Every Independent, MAC football program’s best, worst all-time helmets

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MOBILE, ALABAMA – DECEMBER 22: A Buffalo Bulls helmet is seen during the Dollar General Bowl against the Troy Trojans on December 22, 2018 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Akron

Best: AF, 2019-present

Less is more, and Akron keeps things simple with these. A gold shell with a navy blue Akron script and navy blue facemask. It’s a really nice and clean combination that doesn’t stray from school colors.

Worst: U, 2017-present

There’s really nothing wrong with it, it just reminds me of a CFL helmet. It looks like something like the Montreal Alouettes or Toronto Argonauts. Again, that’s not a bad thing, but the CFL has a lot of very plain helmets. This would fit in well.

Ball State

Best: T, 2017, 2019-present

Normally I’m not a fan of helmets with mismatched logos/numbers on each side, but this is a rare exception. A white stripe down the middle breaks up all the red, as does a black facemask. Helmet O is very similar, but with a red mask, but that’s just too much red.

Worst: W, 2020-present

Shoutout and apologies to fellow college football writer Mason Plummer (@MasonPlummer_ on Twitter, give him a follow) for this pick. I lost a friendly wager during the MAC championship game and had to make this my profile picture for a week. Why do I dislike it so much? It’s white, has a logo on one side and numbers on the other. In other words, pretty much everything I dislike in helmets.

Bowling Green

Best: A, 2011-present

Bowling Green has one of my favorite logos in college athletics. The interlocking BG with a falcon sticking its head out is a cool look. The brown facemask is just off-color enough to make it have a nice contrast to the orange shell.

Worst: 1981-2003

I legitimately have no idea what that logo is supposed to be. I think a falcon? It looks like a flying piece of bread. I have no idea how this lasted so long.

Buffalo

Best: Y, 2017-present

A very similar color combination to the Middle Tennessee helmet of last week, bright blue on black always looks good. A black shell with a blue logo, stripe, and facemask make this one of the best looks in the entire conference. Seeing it on tv does no justice.

Worst: P, 2016-present

Again, white on white. Why? I’ve never really been a huge fan of the interlocking UB, especially since the angry bull logo made its debut. You can barely see the logo on this helmet, nor can you see the white stripe on it. Buffalo has a few nice white helmets, but this is not one.

Central Michigan

Best: A, 2015-present

Central Michigan went back to the brighter C logo they wore in the late 90s/early 2000s. It looks better than the bronze Dan LeFevour look the Chippewas wore for three seasons. During this go-around, they added a yellow facemask to match the color of the logo, giving Central Michigan a really nice look. They wore this helmet all of 2020.

Worst: 1965

It’s really hard to judge helmets from before the 1980s, mostly because nobody really looked for that sort of thing. Going back that far for this selection is actually more of a look at how good Central Michigan’s helmets have been since. This is a plain white helmet with a very undersized Indian logo on the side. Increasing the size of the logo would have done wonders.

Eastern Michigan

Best: 2002-2003

It was actually kind of difficult to find one I really like, but this is it. It’s nothing special, a plain green helmet with a white E and black facemask. What sets this apart from today’s green E helmet (L on the website) is the white E over a grey E. The grey E just doesn’t look right.

Worst: 1967-1975

Talk about a CFL ripoff, hello Edmonton Eskimos. If someone showed you this helmet and told you that’s what Edmonton currently wears, you’d never know the difference.

Kent State

Best: 2000-2015

Very similar to helmet D that the Golden Flashes have worn since 2016, this one features an oversized logo that takes up a lot more of the helmet than the current one does. There’s just enough yellow to separate the logo from the rest of the helmet and has a blue K, which is another rare occasion where the same color on color works.

Worst: F, 2016-present

There is no maybe or “it’s kind of close” on this: it’s a carbon copy of the Los Angeles Chargers’ helmets. Kent has some great looks, the lightning bolt across the top of the helmet is not original and should be left alone.

Miami (OH)

Best: P, 2020-present

Although the Redhawks have changed their nickname, they haven’t changed their look very much. They’ve stayed pretty consistent with a white helmet and red M in some form or another since the ’60s. This version gets the nod because of the red facemask and gray outline of the M that makes it stick out that much more.

Worst: J, 2018-present

This has a Jacksonville Jaguars type shell to it where it’s roughly 70 percent one color and 30 percent another. In this case, it’s red and white. It looks clunky and like someone forgot to finish painting it.

Northern Illinois

Best: K, 2015

I wish this was still around. I’m a sucker for the husky logo, and taking away the NIU letters out from underneath makes you focus on how beautiful that logo is. The white facemask is a nice compliment to the logo as well.

Worst: 1975-1976

A red interlocking NI that appears to be one of those inflatable tube men you’d see outside of any car dealership just doesn’t look great. The more you stare at it, the stranger it looks. It’s a look that should remain in the last century.

Ohio

Best: G, 2018

Plain and simple, but it works. The word Ohio is outlined in white while being filled in by green on a black shell. The logo really stands out better than the current one, which has the letters filled in black.

Worst: 1963-1965

Another 50/50 helmet, this one had green and half white. There isn’t a color combination that can make this look work and this is no exception. The white facemask looks awkward as well, although I don’t think a green mask would help.

Toledo

Best: E, 2013

An oversized yellow rocket on a navy blue shell looks really good. To be fair, if you didn’t know it was a rocket, you’d never be able to tell. But once you see it, it’s actually a really nice-looking logo.

Worst: Q, 2016

If you’re following along on The Helmet Project’s site, you already know what I’m going to say. White helmet, white logo. Why even bother??

Western Michigan

Best: U, 2016-present

Just the brown shell alone makes this stand out. It’s not a look you see often. The bronco logo on the side is white. It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s not a “full” logo in the traditional sense. It looks much better in white than it does in gold.

Worst: 1964-1968

This one gets the vote because of the bronco logo on the side. It barely looks like a bronco, and when you finally see it, it appears as if the bronco is laying down and sleeping. And if it’s not sleeping, maybe it’s preparing to kick someone. I don’t know.

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