As college football continues to evolve and gain more prominence among casual sports fans, more attention is being given to uniform design. The University of Oregon has a lot to do with that.
College football helmets, however, have always been woven into the fabric of a university's identity and culture, which is why I have decided to make this list.
In no particular order is a rundown of my 25 favorite helmets. Some were chosen because they are iconic. Others landed a spot based on the thoughts and images that they inspire. Many are just downright cool. All are solely my opinion.
1. Penn State - Leave your Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky opinions at the door. The old-school, plain and direct helmet design has absolutely nothing to do with them. It's a throwback to the old days of college football.
2. Michigan - There's not a lot that needs to be said here. Nothing says "Wolverines" like maize and blue wings.
3. Iowa - I like the artwork of the actually hawk. Had it not been for this element, Iowa's entire uniform design would be a complete rip off of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
4. USC - There are a lot cool helmets that have solider designs on them, like Michigan State. But unlike Michigan State, Southern California can actually back up that coolness with success, regardless of how much of it the NCAA has taken away.
5. Clemson - The orange on white is unique. And the paw design goes well with the rest of the uniform.
7. Notre Dame - Like Penn State, the golden domes of the Fighting Irish are the very epitome of iconic. Watching them get scratched up during games is strangely satisfying to watch, as well.
8. Stanford - I look at block letters as a very pretentious, uninspiring design that over half the schools in the country use. What makes Stanford different is that they have the kind of university that matches that premise. Consistency is everything.
9. West Virginia - The navy blue and yellow design works for me because it's a different take on the letters.
10. Miami - Someone once told me that "it's all about The U." I'm not too fond of the colors, but there is a certain perception that the helmet's image inspires.
11. Florida - You ever watch a movie that was so bad that it was good? That's how I feel about the Gators' helmet. It reminds me of a really bad deodorant label design. But, for some strange reason, I can't keep my eyes off it.
12. Wake Forest - I love the simplicity of the smoky black helmet and gold letters. Very subtle. It's the epitome of the saying "less is more."
13. Oregon - When people think of the Ducks, they think of the uniforms, and, by extension, the helmets. We could probably make a list of 25 different Oregon helmets by themselves. My personal favorites are the smoked black and shining silver designs. But, take your pick. They're all cool. The link provided is the team's standard helmet.
14. Cincinnati - Only fans of 1990s WCW wrestling will get this. The Bearcats' helmets and uniform design reminds me of the NWO Wolfpack, which was my favorite group when I was younger.
15. California - I debated putting this one on the list because a team called the Bears should, I think, have some kind of bear design included in the helmet. But the cursive lettering is cool.
16. Nevada-Reno - It's that silver wolf more than anything else that gets me. It's an awesome design that fits very well with the team colors.
17. SMU - When you see that galloping red pony, what do you think of? Great running backs? Death penalty? The Southwest Conference? That helmet is sure to conjure up some thoughts, which is why it lands on this list.
18. Oklahoma State - Orange and black is my absolute favorite color combination. The colors match well with the team's dynamic offense.
19. TCU - Not a lot of football teams can get away with purple. TCU is one of the few that can do it, with a style that completely reflects the distinctive flamboyance of Fort Worth, Texas.
20. North Carolina - Most people connect the powder blue and white design with the basketball team, and rightfully so. But the design works very well on the helmets, too.
21. South Florida - OK, the actual colors are completely awful, but you have to give it credit for designing a bull into a block letter. Completely unique.
22. Boise State - Combined with its blue and orange home turf, this helmet makes the list purely on its ability to induce vertigo on the opposition.
23. Texas Tech - Another red and black combination. And while it does make use of block letters, the design still comes together very nicely, in my opinion.
24. Georgia Tech - It kind of makes me think "Notre Dame 2.0." The Yellow Jackets' helmet has modern-day simplicity, which I find fascinating.
25. Ohio State - Because of my Michigan pride, I debated whether or not to put this in here. Even though I personally think the whole design is completely atrocious, the Buckeye stickers are iconic, and deserving of this list.
Aaron David Harris is a graduate of the University of Michigan (Class of 2007). He also covered sports in Michigan for four years at The Battle Creek Enquirer (in Battle Creek, MI). Visit him atwww.aarondavidharris.com.