After ten weeks of regular season voting, we have, together, whittled down 77 conferences spanning the Football Bowl Subdivision to NAIA, to the National Championship bracket of 64. If you’re new to Helmet Bowl, or voted in just a few of the conferences to this point, below is a primer laying out one guy’s take on the favorites, sleepers, and interesting matchups and facts in the four regional brackets.
The Favorite: The Howard Bison wield the two most important weapons required to win Helmet Bowl: a dynamite helmet and a strong voting bloc. If the clean, simple Bison’s head on a silver helmet isn’t enough to overcome the competition, a fan base that helped Howard rack up 10.5 of 11 possible points in the MEAC will. Consider the Bison the favorite to win Helmet Bowl I.
The Sleeper: This is a tough call, with the East boasting a number of teams in its ranks that could make a serious run at the bracket and Helmet Bowl title. The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays have a tough road, with ACC foe Syracuse in Round One and a potential match-up with a powerhouse in-state competitor, Bowie State, in Round Two. However, the striking design of the detailed Blue Jay profile on the black helmet will make them a formidable opponent on the bottom half of the East Bracket.
Top First Round Matchups
#5 Navy Midshipmen vs. #12 Wagner Seahawks – Several teams submitted different helmets for the bracket than they sported in the regular season. The Midshipmen, with their blue and gold anchor helmet, may have been a favorite to win the whole thing. With the more traditional, plain gold submission, expect this to be a close matchup with the Seahawks, whose unique metallic green lid makes them one of the stronger low seeds in the tournament.
#2 Bowie State Bulldogs vs. #15 New Jersey Lions – This is an interesting matchup because the helmets have such a a similar look, with yellow and white images of a full-body Bulldog and a Lion’s head, respectively, resting on black shells.
Interesting Bracket Note: A quarter of the teams in the East Bracket sport no logo on the side: Army (camouflage), Navy
The Favorite: Two of the most rabid fan bases in Helmet Bowl’s regular season earned the top seeds in the South, and it’s difficult to see the bracket playing out any differently. Flip a coin between the Blazers and Golden Eagles. I’ll take the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
The Sleeper: The sleeper pick is perhaps toughest in the South bracket, where the two best candidates (Georgia State & Greensboro) have submitted entries that are weaker than their regular season counterparts. I’m going to go with the #6 seed Georgia State Panthers, who could get a boost from being on the opposite side of the bracket from in-state giant Valdosta State.
Top First Round Matchups
#4 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks vs. #13 Georgetown Tigers – You know it’s good Round One matchup when there’s disappointment that a strong helmet won’t make it to the second round. It’s Texas versus Tigers here, and it’s also the only match-up of a purple and orange shell in Helmet Bowl I.
#3 Elon Phoenix and #14 Lyon Scots – After early-season domination, Elon used a late surge to win the Colonial, and they could make a legitimate run at the South Bracket. Elon’s opening matchup pits their school name and burgundy rising Phoenix on gold against another unique helmet. Lyon’s new white-on-white “L” and chrome blue dragon sigil make it a formidable 14-seed.
Interesting Bracket Note: With the brackets being set up on a regional basis, Southern Miss and Mississippi Valley State is surprisingly one of only two first round match-ups between schools from the same state (Ohio State and John Carroll, in the East Bracket, is the other).
The Favorite: The North Bracket is led by Central Michigan, the only team to win all 11 regular season conference points. Normally this would make them the favorite in any bracket. But they’re not a service academy with a waving American flag adorning a silver helmet, like the #3 seed Merchant Marine Mariners.
The Sleeper: This bracket might have the most parity, with a lot of conservative designs and few that stand out at first glance. The #11 seed Misericordia Cougars sport a bright yellow Cougar head on a white shell for a look that’s very sharp. The Cougars will also benefit from their first round opponent, the Greenville Panthers, not displaying the more dynamic side of their helmet in their North Bracket entry.
Top First Round Matchups
#2 Wayne State Warriors vs. #15 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs – This could be the biggest potential upset of Round One with two simple, old-school designs going head-to-head here. The black-on-gold Warriors helmet and the gold cartoon Bulldog’s head on a maroon would have worked in 1977 as well as they work in 2017.
#8 Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils vs. #9 Valley City State Vikings – This is a really even match-up between two sneaky-good helmets. The Blue Devils feature a shooting grey and blue Devil on white, while the Vikings sport a familiar Viking profile on a less familiar red matte shell. The winner of this match-up will give Central Michigan a tough Round Two matchup.
Interesting Bracket Note: This North is the only bracket where two Round One matchups feature teams wearing the same color shell—the Buffalo State Bengals and Franklin Grizzlies both sport black helmets, while theMerchant Marine Mariners and Colby Mules wear silver. There is only one other Round I matchup of shell color in the entire bracket (Bowie State vs. New Jersey, in the East).
The Favorite: This bracket is going to be interesting, with monster voting blocs at the top (NW Missouri State & Kansas State) and potential sleeping giants lurking in the middle (Arkansas & Oregon). But a high-definition image of the San Diego State Aztecs helmet, with Aztec imagery featured in red-on-red, will be hard to beat in a head-to-head matchup.
The Sleeper: If you’ve perused all 77 conferences in helmet bowl, you’ve seen a lot of takes on birds, with many repeated among different teams. None do it better than the #9 seed Fort Lewis Skyhawks, whose design is simple, understated, and intimidating all at the same time. Look for them to make some noise in the West Bracket
Top First Round Matchups
#6 Oregon Ducks vs. #11 Idaho State Bengals – Admittedly these are not the most dynamic of helmet designs, but there is may not be a brighter display of color in the entire Helmet Bowl tournament.
#7 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. #11 Ottawa Braves – A study in dynamic but contrasting trends, this is what Helmet Bowl is all about. How could you not love a white pig on chrome red going up against a simple, black-on-matte black arrowhead design?
Interesting Bracket Note: Though unlikely, the only potential Helmet Bowl I matchup of schools with the same name is a West Bracket final between the #4 Trinity Tigers(out of San Antonio) and the #15 Trinity Trojans (from Deerfield, IL).
Josh Coates is from Columbus, Ohio. A finance professional, Josh has had a long-standing interest in sports uniforms and learned about Helmet Bowl through Paul Lukas’s UniWatch site. Josh holds degrees from Kent State University and Mount Union College—neither of whom managed to win their conference in Helmet Bowl.