Best and Worst Helmets of the Sun Belt and Conference USA

BOCA RATON, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 12: A detailed view of the helmet of Florida Atlantic Owls during the game against Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at FAU Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Boca Raton, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
BOCA RATON, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 12: A detailed view of the helmet of Florida Atlantic Owls during the game against Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at FAU Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Boca Raton, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /


Best: K, 2018-present

Charlotte has had a lot of cool helmets, but this one has the edge. A greenish/goldish chrome shell with a solid green facemask seems like a strange combination, but the 49ers make it work. Removing the “49ers” from inside the logo helps it stand out even more as well.

Worst: M, 2019-present

Again, nothing wrong with it. It’s actually a nice helmet. But an angry leprechaun holding a pickaxe? Norm’s a great mascot, but not a great helmet decal.


Best: L, 2020-present

A beautiful white helmet. Let’s give this the old compliment sandwich.  Similar to E and G, the red and blue stripe down the middle breaks up the white nicely. I think adding a red facemask would do wonders. Having the state of Florida on the helmet as the logo is a nice look. “Atlantic” written inside the helmet is a nice touch, taking away any question which of the many Florida schools this represents. But…

Worst: J, 2017-present

…in a modern college football world, the logo just screams the 70s. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t look up to par with other logos of the same conference. The “Atlantic” being written in gray, inside a blue Florida, on a red helmet has it looking a bit all over the place. Compare it to I, the exact same helmet but with Atlantic in white, and it shows how big a difference one minor change can make.


Best: B, 2015-present

There’s nothing special about it, but the gold facemask looks really nice along with the color of the panther. Everything on it blends so well, there’s color but it’s not an overload. In many respects, exactly what you want out of a helmet.

Worst: N, 2019-present

A Miami Vice tribute helmet….I guess…? It’s fine, until the pink and yellow palm trees. While I do admittedly like the pink, in this setting, it’s beyond out of place. It just looks awkward.

Louisiana Tech

Best: J, 2017-present

The standard Louisiana Tech helmet, red shell with a blue outline of Louisiana and a red T. It’s a rare case of the same color on color working. Louisiana Tech has used the logo for years, making only mild changes, dating back to 1968.

Worst: C, 2014

Same helmet, different logo. This one features a bulldog. That’s fine and well, but the dog doesn’t look angry or intimidating, he looks like he wants someone to rub his head. That’ll strike fear into people. Maybe that’s why we only saw it for one season.


Best: A, 2010-present

No surprise, it’s the most commonly used helmet of the Thundering Herd since their arrival to Division I-A, now FBS. The green M looks nearly perfect on the white shell. It’s a look Marshall should hold on to in some form forever.

Worst: 1975

Plain, boring, what is that logo? It looks like a child outlined in West Virginia in black crayon. And what is that inside of West Virginia? Is it supposed to be an M? Why isn’t it just an M and instead of random lines with a circle that means what exactly? Helmets shouldn’t make you think this much.

Middle Tennessee

Best: T, 2017-present

This is a personal favorite of mine. A matte black shell with the logo, stripe, and facemask in an electric blue. It’s a different shade of blue than the Blue Raiders use on nearly every other helmet. It just looks beautiful.

Worst: 1976

Plain blue with an outline of Tennessee that looks nothing like Tennessee. It’s more of a rectangle than anything else. Baby blue on navy blue doesn’t work, either. What makes this not great is that if this was ever re-done, it has the potential to be a really nice helmet.

North Texas

Best: 2003-2004

The best part of naming your team the Mean Green is that its meaning and mascot are left to interpretation. We’ll get to that. But for North Texas, the white “North Texas” script on a green shell with a black facemask is a great combo. It’s proof that less is more and plain and simple can work.

Worst: 1973-1982

Technically, there were two helmets here, but it boils down to the same key point: a flying worm on a lime green helmet. For who knows what reason, the flying worm has returned, at least not on the lime green this go around. North Texas went to an eagle after this, a major improvement, although I’m not sure how it could have been worse.

Old Dominion

Best: M, 2017-present

Old Dominion hasn’t had a ton of different looks, but this is my favorite. The silver logo looks nice along with a silver facemask on a navy blue shell. It does the job.

Worst: K, 2016-present

This is similar to M, but a white shell with a blue logo. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just nearly impossible to tell what the logo even is without staring at it for a while.


Best: 1994-1996

Let’s throw it back to the Southwest Conference. The silver owl wings high on the helmet with a silver facemask blend together perfectly. Rice wore variations of this from 1990-2005, but this one stands above the other two.

Worst: K, 2018-present

From good wings to bad wings. While the previous helmet looked great, this one does not. It’s not the white shell, because these would be bad on any color. The wings look like someone traced their hand and added in an extra finger. I bet you won’t be able to unsee that. now.

Southern Miss

Best: K, 2016-present

A take on a longtime look, it’s pretty much the standard for Southern Miss. The yellow on black looks nice, borrowing from the Pittsburgh Steelers but not ripping off.

Worst: P, 2017-present

A black helmet with a slightly brighter black (I don’t think that’s ever been said before) logo. It’s very difficult to see it and even harder to figure out what it’s supposed to be. How this is still a thing is beyond me.


Best: A, 2013-present

Let’s be honest here: that fire-breathing dragon looks awesome. The green on the facemask is a nice breakup of the gold. Some say it looks like an XFL helmet (which I guess is an insult?)  but it’s definitely unique. There’s no questioning who’s helmet this is, and that’s what a helmet should be.

Worst: D, 2017-2018

Here we go again. I feel like this is something that’ll be said many times over the series: the same color on color doesn’t work. This time it’s white on white, barely leaving you able to see the logo. Don’t get me wrong: UAB has a few great white helmets. This just isn’t one of them.


Best: C, 2016-17, 2019-present

I’m glad they brought this one back. A blue helmet with an orange pickaxe (In the shape of a T, for Texas, of course) is another great color combination. The logo is big, taking up a lot of the helmet, but also not consuming either shell. The program might be terrible, but at least their uniforms aren’t.

Worst: 1991

The only thing that really separates this from nearly every other UTEP helmet is the logo. Unfortunately, the logo reads as “ETUP” which is a definite identity problem. A quick Google search of ETUP leads you to a Twitch streamer, which is most definitely not the University the football program represents.


Best: H, 2016

It’s a shame these don’t exist anymore. Black and orange are always nearly guaranteed to look great and this is no exception. The logo and facemask are both a very bright orange on a black helmet. This helmet has a definite wow factor to it.

Worst: E, 2015

Nothing particularly offensive to see here. This gets the selection because the blue roadrunner on the side of the helmet looks like he was hit by paintballs. Not sure what the look they were going for was, but I would assume paintballs.

Western Kentucky

Best: 2003-2006

Another rare helmet where the color on color works. This one, a deep red on bright red. A black facemask breaks things up. Western Kentucky hasn’t had many different looks, but given my preference of color over white, I’ll take the red over the white version, which admittedly is also nice.

Worst: I, 2020-present

They’re the Hilltoppers, so they put just “tops” on the side in script. Why? Where I’m from, Tops is a grocery store chain, so all this helmet does is remind me that I have to go shopping this week.

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