We created Helmet Bowl to give you the say in which are the best college football helmets in the country.
We start with one helmet from every college football team. Often, the Equipment Managers who design and create the helmet submit to us an image of the helmet they want in the contest.
This year, for Helmet Bowl III, we created a three-week Conference contest for each of the 77 football Conferences in the country. After three weeks of voting, 1,000s of votes had been cast and we had all but three Conference Champions.
After the three tie-breakers, every Conference had its Champion. Schutt Sports has donated Helmet Bowl III Conference Championship trophies and they will be shipped to Equipment Managers by the end of the month.
This year we introduce an additional way a team can make it into the National Championship – a play-in round. Sixteen teams have been selected to play for four spots in the Championship. Four teams have been selected for each of the four national regions.
We reached out to Equipment Managers and then sat down and selected the teams – it's the only time in Helmet Bowl where we make decisions about who moves on. However, the real decision is with you – who moves forward? It's up to you.
The Play-in brackets launch today at noon. Each of the two rounds lasts one week and in the end, one team will be seeded #16 in each of the National Championship regions.
Here's who made it.
East Play-in Round
The New Jersey Lions have won their Conference Championship but this year got beat, barely, by the William Paterson Pioneers in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. Due to their strong history in Helmet Bowl, and the strong voting of the conference (The NJAC gathered the second most votes in the country!) the Lions are in.
(Another note on the Lions – it is possible that the Lions will face the Pioneers in the first round of the National Championship in the East or North Region. If so, it may be the greatest Seed #1 vs Seed #16 in the history of Helmet Bowl.)
The Elon Phoenix were runners up on the Colonial Athletic Conference to the Richmond Spiders, but we love their moxie and their helmet. The Phoenix are in.
The Wooster Fighting Scots simply have a cool helmet. That charging warrior with the sword drawn creates a unique look. They won the North Coast, but votes there weren't enough to gain an automatic place in the National Championship. The Fighting Scots are in.
The Gannon Golden Knights battled the similarly donned Seton Hill Griffons and won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference by a handful of votes. The Conference didn't have enough votes for an automatic bid, but now have a chance to get into the National Championship. The Golden Knights are in.
South Play-in Round
Vanderbilt Commodores have maybe the most beautiful and most underrated, under-voted helmet in the country. They got beat in the SEC Championship by Ole Miss, but deserve a shot at the National Championship. Frankly, DI schools often lack the votes in Helmet Bowl. However, if you're not Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, or one of a very few elite programs, the Helmet Bowl is where your Championship hopes should rest. The Commodores are in.
Kennesaw State Owls were a quarter-finalist in Helmet Bowl I and though they lost to a great Campbell Fighting Camels helmet in the conference contest, they deserve a shot. The Owls are in.
Virginia Military Institute Keydets have experienced success in Helmet Bowl in the past and their clean, attractive helmet gives them another chance now. VMI lost by just four votes to the Samford Bulldogs for the Southern Conference Championship. The Keydets are in.
St. Thomas Bobcats simply have a cool helmet – so we put them in. The Bobcats won the Mid-South Conference, but conference voting was sub-par and they now have a chance anyway. The Bobcats are in.
West Play-in Round
San Diego State Aztecs put forth a gorgeous helmet. It was the Helmet Bowl I National Championship Runner-up to the Gallaudet Bison. The Aztec calendar is embossed on a candy-apple red helmet and though they lost by a small margin to the Wyoming Cowboys in the Mountain West this year, they get this chance. The Aztecs are in.
Redlands Bulldogs pushed and pushed and pushed, but came up just a bit short to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – but the voting was HUGE. The SCIAC gathered the third-most votes in the country and if the Bulldogs can somehow win the play-in, they may have another shot at the Stags. The Bulldogs are in.
Sterling Warriors – look, the ready knight is cool. We like it and for that reason, the Warriors are in. Nobody in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic has ever beaten the Ottawa Braves, but the Warriors came within one vote. The Warriors are in.
The Ottawa Braves won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference for the third time in Helmet Bowl III – a feat not accomplished by any team except the Gallaudet Bison. Though we originally chose the Linfield Wildcats for this slot due to their crazy sailor-hatted cat, the Braves deserve a shot and they are in.
North Play-in Round
This is a very strong play-in bracket, lead by the strong Eastern Michigan Eagles green helmet with the diamond plate E. We don't know who came up with it, why, or how in the world the voters of the Mid-American only ranked it SIXTH (!), but we are giving them another chance. The Eagles are in.
The Montana State Bobcats lost by five votes to the Sacramento State Hornets in the Big Sky, but have this simple, fierce blue bobcat outline on a plain white helmet. It's cool. The Bobcats are in.
The Idaho State Bengals put this chrome-like overlayed I and S in a cooper-like color on its white helmet and, yes, cool! Though they landed seventh in the Big Sky, they get another shot. The Bengals are in.
The Lakeland Muskies may have gotten in just because of their name, but they won the Northern Athletics Conference and came up just short of the top 60, so they get a shot. The toothy Muskies are in.