Uni Watch's 2012 college football preview!

ESPN.com Illustration

The big trend in college football uniforms this year is sleeves.

Not jersey sleeves, mind you -- those are still MIA. But keep an eye on the base-layer compression shirts that players wear under their jerseys, because those sleeves are becoming a bigger part of football design.

Here's the deal: Football jersey sleeves have essentially disappeared over the past decade, as players have become obsessed with achieving a skin-tight fit and giving their opponents as little as possible to grab on to. This has left less and less room for stripes, graphics and TV numbers (the smaller uni numbers that are usually placed on the sleeves or the shoulders).

Several of this year's new uniforms solve that problem by putting stripes and TV numbers on the base layer. This isn't an entirely new phenomenon -- we've seen it before with some of Nike's special event uniforms. The difference this time around is twofold: Most of the new designs with base-layer graphics this year are from adidas and Under Armour, and most of them are the primary uniforms for their respective teams, not one-off experiments. So using the base layer as part of the uniform canvas may be entering the mainstream.

Of course, it's one thing to make the base-layer graphics look good at a staged unveiling, but how will they look on the field? Will players even wear sleeved undershirts on a hot September afternoon? We'll find out as the season unfolds.

There are plenty of other intriguing uni-related storylines this season, as more than half of the 120 FBS teams have made some sort of uniform change this season. As usual, Uni Watch is set to deliver the goods, so let's get started with our annual conference-by-conference breakdown (with the usual proviso that a few changes have probably flown under Uni Watch's radar and will therefore be covered in subsequent columns):

Part I: The ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, and Independents

Part II: The MAC, Mountain West, PAC-12, SEC, Sun Belt, and WAC