This is a little off track, but I read about this at the very good Tide blog Roll Bama Roll and now have a deep need to purge this list from my head.
Traditional, plain helmets like Penn State's and old-school traditions like Michigan's wings and Alabama's numbers have their virtues, but the most important element of a good helmet design, if you ask me, is a strong, distinct logo unadorned by generics -- that is, words and/or letters, interlocking or otherwise. There's nothing wrong with, say, Tennessee or Illinois taking the easy route with the 'T' or block 'Illinois,' or North Carolina's interlocking 'NC.' If I was Carolina and my other options were a heel with tar on it or a goat, I'd definitely take that 'NC.'
But a few teams do it better:
2. Florida State (it always bothers me that the NCAA video games screw up this beauty by making it too small and too straight: the real thing wraps around the helmet with the subtle arc of a spear with killer intent)
3. Colorado (gets a pass on the interlocking letters because they're so well incorporated within an otherwise boring logo; also, as with FSU: love the gold)
4. Kansas State
5. Arkansas (best execution of a potentially sketchy concept: a drawing of a pig should be a disaster, but this is pretty clean and dynamic; quirky, completely original and only loses points for being monochromatic)
6. Southern Cal
7. Miami (unique, and like Texas, benefits from the clean white-on-white facemask)
9. Michigan State (only with the Spartan helmet as shown - the big 'S' does not work)
10. Arizona State
Honorable Mention: Wyoming, Iowa, Auburn, Georgia Tech (after Colorado, the best use of interlocking letters), LSU (would score higher if it was just the cool Tiger head), South Carolina (again, love the chicken, hate the big 'C'), New Mexico (right idea, but not a great logo), SMU (ditto), Western Michigan (too close to the Denver Broncos) and Washington (only because of the colors). Washington is one of several teams, along with South Carolina, Illinois, Southern Miss, Missouri, Boston College, Arizona and many others with perfectly good logos but generic, word/letter-themed helmet designs. Washington would have kick-ass helmets if the sleek Husky replaced the block 'W.'
Dishonorable mention goes to schools that try to incorporate words/acronyms and a logo in one big, unwieldy mash-up: Iowa State, Oregon State, Boise State, Memphis, San Jose State and Akron. Western Kentucky gets a pass for its sorry "hand waving a towel" logo because it's just joining the show and obviously has no idea how to represent a Hilltopper. And to Washington State and NC State, because what the hell?
That is all.