NCF Nation: Southen Mississippi Golden Eagles
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
Yeah, that's right, Middle Tennessee, a team that has won more than five games just once in the last six seasons. This choice has little to do with dominance on the field and more to do with the fact that several teams in the Sun Belt think of Middle Tennessee as its rival.
Troy and North Texas despise Middle Tennessee, and now that Western Kentucky, another hated rival, is joining the Sun Belt in football, Middle Tennessee faces its own Unholy Trinity.
It's almost unfair to hate a team that has beaten itself up. The Blue Raiders struggle each year because of a brutal nonconference schedule and scholarship limitations.
Middle Tennessee will play with 74 scholarship players (85 is normal) because of its failure to meet the NCAA's 925 APR minimum. It will face Maryland, Kentucky, Louisville and Mississippi State in its nonconference slate, which is a cakewalk compared to facing Oklahoma and LSU like it has in the past two seasons.
Then it gets to face a conference that frankly doesn't like it. There's something so wrong with that.
Other candidates for most hated are Troy for its ESPN heroics over Missouri in 2004 that made it an overnight sensation and left the rest of the Sun Belt out in the cold. I was covering Mizzou at the time and called the upset. DeMarcus Ware was a man among boys. The Trojans have been the most consistent Sun Belt team ever since.
And Florida Atlantic for making waves as one of the conference's youngest members. No one likes to be upstaged by a newbie.