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The annual Uni Watch college football season preview

Notre Dame's Knute Rockne tribute uniform is one of college football's new looks for 2017. Notre Dame

Sometimes it's easy to pick out the obvious trend for a new college football season. Black uniforms, gray uniforms, matte helmets -- they've each had their moment.

But this season's uniform trend is more subtle. In fact, most fans won't even notice it. And here it is: A bunch of teams are going with raised lettering on their neck bumpers (the pads that stick out at the back of the helmet).

Granted, going from flat to 3-D lettering on an inconspicuous helmet accessory probably isn't the kind of thing that's going to get the average fan's pulse to start pounding. Fortunately, there's plenty of other uniform news to report for 2017, and we'll run down all of it in this, the annual Uni Watch college football season preview, where we cover all the new uniforms for the 130 FBS teams.

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 yet announced any changes for this season, at least that we're aware of (though schools will undoubtedly be unveiling additional uniforms and helmets -- blackout, whiteout, camouflage, stars and stripes, chrome and so on -- as the season progresses).

Ready? Deep breath -- here we go.


Jump to a conference:

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

ACC

Georgia Tech has a new logo marking the centennial of the school's 1917 national championship. No word yet on whether it will be incorporated into the uniform or used just for marketing purposes.

Also: Tech is one of two FBS teams that are still outfitted by Russell Athletic. That will change next season, because the school has just inked a new deal with Adidas. (The other Russell-outfitted FBS school is Southern Miss, but that is likely to change next year as well.)


Miami has two new solid-colored alternate uniforms: a green design, which will be worn Sept. 23 against Toledo, and a black model, complete with a black helmet, which will debut Oct. 12 against Georgia Tech (additional info here).


• Last year Michigan became the first NCAA school to wear the Jordan Brand logo on its football uniforms (or, to put it another way, it became to the first football team to wear a basketball icon). Now North Carolina has joined, as the Tar Heels' new uniforms will feature the Jumpman graphic. They also include a dark navy set that looks very close to black (here's some additional info and photos).

In addition, UNC is one of several schools that are going with raised neck bumper lettering this season:

Finally, two sections of Kenan Memorial Stadium's bleachers are being converted to chairs (additional info here).


NC State is adding a 125th anniversary helmet decal:

In addition, the Wolfpack will wear a solid-black alternate uniform for the Oct. 5 game against Louisville:

Also: Letters and numbers on all NC State jerseys will be screen-printed, rather than sewn.


Pitt will wear its excellent retro uniforms for the Oct. 14 homecoming game against NC State and will give away a bobblehead of James Conner wearing the retro threads (further info here):

It looks like the Panthers will also be wearing the throwbacks on Nov. 9 against UNC.

Meanwhile, a secondary logo and possible color change are reportedly in the works:


• No photos yet, but Syracuse will have a new Military Appreciation Day helmet logo for the Nov. 11 game against Wake Forest. It won't be revealed until the week leading up to the game.


Virginia, whose cleats had been a mix of white, orange and blue, is switching to black.


Virginia Tech has added a 125th anniversary helmet decal and is going with raised lettering on its nose and neck bumpers:

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American Athletic

• The American Athletic Conference wants to have the same status as the so-called Power 5 conferences, so late last season, several American Athletic schools began wearing "P6" helmet decals for "Power Six." Look for most schools in the conference to continue doing that this year (additional info here and here).


• No photos yet, but Houston's familiar "UH" helmet logo will have a Texas flag theme for the season opener against UTSA on Sept. 2.


• Very nice new set for Navy. The gold chest lettering looks great on the home jersey, and the six-stripe motif, representing America's six naval fleets, works well on the shoulders and pants.


• Nothing new on the design front at Temple, but here's an interesting story: Deep-pocketed donors can now sponsor the team's nine single-digit uniform numbers, which are typically assigned to the team's "toughest players." If you've already bought a luxury box and have money left over, this is right up your alley.


• Here's great news out of Tulane, which will now have its excellent "angry wave" logo at midfield:


• No photo yet, but Tulsa is adding a memorial patch for school president Steadman Upham, who passed away July 30. A team spokesman says the patch will be white with black letters that read "Stead."

In addition, the Golden Hurricane have a new field design this year, along with new shoes and gloves:


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Big Ten

Illinois has removed the center stripe from its orange, navy and white helmets (though the stripe will remain on the Grey Ghost helmet, which will be worn for homecoming on Oct. 28 against Wisconsin):

Meanwhile, here's a really good story about Illinois assistant equipment manager John Birdsell, who has been on the team's equipment staff for more than 30 years.


Indiana has a new alternate uniform that salutes the memory of former coach Terry Hoeppner. The design, which features a script chest mark, granite-themed numerals, will be worn for the Sept. 23 game against Georgia Southern (additional photos and info here and here):


Iowa's Tigerhawk logo will now be appearing as a midfield mark.

Also: Coach Kirk Ferentz recently said the school would wear an alternate uniform this season, though it isn't yet clear when that will happen or what the design will look like.


Maryland is celebrating its 125th season and will mark the occasion with 1940s-inspired uniforms for the Oct. 28 homecoming game against Indiana:


• No details yet, but Michigan will reportedly have an alternate uniform for at least one game this season.


Michigan State has added a white design to its helmet mix:

The Spartans have also made a subtle adjustment to their pants striping, which now goes all the way up to the hip:

Meanwhile, if you want a good sense of what goes on behind the scenes of a major school's uniform and equipment program, check out this excellent article about the Michigan State equipment staff. Great stuff.


Minnesota's anthracite uniform, first worn against Michigan in 2015, will return for a game this season. Date and opponent to be announced.


Nebraska will mark the 20th anniversary of its 1997 undefeated championship team by wearing mesh-patterned throwbacks for the Oct. 7 game against Wisconsin. The idea is that the numerals mimic the old mesh jerseys -- an interesting approach (additional info here).


Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is adding a Roman numeral to his nameplate. Last season he just had his surname.


Penn State will wear a retro-style uniform for the Sept. 30 game against Indiana. As you might expect, it isn't radically different from the current uniform, but there are some good period details (additional info here and here):


Rutgers has switched from Nike to Adidas, which has restored the school name to the chest and added a New Jersey state outline above the nameplate on the back.

In addition, the Scarlet Knights have a new black alternate uniform. No, that doesn't make much sense. Yes, they're wearing it anyway, on Nov. 4 against Maryland (additional info here).


Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium turns 100 years old this season, and the Badgers are marking the occasion with several initiatives. First, home games will feature retro-themed ticket designs:

There's also a new football design:

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Big 12

• No specifics yet, but Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley recently said that the Sooners would likely have some alternate uniforms this season. Stay tuned.


TCU is going with raised lettering on its nose and neck bumpers and has also updated the collar on its black jersey, which will now have purple frog skin:


Texas has become the first FBS school to use special sensor technology in all of its helmets. There's a good rundown in this video:

The Longhorns also have new cleats, which almost qualifies as major news for a team that makes so few changes to its visual program.


Texas Tech has tweaked its jersey typography, though the team's basic look is largely unchanged.

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Conference USA

Florida Atlantic is going with uniform numbers on its white helmets this season:


Florida International's new blue and white jerseys, pants and helmets can be mixed and matched. There are new claw marks on the hips, too.


Western Kentucky has changed from Russell Athletic to Nike, which has given the HIlltoppers a fairly traditional look:

WKU has also released a graphic indicating which colors fans should wear to each home game:


• Minor changes for Marshall, which has added a black pant option at home and changed its road jersey chest mark from the team name to the school name:

Also: Marshall is adding player names to its jerseys this season. The Herd had gone NNOB (that's "no name on back," for those of you who don't speak uni) in recent seasons.


• Pretty conservative new set for Middle Tennessee State, except for the lettering that's still running down the pant legs.

Want to know more? Here's an article about the guy who designed those uniforms.


North Texas has a new uniform set, with jerseys, pants and helmets all appearing in green, white and black (additional photos here):


Rice unveiled a new set of logos earlier this year and now has new uniforms to match:

Also: Rice will once again wear pink helmet logos for a game in October (date and opponent still to be finalized) and will likely wear flag-themed helmet logos for the Oct. 7 game against Army.


Southern Miss Will have new gold jerseys this season. In addition, the Golden Eagles will mark the 20th anniversary of their 1997 conference championship by wearing 1997 throwbacks. No word yet on when they'll be worn.


• After a two-year hiatus, UAB is set to retake the field this season, and their new uniforms look pretty sharp (further info here):

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Independents

• Last year Army added a memorial decal for sophomore cornerback Brandon Jackson, who was killed in a car accident in September. The Black Knights will continue to wear the decal this year and next, until the point when he would have graduated.


BYU has added a memorial patch for former coach LaVell Edwards, who died in December.

The Cougars have also released a guide showing fans which color to wear on game days -- even on the road:


Notre Dame will not have a Shamrock Series game this year, but the Irish will still have a special uniform for one game: They'll will wear a Knute Rockne tribute uni for the Nov. 18 showdown with Navy. The design is not a pure throwback to an earlier Irish uniform but features lots of Rockne-themed elements (additional info and photos here and here):

Speaking of legendary Notre Dame coaches, the Irish will memorialize legendary coach Ara Parseghian by replacing their "Irish" nose bumper decal with "Ara."

Meanwhile, the Irish have new jackets to wear when traveling to road games:

Also: The Irish have a new football design, with the leprechaun mascot replaced by the phrase "Play Like a Champion Today."

Also-also: The Irish have been using shamrock merit decals in practice, though so far there's no indication that they'll be doing this on their game helmets:

That might seem sacrilegious, but it's worth noting that Notre Dame used blue merit stars back in the Parseghian era.

Finally, it's worth noting that the Irish have a very cool season-ticket design this year:


UMass, now in its second year as an independent after a stint in the MAC, has added a memorial decal for former offensive lineman Michael Boland, who died earlier this year while preparing for the NFL draft.

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MAC

• Last season, the SEC began issuing special "graduate" patches for players who had earned their undergraduate degrees but had not yet exhausted their eligibility. The MAC is doing something similar this year, with 55 players slated to wear the patch this fall.


• No photos yet, but lots of news for Akron. First, the Zips will be adding a new set of gold pants to the mix. Second, expect some new helmet looks, as the team mixes and matches shell colors, face mask colors and side logos. Third, the homecoming game -- Oct. 7 against Ball State -- will once again feature a throwback helmet but not the one that was worn for last year's homecoming. Fourth, Senior Night -- Nov. 21 against Kent State -- will once again feature the team's "full roo" helmet logo, but with a different helmet color than the gold shell that was used last season.


Ball State has a new helmet design this year, with a larger cardinal icon on the right side and the school name on the left. New pants and face masks will be swapped out to match the pant colors.


Bowling Green will hold a Military Appreciation Day promotion for the Sept. 30 game against Akron. The Falcons' helmets will feature star-spangled side logos, and the center stripe will include the names of the 111 Bowling Green students who have died in the line of service. Additional info here.


• Last season, Eastern Michigan went without nameplates and had feathers on the shoulders of its road jerseys. Both of those elements are changing this season:

In addition, the Eagles are adding a new steel-gray alternate helmet to the mix:


Kent State has installed new turf for 2017. Interestingly, the program is using two different fonts for end zone lettering:


Ohio has changed from Russell Athletic to Adidas, which has left the Bobcats' traditional look largely unchanged:


Toledo has changed suppliers and is now being outfitted by Nike, which has given the Rockets a no-frills look and introduced gray as an alternate color (additional info here):


Western Michigan has new white jerseys with sharp-looking sleeve stripes:

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Mountain West

Air Force will wear a 70th anniversary patch for the Oct. 14 game against UNLV:

In addition, the Falcons will wear an alternate jersey and helmet for the Nov. 11 game against Wyoming (Veteran's Day), but the design hasn't yet been finalized.


Boise State has added some interesting shoulder stripes, which look particularly good on the white jerseys:

In addition, the Broncos' jerseys now have "Blue Collar" embroidered on, uh, the blue collar (more on that here):

Also: Former Boise State football coach and athletic director Lyle Smith recently passed away at the age of 101. A team spokesman says some sort of memorial is likely -- possibly a helmet decal, a field logo or both -- but plans haven't yet been finalized.


• Most subtle move of the year goes to Colorado State, which has added "CSU" and "Rams" to a pair of extremely inconspicuous spots on its Riddell helmets. Equipment manager Kris Young says the Rams are the first team in the nation to do this.

CSU also has a new stadium this year. Additional info here.

The stadium has its own inaugural-season logo. For now, it's just being used for marketing purposes, with no plans to use on the team's jerseys or helmets.


Fresno State will retire Derek Carr's No. 4 during halftime of the season opener against Incarnate Word on Sept. 2.


Hawaii is the latest team to switch to matte-finish helmets (additional info here):


• Very straightforward new design for Nevada. The set includes a new matte-blue helmet, and new coach Jay Norvell has restored players' names to the back of their jerseys -- something the Wolf Pack haven't done since 2013 (additional info here).


• Downgrade of the season goes to San Jose State, which has changed from Nike to Adidas, with disastrous results:


UNLV is commemorating its 50th season with a new logo, which will be worn as a helmet decal and will appear on the field:

In addition, the Rebels will wear a 1984 throwback helmet for the season-opening game against Howard on Sept. 2. It's similar to the one from the Randall Cunningham era but without the center striping (because the team now has the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" decal on the back), and the face mask and side lettering are metallic red instead of flat red.

In other helmet news, UNLV is offering a set of mini-helmets to fans who buy season tickets (further info here):

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Pac-12

• Remember the gradient sleeve striping and weird number font that Arizona had been wearing? The good news is both of those elements have been scrapped. The bad news is they have been replaced by shoulder stripes that wrap around too far into the chest area and a new font rendered in a comically large size:

On the plus side, there's a handsome new helmet with a matte-finish shell:


• No reported changes for Arizona State, but the Sun Devils have announced their home uniform combinations for the entire season -- a fairly unusual move for a college team. They've also announced a "stripe-out" for the Oct. 28 game against USC, with fans asked to wear maroon or gold, depending on the section where they'll be seated. (Of course, those are basically USC's colors as well, which makes this game an odd choice for this promotion.)


Cal has changed outfitters, moving from Nike to Under Armour. The result is a classic-looking, very handsome new uniform set featuring a signature stripe pattern. Nicely done.

Also: The Golden Bears have a new field design this season. The striping from the uniforms is repeated in the end zones:

The field also has a unique feature: Because Memorial Stadium is located above the Hayward Fault, a jagged line has been painted outside the north end zone:


• We've all seen plenty of cancer-awareness uniforms in recent years, but Oregon is taking that concept a step further. For the Ducks' Sept. 9 game against Nebraska, they'll wear a new uniform that was designed with the assistance of three pediatric cancer survivors. It's a great story, and the uniforms aren't bad either (additional photos and info here):

That one new design notwithstanding, the word out of Eugene is that the Ducks likely wear fewer uniform combinations this season. They might even -- brace yourselves -- wear the same exact uniform for two consecutive games. Shocker! But in true Oregon fashion, they've managed to raise some eyebrows by wearing ginormous numerals on their practice jerseys:


Oregon State has a new design that has all the telltale signs of being awful: It features a charcoal jersey over black pants, it features silver and metallic orange (perilously close to silver and gold, which is pretty much the definition of precious metal overkill), and Nike gave the package an annoying name and an overhyped website. But despite all of that, it works!


UCLA, which had been outfitted by Adidas, is now with Under Armour, which has given the Bruins an absolutely classic look. Best of all: full-length UCLA stripes. May it always be so.


Utah has revived the school's old "Utah Stripe" on its sleeves and pants, part of a redesign that has given the Utes three new uniforms: red, black and white (additional info here):

Meanwhile, here's an interesting story: Utah recently inked a deal to make Pepsi the school's official beverage. But Pepsi's signature color is blue, which also happens to be the primary team color for Utah's chief rival, BYU. As a result, Pepsi has agreed to omit the blue background in its on-campus signage. Additional info here.


• It's hard to believe now, but as recently as 10 years ago, almost every college football team had only one helmet design -- except for Washington State, which wore silver helmets at home and red on the road. Now most teams have a wide range of helmet options, including the Cougars, whose new set offers enough mix-and-match combinations to last several seasons (additional photos here).

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SEC

Arkansas is planning some sort of memorial tribute -- maybe a jersey patch, maybe a helmet decal, maybe something else -- for former coach Frank Broyles, who died earlier this month. Details to follow shortly.


• Subtle change for Auburn, which is going with three-dimensional nose bumper lettering:

Also: Auburn will be using a new football design this year, with a tiger eye motif:

In addition, Auburn has a sharp-looking 125th anniversary logo, but a team representative has confirmed that it will be used only for marketing purposes and will not be worn as a jersey patch or helmet decal.


• Some very subtle changes for Florida, the most notable of which is that the Gatorhead logo on the pants has been moved from the hip to the upper-right thigh, so it no longer interrupts the pants striping. Speaking of which, the striping pattern on the orange pants now matches the sleeve striping on the jersey. The Nike logo, which had been on the right thigh, has been moved to the left side.


Georgia has switched to a new Nike template, the primary result of which is that the Bulldogs no longer have to wear that annoying Flywire collar -- a huge upgrade.


Kentucky's longtime home, Commonwealth Stadium, no longer exists -- at least not by that name. Thanks to a new naming rights deal, it is now known as Kroger Field.

The new name will be easy to remember because they're stenciling it onto the turf:


LSU's shoulder stripes were short, then they were long, and now they're short again:

In addition, the Tigers are going with 3-D neck bumper lettering this year.


Mississippi State has adjusted its sleeve striping and collar trim. The black outlining on the sleeves and collar is gone and gray striping has been added to the sleeves, which mirrors the striping on the pants:

In addition, the Bulldogs have added a Mississippi outline decal to the back of their helmet, and have also gone from flat to raised neck bumper lettering:


Missouri has simplified its look by scrapping the contrasting shoulder yoke and sleeves:


• Thanks to a new tailoring template, Ole Miss's shoulder stripes have gotten significantly shorter.


Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady plans to wear loose, long-ish sleeves this season -- a look that is evocative of former Vols signal-caller Peyton Manning (additional info here).


Texas A&M has a new maroon alternate uniform with black accents, which will be worn against Mississippi State on Oct. 28. The helmet has a maroon-to-black gradation that will supposedly have different looks depending on the angle from which it is viewed (additional photos and info here):


• The players aren't the only ones who wear uniforms. Over at Vanderbilt, the school's on-field mascot, Mr. Commodore, has a new uniform of his own:

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Sun Belt

Appalachian State is another school adding raised lettering to its neck bumpers:


• No photos yet, but Arkansas State equipment manager Jason Jones says the team has new uniforms with reflective numbers and letters.

In addition, there's a new logo marking the 10th anniversary of the team's name change from Indians to Red Wolves. At present, there are no plans for it to appear on the uniform.

Also: Plans are afoot to make improvements and expansions to the north end zone at Centennial Bank Stadium (additional info and renderings here):


Coastal Carolina is joining the FBS in 2017 and marking the occasion by adding a teal alternate jersey:

In addition, the Chanticleers are dropping their matte-black helmets and going back to black glossies with gold flake, which is what they wore from 2003 through 2013.


Georgia Southern is another school switching to matte-finish helmets.

Also: A team spokesman says the Eagles will wear two alternate uniforms this season, but the dates, opponents and designs haven't yet been announced.


Georgia State has switched outfitters, changing from Nike to Under Armour. The team's new set includes blue, white and black elements that can be mixed and matched (additional info here):


• Back in 1987, when Louisiana-Monroe was still known as Northeast Louisiana and played in Division 1-AA, the school won the D-1AA national championship. The team will honor the 30th anniversary of that achievement by wearing 1987-inspired uniforms this season and will bring back the "P-40" military tribute uniforms that were first worn in 2015.


New Mexico State has added a new all-black design to its uniform mix (additional info here):


Texas State has a new gold jersey with reflective letters and numbers:

The Bobcats also have a new set of secondary logos.


Troy has removed the "T" logo from the sleeve of its red jersey and replaced it with three stripes:

The Trojans have also updated their red helmet, which has gone from matte to chrome:

In addition, the Trojans used a rather unorthodox method for selecting the uniform combination for their home opener:

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Additional notes

• It's a little early to be thinking about the 2018 College Football Playoff, but here's what the patches will look like:


• The new Schutt F7 helmet, whose shell features two distinctive flex panels, has been getting a workout from several schools. Here's a sampling of how it looks with an assortment of FBS logo and striping treatments:


• The NCAA has adopted a series of rules changes, one of which is uni-related: The definition of horse-collar tackles now includes grabbing a player by his nameplate area. (There was also talk of requiring players to wear knee pads this season, but that change has been pushed back to 2018.)

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 have his annual NFL season preview on Sept. 5. If you like 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, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, 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.