<
>

Hate Meter: Conference USA

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

I'm backing off my original prediction of Tulsa as the conference's most-hated team. In the new C-USA, maybe, but I've decided to take into account the historical damage teams such as Houston, Southern Miss and UTEP have reaped on their opponents.

1. Southern Miss -- Southern Miss had many years of dominance in the old C-USA and was decent the last two years. Several teams still consider the Golden Eagles one of the most-hated teams in the conference.

2. Houston -- The Cougars are known for their smack talking before, during and after games, and in the past have had the offense to back it up. That's slipped a little, but should be back with Kevin Sumlin in charge.

3. UTEP -- I think the hatred for the Miners has something to do with the pickaxe planted in the middle of the field -- an opposing team's field.

4. Central Florida -- There are few schools in C-USA that have the benefit of picking players out of a talent-rich Florida pool. Central Florida has done that several times over, which makes them a consistent threat.

5. UAB -- There's a lot of hatred for the Blazers simply because they are a subpar team with the ability to upset anyone at any time. Last year, they gave Tulsa and Central Florida all they could handle.

6. Tulsa -- I rethought my decision to make them first just based on winning, but Tulsa will get more national attention than any other C-USA school this season.

7. Marshall -- The Thundering Herd came from another conference where it was hated and the hatred just carried over. Marshall isn't what it used to be, but it still has the national notoriety.

8. Memphis -- Back in the old C-USA, the Tigers were another team that brought out a lot of strong feelings. Those feelings are still there with schools in the area, but it's not like it was with Louisville in the mix.

9. SMU -- Similar to North Texas in the Sun Belt, the Mustangs aren't hated too much yet, but it's coming. They're already scrappy, but add the run-and-shoot offense to that scrappiness and I see some hatred brewing.

10. East Carolina -- The Pirates play one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the C-USA, which immediately puts them on the national radar, and gives them a little superiority complex.

11. Rice -- The Owls could have been higher, but I don't think their hate level outside the state of Texas is that large. I think the offense Rice used to run gave a lot of fits and led to frustration.

12. Tulane -- I'm not sure there's too much hatred for the Green Wave. It's hard to hate a team that went through such a rough time with Hurricane Katrina a few years ago.