The Uni Watch CFB season preview

Uniwatch College Football illustrationESPN Illustration

There's a new playoff system, some new conference assignments, and some new schools, but one thing hasn't changed: College football teams are adding new uniforms at a dizzying pace.

But fear not -- the annual Uni Watch season-preview column is here to help you make sense of what you'll be seeing out there on the gridiron.

As usual, we've prepared a comprehensive team-by-team rundown of all the FBS uniform news, broken down by conference. If a team isn't listed here, it means they don't have any changes this year, at least that we're aware of.

Ready? Deep breath -- here we go (for embedded tweets, 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 of the image).

Pick a conference: American | ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Conference USA | Independents | MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

American

Cincinnati has changed its uni numbers from gray to white, and has also added an American flag patch.

East Carolina has a new helmet, a new font for the chest lettering on the jersey, and a new midfield logo:

Houston has cleaned up its look -- an upgrade. Also, the Cougars have a new turf design, which includes an 11-yard marker for former Heisman winner Andre Ware (further info on that here).

SMU is going back to a more traditional look, complete with the block lettering and, even better, a blue jersey option.

• Nothing new yet for Temple, but the team's equipment staff recently hinted that something is in the works.

• Lots of changes for Tulane. First, the color scheme on the team's logo has been updated, so the Green Wave is now greener than ever. That updated logo appears on a new helmet:

And then there are the new jerseys. And a new turf design to boot!

USF has two new helmets -- gold chrome and matte green:

There was also talk of USF replacing the players' names on the back of the jerseys with "The Team," but that plan was scrapped because it would violate NCAA regulations.


ACC

• The ACC has a new logo, which you'll be seeing on jerseys and nose bumpers:

• Interesting move at Clemson, where 1970s quarterback Steve Fuller's No. 4 is being brought out of retirement. It's now being worn by freshman quarterback DeShaun Watson, who's also wearing a patch in honor of Fuller:

"This is the first time we've done something like this," says a team spokesman. "It came about because Watson wanted to wear No. 4, so Dabo [Swinney, head coach] thought it would be a great way to honor Steve. So he talked to Steve and he said yes."

Duke has traded in its shoulder stripes for sleeve stripes, and has also tinkered with its uni numbers:

There's a video of the unveiling here. In addition, the logo and striping on the Blue Devils' black helmets will now be metallic:

Florida State has added a black jersey, black pants, white pants, a new alternate helmet, and more. There's a full rundown of all the changes here.

Georgia Tech, one of the few FBS schools still outfitted by Russell Athletic, gets a new uni design every season. This year's revision is extremely minor, however -- the Yellowjackets have changed the trim on their sleeve cuffs from navy to gold:

Louisville will wear blackout uniforms, including a chrome helmet, for the season-opening game against Miami on Sept. 1:

The Cardinals have also made some changes to their standard white helmet, which now has a chrome facemask:

Miami has a new dark-gray uniform, among other changes (further info here). The Hurricanes also have new green and orange helmet options. You can see the new uni elements in a wide range of mix-and-match formats by clicking through this photo gallery. And in one of the best little details of the year, the 'canes have updated the state of Florida decal on the back of their helmets:

North Carolina State has a new "Pack in Black" alternate helmet, which has wolf eyes on the back of the shell (here's a video of the unveiling):

• Looks like Pitt has gold jerseys in the works for this year. And the Panthers also have a new 125th-season logo:

Another Pitt item of note: The team is using some very cool retro designs for its season tickets.

• The two biggest rules of a Nike makeover are that every team must get a custom number font and every uniform must "tell a story." You can see both of those rules being adhered to in Syracuse's new uni set. The diagonal lines within the numerals form a 44-degree angle, because 44 is a key number for Syracuse. There's further info here and lots of photos here and here.

• Nothing new this year for Virginia Tech, but it's worth noting that someone has crunched the numbers to see how the Hokies perform when wearing solid maroon.


Big Ten

• The Illinois athletic department has undergone a complete rebranding, which of course includes new football uniforms. There's a good explainer here and further info here.

• Never a dull moment for Maryland, which has new black and white versions of its latest "pride" uniform design:

Michigan will wear an alternate uniform, with uni numbers that look like window shades, for the Oct. 11 "Under the Lights" game against Penn State (additional info and photos here, and there's a video here):

In addition, the Wolverines have changed the graphic on their nose bumper from the "Michigan" wordmark to the school's "M" logo:

Michigan State has removed the green shoulder yoke from its white road jersey.

Minnesota has a new gold alternate helmet. Also, the Gophers will be wearing a memorial helmet decal for booster Bob McNamara, who died earlier this summer.

Nebraska has a painfully red alternate uni, which will be worn on Sept. 27 against Illinois. (If there's any justice, the Illini will wear solid orange, just to see how many retinas can be fried by one football game.) As you can see, the jersey includes a patch marking the 125th season of Nebraska football.

• Nothing new this season for Northwestern (at least not that they've announced), but this video clip suggests that the Wildcats may be mixing and matching their uni elements a bit more creatively this year.

Ohio State is switching to a new Nike tailoring template this season. It's a little hard to make out, but you can see the difference in the jersey collar. In addition, the Buckeyes are marking their 125th anniversary with this logo, which they'll be wearing as a helmet decal:

• There was some talk about Penn State putting numbers on the sides of its helmets this season, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

• In a bizarre move, Purdue is putting a bunch of Boilermakers fans' faces on the team's helmet logo for the game against Iowa on Sept. 27 (further info here):

Rutgers has moved from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten, which means a new conference logo on the Scarlet Knights' jerseys. Also, expect to see the solid-black uniforms for the Oct. 4 game against Michigan:

Wisconsin will be wearing this patch for the season-opening Texas Kickoff game against LSU:


Big 12

• The Big 12 unveiled a new logo this summer. Expect to see all conference teams wearing it as a patch, as seen here on Texas' and West Virginia's jerseys:

Iowa State is the latest school to jump aboard the matte helmet bandwagon:

Kansas is considering three outfits, including a solid-gray design, for the season-opening game against Southeast Missouri on Sept. 6. Also: The Jayhawks have a new "crimson chrome" alternate uniform. No word yet on which week it will be worn. Additional photos here, and here's a video.

Oklahoma has added two new alternate uniforms, which will be worn "occasionally" (lots of additional images and info here):

Oklahoma State has a new turf design (further details here ):

• Look for TCU to wear this new white helmet at least once during the coming season:

Texas Tech will wear black mid-1990s throwbacks for the Sept. 13 game against Arkansas (further info here):


Conference USA

Florida Atlantic has tweaked its jersey design. The new chest mark looks too clunky, but at least they scrapped those sleeve wings that all the other adidas-outfitted bird-based teams were wearing:

The Owls are also tinkering with a red helmet, although it's not yet clear if it will be worn this season:

Florida International is bringing back the gold pants and is using a lighter shade of blue for its helmet (further details here):

Louisiana Tech will be wearing this new red helmet as part of a red-out game on Oct. 4 against UTEP:

In addition, the Bulldogs have added the American and Louisiana state flags to the back of their helmet:

Marshall has changed its uniform numbers to a black-to-white gradient design. But wait, didn't the NCAA ban gradient numbers, and isn't that why Arizona's numbers are changing from gradient to solid this season? "I asked our equipment guys about that," says a team spokesman. "They said what we have is permissible because the white fades into a black on top of the green background, rather than fading into a green on top of the green." In other words, the gradient is OK as long as the top and bottom of the numeral both contrast with the jersey color.

Middle Tennessee is going with a more modern look. Man, that "7" looks pretty funky in that font, eh?

North Texas finally has a respectable-looking helmet, and not a moment too soon.

• Nobody will ever mistake Old Dominion for a football powerhouse, but at least the Monarchs now have a fairly snazzy uniform.

Southern Mississippi has changed its helmet lettering from black to white:

• New white alternate helmet for Texas-San Antonio:

• Most audacious makeover of the year goes to UAB, mainly due to one of the wackiest helmets ever to grace a gridiron. Confession: Your friendly uniform columnist kinda likes it. Here's a video of the unveiling.


Independents

BYU has planned several color-out games -- one each in September, October, and November:

Incidentally, that poster may become a collector's item, because BYU is no longer using the "Rise as One" slogan, due to a trademark conflict with Budweiser, of all things.

Navy has switched from Nike to Under Armour, which has given the Midshipmen a nifty new design. Those six chest stripes, which represent the six naval fleets, wrap around to the back. Further info here.

Notre Dame signed a record-setting apparel contract with Under Armour earlier this year, but the team's basic home and road uniforms are essentially unchanged (additional photos here):

And here's the annual Shamrock Series alternate uni, which will be worn on Sept. 13 against Purdue (video here):

Finally, the Irish also have a new nose bumper font:


MAC

• Several new uni elements for Akron, including a gold chrome helmet, a white helmet, and a black uniform:

Ball State has made subtle changes to its red jersey, and the black jersey is now supplemented by new black pants and a matte black helmet:

Buffalo has a new matte black helmet, which will be worn as part of a blackout game on Sept. 12 against Baylor, and also has a new turf design:

Central Michigan has "upgraded" to Adidas' tire tread template.

• Remember when everyone was coming out with gray uniforms? That trend appears to have abated but Eastern Michigan apparently didn't get the memo, because the Eagles now have a gray field (further info here):

Kent State players will honor teammate Jason Bitsko, who died last week, by wearing his No. 54 on their helmets throughout the season.

• Several changes for Northern Illinois. First, the Huskies will be celebrating the region's agricultural bounty by wearing corn kernel-patterned jerseys -- really! -- for the season-opening game against Presbyterian on Aug. 28 (additional info here):

In addition, the Huskies have updated their basic jerseys and helmets. Here's a video clip of the uniform reveal.

• A team called the Rockets should have a sleek, futuristic uniform, right? Unfortunately, Toledo is going with a move conservative look:


Mountain West

Air Force has a snazzy new alternate uniform that ranks among the best new designs of the year:

In addition, the Falcons will wear an Air Force Academy sleeve patch this year, and each player will wear his squadron logo as a helmet decal:

Boise State is adding a new orange helmet with a chrome facemask, which will be worn for the season opener on Aug. 28 against Ole Miss:

• Tons of new stuff for Fresno State. To get a full rundown and analysis, look here, but you can get the general idea by checking out this video and the slideshow below (if you can't see the slideshow, click here):

Nevada is changing its helmet logo from silver to blue, and is also removing the center "striker" stripe.

• Minor tweaks for San Diego State, which has added red outlining to its uni numbers and tweaked its chest lettering font.

San Jose State has made some minor jersey adjustments. And as you can see from that last photo, the Spartans also have a new matte yellow helmet:

• In a welcome development, Wyoming is bringing back the old-school white helmet:


Pac-12

• The uni numbers on Arizona's blue and red jerseys have been changed from gradient to solid. It also looks like the Wildcats may be adding red and blues stripes to their white helmet.

Arizona State has a new copper-themed alternate uniform (additional photos here):

Colorado has no changes planned for this year but could be making some adjustments in 2015.

Oregon unveiled a new template for last season's Alamo Bowl, and you can expect that template to be the basis for this season's uniform. For now, though, we only know the team's game-by-game jersey color schedule:

In addition, the Ducks have something surprisingly subtle in store for this season: blue-collared undershirts, to evoke a blue-collar attitude.

• No details yet, but Oregon State plans to be a bit more creative with its uni combinations this season. Meanwhile, here's the team's latest cleat design:

• Great news at UCLA, where the Bruins have brought back the traditional Clarendon number font:

Also, the Bruins have a new dark-gray alternate uni. No word yet on when it will be worn. It's actually not bad as such things go, but it just doesn't feel like UCLA (if you're on a mobile device and can't see the slideshow below, click here):

Utah has traded in its generic Under Armour template for a new design featuring a mountain range pattern on the sleeves (further info here). Also: The game against Arizona on Nov. 22 will be part of the "Ute Proud" campaign, with players wearing the Ute tribal seal on their helmets (no visuals yet on that). Also-also: Fans wearing a Utah jersey will get priority boarding status on Alaska Airlines flights, whoo-hoo!

• At first glance, Washington's new uni set looks like a fairly standard modernization. Upon closer inspection, though, there are several unusual elements, including gold-tipped uni numbers, a "frost-textured" white helmet shell (which seems like it could cause all sorts of problems, from peeling decals to a friction effect during helmet-to-helmet contact), and lots of additional details. You can see a detailed rundown here.


SEC

• Looks like Alabama has upgraded to Nike's Mach Speed jersey template.

Arkansas has a new look with razorback tusks on the shoulder areas. Those uniforms are part of a program-wide rebranding -- lots of additional photos and info here. That rebranding, incidentally, includes a slight tweak to the school's shade of red, and also includes a new secondary logo that's been the object of some online ridicule.

Auburn has a new 75th-anniversary logo for Jordan-Hare Stadium:

Also: The Tigers wore an SEC Championship helmet decal for their spring game back in April, but that decal will not be worn this fall.

Florida and Georgia will both be wearing their home jerseys when they face off against each other on Nov. 1. Florida AD Jeremy Foley said in this Q&A session, "To be honest, a fan suggested it. He sent me a picture of what they used to do when Coach Spurrier was playing. He had a blue jersey on and whoever was tackling him had a red jersey on. It's a unique rivalry and just a little different something to do. There is no particular reason. Georgia agreed and we agreed. At the end of the day, you've still got to win the ballgame no matter what color jersey you have on. I think it's just a little something that makes the game even more unique."

Kentucky has added a solid-gray design to its uniform mix:

• New uni number font -- which is actually just a return to the pre-2013 font -- for LSU:

The Tigers have also made some minor tweaks to their tiger head helmet logo. You can compare the old and new versions here:

And the Tigers will be wearing this patch for the season-opening Texas Kickoff game against Wisconsin:

• Here's a slideshow of the uniform Mississippi State will be wearing for the season-opening game against Southern Miss on Aug. 30. The uniform includes a patch to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Scott Field.

Ole Miss will mark the 25th anniversary of former player Chucky Mullins' catastrophic on-field injury by wearing this helmet for the Sept. 27 game against Memphis. Further info here.

• Nothing new this season for Tennessee but it's worth noting that the Vols will be switching from adidas to Nike in 2015.

Vanderbilt will be wearing a matte black helmet for the season-opening game against Temple on Aug. 28.


Sun Belt

Appalachian State has upgraded to FBS status this season and is now a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Mountaineers are marking the occasion with a new charcoal alternate uniform:

Arkansas State has made some adjustments to its black jerseys. Losing the claw marks on the shoulders feels like addition by subtraction, no?

Georgia Southern, like Appalachian State, has joined the FBS and is now a Sun Belt team. This is the kind of move that would prompt a uni redesign for most teams, but the Eagles are sticking with their no-nonsense look, except for the addition of the Sun Belt logo patch.

Louisiana-Lafayette has switched from Russell Athletic to Adidas, which of course means new uniforms. They might look like these mock-ups, although the team has stressed that those new designs aren't yet official.

Louisiana-Monroe is now using reflective helmet decals and has added a chrome facemask option:


Additional Notes of Interest

• Teams with "non-contrasting" uniform numbers will now be penalized one timeout per quarter.

• Lots of teams will be wearing the new Riddell SpeedFlex helmet, which is easily distinguishable by its cut-out flex panel on the crown:

You can learn a lot more about the SpeedFlex here.

• Remember those team logo thigh pads that began showing up last season? Looks like we can expect to see more of them in 2014.

• Confused by all the different Nike tailoring templates over the years? Here's a good rundown showing the evolution of the company's designs.

• Here's a really interesting article about how schools buy -- and then sell -- those fancy new helmets.

• A naming note: The Chick-fil-A Bowl, which used to be the Peach Bowl, is now the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

• And it's fitting that we wrap this up with a look at the ultimate prize: the new national championship trophy.

Did we miss anything? Yeah, probably. If you know of other college football uniform changes (FBS schools only, please), send them here.

Paul Lukas will have all of this season's NFL uniform changes later this week. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, 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.