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Uni Watch: College football preview

Originally Published: August 27, 2013
By Paul Lukas | ESPN.com

Notre Dame, Baylor, and Nebraska Courtesy of Nike, AdidasNew uniforms from Notre Dame, Baylor and Nebraska are among this year's many changes.

By now you know the drill: Every year around this time we publish the Uni Watch college football season-preview column and announce that it's "the biggest one ever!"

That's because more and more schools are coming out with new uniforms on a near-annual basis. We haven't yet reached the point at which all 126 FBS teams have new unis for a given season, but we're getting close.

Uni Watch

So, sure enough: The Uni Watch college football season-preview rundown that you're about to read is our biggest one ever! We'll fill you in on all the new FBS jerseys, helmets, patches, decals and anything else uni- or logo-related. Along the way, we'll also debunk a few uniform rumors that have been floating around in recent months and get you caught up on all the uni-related rule changes and conference switcheroos.

Before we get to that, though, there's one sport-wide trend worth noting: Many of the new adidas jerseys this season have these weird feathered patterns. Call them stretch marks, call them tread marks, call them tire marks -- by any name, fans don't like them, at least judging by the emails that have been coming in at Uni Watch HQ.

OK, now it's time for our team-by-team rundown. As you'll see, we're showing many of these items as embedded tweets. For all of those, you can click on the photo to get to a separate Twitter page and then click on the photo again to see a larger version.

Ready? Deep breath -- here we go:

American Athletic

All teams in this new conference will be wearing this conference logo patch design in team colors.

Cincinnati has changed the uni numbers on its black jersey from white to gray. (No changes for the white jersey, plus there's a red set that hasn't been unveiled yet.) Also: The pants have a new claw-mark design. Also also: The Bearcats have been wearing white helmets in practice, but a school spokesperson says there's no word yet on whether they'll be worn for a game.

• Down at Houston, the Cougars have put alternating red and white panels just about everywhere they can think of. Additional photos and info here.

Louisville has a new number font and shorter sleeve stripes. The Cardinals have also added a set of black pants to their wardrobe options:

Also: The Cardinals are going with a raised nose bumper.

Memphis has a new look trimmed in tiger stripes (you can see the striping patterns more clearly in this mock-up). A closer look at the new chrome helmet, along with an additional helmet design not shown in the other photos, is available here.

Temple is assigning single-digit uniform numbers to the "toughest" players on the team.

UCF has switched to a more no-nonsense approach (here's a closer look at the gold jersey). In addition, the Knights now have an alternate helmet.

UConn isn't a football powerhouse, but a lot of people may be talking about them this season anyway. The school has a new logo, which is the basis for the season's most audacious new helmet design. The Huskies also have new jerseys and pants, but nobody's even going to notice that because all eyes will be on the helmet. (One note: In that last photo link, you can see a two versions of the helmet -- one white and one blue. The white design is the primary helmet, with the blue design reserved for occasional use.)

• No uni changes for USF, but here are this year's gloves, several of which look pretty cool:



ACC

• Looks like ACC teams are getting a new conference logo patch design this season.

Boston College coach Steve Addazio has decided to remove the players' names from their jerseys. Further info here.

Florida State is the latest team to move away from shiny pants. It's because of a new lightweight material.

• No uni changes for Miami, but here are this year's cleats:

NC State has adjusted its chest mark. Also, the pants now have stripes and there are two helmet options.

Pitt and Florida State, which open the season against each other on Labor Day, will both be wearing helmet decals to raise awareness of a children's blood disease:

• The number 44 is retired at Syracuse, and with good reason -- it was worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little (although Little would like to see it unretired). That heritage will be honored this season on the team's gloves:

UNC has changed its helmet logo and facemask from white to black. And those aren't the only black elements on the team's new uniforms. Yikes! They'll be wearing that solid-black uni on Oct. 17 against Miami. Additional photos here.

• According to this article, Virginia Tech will wear "a small logo of [the school's War Memorial] on their helmets this season, as well as a large logo for one game during the year." No visuals yet. Also, the Hokies will wear autumnal camouflage helmets on Sept. 21 against Marshall.

• Two new helmet options for Wake Forest: white and matte black.



Big Ten

Illinois, coming off a brutal 2-10 season, has revamped its orange helmet. This will be the team's primary headgear in 2013, with the matte blue helmet serving as an alternate. Expect a big redesign of the entire program in 2014.

• In a surprising move, Indiana -- Indiana! -- has gone helmet-crazy, with six different options to choose from:

You can read more about the these helmets here.

Iowa is switching to Nike's Flywire collar.

• If you're one of those purists who hate Michigan's alternate uniforms, you can rest easy -- they won't be worn this season, and the school plans to ease off on alternate designs in the future. Meanwhile, here are the players who'll wear the team's "Legends" uni numbers this season.

• In one of the season's more controversial uniform developments, Nebraska will wear a black uniform on Sept. 14 against UCLA:

Meanwhile, a few notable items about Nebraska players' names: First, Drake Martinez has joined older brother Taylor on the roster, but only Drake will wear a first initial. And new recruit Johnny Stanton IV will wear a Roman numeral.

Also noteworthy: Taylor Martinez has been wearing a captain's "C" on his practice jersey. Unusual to see that on practice attire.

Finally, here are this season's cleats, which look pretty sharp:

Northwestern will be wearing solid white, including a new white helmet with raised nose bumper lettering, for the season opener at Cal on Aug. 31:

• Interesting move by Ohio State, which has added seven little buckeye symbols -- one for each of the school's national championships -- to the back neckline of its jerseys. Also: The Buckeyes have adopted Nike's Flywire collar, appear to be going with thinner black stripes on the pants, and have a new nameplate font (look at the "S").

• Huge change for Penn State -- well, at least by Penn State standards -- which has added the Nittany Lion logo to the base of the jersey collar. Also: The players' names, which were added to the jerseys last season, are here to stay.

Wisconsin has introduced a color-flipped alternate helmet (same design as their primary, but the red parts are white and vice versa), which will be worn Sept. 7 against Tennessee Tech and possibly for other games:

In addition, the Badgers have moved their TV numbers from the sleeves to the shoulders and are wearing an "Otis" helmet decal in memory of former team manager Kevin Green, whose nickname was Otis. He died in a car crash in June.



Big 12

Baylor has a snazzy new uni set, highlighted by a gold helmet (which even has its own gold chinstraps!). There's a matte black helmet, too. It's a safe bet that neither of those helmets will be worn Dec. 7 against Texas, when Baylor will be wearing 1950 throwbacks, part of the Bears' season-long celebration of Floyd Casey Stadium's final season.

For further info about the new uniforms, check out this behind-the-scenes video segment:

Iowa State will be wearing spectacular 1920s throwbacks -- including striped socks! -- on Sept. 14 against Iowa:

Further info on these throwbacks can be found here.

• Big doings afoot at Kansas, where coach Charlie Weis has scrapped the team's "KU" helmet design and replaced it with a cavalcade of headwear options. Note that three of the helmets feature the familiar smiling Jayhawk, while the red one has the snarling "Warhawk" character, which dates back to World War II. And if all those helmets aren't enough to make your head spin, this video showing the various uniform combinations probably will:

Dizzy yet? Here's a slightly less disorienting view of the uniform combos.

Also: As you can see, the blue and white jerseys have the Jayhawk logo patch at the base of the collar and the adidas logo near the shoulder, which is the same as last year. But in a more recently tweeted photo, the two logos' positions have been reversed. That photo shows the feathered stretch marks that most adidas-outfitted schools are wearing this season, so it's probably legit and up-to-date.

Finally, there's going to be a new blue jersey with red trim. It hasn't been officially unveiled yet, but a team spokesperson says "it's safe to say" that it will be "pretty similar" to this replica that's shown up in the campus bookstore:

Kansas State is one of several schools going with a raised nose bumper logo this season.

TCU will be wearing a special black uniform with a new helmet for the season opener against LSU on Aug. 31.

• A few minor adjustments for Texas: a new collar logo, and the TV numbers have moved from the sleeves to the shoulders. Also: The Longhorns now have raised lettering on their nose bumpers. And in a late-breaking development, beat reporter Kirk Bohls is reporting that the Longhorns will wear TV numbers on their helmets for this Saturday's season opener against New Mexico state, with the players then voting on whether to keep them for the rest of the season.

• Over at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders are no longer red. The shoulder stripes, which sort of resemble check marks, are supposed to evoke the team's "Guns Up" gesture. Just in case anyone's missing the point, "Guns Up" is also printed on the pants, helmet, and base layer. Lots of additional photos here.

West Virginia has switched from one Nike template to another. Three hemets now, too (all matte), each of which can be mixed and matched with the three jerseys and three sets of pants, leading to 27 possible combinations. Additional photos here. Also: The Mountaineers' nose bumper now has a raised logo. And in a late-breaking news item, WVU will be wearing a helmet decal to mark the state's sesquicentennial.

• Looking ahead, the conference will have a new logo in 2014.

• And if you're wondering what Big 12 players think of the conference's uniforms, here are the results of an unscientific but very interesting poll.



Conference USA

All teams will be wearing a new design for the conference jersey patch. Additional examples here.

FAU has moved to Conference USA this year and is marking the occasion with new helmets. Interesting to see that they put a logo on one side and TV numbers on the other.

• Lots of stuff for Louisiana Tech, including the "T" on the helmet changing from white to red; a new uni number font; a stars and stripes helmet, to be worn Sept. 27 against Army; and -- get this -- team-branded mouth guards with the players' names baked in:

Middle Tennessee State has added a white alternate helmet, plus there's a stars-and-stripes version that will be worn Nov. 9 against FIU:

• Nice move by North Texas, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its football program by wearing this throwback design for the season opener against Idaho on Aug. 31.

Southern Miss has new shoulder stripes and a "shattered" number font. Crazy two-tone pants, too (additional photos here). Last but not least, the team held a fan vote to choose a new alternate helmet. The winning design is shown below:

• Several Tulane-related photos have been circulating lately -- one showing an assortment of new helmets and another showing a gray jersey. But a team spokesman says these were only for recruiting purposes and that the team currently has no uniform changes in the works, "although that's always subject to change." (Probable translation: They'll break out some sort of alternate helmet and/or jersey this season but aren't yet ready to talk about it.)

• Of all the chrome helmets that have surfaced over the past year or so, none looks better than the one Tulsa has added to its helmet rotation. Sweet! Meanwhile, some adjustments have made to the jerseys, which now have Nike's Flywire collar, repositioned TV numbers, revised sleeve/shoulder designs. New chest mark for the home jersey, too.

UTSA (newly moved to Conference USA from the WAC) broke out a new helmet for last year's season finale against Texas State. That design is now the team's primary helmet.



Independents

Army has added a set of black pants.

• Crazy times at BYU, where the Cougars briefly floated the idea of replacing the names on their jerseys with inspirational messages:

Reaction on social media was so swift and so negative that the team quickly backed off of the plan. The inspirational nameplates will be worn only for the homecoming game on Oct. 12 against Georgia Tech, with the players' names used for the rest of the schedule.

Meanwhile, BYU will be wearing royal blue throwbacks on Sept. 21 against Utah:

New Mexico State has had one of the most boring helmets in college football for years now. But that certainly won't be the case this season (if the slideshow below doesn't work, click here):

One other change this season for the Aggies: They'll be adding player names to their jerseys.

Notre Dame's annual Shamrock Series game will be played on Oct. 5 against Arizona State, and this season's one-off uniform isn't bad. Here's a good view of the cleats, along with a video that shows additional views of the uniform:

Meanwhile, the Irish have also made a small change to their standard uniforms, although you won't be able to see it on the field: They've added their team name to their jerseys' inner collars.

Old Dominion is making the jump to FBS status this year and is celebrating with new uniforms, including a matte helmet with chrome decals. You can see larger photos of the helmet here.



MAC

• The "Worst New Uni of the Year" award goes to Buffalo, which has -- well, here, see for yourself. The Bulls will also be wearing a matte blue helmet, but that will no doubt be overshadowed by the jerseys.

Kent State has dropped the dated jersey piping and is going with a more classic jersey design.

• Have you ever looked at Miami (Ohio)'s uniforms and thought to yourself, "Hmmm, I wonder which school that is?" You certainly won't have that problem this season.

• No new uniforms for Ohio, but the Bobcats' field has new turf.

• Toledo has eliminated the outlining on its chest mark and uni numbers.

• Unfortunate move by Western Michigan, which has dropped the shoulder stripes and made brown the primary color. Additional info, including an unveiling video, is here.



Mountain West

Boise State's helmet has had the school's bronco illustration on the left side and a uni number on the right, but now, it's going to be the other way around. Meanwhile, the team has put out a series of charts telling fans which color to wear to each game, which should give a hint of what the team will be wearing.

Colorado State has switched from Russell Athletic to Under Armour, but the resulting uniform change is nothing drastic. Good-looking set, although the socks have these weird tapered vertical stripes.

• There are several dates to circle on Fresno State's schedule this season. For the Bulldogs' home opener on Aug. 29 against Rutgers, they'll wear solid white, including a new white helmet. On Sept. 7 against Cal Poly, they'll wear green-accented wristbands and socks to represent the Central Valley's agricultural history. On Oct. 19 against UNLV, they'll wear throwback helmets. And on Nov. 2 against Nevada, they'll wear blackout uniforms.

• Nice upgrade for Nevada, which has dropped all the extraneous nonsense and gotten back to basics. Additional photos here, and here's a closer look at the new white helmet.

Utah State has a new matte helmet:

San Diego State is going with a somewhat more traditional look. Also, two adjustments to the Aztecs' helmet: They've removed the word "State" from the side logos, and they've added a back decal for the SDSU student section, which is called the Show:

• No uni changes this season for Wyoming, but the Cowboys do have a new field design. Additional images and info here.



Pac-12

• A new NCAA rule prohibits the use of uniform numbers that fade from one color to another, but Arizona requested and received a one-year waiver on that rule, which will allow the Wildcats to wear this new set. In addition to the two helmets shown in that last photo, there will also be red and copper headwear options (the copper one will be worn for the season opener against Northern Arizona on Aug. 30), and all helmets will be equipped with the best 3-D nose bumper of the season. Meanwhile, the team's "Bear Down" slogan has now been sublimated on the field.

• No changes this season for Arizona State, but you can see what the Sun Devils are planning to wear for each game here.

Cal is going with a much-simpler approach, at least at first glance. A closer look reveals lots of subtle details, including the school's new bear logo being sublimated on the uni numbers and sleeves.

• What would a new college football season be without some uni news from Oregon? For starters, the Ducks appear to have a new chrome helmet and are planning to go all-yellow for the first time in several years:

In addition, the Ducks appear to be moving toward a lighter shade of green, which you can also see here (the pants are new):
The Ducks probably have more surprises in store for us, but for now you can get a sense of how they'll be suiting up by consulting this "What to Wear to the Game" guide.

Oregon State now has striped helmets and striped shoulders. Look closely and you'll see they even striped the facemasks! You can see it better -- along with the new helmet logo -- in this close-up.

• Nothing new for Stanford, but the school plans to retire John Elway's number on Nov. 7.

• No design changes for UCLA, but the Bruins' jersey shows a particularly good view of adidas' new feathered stretch marks, which can be found on many of the company's jerseys this season. Meanwhile, in the rumor-busting department, coach Jim Mora tweeted a photo showing the team's white road jersey paired with white pants, instead of the Bruins' traditional road pants, but a school spokesperson says there are no current plans for this look to be used on the field.

• Only one teeny-tiny change for USC: The Trojans will be using raised lettering on their nose bumpers.

Utah has added a memorial helmet decal for defensive end Gaius Vaenuku, who was killed in a car accident on July 30:

• Nothing new for Washington, but here's something that nonetheless qualifies as uni-related news: The team's helmet cart -- a longstanding part of game-day tradition at Husky Stadium -- has been donated to a museum.



SEC

Alabama has added a memorial helmet decal for former athletic director Mal Moore, who died back in March:

• Last season's Arkansas uniform numbers faded from one color to another, but new NCAA regulations mandate the use of consistently contrasting numerals, so the Razorbacks have complied by going with solid numbers. Also: The logo on the white alternate helmet has been changed from white to red. Also also: No more anthracite jerseys.

Florida has a new number font and a raised nose bumper logo. And in a very interesting development, the little gator's-head jersey patch appears to have changed from embroidered thread to plastic. Is this the future of patches?

Georgia has created a new design system for its entire athletics program, and that includes the football team, which now has a new number typeface and a thicker collar. Everything else is unchanged.

• Photos circulating earlier this year indicated that Kentucky was experimenting with a gray jersey and a black helmet, but coach Mark Stoops said later that the black helmet probably won't be worn this season (search on the word "helmet" to see his full quote), and a school spokesperson says, "No decisions have been made" about the gray jerseys. He adds that the school has no other uniform changes to report.

• For last season's bowl game against Clemson, LSU wore new jerseys with longer shoulder stripes and a narrower number font. That design will now be the Tigers' primary look for 2013. Also: You might soon be seeing a new logo on LSU fan apparel.

• It's not uncommon to see a team put a slogan on its nose bumper, or on the inner jersey collar, or even on a pant leg. But over at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs are taking the bolder step of wearing a slogan as the chest mark on their new rivalry uniform, which will be worn in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss on Thanksgiving Night, Nov. 28:

• They said it couldn't be done, but Ole Miss did it anyway: shoulder stripes that actually wrap all the way to the armpit. Halle-freakin'-lujah! Are you listening, UCLA? Additional photos here.

• Upgrade for South Carolina, which has toned down the nonsense on its jerseys. Striped socks, too! Additional photos here.

• Over at Tennessee, the Vols have made some subtle changes to their home uni (the adidas chest logo is now white and above the "Power T" logo; the interior edges of the uni numbers are now rounded, to match the rounded edges of the Power T; and a little Tennessee state patch has been added above the nameplate). Subtle changes to the road uni, too (the adidas logo is now white; the Power T chest logo has been replaced by "Tennessee"; and the numbers have a faint checkerboard pattern and no longer have black outlining). And in the not-so-subtle department, there's also a new charcoal gray alternate uni and a set of checkerboard shoes:

Texas A&M is adding a memorial helmet decal for former player Polo Manukainiu, who died in late July. And in a super-subtle move, the Aggies have changed the little patch above the nameplate from the team's "aTm" logo to the state-outlined version of that logo. Also, as you can see in the photo, they've added their "Gig 'Em" slogan to the inner collar, although you won't be able to see that during a game.

• Uniforms aren't the only things that get redesigned in college football. The SEC Trophy has gotten a makeover, too!



Sun Belt

• There are lots of rumors circulating at Arkansas State, as photos of a gray jersey and a white helmet have surfaced. But a school spokesperson says it hasn't yet been determined whether either of them will be worn on the field this season.

Georgia State is joining the Sun Belt Conference this year and is marking the occasion with new uniforms, although they're nothing special. Additional photos here.

Louisiana-Lafayette has changed from one Russell Athletic template to another. Lots of new helmet options, too -- each equipped with a raised nose bumper logo. You can see additional photos here.

• Big upgrade for Louisiana-Monroe, which now has a much-cleaner look. As you can see in that last photo, the Warhawks didn't wear player names on their jerseys last season, but that will change this season.

South Alabama has a new helmet and a jazzier overall look.

Texas State, newly arrived in the Sun Belt Conference after leaving the WAC, has added two new helmet options to the mix.

Western Kentucky is going from traditional to, well, not so traditional. The uniforms have lots of interesting details, but that's all going to be overshadowed by the new chrome helmet (which, as you can see, looks a lot shinier from some angles than from others). Here are some additional photos and info.



Additional Notes

• There are several uni-related NCAA rules changes this season. For details, see item Nos. 5, 7, and 8 on this page.

• Twitter hashtags will no longer be allowed on the field. Ditto for custom pylons and yard markers.

That's it for now, although there's probably more to come, as many schools will undoubtedly release new rivalry uniforms, blackout uniforms, white-out uniforms, military-appreciation uniforms, or "Sure, why not?" uniforms as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, did we miss anything that's already out there? Yeah, probably. Send your additional college football uniform news items (FBS schools only, please) here.

Paul Lukas expects to write an even bigger college football season-preview column next year (and will cover all of the NFL's 2013 uniform changes next week). If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch web site, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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