College Football 2011: Top 25 Uniforms in the BCS Conferences
Deion Sanders once famously said, "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good."
While the teams on this list vary greatly on that final point, they all ace the former.
In the wake of the throwback craze of the early 2000s, the trend in football uniforms of late—due in large part to Nike—is a movement towards modern, non-traditional and, at times, avant garde design.
Such designs have often been the domain of small schools looking to make a name for themselves, but now even the major powers in the BCS conferences have followed.
This has been a divisive movement for a sport second only to baseball in it's devotion to tradition. Ask any college football fan, regardless of team or conference affiliation, about the Oregon Ducks' limitless uniform combination, and they will have a strong opinion either way.
Did the Ducks make this list of the 25 best dressed teams in the BCS conferences?
#25 South Florida Bulls (Home)
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Making the leap to the FBS in 2001, the South Florida Bulls have built themselves into a respectable program in the Big East.
With a primarily green and gold color scheme, the Bulls recently moved towards a greater use of white. They added a white helmet with single green stripe to their home uniforms, replacing the pre-exisiting gold of the Matt Grothe era.
It was a change for the best.
The Bulls also feature solid white pants which gives the forest-green jerseys a clean and bold look, with small golden accents around the neckline.
Overall, it's a sleek, modern look that many schools of USF's stature overlook in favor of gaudy eyesores.
#24 Syracuse Orange (Road)
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While the program has struggled in the last several seasons, they did make one major improvement.
Released in 2005, the Orange's previous look was a trainwreck of navy helmet numbers on the iconic orange helmet and the inclusion of garish shoulder stripes.
This eyesore was rightfully replaced a few seasons later by the current look and the improvement is most welcome.
The Orange road uniform is a now a clean look of which fans can be proud. The shoulder area of the white jersey, once home to those horrifically wide stripes, is now home to simple jersey number with navy piping.
The orange pants, once home to a single navy stripe, have a white stripe down the middle flanked by navy.
Perhaps the best change occured with the helmets. Gone are the uniform numbers and single navy stripe, replaced by a strong "S" logo and the white-flanked-by-navy stripe pattern of the pants.
#23 Cal Golden Bears (Alternate)
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In 2006, the Cal Bears incorporated a gold alternate jersey to it's rotation to rave reviews.
In 2008, Nike updated the Bears' look and thankfully kept the golden alternate in the rotation.
The uniform is topped by the classic "Cal" script navy helmet.
While Nike has made some drastic and unnecessarily busy changes to many programs, the Bears found a nice middle ground between classic and modern.
The golden jersey has classic navy numbers with two sets of navy accents along the collar's sides, with the Cal pawprint logo nestled at the base.
The navy pants have two claw marks on each leg, and while leg adornments of this type are usually offputting (i.e. the Denver Broncos), the blue and gold scheme of Cal makes this a success.
#22 Washington Huskies (Home)
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Staying in the Pac-10, the next best dressed team is the Washington Huskies with their purple and gold updated classics.
Like many teams, the Huskies have taken a traditional look and given it a slight update in recent years.
The bold purple "W" remains on the golden helmet with the same white and purple stripe as the Warren Moon era.
While purple-heavy color schemes in sports are a tricky proposition, the Huskies' jerseys are done well. The collar is accented in gold with small gold piping running from the accents to the shoulders and sleeves. The "W" logo is at the base of the collar. White numbers outlined in gold are also on the sleeves.
The white pants have a classic gold striped flanked by purple to complete the 22nd best look in the BCS.
#21 Ohio State Buckeyes (Home)
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The players and coaches wearing the scarlet and grey continue to run afoul of NCAA regulations but at least they look good in doing so.
The overall look of the Buckeyes has remained the same for years, but there was a bit of an uproar a few years ago when black accents became more prevalent throughout the uniform, with the biggest complaints centering on the removal of grey stripes on the jersey's sleeve in favor of the black.
Black or grey, the scarlet jerseys look top notch, as do the grey pants with the scarlet, white and black center stripe.
However, nothing says Buckeye football quite like a shiny silver helmet full of merit decals. Or beating Michigan.
#20 Mississippi Rebels (Home)
One of the most storied programs in the SEC, Ole Miss has a home uniform that celebrates it's rich tradition.
The helmet remains the classic blue with the single red stripe, with the script "Ole Miss" that has been present since 1983.
The blue home jersey features two white shoulder stripes, just as it did in the days of Archie Manning, and the look is completed with the classic gray pants with the red and blue center stripe.
While the Rebels have added an also sharp red home alternate jersey, it is the classic blue that remains their signature look.
#19 USC Trojans (Home)
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While their games may or may not count years later, the USC Trojans nevertheless have one of the very best looks in the college game.
The classic cardinal and gold uniforms hit their peak with the home version.
The iconic golden Trojan logo on the helmet carries with it a storied and glorious past.
Below it is a sleek cardinal jersey with gold numbers, shoulder numbers and a simple, yet modern sharp stripe extending toward the neck. At the base of the collar is a gold "SC" logo.
The golden pants are simple adorned with dual cardinal stripes along the centerline.
In total, this is one of the very best uniforms found west of the Mississippi.
#18 Florida State Seminoles (Home)
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They aren't finishing in the top five annually anymore, but Florida State's look from its 1990s heyday remains as pristine as ever.
The garnet jerseys have an excellent collar and sleeve feather pattern that is a tribute to the Seminole tribe, and smooth white numbers outlined in gold on the sleeves.
The pants are solid gold with the school alternate logo near the right hip.
However, the most memorable part of the uniform are the gold helmets with the garnet and white spear logo that has been often imitated on all levels of the sport. The bold effect these helmets have is further amplified when they are covered in the famous tomahawk merit decals.
#17 Texas A&M Aggies (Road)
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The Texas A&M Aggies are a prime example of how simple is often the best way to go.
Most of the uniforms thus far have been of the home variety, as the school's distinctive color schemes are more often more interesting than the generic white. Not so in this case.
The Aggies white road jerseys are beautifully accented on the collar by a sharp maroon accent. Maroon shoulder numbers and the school's name are the only other additions to the jerseys base numbering.
The pants are solid maroon with thin contoured white piping running the length of the pants.
Overall, the look is clean, crisp and perfect for this Lone Star State power.
#16 Arizona State Sun Devils (Alternate)
Now, I'm not a big fan of a team adding a black jersey when black is not among their exisitng color scheme. More often than not, it is a complete failure. The Tennessee Volunteers, New York Mets and even ASU's in-town big brothers the Arizona Cardinals have all embarrassed themselves with such tomfoolery.
So when the rumors of a black jersey for ASU spread, many were worried. Very worried.
These beauties utilize the popular flat black helmets that have made their way around college football, with a redesigned golden pitchfork.
The solid black jersey has a single golden stripe in the shape of a pitchfork prong above a golden "ASU" on the shoulders.
The pants are solid black save for a small golden pitchfork logo on each hip.
While these likely won't be worn in early season games in the Arizona heat, they make a terrific addition to ASU's rebranding program.
#15 Tennessee Volunteers (Home)
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Simply having one of the most distinctive colors in all of college sports isn't enough for inclusion in the list. Using it so well, however, warrants the 15th spot.
The Volunteers' home uniform is immediately recognizable from the solid orange jerseys, in a shade unique to the university. Adorned by only simple white shoulder numbers, the jerseys are as much an SEC staple as their checkerboard endzones.
Topping the jerseys is the white helmets with the classic "T" and single stripe, both in orange. Complete with dual striped white pants, this home uniform is terrific.
#14 Oklahoma Sooners (Home)
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Oklahoma is not the first Big-12 team to feature a dark red color and white on this list, but they are the best.
The overall home uniform look has remained more or less constant for decades. When you look this good and have as much success as the Sooners have, why change it?
It all starts with the crimson helmets and the iconic "OU" logo. The design is simple, bold and effective, regardless if the team is running the wishbone of yesteryear or airing it with Sam Bradford.
The solid crimson jerseys have "SOONERS" in a classic athletic font atop the numbers in white, and the contrast between them and the white pants with the dual crimson stripes completes the clean yet rugged look of this perennial contender.
#13 Alabama Crimson Tide (Road)
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Crimson and white again?
Hey, if it ain't broke...
Many would probably argue that Alabama's home uniforms are the program's best, and they may have a point. However, the slight edge goes to the road whites due to their ability to make an all white look seem intimidating.
The white jerseys are devoid of everything, including shoulder numbers, except the primary numbers. Such simplicity makes the dual crimson stripes on the pants seem almost garish and unnecessary, yet they provide a welcome accent.
Taking the entire uniform from the depths of "overly simplistic" to "timeless college visual" is the Crimson Tide's individually numbered helmets. With a single white stripe and the player's jersey number in white upon the field of crimson, these are true treasures of college football.
#12 Wisconsin Badgers (Home)
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You typically don't expect a Big Ten school to be too extreme in their uniform choices. Wisconsin is no exception.
The combination of cardinal and white is simultaneously simple and bold, used by countless teams in all sports. The Badgers are among the teams that do an excellent job with them.
It all starts with the white helmets. Accented by a dual cardinal stripe, the "W" logo is large...very large. Yet it fits the attitude of Badger football, which is built upon pounding opponents into submission with a massive offensive line and bowling ball shaped running backs.
The simple cardinal jerseys have classic sleeve striping and shoulder numbers and no longer feature a "W" logo near the left shoulder, which is addition by subtraction.
The white pants have dual cardinal stripes and a cardinal "W" logo atop the left leg.
#11 Purdue Boilermakers (Road)
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The Big Ten has yet another entry on this list with the Purdue Boilermakers' road uniforms.
Purdue has their own slant on the classic black and gold combination that is prevalent through sports by changing the yellow or gold to "old gold", and the look pays off in droves.
The white road jerseys have excellent collars and sleeves trimmed in striped black and old gold, with black numbers outlined in the old gold. It provides a strong and distinctive contrast.
The black pants have dual old gold stripes down the leg, and the excellent locomotive logo above the left leg.
Capping off this gorgeous set are old gold helmets with the dynamic "P" logo in black. Dissecting the helmet is a strong white flanked by black stripe.
#10 UCLA Bruins (Home)
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Soft colors and football usually make for a bad, and often embarrassing, combination. Not so in Westwood.
The powder blue and gold combination works for the Bruins. It starts with the classic gold helmets with the script "Ucla." Even the fact that the "cla" are not capitalized does nothing to detract from their style.
The powder blue jerseys retain the gold and white shoulder stripes that have been a part of the Bruins' look since the 1950s. There has been much debate among Bruin faithful about adidas' decision to shorten the stripes. The stripes then arch over the gold shoulder numbers.
The pants are simply solid gold, and provide a beautiful accent to the jerseys above.
#9 Auburn Tigers (Home)
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Much like a few programs represented on this list, Auburn has been confronted with a lot of off-field accusations of late, but regardless of the outcome, they are still be the best dressed team in the SEC.
It all starts with the navy and burnt orange color scheme, which immediately provides a defining element.
The navy home jerseys have exquisite sleeve striping with a large orange stripe flanked by thin white. White shoulder numbers and a small "AUBURN" above the primary numbers finish off a sharp looking jersey.
The white pants have orange and navy center stripes with the "AU" logo on the left leg.
Completing this excellent look are the white helmets. With maybe the best center stripe of any team, the Tigers have a orange stripe flanked by navy, with the "AU" logo to each side.
Whether they keep their recent national title is a question without an answer. Whether they are one of the ten best looking teams in the nation is not.
#8 Stanford Cardinal (Road)
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Going with a nearly monochromatic uniform set is often a bad idea. A really bad idea. That risk is lessened, slightly, when it's an all white road set. If you're Stanford, however, it results in the Pac-12's best uniforms.
Wisely ditching the black trimmed uniforms that plagued the program during much of the 2000s, the Cardinal have returned (mostly) to focusing on the cardinal and white color scheme.
Save for primary numbers and a tiny "S" logo at the base of the collar - both in cardinal - the jerseys are pure white. No stripes. No shoulder numbers. Just white.
The white pants have dual cardinal stripes that nicely accent the rare cardinal occurrences of the jersey.
The topper is the white helmet, with the strong "S" logo and single cardinal stripe and facemask, completing the finest look of any West Coast team.
#7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Home)
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One of the most storied programs in the sport also has one of the most storied looks to accompany it's on-field success.
By now, everyone knows the tales of the real golden flakes included in the helmet paint and the tradition of the managers painting them weekly, but that doesn't make them any less special.
The basic and nameless navy jerseys have remained mostly constant through the years, although the current iteration has the interlocked "ND" logo on each shoulder.
Solid gold pants complete the barebones ensemble.
In a sport defined by tradition and at a school who lives in the past like no other, these jerseys stand as a perfect symbol of the past, present and future.
#6 Texas Longhorns (Home)
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A common theme among many of the historically successful programs is a uniform design that has remained essentially the same for decades.
Texas is yet another example.
The current home uniform is basically the same as when Earl Campbell was running roughshod over opponents.
The iconic Bevo the longhorn logo in burnt orange is the only thing on the all white helmet and it's all that is needed.
As for the classic burnt orange jersey, the only addition since Campbell's time is the addition of "TEXAS" above the primary numbers. The same white shoulder numbers and dual white stripes remain.
The pants are all white, further emphasizing the impact of the jersey color.
#5 Iowa Hawkeyes (Home)
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If you are going to model yourselves after an NFL team, you may as well pick the most successful and best dressed franchise to follow.
In 1979, Iowa head coach Hayden Frye sought and received permission to pattern the Hawkeyes after the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The classic combination of the black and gold serves Iowa well.
From the black helmet (veering from the Steelers by having logos on both sides) to the crisp gold pants with the lone black stripe, the Hawkeyes carry on a winning collegiate tradition firmly rooted in Super Bowl glory.
#4 Navy Midshipmen (Home)
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Our servicemen deserve the very best in every way, up to and including their football uniforms. The Naval Academy provides just that.
Long since removed from their days as a national power, the Midshipmen nonetheless maintain the classic navy and gold scheme in a simplistic home design that echoes tradition.
The navy jerseys have white numbers on the sleeves and "NAVY" (spelled correctly, unlike the road jersey) above the main number.
Below, the pants are simply sold gold with a navy "N" to the left hip.
Topping off this sterling look is a simple golden helmet with navy facemask. Unlike the eyesores they have rolled out on occasion of late, the home jerseys are among the very best in sports.
#3 Nebraska Cornhuskers (Home)
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Some teams have complicated helmet logos. Others have stylized lettering or even full names spelled out on their helmets.
Nebraska simply needs a basic, comparatively small "N" to let their opponents know they are in for a rough game.
In place since 1970, the Cornhuskers' helmet is perhaps the second most distinctive in the sport to Michigan. Only a change in facemask color in 1982 from grey to red has occured to these iconic helmets over the last 41 years.
The brilliant scarlet jerseys have two white sleeve stripes below the shoulder numbers. The dual scarlet striped white pants complete the white frame of the jersey for added impact.
With Nebraska's move to the Big Ten this season, the conference adds yet another entry to this list.
#2 Michigan Wolverines (Home)
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Another Big Ten team? Yes, but you knew the Wolverines were going to show up sooner or later.
Arguably the most iconic of all football helmets - college or pro - serve as the jewel of Michigan's look.
Designed by Fritz Crisler when he arrived at Michigan in 1938, the winged design was initially intended to make his receivers more recognizable downfield. That it did, but it also became one of the defining looks in all of sports.
The maize and blue scheme is synonymous with Wolverine football. The beautiful and simple blue jerseys are only interrupted by the distinctive golden numbers (in contrast to Michigan's white road jerseys which are befouled with unnecessary piping). The golden pants have but a single blue "M" near the left hip.
In total, it is one the best looks in all of sports, yet it is only in the second spot on this list. The number one honor goes to a fellow Big Ten rival...
#1 Penn State Nittany Lions (Home)
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When it comes to college football, perfection is found in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Who needs faux feathers on their shoulders? Who needs black alternates? Who even needs helmet logos?
Not the Nittany Lions, owners of the best uniform set in college football.
This timeless look hasn't changed for years and there's never been a need. Less is indeed more.
The white helmet with the single stripe. A sterling navy jersey with only white collar and sleeves borders as accents. Plain white pants.
What more do you need?
When it comes to this look, nothing.
Did Your Favorite Make the List?
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Rating uniforms is by nature entirely subjective. Yes, there are certain elements like color combinations, fonts, accents and such that everyone can agree on, but at it's core, it's all a matter of opinion.
Did your favorite make the list? Is this list too "old school" in nature? Is a team much too high or low for your tastes?
That's the wonderful thing about uniform debates - there is no definitive right or wrong (well, except Florida A&M). Let the debate begin. Post a comment with your favorite uniform now.