College football: Which team has the best uniforms in each conference?
Everyone is familiar with the saying "dress to impress," whether one is preparing for a job interview, social function or an important date. Well, the same applies on the college football field.
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Some new looks are a major hit that fans love. Some fall short. Some programs stick to classic looks that honor their storied traditions while others find fresh and creative twists and use vibrant colors to make waves in the uniform department. In both cases, there are many uniforms that have become woven into the fabric of how fans see a program -- pun intended.
Listed below are the top looks from each FBS conference.
American Athletic Conference – Cincinnati
Cincy takes the top spot in the AAC with its always-reliable color combination of red and black. The Bearcats switched to Under Armour last year and the results have proved positive with some subtle changes in attire.
The all-white uniforms seen in Week 1 were nothing too special, but Cincinnati’s black and red alternate uniforms are both at the top of the class within the conference.
The all-black uniforms were introduced last season and were slightly altered versions of its previous black Adidas uniforms before the school’s brand switch. The numbers are sharp, the stripe pattern on the pants and helmet is appealing and the Under Armour gloves are well-designed.
Then there’s the red jerseys that were unveiled this offseason. Across the Cincinnati athletic department, red was reintroduced as the school’s prominent color after years of switching to black.
This “ArmouRED” line is a home run that features a nice red tone with black sleeves. Switching its primary color was definitely a good choice.
As for the cartoon bear – or bearcat? – logo now featured on the uniform sleeves, we’ll take off some points for that.
But overall, in a slightly subpar conference in terms of attire, Cincinnati is still No. 1.
Atlantic Coastal Conference – Florida State
There’s a lot to like about the jersey combinations across the ACC. There’s the powder blue get-ups that have become synonymous with North Carolina athletics, the oddly-appealing orange-green combo from Miami (Fla.) and the sleek orange and purple jerseys at Clemson among other options.
But Florida State is the cream of the crop.
Sporting garnet and gold – and sometimes black – the Seminoles’ gear haven’t changed too much the past few seasons, but have subtlety gotten sharper and sharper.
Clean. pic.twitter.com/DEbxlWXlRc— FSU Football (@FSU_Football) September 5, 2016
The major change has been adding garnet sleeves to its white uniforms and changing its numbers from red with a gold trim to gold with a red trim. The combination simply works.
Then there’s the constant feature in its golden helmets with a red and white spear tip going across. It’s a unique symbol that has also been perfected, as it’s been given a glossier shine.
The Seminoles’ uniform is just one of the many iconic examples that have been given a modern enhancement that will be found on this list.
Big 12 – Texas
Speaking of classic get-ups, Texas boasts one of the most recognizable and appealing uniforms in the nation.
It’s quite a simple, unchanged kit – burnt orange jerseys, white pants and a white helmet with an orange Longhorns outline – but boy does it look good.
The same compliments about the jersey’s rich tradition and simplicity can be said about the Longhorns’ bitter rivals in Oklahoma, but there’s just something about that particular shade of orange that gives Texas the edge.
Also, it’s hard to talk about the Big 12 without at least acknowledging Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are one of many programs that embrace change and put out different varieties of their orange and black colors to positive results. While many schools fail in their attempt to keep their jerseys fresh, Oklahoma State finds a way to make it work.
Between the Longhorns and Cowboys, orange reigns supreme in the Big 12.
Big Ten – Michigan
Much like how they’ll battle for the conference championship on the field this season, rivals Michigan and Ohio State are also in a tough competition for the league’s best uniform.
Maize and blue. Scarlet and white. Both are engrained in the history of each successful program.
But I’ll give the edge to the Wolverines, who unveiled their new Jumpman set inspired by Jordan brand that honors the uniform’s tradition while also taking it to the next level.
The number and letter font is slightly different than those on the program’s previous Adidas jerseys while the color scheme and basic pattern remain the same.
Michigan already announced that it will wear no special alternate jerseys this season, and why would you when your standard apparel looks this good?
Conference USA – Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers have a similar color scheme as Cincinnati with its red and black combination. Their red jerseys with black sleeves and numbers and white jerseys with red sleeves and numbers are a safe play that is still miles ahead of most of its rather bland conference competitors.
But what puts Western Kentucky over the edge is its reflective chrome helmets that were instituted in 2013.
This is a unique feature that isn’t seen a whole lot in a nation full of white or solid helmets. It’s definitely an awesome addition and I wouldn’t be surprised if more programs go that route with its new helmet designs in the future.
Independent – Notre Dame
Is there a more iconic jersey nationwide than the ones Notre Dame continue to rock with pride?
It’s hard to think of any other option. Gold helmets, gold pants and a white or navy uniform has been a part of the Fighting Irish’s tradition for as long as most can remember and there hasn’t been much need for change in this classic look.
Whether you love the Irish or hate them, it can’t be denied that Notre Dame has one of the top uniforms in the nation – not just among the four FBS independents – and it serves as a great reminder of the program’s rich history that stretches back to 1887.
And what makes Notre Dame’s get-up even more impressive is its balance in preserving its traditional appearance with exploration into modern trends.
The Fighting Irish have worn some interesting alternate green jerseys sparsely over the years and even introduced a new combination for its annual Shamrock Series matchup with Army on Nov. 12. It’s definitely a new look that even features an illustration of the motif found above the Basilica doorway on its golden helmets.
FIRST LOOK: Notre Dame "Shamrock Series" uniform pic.twitter.com/87K52YaiMt— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 21, 2016
It’s a pretty good guess Notre Dame will stick to its usual uniforms for many more years, but its occasional alternate uniforms are always a treat as well.
Mid-American Conference – Bowling Green
28 wins and three MAC Championship appearances in three years. Time for the seniors to add to the legacy. pic.twitter.com/cWvXXetKjy— BG Football (@BG_Football) August 16, 2016
This was a tough call, as there’s no real eye-popper to go with in the MAC. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few good options.
I already talked about some red, white and black uniforms, so I’ll stray away from Ball State’s decent set. Then there’s Toledo, with its predominantly navy with some gold look that deserves some attention.
But I’ll lean with Bowling Green and its orange, brown and white color scheme.
The Falcons have gone lighter on the brown – as it is mainly used as outlines on numbers and its white helmet stripes – and put more of a focus on the white and orange, which is a good thing.
The shade of orange is quite different than the Longhorns’ burnt shade, as Bowling Green’s version really stands out with its brightness. It plays well off of a clean white and is definitely the most colorful scheme in the conference.
A subtle feature that adds to the uniform is its small orange wings that appear on both shoulders.
Overall, Bowling Green’s combination is colorful while staying easy on the eyes. Its orange jerseys fall short of the likes of Texas, Clemson and others, but it definitely belongs at the top of the MAC.
Mountain West – San Diego State
This was a toss-up between the two best teams on the field too in Boise State and San Diego State.
The Broncos’ blue jerseys with grey numbers and orange outlines is definitely a good look even if its camouflage with its unusual blue home field doesn’t help its case. Either way, I’m going with the Aztecs in this battle.
San Diego State may have won last year’s competition for best new jersey after revealing its slick red, black and white combos thanks to Nike. The highlight of the gear was its helmet – a black facemask with a red helmet and an Aztec calendar design on the sides.
Talk about creativity.
The change was a victory, while the Aztecs also found equal success on the field as it won the conference title. This year there were no major changes to the uniform design, which was an excellent decision.
Before moving to the next conference, it’s important to recognize Air Force’s outstanding alternate sharktooth design that it will show off this Saturday against Georgia State.
The helmet pays homage to the shark face design seen on World War II fighter planes and is simply awesome. Unfortunately, as of now, we’ll only see this uniform this weekend, which is why the Falcons don’t represent the Mountain West on this list.
Let’s hope that changes though so we can see the sharktooth line on more than one occasion.
Pac-12 – Oregon
Did you expect any other team to fill this spot?
The Pac-12 is littered with fashionable jerseys like that of USC and UCLA, but the Ducks have changed the game in terms of coming up with innovative new jerseys seemingly every week.
You never know what Oregon will suit up in next, but it’s always guaranteed that the Ducks will look good in some combination of green and yellow.
After going with a grey jersey with yellow numbers in Week 1, Oregon has already released a preview of the new design the program will boast in Week 2 against Virginia.
This newest set includes eye-catching yellow jerseys and pants with grey numbers and a black helmet with a yellow duck logo rather than its traditional “O” logo.
It’ll be a treat as always to see what Oregon throws out next and how it tops the previous design. This intriguing variability lands the Ducks in elite uniform company.
Southeastern Conference – LSU
It’s difficult not to go with Alabama in this spot. Its simple Crimson and white jerseys with bland white numbers on its helmets is so symbolic of the program and its simple yet extremely effective process of going about things.
But I’ll go with the program with similar history in its uniform but with a little extra flair.
LSU stands out whether at home or on the road with their white, purple and yellow uniforms. The colors serve as a nice nod to the Louisiana area – with its typical Mardi Gras color scheme minus green – and unlike Alabama, the Tigers maintain a classic look that is still eye-popping with its appealing shades.
LSU has been wise in typically not deviating to any alternate jerseys over the years. Its white jerseys with purple numbers, yellow pants and helmet and yellow and purple sleeve stripes remain one of the best options in the game.
Sun Belt – Troy
There’s nothing much to rave about when it comes to Sun Belt uniforms across the board, but Troy released some nice-looking changes before last year that are a good look.
The Trojans went from a basic cardinal red and black design to a more modern, slick take on the scheme in addition to a new sword “T” logo on three different helmets.
The white jersey with red numbers is a sleek look that uses a silver chrome helmet similar to WKU that complements the whole set nicely. As for the all-grey alternate uniform with red helmets, it works well, even though grey jerseys usually fall short.
Troy’s change last year was a huge improvement over the programs’ previous basic look and it skyrocketed it to the top of the Sun Belt jersey rankings.