Posted: Friday November 19, 2004 10:24AM; Updated: Monday November 22, 2004 6:56PM
Today, the 10 Spot begins its rankings of the top college football helmets. Our first category: Top 10 logo helmets. That means no letters (Don't worry, Bob Stoops -- we do not have an agenda against your OU team. Our next Top 10 helmet list will feature the Top 10 letter helmets).
1. University of Texas -- The Longhorns' helmet passes the crucial one-glance test: If you look at the helmet for even a moment, you have no doubt what school it represents. The burnt-orange outline of a steer's head, complete with hook 'em horns, is silhouetted against a clean, white background. Simple, classic and essentially unchanged since the '60s.
2. Air Force Academy -- The blue lightning bolt on a white background is a clean, dramatic image that fits both the school and the football team. Watch the way the lightning bolts flash as the Falcons run their precise option attack built on feints and misdirection. Another design that's been essentially the same for decades, and for good reason.
3. University of Wyoming -- The silhouette of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco is one of the most distinctive in the college game. There is some debate as to whether the image represents a cowboy named Guy Holt riding a horse named Steamboat, or Stub Farlow on Deadman. Or it might be a melding of the two images. Either way, it's cool.
4. Clemson University -- When your nickname is shared by seemingly half the teams in the south and even your stadium's nickname (Death Valley) is claimed by another school, it's important to have something to call your own. For Clemson's Tigers, it's the Tiger Paw. Plenty of schools paint cute little paws on cheerleaders' cheeks, but the Paw is even painted on all highways leading to the Clemson campus on game days. On the helmet, the Paw is in white against an orange background.
5. University of Arkansas -- The wild razorback hogs that roamed the Arkansas countryside until the early 1900s were, according to the school's media guide, "lean, ill-tempered beasts." Such creatures don't run free anymore -- except perhaps on the Paris catwalks -- but the razorback has found a permanent home on the Arkansas helmet. Plus, the white razorback on the cardinal background is refreshingly modest, not the oversized monstrosity it might be in others' hands. After all, the real razorback was lean, not some fat pig.
6. Florida State University -- The bold garnet-and-white spear on a gold background might not be very PC these days, but it sure looks cool. The Seminoles are also one of those schools that applies decals for outstanding play, in this case a small tomahawk. But while the coaches can give out tomahawks, they can also take them away, presumably for infractions like cleaning out the local Dillard's.
7. Southern Methodist University -- It's another horse, this one a red mustang on a blue background, and it's neither bucking nor modestly sized. Still, the helmet evokes a simpler time, back when the Eric Dickerson-Craig James Pony Express was rolling in the early '80s. It was a time before "death penalty" meant anything in a college sports context. It was a time when SMU was actually good, and the Southwest Conference still existed. Those days are gone now, of course, but the mustang is still on the helmet.
8. University of Iowa -- The Hawkeye nickname doesn't actually trace to the fierce bird but to the same character in The Last of the Mohicans that also spawned MASH's Hawkeye Pierce. (It's a long story, but trust us.) You wouldn't know that by looking at Iowa's helmet, which shows a yellow Rorschach-test hawk on a black background that looks nastier than that homemade hooch that Hawkeye and Trapper served in the Swamp.
9. USC -- The school's original nicknames were the Methodists and the Wesleyans, but when USC decided that wasn't quite fierce enough, the school picked Trojans in 1912. This, of course, was back when the name inspired odes to Greek history rather than cheap prophylactic jokes. Even so, the gold head and helmet of the Trojan warrior on a cardinal background is still a striking image. As the Cowboys and Mustangs should know, however, horses are the Trojans' Achilles' heel.
10. Arizona State University -- Usually the 10 Spot dislikes cutesy mascots, but those that show a distinctive link to a school's geographical setting get a pass. That's the case with the Sun Devil, who is smiling fiendishly while seemingly readying himself to spear the ASU player in the noggin with his pitchfork. Actually, a sun devil is no spawn of Satan; it's a mirage caused when atmospheric conditions are stirred up by intense sunlight. Of course, it's not easy to represent atmospheric conditions on a helmet.