Best Facemask and Helmet Designs in College Football

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 24:  Jalen Hurd #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers rushes against Ryan Anderson #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Typically, aesthetics are overlooked in college football until a program unveils something spectacularly bad.

And sometimes the new look is really bad.

Instead of focusing on the unfortunate, though, we're taking a brief offseason moment to commend teams for paying attention to headwear—and in some cases not messing with it.

While a No. 1 spot is awarded, this list is not a ranking of the best helmets. Rather, the focus is on identifying the best categories and trends of helmets and facemasks in college football today.


5. Multicolored Facemasks

Thanks to Phil Knight and Nike, Oregon sits atop the uniform rankings. The program literally has thousands of possible combinations yet still breaks out new gear seemingly every weekend.

But the Ducks' facemasks are also ahead of the game.

Without a doubt, there's a decent amount of risk here. This feature could be abused in a hurry, but one example is quite tasteful. Oregon's silver wings blend into the primary yellow.

CORVALLIS, OR - NOVEMBER 29: As offensive lineman Cameron Hunt #78 of the Oregon Ducks leads the way, running back Royce Freeman #21 of the Oregon Ducks runs the ball for a touchdown during the second of the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Rival Oregon State has flaunted a comparable look. While the Ducks' design goes from outside in, the stripes on the Beavers' helmets continue down onto the fasemask.

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 10:  Quarterback Seth Collins #4 of the Oregon State Beavers warms up prior to the college game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

However, the question is which program's twist will be met with a negative review—something that seems imminent.

You're pushing it, Miami (Ohio).

John Minchillo/Associated Press


4. Extra-Large Logos

Most helmet designs are perfectly symmetrical. No matter which side you're looking at, it's the same thing.

Recently, though, boundaries have started to get pushed. The 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between Boise State and Georgia—which also featured a multicolored facemask—displayed helmets with extra-large logos on one side and a number on the other.

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 03:  D.J. Harper #7 of the Boise State Broncos rushes upfield against the Georgia Bulldogs at Georgia Dome on September 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Among others, Arizona State has joined the trend.

TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 10: Wide receiver Devin Lucien #15 of the Arizona State Sun Devils (right) celebrates his third quarter touchdown with quarterback Mike Bercovici #2 during the college football game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Sun Devil Stadium o
Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Boise State remains no stranger to sporting the massive logo, but the program combined it with a personal favorite, too.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 31:  Running back Jeremy McNichols #13 is congratulated in the end zone by quarterback Brett Rypien #4 of the Boise State Broncos after McNichols ran for a 40-yard touchdown against the UNLV Rebels during their game at Sam Boyd Sta
Ethan Miller/Getty Images


3. Matte or Flat-Black Helmets

Chrome is fine, but a non-glossy black helmet is terrific.

Boise State showcased Halloween-themed digs against UNLV last season, complete with an orange eye for the Broncos logo. They also sported a great look in the 2012 MAACO Bowl.

This trend is catching on with stops all over the country. The list includes representatives from the ACC (North Carolina), Big Ten (Northwestern and Purdue), Big 12 (Baylor), MAC (Buffalo), Pac-12 (Utah and Washington) and SEC (Missouri), and that's certainly not all.

Here are some examples, like Missouri's back in 2013:

COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 26:  Running back Russell Hansbrough #32 of the Missouri Tigers rushes with the ball against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half on October 26, 2013 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by P
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

North Carolina busts out the helmet on occasion:

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

And finally, Northwestern:

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 18: Solomon Vault #15 of the Northwestern Wildcats runs against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Ryan Field on October 18, 2014 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


2. Timeless Classics

Despite the fancy and often good-looking upgrades teams receive today, they'll simply never match or overtake tradition.

Each school listed in this section falls under the "blue blood" category—a program that has participated in college football for a long time and is basically revered as royalty in the sport.

Although the helmet design changes, the design of the helmet doesn't need alterations. When players put on this helmet, they're wearing something that exemplifies the history of the program.

"Simple, yet elegant" defines this group, starting with Alabama:

Nov 7, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) stiff-arms LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) during the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska dropped the "U" from its helmet in 1970 and hasn't changed:

Sep 26, 2015; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp (1) gestures after scoring a touchdown against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Spo
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame underwent an "exhaustive" process to make sure the helmet's color properly replicated the Golden Dome on campus, per its official site:

Sep 5, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) handles the snap as holder on a place kick in the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 38-3. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cash
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State complements the black-, white- and red-striped helmet with Buckeye stickers— a tradition legendary head coach Woody Hayes started in 1968, per the school:

Nov 7, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Joel Hale (51) and linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5)  waits for the Minnesota Golden Gophersto break the huddle at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 28-14. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bart
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Here's Penn State—and a bonus second appearance by Northwestern's beautiful non-glossy black helmet.

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 07: Saquon Barkley #26 is wrapped up by Godwin Igwebuike #16 of the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on November 7, 2015 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by JonathanDaniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Lastly, here's Tennessee's renowned block "T":

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 11:  Jalen Hurd #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers participates in warmups prior to a game against the Chattanooga Mocs at Neyland Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 45-10.  (Photo by Stacy Reve
Stacy Revere/Getty Images


1. The Winged Helmet

Relativity is a funny thing. Imagine for a moment Michigan releasing the design today, and it wouldn't be surprising if the reception wasn't all that great.

However, the winged helmet dates back to 1938, according to the school. Thanks to that history, the pattern is synonymous with college football and should never, ever be touched.

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Jehu Chesson #86 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates with teammates De'Veon Smith #4 and Jake Rudock #15 after catching a second quarter touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in A
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Delaware and Princeton also wear similar versions of the winged helmet, a practice which Paul Lukas of Uni-Watch noted doesn't have an official beginning, though a version existed at Michigan State in 1934.

Wolverines and Spartans fans may proceed to argue about that, but there's no denying the Maize and Blue popularized the most recognizable look in college football.