The 2016 Uni Watch college football preview

August 30, 2016, 8:50 AM

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Ready or not, it's time for the annual Uni Watch College Football Season Preview, our jumbo compendium of all the FBS uniform changes for the upcoming season. Or as some of you like to call it, Christmas in August.

As usual, we've prepared a comprehensive team-by-team rundown, organized by conference. In addition to uniform changes, we've included updates to logos, equipment, field designs and anything else related to a team's visual program. If a school isn't listed here, that means it hasn't announced any changes for this year, at least that we're aware of. (Although schools will undoubtedly be unveiling additional uniforms and helmets -- blackout, whiteout, camouflage, stars and stripes, chrome and so on -- as the season progresses.)


Deep breath -- here we go:

Jump to a conference:

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


Boston College has a decent-looking new uniform set, although the pants striping -- something being worn by more and more Under Armour-outfitted schools -- feels like an unnecessary addition.

Also, when the Eagles open the season by playing Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland, they'll have lots of new gear for the occasion:

Additionally, the Eagles will retire former quarterback Matt Ryan's number prior to the Nov. 19 game against UConn:

• There are several small changes for Clemson, the most notable of which is that the tiger paw graphic has been moved from the sleeves to the shoulders, with TV numbers now appearing on the sleeves (additional photos and info here):

In addition, Clemson will once again wear purple jerseys -- symbolizing the Purple Heart -- for Military Appreciation Day on Nov. 5 against Syracuse:

• The arrows on Florida State's field are now shaped like spearheads:

• Sources indicate that Miami might scrap its feather striping and go with a simpler look "as soon as can get the jerseys in" (additional info here):

North Carolina will wear its blue jerseys on the road for the season-opening game against Georgia on Saturday, creating what should be a very good-looking color-versus-color matchup:

Although not shown in that photo, both teams will be wearing a Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game jersey patch:

Also, the Tar Heels have new footwear and new gloves. And in what might be the subtlest move of the year, they've added their team name to their chinstraps:

In addition, defensive back  Patrice Rene, who's Canadian, and punter Tom Sheldon, who's Australian, will be wearing their national flags, instead of the American flag, on the back of their helmets:

Finally, on the merchandise front, UNC is one of several schools that have decided to stop selling jerseys with the uni numbers of star players. The idea is to avoid any lawsuits or ethical issues that might arise from profiting off of the identities of amateur student-athletes. The only numbers available this year will be 89 and 16. Details here.

NC State will celebrate Carter-Finley Stadium's 50th anniversary by wearing a throwback uniform, including a very sharp-looking helmet, for the Oct. 8 game against Notre Dame (additional info here):

Pitt fans have been clamoring for the school to bring back its old script logo for years. Now they've finally gotten their wish, and for the most part, it looks great; although the new number font -- blocky on the outside but curvy on the inside -- is an odd one (additional photos here):

And in an additional blast from the past, Pitt will wear throwbacks against Georgia Tech on Oct. 8 (and coach Pat Narduzzi says the retro design might be worn more than once):

Virginia's new uniforms feature, among other things, helmets with the team logo on one side and the player's uniform number on the other (additional photos here):

Virginia Tech's athletics department has gotten a schoolwide makeover. For the football team, that means a fairly clean, straightforward look, including the streamlined number font that all of the school's teams will now be wearing (additional photos and info here and here):

In addition, the Hokies will have a Hokie Stone-themed uniform for the "Battle at Bristol" game against Tennessee on Sept. 10, which will take place at Bristol Motor Speedway (additional info here). It's an interesting uni, but man, that is one big, honking jersey patch:

That Bristol game, incidentally, also features its own trophy:

Also, look for the Hokies to be doing color-out games on Sept. 17 (white, against Boston College), Sept. 24 (orange, against East Carolina),and Oct. 20 (maroon, against Miami):

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American Athletic

Cincinnati's new jerseys feature a cartoon bearcat sleeve patch that is -- how shall we put this? -- not good:

East Carolina has switched from Nike to Adidas, which has given the Pirates a new number font that looks very Baltimore Ravens-esque, especially given the school's color scheme:

Houston has made a small adjustment, swapping out the contrast-colored sleeves for two sleeve stripes. The resulting uniform doesn't look bad, but it probably looks too much like Nebraska's or Wisconsin's:

SMU has seriously downplayed its chest mark and also added some sleeve stripes, which seem unnecessary:

• Lots of new uni elements for Tulane, including a powder blue jersey, a matte green helmet, new striping on the white helmet and more:

Even better, the team's awesome "Angry Wave" logo -- a favorite of new athletic director Troy Dannen -- is poised to assume a more prominent status in the team's marketing and will reportedly be worn on the team's helmets for the season opener against Wake Forest on Thursday.

Tulsa has switched from Nike to Adidas, which has taken the Golden Hurricane's helmet script and repurposed it as a chest mark -- a big improvement over the previous chest lettering (although it would be an even bigger improvement if the Adidas logo were up on the shoulder, instead of at the sternum):

Interestingly, the team will wear white for the season-opening home game against San Jose State on Saturday and is calling upon fans to wear white, as well:

UCF's updated look allows for a near-limitless number of uniform combinations:

Included is a pointed helmet stripe based on a knight's helmet. There are lots of details on that and other nuances in the following video clip (and there's additional info and imagery on this very informative page):

Meanwhile, UCF has also released a game-by-game guide to indicate which colors fans should wear to this season's home games:

USF has announced its uniform combo for the season-opening game against Towson on Saturday:

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Big Ten

• Lots of excitement at Michigan, where the school's eight-year run with Adidas is over and the school is now being outfitted by Nike, which has assigned the football team to its Jordan sub-brand. This presents the odd scenario of a football team wearing uniforms with the "Jumpman" basketball logo, but the Wolverines' uniforms are otherwise pretty similar to what they've been wearing in recent years (additional photos here):

In another Wolverines note, quarterback  John O'Korn -- who wore No. 5 while playing for Houston in 2013 and 2014 and again while serving on the Michigan scout team last season -- is now wearing No. 8:

Finally, if you're wondering whether the new Nike contract will result in Michigan wearing lots of alternate uniforms, athletic director Warde Manuel said  that will be up to coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff.

Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys plans to start rewarding players for on-field performance by issuing small "gold brick" helmet decals. No visuals on them yet, unfortunately, but expect to start seeing them after the first game of the year.

Nebraska will wear a white-and-chrome alternate uniform for the Sept. 24 game at Northwestern (further info here):

• A few changes for Northwestern, including some very unfortunate striping on the pants:

• A century ago, back in 1916, Ohio State wore this uniform. The Buckeyes are reviving that design this season as a throwback for the Nov. 5 game against Nebraska (additional info here):

Also, the numerals on Ohio State's regular jerseys will now have buckeye icons sublimated into the fabric:

And if you can't get enough Buckeyes uniform content, check out the new Ohio State Uniform Database -- a great resource for Buckeyes fans (or, really, for college football fans).

• No on-field uniform changes for Penn State (shocker), but the Nittany Lions are one of several teams that are cutting back on merchandise offerings. Retail jerseys will now be available only in Nos. 1, 16 and 94. The idea is to avoid any legal problems that might arise from profiting off of amateur student-athletes.

Purdue has used its longstanding cowcatcher design motif to create a new shoulder stripe pattern (additional photos and info here):

Rutgers fans were reportedly unhappy with the school's uniforms in recent years. They should like the new ones, which feel classic without being too stuffy (additional info here):

• Over at Wisconsin, Adidas is out and Under Armour is in, although the new outfitter hasn't exactly made radical changes to the Badgers' look:

Also: When the Badgers open the season by hosting LSU on Saturday, the game will take place at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. The game has its own Packers-themed logo (additional info here):

Big 12

Baylor allowed fans to vote on the uniform combination the team should wear for its season-opening game against Northwestern State on Friday. The fans got this one right, choosing a gold helmet with a green jersey and gold pants -- a very good look:

Iowa State has a new white helmet option that looks very, very good (additional info here):

Oklahoma State's new uniforms feature decorative trim on the collar and sleeve cuffs, a new number font and more (additional photos and info here):

Texas has new shoes, along with an assortment of new glove designs:

West Virginia was tinkering with mountaineer-themed merit decals for its spring game earlier this year. A team spokesman said it hasn't yet been decided whether decals will be used during the regular season:

One thing that's confirmed, though, is that the Mountaineers will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of their football program with a new logo, which they'll wear on their helmets for the season-opening game against Missouri on Sept. 3:

In addition, West Virginia will have new turf, with a slightly more prominent midfield logo:

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Conference USA

Louisiana Tech has added red pants to its wardrobe, as you can see in this video clip showing the team's current range of uni-combo options:

• With four jersey colors, four pants, five helmets, three socks, three gloves and four shoes, Middle Tennessee is claiming to have 2,880 conceivable uniform combinations. Assuming 12 games per season, that's enough to last 240 years without any repetition. Impressive! Of course, it's vaaaaguely possible that they'll get an entirely new uniform set before then.

Old Dominion is adding a blackout uniform:

Western Kentucky, one of the last FBS schools still outfitted by Russell Athletic, has a fairly straightforward new set (additional photos and info here), along with a new wordmark:


• Nothing new has been announced for Brigham Young, but you can reminisce about BYU history with this handy rundown of the school's past uniforms:

Notre Dame's annual Shamrock Series game will take place in San Antonio on Nov. 12. The opposing team will be Army, so the Fighting Irish are going with a military uniform theme, complete with a shade of green that really puts the "drab" in olive drab:

Meanwhile, in a development that will probably end up confusing fans and spotters alike, Irish coach Brian Kelly plans to rotate uniform Nos. 1 through 9 among his players on a weekly basis, awarding the single-digit numbers based on performance and character (additional info here).

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Akron has switched to a somewhat bloated-looking number font and has also added a new white helmet option:

Ball State has worn black uniforms before, but its latest version changes the face mask from black to white (an upgrade), the jersey graphics from white to red (a downgrade) and the chest lettering from the school name to the team name (a wash):

In addition, the Cardinals are planning to wear a stars-and-stripes helmet at some point this season, and they've also added a red helmet, with their standard logo on one side and a wordmark on the other:

Bowling Green is planning a Military Appreciation Day promotion for its Sept. 10 game against North Dakota. The team will wear commemorative helmets featuring a stars-and-stripes version of team's helmet logo, along with a center stripe containing the names of the 111 Bowling Green students who have died during military service (further info here):

In addition, the Falcons have installed a new synthetic turf surface at Doyt Perry Stadium:

Buffalo has dropped the "New York" chest mark, which always felt like a stretch, and is going with a much cleaner, less cluttered look (additional info here):

In addition, the Bulls will honor former player Solomon Jackson, who died earlier this year, by wearing the motto "All 41" on their nose bumpers (additional info here):

Buffalo also has a new turf design:

Central Michigan has a new field design (further info here):

• Lots of new uni combos for Eastern Michigan. Unfortunately, the jersey numbers still have the diamondplate pattern, a tired design cliché that really needs to be mothballed.

Kent State is one of many Under Armour-outfitted schools with pants striping this year:

• Remember those embarrassing Miami (Ohio) uniforms, with the lettering across the shoulders and the comic book helmet? They've toned all of that down this year (here are more photos and info):

And just in case you couldn't keep your Miamis straight, the Redhawks have added an Ohio-themed logo patch to the back of their jersey:

• When Northern Illinois and Toledo face off on Nov. 9, the game will take place at a baseball stadium -- U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Here's how they plan to position the gridiron on the diamond:

• Holy Toledo! New fade-to-gold helmet this year for the Rockets:

Western Michigan has executed what it calls a "subtle yet sophisticated" update to its logo and branding (further info here, and there's a style guide available here):

Mountain West

Air Force is using a shark's tooth motif, taken from old P-40 fighter planes in World War II, as the basis for a very cool alternate helmet, which will be worn against Georgia State on Sept. 10:

• Your friendly uniform columnist is a big fan of green and gold, so Colorado State's unis are usually a big hit around here. Sure enough, the school's latest design is a winner, although the team name on the left pant leg seems like overkill (additional photos here):

• We've seen lots of teams going with a logo on one side of the helmet and a uni number on the other. A less common approach is the use of two separate logos, which is what Nevada is doing this season:

San Jose State will be opening the season on Saturday in Tulsa, where the Golden Hurricane has opted to wear white at home, so the Spartans will wear their blue jerseys on the road. A team spokesman said San Jose State might wear blue on the road for one additional game this season, although that isn't yet final.

Wyoming's brown-and-yellow color scheme has always been an acquired taste for some folks. But if you can live with the colors, there's no denying that the Cowboys' new uniforms are their strongest in years (lots of photos here):

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• Lots of new glove designs for Arizona State:

In addition, a Phoenix TV station has launched a new online column devoted to the Sun Devils' uniforms (full details here):

• Nothing new to report for Cal, although you can expect changes next season, when the school's new deal with Under Armour kicks in. For now, it's worth noting that the Golden Bears will be giving away a very cool Marshawn Lynch bobblehead on Nov. 5:

Colorado has issued a chart indicating how often various uniform components will be worn this season (gold helmets six times, black jerseys seven times and so on) but with no indication of how they'll be mixed and matched or which elements will be worn for which games (although one intrepid observer has tried to decode the chart):

Oregon hasn't officially announced anything yet, but some retail jerseys that have been floating around show a new feather pattern on the jersey shoulders, and that same pattern has appeared on the team's goalpost padding during practices, so that seems like a pretty good indication of what the next generation of Ducks uniforms might look like:

In addition, the Ducks showcased a new charcoal uniform during a recent photo shoot:

• Last season,  Oregon State's white helmet had a white face mask with "buck tooth" center striping, which looked a bit awkward. This season, it's just solid black:

Also: Lots of teams award merit decals that the players wear on their game helmets, but the Beavers have been using them for practice helmets (additional info here).

• Hallelujah: UCLA's shoulder stripes, which in recent years have been pitifully truncated and woefully tinkered with, have finally been restored to something approximating their proper length and shape (additional photos and info here):

• Very minor adjustments for USC, mostly involving the jersey collar. Details in this video clip:

Utah has a new helmet stripe, which looks very good, and is also adding a mortarboard helmet decal for its early graduates:

In addition, the video display on the giant screen at the Utes' stadium has been enlarged, making it one of the largest in the NCAA:


• No changes for Alabama, but it's worth noting that the team now has a display featuring a helmet from each of the school's national championship years:

Arkansas players who have earned their degrees but are still playing out their final year of eligibility will wear a "Graduate" patch (further info here):

• You can move  Auburn to the list of schools that are adding their team logo to their thigh pads:

Florida has put out a guide telling fans which colors they should wear for this season's home games:

Whatever the fans wear, they might notice a few new details this year at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, including new end zone pylons and newly designed kicking nets:

Meanwhile, the field itself is being named after Gators legend Steve Spurrier (additional info here):

• When Georgia opens the season by hosting North Carolina on Saturday, both teams will be wearing their home jerseys, creating a very eye-pleasing color-versus-color scenario:

In addition, the Bulldogs will wear black jerseys for a home game this season, although it's not yet clear when that will happen.

Kentucky's new uniform set features jerseys, pants and helmets all rendered in three colors -- blue, black, and white -- which should allow for a lot of mixing and matching. All of the jerseys have checkerboard-patterned sleeves (a nod to Secretariat) and blue collars (a salute to Kentucky's working class). The school's "UK" logo has been tweaked, as well.

The Wildcats also have a new secondary logo, which has shown up on a couple of sample helmets. For now, however, there's no indication that these helmets will make it onto the field:

• Nothing new for LSU, but here are the uniform numbers for this year's freshmen:

Mississippi State has published a "What Color to Wear" guide for this season's home games:

South Carolina has added two new helmets to its rotation -- one red (which is similar to but not quite the same as this one) and one matte black (additional photos here):

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has stated that the team will have a throwback uniform at some point this season, although it's not clear which design it will be or when it will be worn.

Vanderbilt has new shoes that will be paired with its solid-black and solid-white uniforms, although the uniforms themselves are unchanged:

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Sun Belt

• Updated look for Appalachian State: The new sleeve stripes look good, although they'd look even better without the "A" logo cluttering them up:

Arkansas State is tinkering with some new uniform and helmet combinations, including a solid-black uni with a red lid:

Idaho will be leaving the FBS and dropping down to the FCS in 2018. Judging by their new uniform set, the Vandals might already be preparing for the lower status. The new mix-and-match combos feature a lot of gray (they're calling it silver, but come on -- it's gray), and most of it doesn't look so hot (additional photos here, and additional info here):

• Very basic, no-frills uniform set and lots of new glove designs for Louisiana-Lafayette:

New Mexico State has changed outfitters, switching from Adidas to Under Armour. A home jersey was revealed about two months ago, but the team's full uniform set won't be unveiled until Thursday.

Troy has added a set of white helmets to the mix:

Additional Notes

• As you might have noticed in some of the preceding posts, more schools are using treDCALs, which are three-dimensional logo inserts that attach to thigh pads:

• Here are some graphics showing permissible and impermissible configurations of face masks and patches, as shown in the NCAA football rulebook:

• The New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which takes place each year at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, has a new secondary logo:

• The Las Vegas Bowl has a suitably flashy 25th anniversary logo:

• The GoDaddy Bowl will now be known as -- wait for it -- the Dollar General Bowl:

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Phew! Did we miss anything?

Yeah, probably.

If you know of any college football uni updates that weren't covered here (FBS schools only, please), you know what to do. Thanks.

Paul Lukas will run down all the uniform news for the upcoming NFL season on Sept. 6. 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.