Big Ten Football: Power Ranking the Worst Alternate Uniforms
With the calendar turning to August, college football is right around the corner. As fall camp and practice news begins to trickle in from Big Ten country, some of the biggest announcements of the last two weeks have been the new threads some teams will try out for a big game.
Of course, this trend of specialty uniforms for a single game can be dated back to the early part of the last decade, but the craze really picked up since Ohio State wore the white road uniforms shown above during the 2009 Michigan game.
These uniforms are a marketing tool for recruits and young fans as much as they are honoring the traditions or championship teams. One only needs to look at the positive publicity and benefits experienced by Oregon and, more recently, Maryland to understand the benefits of showing off some crazy styles in football uniforms.
So let's take a ranking of the Worst 10 alternate uniforms presented by Big Ten teams from 2010 to this season. We start with the least offensive and end at the most atrocious (and probably most successful) uniform worn during this alternate uniform craze.
No. 10—Michigan State: 2011 vs. Michigan
The list of the worst alternate uniforms begins with Michigan State's offering from the rivalry game against Michigan a season ago. Both teams came in wearing alternate uniforms, but fans were already introduced to the bumblebee sleeves of the Wolverines in an earlier game.
The Spartans went away from normal school colors to wear a gold helmet and black trim, which actually looked pretty good for not being the usual green and white. Although the helmet does look like Notre Dame a bit, this uniform could be used again in the future, and not too many fans would be upset.
Solid work by the first uniform on the list, but it will get far worse than just looking a bit like Notre Dame and ignoring school colors.
No. 9—Ohio State: 2011 vs. Wisconsin
Ohio State has been prolific in the alternate jerseys since introducing one in 2009, using one for a big game every season. Last year's offering was a true scarlet and gray number that looked like a highly simplified version of the regular uniform.
However, the big scarlet triangle stripe on the helmets was an interesting touch. That helmet with a more modern looking jersey could be great, but OSU focuses on historical throwback styles with these alternate jerseys. That leads them to be simple overall.
Considering the gray of the school colors has been cut from the actual shirt of the current jersey, it was a nice addition to this jersey, even if the execution was not perfect. Not terrible, overall!
No. 8—Michigan: 2011 vs. Notre Dame
Ah yes, and now we have those aforementioned bumblebee sleeves. Michigan decided to jump in the alternate uniform mix last season and ended up with a historic comeback victory to celebrate in these uniforms. A big block "M" on the front of the jersey was jarring, but actually looked pretty good on the field.
The shoulder sleeve stripes may have been intended to call homage to the iconic Michigan winged helmet, but it just clashed with the helmet. All that being said, the uniforms looked a lot better than the green and gold silliness that Notre Dame brought to Ann Arbor that night.
Sometimes you only have to be less ugly than your opponent to look good. Michigan could do without those sleeves, but the block "M" might come back someday.
No. 7—Iowa: 2010 vs. Ball State
The Pittsburgh Steelers played against Ball State in Iowa City back in 2010 for some reason. Oh wait, those were the Iowa Hawkeyes? I guess that made the location make more sense, although the 45-0 game result probably could have been the pro team.
Iowa went with a true throwback uniform to the 1980s with a similar overall design to the current black and gold uniforms. Instead of white numbers, the gold numbers matched nicely with the yellow helmets.
This was a pretty good looking uniform, but it was a bit plain Jane and so ranks closer to the worst than some of those already covered in this list. This will not be the last we see of Iowa though...
No. 6—Ohio State: 2010 vs. Michigan
Ohio State went back to the 1950s and 1960s with the home throwback uniform against Michigan the year after they started this firestorm of alternate uniforms. These were pretty much just a red/scarlet version of the white uniforms worn in 2009.
Unfortunately, the red version did not look nearly as good as the white ones did. The red looked more like Wisconsin or Indiana than Ohio State, and the non-gray helmets are jarring compared to the iconic gray normal helmets.
Plus, the game was an absolute snoozer in the last battle for Rich Rodriguez and Jim Tressel. This would have competed for the worst alternate uniform so far, but here comes 2012 with a vengeance for the top of this list.
No. 5—Iowa: 2012 vs. Iowa State
The train wrecks of 2012 begin to take over this list with this offering by Iowa. Following up on the throwbacks that looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Iowa will try to look like a snazzy Purdue team in the rivalry against the Cyclones this year.
The old gold helmets are a bit too Notre Dame, but the jerseys themselves could look pretty decent on the players. These are just not quite Iowa's colors, and that takes points away compared to the admittedly uglier throwbacks from 2010.
It will be interesting to see if Iowa goes with something similar or completely different against Purdue. It could be mighty confusing if they choose this color of gold again for that "rivalry" game. I guess we really would call it the "Black and Gold Bowl" then.
No. 4—Michigan: 2012 vs. Alabama
So Michigan liked the alternate uniforms from last year so much that they are back for more in 2012. Thankfully, the awful bumblebee sleeves have been removed from the jerseys.
Despite this improvement, the only real difference from the normal road uniforms is a big yellow stripe across the top and shoulders. This is only a subtle change and not enough of one to energize recruits or a fanbase.
Why not just stay with the normal road uniforms if this is the best you can do for alternate jerseys?
No. 3—Wisconsin: 2012 vs. Nebraska
Now the heavy hitters of atrocities fill the list. Hot off the presses this week is Wisconsin's complement to Nebraska's shocking uniforms for their game this year. Just like the Nebraska uniforms (and Michigan before both of them), Wisconsin has decided to put a classic non-stylized "W" across the front of the jersey instead of numbers.
This looks pretty silly, but couple that with the change to the same "W" on the red helmets, and Wisconsin looks a bit like a generic "West" football team in video games of old. Just say no, Wisconsin fans. Don't encourage bad designs by buying this thing.
"Sconnie Nation" can do better! But for this list, they are less awful than Nebraska.
No. 2—Northwestern: Road 2012
Northwestern will debut new uniforms including a big stripe across the center for both road and home this season. The purple jersey with the black stripe is a subtle touch that does not look too bad.
But the road whites look very different with the big purple stripe across the black numbers. I understand that the stripe is a Northwestern history lesson, but this simply looks like a cheap rugby uniform. Ditch the stripe, Wildcats!
At least for the road uniforms, these look silly for football uniforms.
No. 1—Nebraska: 2012 vs. Wisconsin
In the words of Adam Jacobi or Darth Vader: Noooooo! No. No. No. The big "N" stands for NO!
Nebraska will shock the conscience by wearing this big fat "N" across the chest. If that were not shocking enough, the black helmets go away from the iconic Nebraska whites.
Although Nebraska and Wisconsin normally have a similar appearance, their choice to take similar uniforms on for this game makes both look like a joke. Hopefully this is a one-time deal that is quickly forgotten. Yikes, Nebraska. Yikes!