Auburn and Oregon know all eyes will be on them when they compete for college football's BCS national championship Monday in Glendale, Ariz.
And they figure they might as well look good while doing it.
Each school will sport new components to their uniforms; Oregon will wear practically an entirely new ensemble from Nike, while the changes Under Armour has provided for Auburn are more subtle. Yet both schools are incorporating new technology in what they wear.
New gloves and cleats are on the menu for Auburn. Two types of gloves are in store for the Tigers, with the palm of each glove sporting black tiger print over a tan background and a 'UA' logo at the center. "The designers worked with Auburn to tie it back to UA," said Matt Mirchin, SVP of sports marketing for Under Armour.
The gloves offer two designs on the top of the hand -- one has a charcoal gray base with black lines fading out from the pinky to the index finger, with 'War Eagle,' Auburn's battle cry, running along the index finger. The other glove is gray with straight black lines running from the base through the index and pinky fingers. The middle of the glove has a lightning bolt graphic that symbolizes Under Armour's Bolt line of cleats and apparel.
The new cleats worn by most of the team will be from the Nitro III line, which have lightning bolt graphics on the bottom. The graphics resemble what will appear on Under Armour's Fall 2011 line of base layer gear. "We took that look and feel and put it on the bottom of the shoes to give it a unique look," Mirchin said.
Players wearing the Nitro III collection will have several different looks from which to choose -- low-tops, mid-tops and high-tops. Yet at least one player will wear something other than the Nitro III.
Heisman winner, Cam Newton, will continue to wear the Nitro CompFit, which he's worn since the Oct. 30 game again Ole Miss. The cleat has a neoprene compression sleeve that surrounds the ankle, and it gives enough support that the low-top cleat provides the stability of a mid-top. As with the Nitro III cleats most of the rest of the team will wear, Newton's CompFit will have the Auburn logo on the tongue, a special touch provided by Under Armour for the big game.
Under Armour chose to remain true to Auburn's heritage by leaving its uniforms alone. "Auburn and the SEC have a rich heritage in football," Mirchin said. "Auburn didn't want to change the uniforms."
Then there's Oregon. No college team alters its look as frequently, thanks to Ducks' willingness to stretch the limits of uniform design. Nike has several new uniform technologies for Oregon to wear Monday.
A new lightweight, low-profile padding technology called Pro Deflex is integrated in Nike's Pro Combat base layer to give players more protection for their thighs and shoulders. "We incorporated a carbon fiber hard plate shell that meets with the Pro Combat foam and holds the hard shell padding in place," said Todd Van Horn, global creative director for Nike Football.
How the players move with the extra padding was important to Nike, which took more than three years to develop Pro Deflect. "For the players it's about speed and this is what's delivering that speed for them," Van Horn said.
Oregon's uniforms will also be slightly lighter with the new Flywire technology incorporated into the jersey's neckline. Originally used in Nike's footwear for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Flywire enabled Nike uniform designers to remove a couple layers from the neck while maintaining structural support for the jersey.
Their gloves are also improved. The Vapor Carbon gloves they'll wear contain SureGrip technology, which are made from a silicon-based, non-toxic application. Increased range of motion in the gussets between the fingers will enable Oregon receivers to stretch their fingers for a firmer grip. For added effect, a big 'O' graphic on the glove's palm is revealed when a player holds his hands together to catch a pass.
Nike will unveil its next generation of skin layer gear through its arm bands. The bands include each player's number, which normally goes on the shoulder of the uniform. (Oregon's trademark wing design will take up the space on their shoulders.) Van Horn explained the arm bands have become closely tied to the uniform's structure. "We wanted to have the visual to look like it was part of the uniform," he said.
Those watching the game might not be able to take their eyes off the feet of Oregon players. They'll wear neon green socks to match their new Alpha Talon cleats, which turn from white at the toes to a matching neon green at the heels. The dual neon green on the socks and shoes is supposed to create a blur effect when players run. Of course, there's also substance to the cleat design.
"We have a different kind of adaptive traction system that's built within the cleat plate," Van Horn said. The placement of the spikes has been altered in a way to promote traction when the players make cutting moves.
Finally, there is the helmet, manufactured by Riddell. Van Horn noted that 10 years ago Oregon experimented with a green helmet that had refractive colored paint -- it was supposed to mimic a mallard's head. Nike played with the design through the years with various colors and sheen applications. (This includes Oregon's black helmets worn in 2008).
The helmet Oregon will wear in the national championship game is the latest in this phase of helmet technology. It has a carbon fiber aesthetic that has been previously used on Oregon's wing patterns and in their number font. The players liked it, so Van Horn said the natural progression was for it to be used on the helmets. And Van Horn, who joked the Oregon players are probably tired of his monthly visits to get feedback on various uniform attire, said the team is thrilled about all the changes to their national championship game uniforms. "They're ecstatic, they're off the charts," Van Horn said.
Come Monday, we'll see if Under Armour's alterations for Auburn or Nike's changes for Oregon will help the players perform at the level they need to win the national championship.