When the 2012 college football schedules were released last year, Mark Daniels spotted an opportunity.
Daniels, the Director of Football for Adidas, noticed Wisconsin and Nebraska two Adidas-sponsored schools were slated to open Big Ten play for a second straight season. He figured the teams would garner a primetime television slot. He also figured it was the perfect time for Adidas to roll out its inaugural "Unrivaled Game," an annual matchup of top Adidas-sponsored teams.
In other words, with all eyes on the game, all eyes would be on the uniforms, too.
"With conference alignments, it's not going to happen on an annual basis," Daniels told FOXSportsWisconsin.com this week. "We certainly wanted to maximize the opportunity this year with the Badgers taking on the Huskers in Lincoln. From that process, we started designing."
What Adidas came up with was a twist on the traditionally plain uniforms of both programs.
When the teams meet Saturday, Wisconsin will wear a white uniform that features red shoulders, a bold red "W" on the chest and red player numbers above the heart. Stripes run down the sides of the uniform pants, and the back of the player jerseys will read "Badgers" instead of including the last names of players.
Wisconsin's red helmet will feature a black facemask and white "W," and the team will wear black shoes with red and white components that are reflective.
The uniform style is a throwback to Wisconsin's 1962 Big Ten championship team, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall. Second-ranked Wisconsin went on to play No. 1 USC in the 1963 Rose Bowl in a contest that featured the first No. 1-No. 2 matchup during a bowl game.
"We don't want to take the most heritage-rich programs in the country and turn them into something they're not," Daniels said. "We went back into the annals of history and took kind of an old-school logo and modernized it and brought it forth in a way that hasn't been done in a very long time."
Nebraska, meanwhile, will wear its alternate uniforms as well, which feature a block "N" in black set against red jerseys and pants. The Cornhuskers also will wear black helmets for the first time in school history.
The game, dubbed by Adidas as "The Quick and The Red," is scheduled for a 7:12 p.m. CT kickoff at Memorial Stadium.
Daniels said the jerseys, which are part of TECHFIT technology, are 30 percent lighter and provide a 17 percent greater range of motion than typical jerseys.
"It's harder to grab on to," Daniels said. "It's harder to tackle. That means more first downs, more touchdowns and more wins. It's a jersey that actually gives one team a competitive advantage over the other."
Daniels did not reveal the cost of the jerseys but did say they are "by far the most expensive jersey on the marketplace." Among the key designs are integrated ventilation zones in the jersey to keep players cool.
Adidas is the official sponsor of more than 70 college teams across Division I, II and III. The company has unveiled similar uniforms for Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA, Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
Daniels said it is up to each team to determine where the jerseys go after the game. Players can get the jerseys following completion of their eligibility.
If nothing else, Daniels noted the jerseys stand out when it comes to high school recruiting.
"I think it puts these programs top of mind for every team in the country," Daniels said. "Not
like there's a recruit out there that doesn't know about Wisconsin or Nebraska. But it again puts it top of mind, and if they were thinking, Well, OK, I know everything they're about, and I know what they're going to look like today and 10 years from now -- this changes the game a little bit and says, no, there's a swag factor, a coolness there that those athletes can relate to."
As for the reaction from Wisconsin's players? For the most part, the jerseys have been a hit.
"I'm excited," Badgers running back Melvin Gordon said. "It's different from what Wisconsin usually does. I like the Ws. I think that's a little swag right there. I like that. That's pretty cool."
"I like them," added Wisconsin linebacker Ethan Armstrong said. "You know, I'm kind of a traditional guy. I like the traditional uniforms that we usually wear. But I kind of like the changeup. I think Adidas did a really nice job with the uniforms. I think they're going to look really sharp."
Not every player is as gung-ho about the jerseys. After all, there is also an important game to be played on the field Saturday night.
"I don't think we're really paying attention to the uniforms," Badgers linebacker Mike Taylor said. "We might at first when we see them in the locker room. Some guys might get amped up. But when it comes down to game time, it's going to be about the Xs and Os."
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