribal looking designs on the side of the "H" add a distinct look and feel that is all Hawaii.
The Warriors have gone through several different looks. Until 1999 they went by the name "Rainbow Warriors".
The original helmets from 1950-69 was white with a green top stripe. From 1970-73 they took on a plain gold look. The rest of the 70s had this Rainbow Warrior looking figure that looks like it should have been on a Sunday morning cartoon.
From 1982-98 Hawaii had a rainbow connecting to a "UH" on its helmets. In 1999 they went back to the old rainbow warrior who had been revamped. Finally in 2000 they debuted the new signature "H" on what appears to be the darkest green imaginable. From 2005-2007 they also alternated in a silver helmet with the "H" on the side.
Arkansas did a great job in making a pig look mean, strong and fast.
The logo is awesome and the colors are nice.
This has been the Arkansas look since 1964. It's been revamped/edited a few times since then but is basically the same look/feel. In 1995 the best change occured when the logo was made bigger and bolder.
Prior to this look Arkansas had a red helmet with white numbers.
South Florida Bulls may be a new member on the college football landscape but their helmet is already top notch.
The Bulls have what appears to be a logo that was just put on their with a hot cattle branding iron.
The school went through a couple looks to get to their current one. The first Bull logo seemed more like a cow giving birth than something you'd want on a football helmet.
USF also uses a white helmet with a green version of the logo that looks really good.
The classic look of BYU is back and better than ever.
It's a very simple and pleasant design. The bold "Y" in the blue seal/capsule along with the strong colors makes for a good look.
BYU went through several bad helmets before incorporating the "Y". The first look from 1966-68 was a blue helmet with a white capsule and blue "Y".
From 1999-2004 BYU used a dark blue helmet which didn't look bad at all. Still the classic look is the best for the team.
It may not be the "eye of the tiger" but in this case the paw more than suffices.
Clemson managed to make the colors orange and purple look good. The helmet displays the prominent paw which the Tigers are renowned for.
In 1960 they used a plain orange helmet. Then in 1962 they added purple numbers on the side. The 1960s had different versions of orange helmets with either a purple or white "C".
Finally "in 1970, a "paw print" logo apparently was used on Clemson's football helmets for the first time; the original version was somewhat different in shape than the one presently used, and also considerably larger."
The Tigers last changed their helmets back in 1977 when they added purple and white top stripes.
Few football helmet logos look better on the face of female fans and cheerleaders than Clemson's "paw".
It's a sharp looking helmet with strong lettering and solid coloring.
The current look dates back to 1969. Prior to that Auburn had numbers on the sides. Through out the years the "AU" has remained with only the face mask being changed form white to orange and now blue.
It's not flashy yet if you've ever seen it under the lights there's something to Oklahoma's look. Also as you'll see on this list tradition does play a part.
Oklahoma has had this look since the 1976 season. It was also the year they switched to crimson.
The former look from 1946-75 featured a bright red and white look. The signature OU symbol was first featured in 1966. The following year the letters were changed from rounded to the now famous blocked.
I think Oregon may have done something the Sooners should have with capitalizing on the "Big O" logo.
Not much tradition when it comes to Oregon.
The Ducks enjoy the perk of having Phil Knight and Nike cranking up all kinds of new looks and styles for them.
Anyone that remembers the old yellow helmet with the rounded UO crossed or the logo featuring Donald Duck has to be grateful for the help form Nike.
Oregon's helmet has a great shine to them and the "O" logo looks good.
Oregon has three helmets and at least five uniforms. Not all the uniforms look great but the other two helmets are solid. One is White with a green "O" and the other is yellow with a green "O."
It's pretty damn intense looking for being a little bird. Louisville has nice colors and their bird looks better than any other in college sports. Shouldn't an eagle or falcon look better? You'd think so, yet Louisville tops all the rest. Actually there is one that's better which we'll see later.
Louisville has changed or tweaked their helmet design nearly 20 times since 1963. They had the Arizona Cardinal look, plain red, a "U" and "L" intersecting, the Alabama style,plain white and even a United States flag.
My personal favorite is their 1981-1983 look.
It's simple yet attractive.
The Volunteers have staked their claim on the letter "T" unlike any other sports team in the country. The boldness and size of the logo is good. It's also nice they didn't mess with the helmet and add black to it.
It was 1964 when Tennessee first unveiled the "Single T" look. Since that time it has gotten bigger and bolder.
Gold and Blue always go good together and UCLA's logo is sharp.
Things weren't always so nice for the Bruins helmet. It was originally a knock off of Navy and Notre Dame's all gold look.
Then in 19973 UCLA was added. The helmet significantly improved in 2000 when the letters were made much bolder. From 2000-03 the face mask was blue but was then switched back to the traditional gray.
If I could change one thing I think they should think of the logo in baby blue to match the jerseys. Perhaps they could also unveil a white helmet throwback style a la San Diego mold using their colors and baby blue jersey.
Georgia may have the best letter "G" in all of football.
It's bold and the two dimensional coloring gives it a great look.
This is a big change from the original plain silver and block lettered red "G" look. Georgia has messed with the helmet a bit over the years. The face mask has been gray then black then white.
In 2009 Georgia unveiled a black helmet with red face mask. I think this look should continue to be used. Perhaps the face mask can be changed to black or white though.
The Bulldogs slipped from 10th to 15th on the list at the last moment.
Arizona State's helmet is really tight.
The colors go well together and the logo is awesome. It always kind of reminded me of an angry guy with a moustache.
They have altered the "Sun Devil" a few times since it was unveiled in 1980. From 1959-74 they used a yellow helmet with red numbers. Then form 1975-80 they incorporated two versions of a Sun with the letters "ASU."
Few people know that it was originally Michigan State and then Princeton who sported the now famous Michigan Wolverines winged look.
Currently Michigan State rocks the traditional green with a spartan soldier helmet for its logo. The colors are plain green and white yet they look really good.
From 1960-64 Michigan State used a green helmet with white numbers. Then in 1965 came the first version of the spartan which was changed twice before going back to numbers in 1976.
The demand for the spartan logo though caused a brief return 1977-82. Then for some reason they went plain green on one side and a white "S" on the other for eleven years before switching back to the spartan in 1995.
The "S" this time on both sides made a final appearance in 2001 but was then switched back to a spartan the following season.
Syracuse should take a note form the Florida Gators on how to make Orange helmets look good.
Florida first came out with "Gators" in 1979.
That was a drastic upgrade from the intersecting "UF" that was sported since 1968.
In 1966 Florida used a white helmet with a blue "F." Before that they used a blue helmet with an orange letter "F" inside a white capsule.
Florida uniforms always look good. Even the throw back white helmet ones are nice.
This is the top bird in our rankings.
Iowa has strong colors and a stronger looking logo. It's not a detailed image and that adds to its appeal.
This logo debuted in 1979. The previous season they had a yellow helmet with "Hawks" in black cursive.
The first helmet was a yellow helmet with black numbers in 1958. In 1965 they sported a yellow helmet with a solid "I" but that lasted only one season. From 1966-70 and 1974-76 they went with a plain yellow look and in between 1971-73 they used two logos similar to the eagle used by Southern Mississippi.
The "Bayou Bengals" are the purple and gold of college football.
The current helmet logo first appeared in 1979. the face mask was changed form white to purple in 1980. From 1960-71 they sported a yellow helmet with a purple number. Then in the next three years they had a different tiger logo.
LSU has also used a white helmet with the logo and debuted a new golden one in 2009.
The "Men of Troy" haven't done much tinkering with their classic looking helmet.
It'd be good to have a poll of which former soldier is preferred USC's Trojan or Michigan States Spartan.
The original Trojan design was first seen in 1972 and only the face mask has really changed since then.
Prior to the Trojan logo, USC used a plain dark red helmet. In 1992 they tried out a different Trojan design but it was quickly changed the next season.
Ohio State and their red home uniforms and silver helmets are a great look. Especially late in the season with all the accomplishment stickers that look like little marijuana leaves on it.
Since 1968 Ohio State has sported the Silver with red black and white stripes.
From 1960-65 they used a horrid looking half red half silver helmet with black numbers. In 1966 they used an all red with top stripes helmet.
In 2009 Ohio State debuted a throw back look of a white helmet with black numbers and a red top stripe.
Simplicity was taken to the extreme when it comes to Penn State.
Despite not adding anything other than a blue stripe Penn State's look is sweet. The away and home uniforms are totally plain yet they look great.
In 1962 the helmet was first used. Then from 1968-74 they had blue numbers on the side. From 1975-86 they went back to the original look but added blue face masks in 1987.
Personally I think the Purdue a "P" in the style of BYU would be a nice change. The numbers might not be bad to consider as well.
Alabama likes to stick with what works.
Since 1960 Alabama has had the same look and feel in regards to their football helmets. Back in 1951 they used a white helmet with red numbers.
A lot of teams used to sport the numbers on the helmet look. However unlike the rest only Alabama refused to let it go for something flashier. This look is now a staple of the Crimson Tide football program.
Florida State has great colors and a fantastic football helmet.
The garnet and gold look was perfected by Florida State. The helmet has a nice over-sized Seminole spear which looks really good.
Florida State has gone through countless helmets over the year. I mean you name it they tried it. It's been gold, yellow and red. It's had the state of Florida, two different Chief Osceola's, the word "State" and the letters "FS"
Finally in 1976 they did their second attempt at a spear and hit gold.
In 2009 they debuted a black helmet.
It's the face of Texas football, that of course being the longhorn bull staring back at you.
Nothing speaks more than being able to go with a plain white helmet and then just prominently feature your logo on the side. "Hook em Horns" nation identifies everything about their university with this logo in mind.
The burnt orange and white of Texas look great on T.V. and it's been there look since 1970. In 1976 they changed the face mask from gray to white.
Prior to that Texas used the Longhorn logo with numbers on top of it.
Michigan and Princeton both still sport the winged helmet look but it was actually Michigan State that first used it on their leather helmets in the late 1800s. Now however it is a defining symbol of Wolverines football.
This look is awesome. The maize and blue colors are eye catching.
From 1959-68 there were small yellow numbers on the side but that was taken out in 1969. Since that time Michigan has stuck with the beautiful design that they still sport today.
Notre Dame is widely known for their "Golden Domes," the movie "Rudy" even went out of its way to display and elaborate on them.
You have to give credit for sticking with tradition when it comes to Notre Dame. They could easily have incorporated their awesome little fighting Irish dude but have restrained.
Instead we get the same shimmering and beautiful plain gold helmets that have been seen on American televisions since 1964. They're a beautiful site to behold on a sunny autumn afternoon.
From 1959-62 there was a golden helmet with a "big green clover" on the side. Then in 1963 they replaced the clover with white numbers.
"Ara Parseghian brought back plain gold helmets in 1964 and the team has continued to use those ever since, which make this the longest-running unchanged helmet design among the NCAA Division I-Football Bowl."
It is a Notre Dame tradition for the team's student managers to spray-paint the team's helmets prior to each game, ensuring that they keep their gold shine each week.
From time to time the team will sport a kelly green jersey which I personally really like.
No team or university is more centered around and recognized for it's football helmet than the Miami Hurricanes.
The program is synonymous with the letter "U".
The logo has been iconic for sometime but now it's taken on a whole different level. Former players and fans have taken to simply referring to themselves and the program by one letter.
It's such a trademark that even the schools commercial has University President Donna Shalala and other students "throwing up the U."
As amazing as it seems Miami managed to pull off the orange and green scheme. The colors are extremely eye catching. The broken up letter simply looks a million times better than you think it would and the home uniform is one of the best in college football.
From 1960-64 Miami used yellowish-gold helmets with green numbers on it. There was also a white helmet with green numbers used on occasions. From 1965-68 they used a plain golden dome with a green face mask and top stripe.
In 1970 there was a white helmet with an orange "U and M" intersecting and highlighted in green. 1971 saw a green helmet with white numbers.
Finally in 1972 the "U" was first unveiled. At that time it was displayed on a green helmet. In 1976 the helmet as we know it today came out. The gray face mask was switched for a white one in 1984, the year after the program won its first ever National Championship Title.
In 2005 Miami commemorated their 1967 team by sporting some "cool looking" gold helmets with a hurricane warning flag on the side.