In honor of the 150th anniversary of college football, we present an all-time ranking of the best mascots in the sport.
College football has seen many different styles of helmet since the sport’s inception 150 years ago. While some teams have stuck to traditional looks, others have changed helmets more than coaches. Here are the top 10 helmets in college football history.
The list starts with one of the older helmet designs in college football. The “OU” design has been a staple on Sooner helmets since 1966. Over time, the helmet has undergone small changes to help stay with the times. The latest change? A metallic sheen, giving it some more modern flair.
LSU’s traditional look doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. The Tigers have occasionally stepped out with new stylish helmets, but their bread-and-butter has always been: gold tiger on gold helmets with purple “LSU” letters spaced out above. It’s one of the few helmets where the letters and logos don’t intersect—and it looks good.
Simple but distinctive, Alabama is one of the few schools to feature player numbers prominently on the sides of its helmets. Past years saw the Crimson Tide alternate between white and crimson helmets before they settled on exclusively using the crimson helmets in 1985.
7. Florida State
The signature spear logo debuted in 1976 and remains a classic. While FSU did modify the helmet in 2014 as part of a Nike rebranding, the combination of the spear, metallic gold crown and garnet face mask remain an all-timer.
USC’s cap features a gray face mask and a golden trojan decal over its shiny red helmet. That look has tons of history. Never change it, USC.
The signature longhorn logo has been a staple on Texas helmets since 1961. A decade later, Texas made the logo smaller, and it remains a similar size today. The Longhorns briefly modernized their helmets in 2014, changing the decal to metallic burnt orange, before returning to the classic color scheme in ‘17.
Oregon has been the standard for style for over a decade-plus now. The Ducks could probably put together their own list of greatest helmets, given how often they modify the look. That variety—and the impact it had on design across college football—made the team a lock for the top-five.
3. Ohio State
The Ohio State helmet itself is plain; all gray with a big red stripe running down the middle, outlined by smaller white and black stripes. What stands out about the helmet is the buckeye leaf stickers, a tradition started in 1968 by legendary coach Woody Hayes to reward player performance. This 51-year tradition—which is now common across college football but started at Ohio State—helps elevate OSU helmets above the rest.
Michigan’s winged helmet is a classic. The wings debuted on Michigan helmets in 1938 and still remain to this day. The helmets are now shinier and contain pride stickers with wolverines, modernizing an otherwise timeless look.
1. Notre Dame
When people think of college football helmets, the Fighting Irish always come to mind. There’s no logo, but the simplicity is part of what makes it the greatest helmet in college football history. The distinctive gold color is a nod to the Golden Dome atop the Notre Dame Administration Building on campus. A further link: Each helmet contains 23.9 karat gold flakes collected from the dome when it was regilded in the mid-2000s. The result? The helmets are shinier than ever, and the Fighting Irish continue to be the gold standard for helmets.