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Helmets. They are seen as the symbol of a college football team. You have throwback lids that hearken to yesteryear, new age ones worn with alternate jerseys and refurbished ones that try to rebrand a program in need of it.

Many teams in the Big Ten have iconic helmets that stand the test of time, while others could use a little more work than just slapping a logo on both sides.

We decided to poll an array of people from — um, our site here — to rank the best helmets in the Big Ten. Of course opinions vary, and of course we might be homers here with an Ohio State slant, but we’ll try to be as objective as possible.

Also, we’re going with the traditional helmet here, not any of the alternate stuff. We like all of that, but none of those are symbols of the programs.

Here’s a look at ranking the headgear of football teams in the conference that loves tradition, the Big Ten. We’ll go from worst to first. Don’t shoot the messenger, just get on board with what he’s selling.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Johnny Langan (17) of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights adjusts his helmet before the game against the Boston College Eagles at SHI Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Why the Ranking

Like most programs, we’ve seen other versions of the helmet. There’s been classic white, and a silver one at times. However, this is the look we’ve gotten used to and it is about as non-descript as can be. Red with the letter “R.” There’s not much tradition to hang your hat on in Piscataway, so why not overhaul this lid? Can we at least get a stripe somewhere? Anywhere?

Maryland Terrapins

Sept. 30, 2017; Minneapolis, Minnesota; A general view of Maryland Terrapins helmets during pre game before a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

Well what do we have here? You’re guess is as good as mine. It’s like the shows “Inkmaster” and “Design Star” had a renegade child. Sometimes you can outthink yourself, and I fear that’s exactly what happened here. I know what the decision-makers on these sort of things are going for here, but it has just never worked, not even with time.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Nov. 16, 2013; University Park, Pennsylvania; General view of a Penn State Nittany Lions helmet prior to the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Beaver Stadium. Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

I know I’m going to get nastygrams from the purists out there, but c’mon. If I hear that plain blue and white helmets with one stripe down the middle is iconic one more time, I’ll give you my black and white television set to replace your Smart TV with high definition and surround sound. No? That’s what I thought.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Oct. 6, 2018; Madison, Wisconsin; A Nebraska Cornhuskers helmet sits on the sidelines during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

Hey, I have an idea. Let’s make a red “N” but make it look like three pieces of tape stuck together. We won’t add anything else to it. Not an outline, and certainly not a logo. Also, let’s keep the lettering as slim as possible, slap it on the side of a helmet and top it off with the obligatory stripe down the middle that’s exactly the same width as the lettering. Pure gold.

Indiana Hoosiers

Oct. 24, 2020; Bloomington, Indiana; Indiana Hoosiers raise their helmets after the game at Memorial Stadium. The Indiana Hoosiers defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 36-35. Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

Somewhere along the line, the folks at Indiana decided to think outside the box and put two stripes down the middle of the helmet for a drastic change. That’s about as Indiana as you can get I guess. At least someone tried to put an I and U together in a crazy, pitchforky kind of way for the logo. So, there’s at least that to work with.

Purdue Boilermakers

Oct. 14, 2017; Madison, Wisconsin; A Purdue Boilermakers helmet during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

I know Purdue likes to bust out the helmets with the railroad tracks down the middle, but that’s not what we’re judging here. Instead, it’s the traditional one. Stripes down the middle? Check. Letter on the side with a slight slant and outline. Check. Different color face mask than the helmet body? Check. This helmet checks all the boxes of how to make a boring helmet design, and that’s about it. At least the Boilers didn’t screw anything up with it, so we’ll count that in the win column.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Dec. 30, 2019; Santa Clara, California; General view of the Illinois Fighting Illini helmet during the second quarter against California Golden Bears at Levi’s Stadium. Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

I have to admit, it’s hard to find the standard issue helmet for Illinois any longer. The Illini have been alternating between white, orange, and a matted blue base over the last few years. The all-white one though is the one that seems to have replaced the one that got creative by stamping the word — stay with me here — “Illinois” on the side of the helmet. It’s a clean look, but doesn’t have any pop. Much like the program these days.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Nov. 10, 2018; Minneapolis, Minneapolis; A general view of a Minnesota Golden Gophers helmets before a game against the Purdue Boilermakers at TCF Bank Stadium. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

The gold helmet Minnesota breaks out from time to time actually looks pretty sharp and futuristic, but that’s more of an alternate lid. This is the one we’re accustomed to seeing, and it’s awfully hard to pull off some of the ugliest colors in college football. It works though, and it’s a good job of doing something with little to work with. Sounds a lot like the Gophers’ recruiting classes over the years.

Northwestern Wildcats

Sept. 30, 2017; Madison, Wisconsin; Northwestern Wildcats helmets on the field prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

To be honest, Northwestern doesn’t use this helmet as much as it used to, but the solid purple top is what the Wildcats are known for. And we’re really still in boring territory here, but you have to give credit for men full of testosterone being able to rock out purple on the football field. Also, creative points go to whomever decided to carve out as little space as possible in a white block to make it look like an “N.”

Wisconsin Badgers

Nov. 9, 2019; Madison, Wisconsin; A Wisconsin Badgers helmet during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Camp Randall Stadium. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

Wisconsin used to have a plain W on the side of the helmet much like what we see with Nebraska. The program went through a facelift though and did an outstanding job with the curved lettering and shadow outline. Great job with the proportions, too. It’s not a great helmet, but it has become a good one that let’s you know you are watching college football in the Midwest.

Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State’s Jalen Nailor wears the S logo on his helmet along with the rest of the Spartans for the game against Indiana on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

I actually like what Michigan State has done to its helmet design. Now, if the Spartan program will quit changing it, maybe it’ll be on to something. This is clean, but it has a new age look to it. It’s much better than the helmet on helmet design of a few years ago. Keep rolling with this Sparty.

Iowa Hawkeyes

The helmet Drew Ott wore during his playing days at Iowa sits on a cupboard in he and his wife Kali’s home in Trumbull, NE on Thursday, May 16, 2019. USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

Aside from an upgraded logo design for the Hawkeye, this helmet has looked relatively the same since I was a kid. You might think a bird on the side of a helmet looks corny (even for Iowa) but we beg to differ. The black and gold together with the logo looks great still to this day.

Ohio State Buckeyes

An Ohio State Buckeyes helmet sits on the sideline during warm-ups prior to the College Football Playoff semifinal against the Clemson Tigers at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

It seems like people either love or hate the Ohio State helmet. And, I have to admit, the early season look is not as iconic as the late season one that has Buckeye leaves plastered all over that silver sparkle. The colors, helmet stickers, and design look great in prime time, and that’s what it’s all about.

Michigan Wolverines

Michigan senior DB Hunter Reynolds signs Justin Fields' petitionMichigan senior DB Hunter Reynolds signs Justin Fields' petition

Michigan senior DB Hunter Reynolds signs Justin Fields’ petition

Nov. 18, 2017; Madison, Wisconsin; An Michigan Wolverines helmet during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking

I know we are an Ohio State site, but you have to give credit where credit is due. There is not a better helmet in college football. Michigan wasn’t the first program to use winged helmets, but it made the design its own and it’s an icon and symbol of the sport. The fact that it looks good on a Maize and Blue palette sets it off even more. If only the program were as good at playing the game of football as it was trotting out of the tunnel. [listicle id=51166] Contact/Follow us @BuckeyesWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Ohio State news, notes and opinion.