The Big Ten Network released its annual uniform rankings on Monday afternoon and I was one of five national writers asked to participate. Voters considered each team's full ensemble (home, away, alternates, throwbacks) and ranked the uniforms from 1-14. While Michigan received the most first-place votes (3), Ohio State still finished in first with a better average score. Voters were simply asked to rank the uniforms, so I've detailed my reasoning for my votes below:
1. Ohio State (Andrew Weber - US PRESSWIRE)
Call it bias, but Ohio State wears the quintessential Big Ten uniform. Although many fans clamor for a return to the sleeve stripes worn during the national championship season, the look is much-improved with matching stripes on the helmet, jersey, and pants. The Rivalry uniforms are a perfectly modern adaptation of the Buckeyes current look, and let's not forget the pride stickers. Nothing is more beautiful than a silver helmet full of Buckeye Leaf stickers in late November.
2. Minnesota (Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY Sports)
The Golden Gophers went through a rebranding process shortly before the 2012 season, combining Nike's modern template with the program's history. The Gophers use a darker shade of maroon on the uniforms, which is paired with a brick motif in the numbers, a nod to Memorial Stadium. A subtle touch, the brick pattern is on of the more creative ideas that Nike has had.
3. Penn State (Matthew O'Haren - USA TODAY Sports)
Fewer things in college football look cooler than a night game white-out at Penn State, and it doesn't matter what year the game takes place, the team those fans are watching has remained virtually untouched since the dawn of time. With the fad of alternate uniforms and helmet options galore in college football, there's just something refreshing about Penn State's simplistic uniforms.
4. Michigan (Rick Osentoski - USA TODAY Sports)
The maize and blue-winged helmet makes for an instantly recognizable identity, but the Wolverines suffer because of their deal with manufacturer Adidas. The home uniform is perfect, but the road whites have random piping, often leading to players wearing two different uniforms, and the attempts at alternate uniforms have been just terrible. Like every other Adidas school on this list, Michigan has been wearing the latest TechFit template, which often stretches or distorts numbers when the tight jersey is pulled over the shoulder pads.
5. Illinois (Nike)
A program-wide rebrand in the offseason has moved the Illini from dead last on this list to among the best in the conference. Last year, Illinois suffered from the same random piping issues that Michigan did, except on every single uniform, but now has a modern reconstruction of the past. The sublimated Red Grange Era stripes are a nice touch and the soccer-style crest logo on the collar is fantastic.
6. Iowa (Byron Hetzler - USA TODAY Sports)>
The Hawkeyes have a timeless look, but are docked points for copying the look of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Legendary coach Hayden Fry, who helped created the iconic Tiger Hawk logo that adorns the black lid, approached the Steelers in the late '70s about modeling his team's look after the then-Super Bowl champions. The team flirted with a new look during the 1994 season, but were at least an attempt to be unique.
7. Michigan State (Stephen Dunn - Getty Images)
Count me as a fan of Michigan State adding bronze to its color palate, as it did with the uniform redesign in 2010. The darker green, wider helmet stripe, and new wordmark/number font were also a step in the right direction, but the shoulder yokes on the alternate jerseys are an eyesore. The Spartans recently released a non-shoulder yoke version of the road set, but the alternate versions still remain in the rotation. Michigan State also wears a chrome helmet on occasion, succumbing to another one of college football's fads.
8. Northwestern (Jerry Lai - USA TODAY Sports)
Returning to the stripes that it pioneered, Northwestern uniquely placed them across the chest when it signed a deal with Under Armour before the 2012 season. Since then, however, many other teams under the Maryland-based company have copied the look, albeit with different stripes. With a unique color scheme, the Wildcats should be higher on this list, but land in the middle of the pack because of the atrocious flag-themed alternate uniforms they wore last season.
9. Purdue Pat Lovell - USA TODAY Sports
Another team to release new uniforms within the past five seasons, Purdue's set is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, outside of the italicized number font and updated train logo, they're pretty boring. The black alternate helmet that team wore against Ohio State was an attempt at creativity, with a train track stripe to boot, but glossy logos on a matte helmet never works.
10. Maryland Mitch Stringer - USA TODAY Sports
The hardest team to rank, Maryland's uniforms show creativity just as often as they make me scratch my head. Obviously torn on whether they want to embrace the turtle, the state flag, or be Under Armour's guinea pig, the Terrapins' uniforms still do exactly what they're supposed to: bring attention. Ranking just on the uniform and creative seen above, Maryland would be ranked higher, but including alternates, they have a muddled identity.
11. Nebraska Bruce Thorson - USA TODAY Sports
Another one of college football's all-time classic uniforms, Nebraska falls under the same umbrella as the other Adidas schools, as the manufacturer pushes its brutal alternates and template that stretches the traditional stripes. Although their uniforms are essentially the same as Wisconsin's, the Cornhuskers are ranked higher simply because I believe that the skinny "N" is better than the motion "W".
12. Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld - USA TODAY Sports
The Badgers earned this ranking because former head coach and current athletic director Barry Alverez modeled Wisconsin's look from his alma mater. In fact, the only difference between Wisconsin and Nebraska is that the latter has only one stripe on the helmet and pants. The Badgers would benefit from a return to a darker shade of red and placing the "W" on the front and/or back of the helmet, but instead, have just added a red helmet to the rotation to differentiate the two.
13. Indiana Pat Lovell - USA TODAY Sports
For a struggling football program, having six different helmet options could bring plenty of attention, however, only two of them are even creative: the state flag and candy cane-striped helmets. In the end, pairing the rest of the cookie cutter helmet designs with a traditional-looking uniform leads to a somewhat disorganized identity.
14. Rutgers Rob Schultz
In thought, having helmets that look like they're from medieval times and a design on the shoulders to simulate wear and tear sounds great, but in reality, looks cheap. In addition, what seemed like a unique number font and template at the time has since been used by other teams, even more recognizable than the Scarlet Knights.