Posted: Friday December 3, 2004 10:02AM; Updated: Wednesday December 8, 2004 4:00PM
The 10 Spot continues its list of its favorite college football helmets. This weekend's list is for helmets with letters, and only letters. Previously we ranked logo helmets and two lists remain for next Friday: a top five each of combo helmets (letters and logo) and colors-only, which is where Michigan will be eligible.
1. University of Miami -- The "U" is one of the more familiar symbols in college sports. The school commissioned a local public relations expert to develop a distinctive logo in 1973 and the expert came up with the "U." It's short for "University," of course, but also lent itself to cheesy slogans such as "U Gotta Believe." The helmet displays the school's colors -- orange, green and white -- which represent the orange tree. (Orange is for the fruit, green for the leaves and white for the blossoms.) So does serial arrestee Willie Williams know he's figuratively running around with an orange tree on his head?
2. University of Oklahoma -- The interlocking "OU" in cream on a crimson background is clean, simple and classic. The school has used some version of this helmet since the mid-'60s. One might reasonably ask, however, whether it's really "UO" rather than "OU" if the school's name is the University of Oklahoma, not Oklahoma University. Of course, it's smart-ass questions like that that simply prove the media's bias against Bob Stoops' program.
3. University of Georgia -- The black, oval "G" on a red background is one of the more copied symbols by high school programs near and far as well as by Grambling. The helmet dates back to the mid-'60s. The color scheme goes nicely with silver britches and shrubbery. And even though he's seemingly been there forever, the "G" does not stand for the surname of quarterback David Greene.
4. University of Nebraska -- The understated scarlet "N" on a cream background is one of the most enduring of college images. It evokes a long-gone era when college teams ran the option and Nebraska was a national power. OK, that was as recently as last year for the Huskers, but even so. The "N" is basic, conservative, square-edged; no public relations expert or marketing focus groups here.
5. Washington State University -- With the addition of five whiskers and a slit for an eye, the letters "WSU" have been cleverly arrayed to represent the head of a cougar. The logo was designed by a student named Randall Johnson in 1938, though the letters were originally "WSC." When the school changed from a college to a university in 1959, Johnson was called on to modify his creation.
6. West Virginia University -- The stacked "W" and "V" in "old gold" on a blue background has been in use since the early '80s. The shape of the letters evokes mountains, which is fitting for the Mountaineers. The logo is distinct and recognizable, even if Big East football isn't. It's a vast improvement on earlier helmets that included an outline of the state. Maps are rarely intimidating, except when wielded by the temperamental Jonathan in the Amazing Race.
7. Texas A&M -- The school has used some version of the big "T" surrounded by a little "a" and "m" alignment since the mid-'60s, most recently in white on a maroon background. It scores high points for originality, distinctiveness and inspiring copycats. The Aggies obviously knew the significance of the ATM well before the rest of the country.
8. Auburn University -- The Tigers adopted their trademark interlocking "AU" logo in 1966 and have stuck with it ever since. It's about the only thing that's not confusing about this program. OK, for the record, the school's only nickname is Tigers. War Eagle is not a nickname, but a battle cry. Aubie is the name of the Tiger mascot. Tiger is the name of the golden eagle, who also goes by War Eagle VI. Creampuff is the description of the school's non-conference schedule.
9. University of California -- Sometimes the 10 Spot likes things spelled out clearly, which is the attraction of this helmet. The cursive "Cal" in gold on a blue background leaves no doubt which school is taking the field. Cal edges a relatively similar UCLA helmet because it doesn't make sense that the "U" is larger than the other three letters on the latter; isn't it essentially an acronym? With Cal, there's no such confusion, except for the mystery as to when coach Jeff Tedford will leave.
10. University of Alabama -- OK, this helmet features numbers rather than letters, but there is no numbers-only list. Listing the uniform number on the side of the helmet is a throwback to the days when Bear Bryant was winning championships rather than serving as the specter that haunts every succeeding Alabama coach. Plus, it's helpful to sportswriters covering the game, and really, what's more important that ensuring sportswriters' comfort?
Honorable Mention -- Florida, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Oregon, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Washington, Wisconsin
Lock of the Week: The 10 Spot has covered three straight to run our record to 8-4, which means you best run in terror from this weekend's pick. We're going with the Lions laying four points at home against the Cardinals. Arizona coach Denny Green has, rather strangely, decided to start rookie quarterback John Navarre, who has never taken an NFL snap. The Lions aren't very good, but they should be better than that.