The SEC isn't just college football's most talented conference, its also the sport's most passionate. Midwestern fan-bases like Michigan or Ohio State can compete in a vacuum, but as a whole, there is no conference more manic than the Southeastern.
But passion is a two-way street, manifesting itself in both love for one's favorite team and disdain for all its opponents. SEC fans live and die by their school's success, and whenever that success is denied, there has to be a culprit.
Not all good players are hated—Johnny Football, for instance, though certainly divisive, is still probably a fan-favorite (especially after beating Alabama)—but all hated players, for the most part, are good. Otherwise hating them wouldn't be worth the time.
Here are five SEC players who opposing fans will obliterate in 2013:
Without a signature, highly dislikable defensive player this season (C.J. Mosley is no Rolando McClain in that regard), A.J. McCarron will be the main target of scorn for opposing fan-bases.
What really ticks people off about McCarron is the perceived lack of merit. Sure, he's won two national titles, but anybody could have won with those defenses.
Alabama has won three championships in four years thanks to tough, blue-collar football.
McCarron is a pretty boy quarterback with a runway model girlfriend, about as white-collar-looking as they come—at least until he goes to the beach, at which point he just looks stupid. How is it fair that he got to lift those trophies?
In 2013, where McCarron appears to be a Heisman candidate for the first time in his career, that hate should only amplify.
Morrison looked cocky the day people first clicked on his recruiting profile, a scowl and a nonchalant head tilt basically screaming that he thinks himself harder than he actually is.
Last weekend he cemented those conceptions, getting arrested at a Gainesville bar for punching a bouncer at the door.
As the story goes, per the Orlando Sentinel, Morrison was "irate" over having to pay a cover charge—he's 19 years old, by the way—before asking the bouncer, extending him an olive branch to amend his obvious mistake, "Do you know who I am?"
Morrison recorded just 34 tackles last year, so even though he's projected to replace Jon Bostic at middle linebacker, no, it's likely the bouncer did not know who he was.
Something tells me SEC fans do, though, and I'd expect signs like "Hey Morrison: Nobody knows who the hell you are!" (insert expletives wherever you'd like) to be mainstays at Florida road games this season.
The hate issued here is transient, and will take a complete 180 when Clowney heads to the NFL.
Once he joins the league, he'll officially be an alumnus of the SEC—one of the many NFL defenders that fans of the conference point to when asserting their superiority. He'll become someone for all SEC fans, not just those from South Carolina, to brag about.
But for the next six months, Clowney is USC's and USC's alone. He doesn't just beat his opponents, he embarrasses them, makes them look like they never even learned what pass blocking is.
In comedy, we roast the ones we love; but in football, we roast the ones who scare us. And Clowney is the scariest player alive right now.
Vanderbilt is supposed to be a rare easy win in the SEC, an oasis in a desert of BCS-bowl contenders. But last season, thanks in large part to Jordan Matthews, the Commodores were anything but.
After going 10-27 in the three years prior to last, Vanderbilt went 9-4 last year, including SEC wins over Missouri, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee. It also played South Carolina and Florida much closer than either would have liked, as Matthews led the charge with eight catches, 130-plus yards and a touchdown in each of those blue-chip games.
In that regard, Matthews helped Vanderbilt become a thorn in SEC teams' collective sides last season, turning a supposed easy victory into an afternoon of diligent shadowing on the back end.
After leading the conference in catches last season (and finishing second in yards), Matthews should see a lot of bad blood in 2013.
True, Nkemdiche hasn't even played a snap yet in the SEC—or anywhere else at this level. But the nature of his recruitment ensures that he'll be loathed upon admission.
First of all, he's a flip-flopper. He originally committed to Clemson before re-opening his recruitment, which was smart (why wouldn't a No. 1 recruit want to play in the SEC), but also incredibly irritating.
He also makes Ole Miss fans way too happy, invoking a gleeful Rebel pride that always infuriates opposing supporters. Per 247 Sports, Nkemdiche had offers from Alabama, Aurburn, LSU, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State. And he chose Ole Miss!
Expect him to be among the conference's most heckled this season.