Last week, I detailed which alternate uniforms I thought were the worst for each Big Ten team, and there were some incredible fails in the bunch. But now it’s a good time to take a look at the best.
While not all are home runs, there are a few standouts. Purdue’s astronaut-themed alternates worn in 2019 might be the best uniform in all of football. Rutgers definitely found a look befitting of its old-school heritage. Penn State is Penn State.
Some schools had simple changes that warrant calling it an alternate, while others made wholesale changes. Regardless of level of effort, here are my favorite alternate uniforms for every Big Ten team, with the bulk coming in 2019.
(AP Photo/Sarah Stier)
I see you, Rutgers. While I was skeptical that the Scarlet Knights were going to be wearing long sleeves in an alternate uniform, these just scream old school football -- fitting for the first team to ever take the field playing the sport. These are amazing throwbacks and the old school R on the helmet should be a permanent switch for RU.
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Maryland wore these against Michigan in 2019, and honestly, I would love it if the Terps went with this throwback look on the regular. Yes, the traditional uniforms are a bit garish, which is why I like these simple, clean colors with a script 'Terps' on the helmet.
Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
These Indiana alternates have incredible attention to detail, including the stripes on the shoulders as well as the gloves (for those who wore them). Indiana donned these against Rutgers in 2019, and the throwback IU logo on the helmet helps really make these feel special.
Photo: Nikos Frazier-Journal & Courier
These Purdue alternates worn in 2019 are easily my favorite -- not just in the Big Ten, but in all of college football. The astronaut theme paying homage to the space program and Neil Armstrong has incredible detail while maintaining the Boilermakers' traditional look. I'm honestly blown away by these. Here's more detail on the helmet, including moon craters on the Purdue logo: https://twitter.com/addicted2helmet/status/1395188064683757569?s=20
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Photo: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Funny enough, my least favorite Minnesota uniforms were also grey, but I like these ones worn against Michigan in 2015, most likely because they wore the traditional maroon helmet instead of the Notre Dame-esque gold alternates we've seen recently. Minnesota is another school that has multiple variations in its current scheme, so there aren't many alternates, but these are sharp.
Photo: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa wore these alternates in 2017 for the upset of Ohio State at Kinnick and they are amazing. It's like seeing a 21st century version of the Hawkeyes, and they played like it on that day. Considering that black and gold are their traditional colors, inserting a little grey helped sell the modern look, and the gold piping pulls it all together.
Photo: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Nebraska is a school with near-perfect uniforms and shouldn't change much, if at all, so these are much nicer than what we've seen the Huskers wear alternatively. NU loves to wear all black as an alternate, which I don't love. But these white unis are clean and simple, while still keeping the traditional look we expect from Nebraska. I'm not crazy about the N on the pants, but these are still incredible regardless of that.
Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
These gothic uniforms are quite customary for the Wildcats basketball team, but we never see them on the football team. Northwestern wore these against Ohio State in 2019 and they are something to behold. While I like the traditional purple, if you're going to wear all black, this is the way to do it.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
I've been really harsh on Illinois when it comes to its sartorial choices, but these worn in 2014 against Minnesota are sharp. If you're gonna change, change it all, like the Illini did here, maintaining the regular look but going all monochromatic.
Photo: Doug Raflik-Imagn Content Services
Yes, these have something of a 49ers look, and while I'm not crazy about the tan pants, these uniforms have a smash-mouth, throwback look that I can't help but love. You still know it's Wisconsin on the field, and these are simple while maintaining a traditional Big Ten look. Well done, Badgers.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Photo: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Guess what? Penn State's best alternate is the same as what I picked as its worst. That's because the Nittany Lions rarely wear anything different than the status quo, which is how it should be.
Michigan State Spartans
Photo: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
OK, so these aren't as much alternate uniforms as much as it's an alternate helmet, but come on -- the helmet is incredible. I'm partial for MSU wearing all white, which is part of its rotation of uniforms, but these alternates with 'Gruff Sparty' worn against Penn State in 2020 should be a regular mainstay.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Photo: Isaiah Hole
These Ohio State road uniforms are a variation of an all-grey look that the Buckeyes also had. However, utilizing a monochromatic look on road whites works better, in my opinion. The Bucks wore these against Michigan in 2017, and the dark grey helmet with red buckeye leaves are a nice touch. These are much better than any other variation I've seen from OSU.
Photo: Isaiah Hole
I'm going to be honest: I'm not particularly crazy about any of Michigan's alternate uniforms. And while I am somewhat partial to the throwbacks worn against Notre Dame in 2011, these all-maize unis which were worn against Florida in 2017 were clean and simple. However, if I were to pick an alternate that hasn't been worn yet -- but likely will be this year -- the all-blue variation worn at the behind-closed-doors spring game would easily be my favorite.