Here at Buckeyes Wire, we love all things uniforms… I mean, look good, play good – right? Now that basketball is over and spring practice is in full swing, we thought we’d put together our rankings of the Big Ten football uniforms.
Our rankings are based on the base uniform of each team, although some alternates are worn enough that they’ll play into the equation.
The Big Ten has a history of iconic college football programs. However, when it comes to the looks for Saturday afternoons, some teams stick with tradition and some… well, they go a little outside of the box.
Let’s take a peek at who does it better from Nike to Under Armour to Adidas and who has the best look in the Big Ten.
Nov 7, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) runs with the ball against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Brand: Under Armour
Overall Grade: D-
The Maryland Terrapins come in at a spot they are much accustomed to since joining the Big Ten… at the bottom. The founder of Under Armour and Maryland alum, Kevin Plank decided to get his brand out there by going bold. So got he his alma mater to buy in and took them from basic to off the charts.
We’re okay making a statement and maybe that’s what Maryland football needed, being known mostly as a basketball school. But the Terps uniforms are just too much with the loud colors and parts of the state flag plastered in various places.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Dec 31, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Evan Simon (3) drops back to pass in the second quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Overall Grade: D+
The Scarlet Knight switched over to Adidas from Nike in 2017 and we feel like it was a big downgrade. Adidas did take Rutgers to a more traditional look, but Nike had some cool things going on with the black and silver additions.
Furthermore, Adidas uses a type of material that when worn over pads, distorts the lettering across the chest. Lack of any helmet stripe and a basic capital “R” on the side, leave this uniform kind of blah.
Dec 19, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) throws a pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Brand: Under Armour
Overall Grade: D+
Some may disagree here, but the deep purple is hard for anyone to pull off. Especially when the people at Under Armour try to add black to the mix, it’s just too hard to differentiate the two colors on television.
Add in the striping under the numbers on the chest and I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a football jersey or a futball jersey. We will give credit for the unique letter graphic on the side of the helmet.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Nov 30, 2019; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini running back Reggie Corbin (2) runs the ball during the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Overall Grade: C-
Illinois went through a complete uniform overhaul a few years back and overall it was an upgrade from the previous threads. However, when you have two darker colors such as navy blue and deep orange, there probably should be some white outline.
The Illini do have multiple combinations with their new look. We do think the blue jerseys on top of the orange pants look the best and the matte orange lid looks sharp as well.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Oct 5, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Coney Durr (16) holds up his fist after making a tackle on third down in the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Overall Grade: C
Minnesota too recently underwent a redesign of its uniform and overall another upgrade. Let’s be honest though, maroon and gold are a hard combination to make look good. Nike did a decent job, but there are certain combinations that work much better together than others.
The white collars and numbers detract from the overall look, but the matte maroon base helmet is a good look.
Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis (5) walks along the sidelines during the first quarter of a NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.
Cfb Purdue Vs Northwestern
Overall Grade: C+
The black and gold of Purdue has so much potential, but most of the time it just comes out feeling very basic. The gold pants don’t seem to pop like they used to. The white numbers on the base black top doesn’t fit. Gold numbers on the black would be a much better look.
I often find myself liking the alternates better than the week-to-week uniforms. A few tweaks and the Boilers could vault up several spots.
Jan 2, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Indiana Hoosiers running back Stevie Scott III (8) is congratulated by quarterback Jack Tuttle (14) as he runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Overall Grade: B-
Another Big Ten team who had a major uniform redesign in the past several years. Again, the team has many combinations and several different alternates that are worn on a regular basis. However, the base uniform looks clean.
The matte crimson helmet is a nice touch but still stays true to tradition with the interlocking IU.
Nebraska place kicker Connor Culp (33) kicks a field goal during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.
Cfb Purdue Vs Nebraska
Overall Grade: B-
The Cornhuskers are one of the more traditional programs in the country. The look is simple and keeps with tradition. However, Adidas really does no favors for Big Red’s look.
To start, the pants need some stripes ala the Tommy Frazier era. Also, as noted earlier, the material Adidas uses gives the sleeve stripes an uneven look. The simple “N” on the helmet with a single red stripe is very plain, but it fits Nebraska perfectly.
Dec 19, 2020; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Jon Dietzen (67) and Wisconsin Badgers fullback Mason Stokke (34) celebrate Wisconsin’s first touchdown in the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first half at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Brand: Under Armour
Overall Grade: B
Under Armour keeps it simple with the Badger uniform, especially by Under Armour standards. The uniform striping is clean and consistent with two stripes on the pants, sleeves, and helmet. The slanted “W” on the helmet is unique, but seems somewhat dated.
Overall Wisconsin has a identifiable look that has stood the test of time.
Michigan State Spartans
Nov 24, 2018; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12) drops back to throw the ball during the first quarter of a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Overall Grade: B
Over the years, Michigan State has begun to incorporate more of the Spartan spirit into its uniform designs. The spartan silhouette on each side of the helmet is iconic as well as the font that Nike created for MSU in 2010 matches the spirit of what Spartans should be.
Some have thought that Michigan State should consider going back to the kelly green look, but I’m not sure that would be an upgrade. The darker green has more of a battle feel to it.
Iowa Hawkeyes players Ryan Gersonde (2) Riley Moss (33) quarterback Spencer Petras (7) wide receiver Max Cooper (19) and defensive back Jack Koerner (28) get pumped up before a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Indiana, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.
210904 Indiana Iowa Fb 054 Jpg
Overall Grade: B+
Iowa has done an excellent job of holding to tradition and still looking sharp while doing so. The Tigerhawk on the helmet is one of a kind and the black and yellow compliment each other.
The one knock on this uniform is it looks a little too much like the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers threads, which I suppose is okay if you’re a Yinzer.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Rasheed Walker (53) and linebacker Jesse Luketa (40) and safety Jaquan Brisker (1) and safety Jonathan Sutherland (0) walk on the field for the coin flip prior to the game Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Overall Grade: A
The Penn State football uniforms haven’t changed much over the course of modern history. And yet, the simple blue and white with nothing but a blue stripe on the helmet are some of the most easily identifiable in all of college football.
Some may argue that the uni is too simple, but the white and blue is a sharp combination. It really is a clean look when all put together.
Sep 28, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Kwity Paye (19) and defensive back Josh Metellus (14) react after a play during the first quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Overall Grade: A
Certainly Michigan has some of the best college uniforms in the history of college football. We realize this is an Ohio State fan site, but if we take off our scarlet-colored glasses for just a moment, we can appreciate the tradition without putting our fandom in question.
The maize and blue go well together and of course, the winged helmets are about as iconic as they come. There were a couple of things we took points off for in the Wolverine look.
We aren’t a fan of the all-white look. We think the gold pants are an overall better look. The helmet stickers feel forced. And finally, even though it was supposed to be an alternate, Michigan wore the blue pants enough that it may become a real thing. Stick with the traditional look and don’t mess with what’s already working.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2022.
College Football Rose Bowl
Overall Grade: A+
Call us biased, but we think Ohio State has one of, if not the best uniform in all of college football. The scarlet and gray complement each other so very well. The stripes on the pants, sleeves, and helmet all match and the Buckeye leaves on the helmet is the chef’s kiss.
It just doesn’t get any better in the Big Ten and maybe all of college sports than this.