However, the term that is appropriate, if we are going to avoid the mundane and obvious "critical," for both teams, is "pivotal."
The Hogs are 4-2 overall, but 1-2 in the SEC. The Rebs are 3-3, treading water at .500, and an identical 1-2 in conference play.
Both teams are smack dab in the middle of the meat of their schedules and both are scrambling to make a statement at the midway point of the campaign.
"The way this league is, it seems like every game gets bigger and bigger. The Arkansas game is the biggest game of the year. I have said that every week for the past three weeks, but this one is right now," said Coach Houston Nutt. "Our guys know we let a couple get away earlier in the year. This one is critical, and every one after that will be critical."
The Rebs are coming off a 23-10 loss to Alabama that leaves them, if you will, with mixed emotions - hacked off to lose again, but buoyed with the belief they can "hang" with any team after seriously challenging the Tide on their home turf.
Meanwhile, the Razorbacks left Auburn a 65-43 loser to the undefeated War Eagles and are also floating in no-man's land of being upset for losing, but hanging their hats on scoring 43 points against a fairly salty Auburn defense.
The past two years, the game with Arkansas, both Rebel wins, have been a springboard to bigger and better things. Can that be the case this weekend? Maybe, but it's a big hill to climb, said Nutt.
"We'll be playing one of the best offenses we will see all year long. Mallett, those receivers, their tight end, all who I know very well, are potent," Houston continued. "Then their defense has improved a lot. We are throwing out that game last week against Auburn - that's not how they play. They are older and they have been through it. They are really good. We have to be sharp."
Wednesday, on a beautiful fall day in Oxford, the Rebels resumed their preparations for the Hogs in full pads and with a relatively full compliment of players. Only one - Right Guard Logan Clair - is currently out with injury.
"We started a little sluggishly today, but once we got going, we had a good day," said Nutt. "We did a lot of Red Zone, special teams and then we had about 10 minutes of good-against-good.
"A lot of our guys had tests today and we had to shake them up a bit. I appreciate them studying and doing what they need to in school, I want them to get that degree, but I also want them to know we've got another test coming Saturday."
Nutt has been proud of the progress of the team of late, with a caveat.
"Our OL is very young, but they have come a long way, especially since we haven't had the same starting group much. Our secondary is inexperienced but they have progressed nicely as well. I've been proud of both those units," he said. "But it doesn't mean that much if you don't win. You want to win, and that means execution, taking care of the ball and eliminating mistakes.
* Wide Receiver Korvic Neat, who has missed a few games with a hamstring pull, did not travel to Alabama, but he's back in the fold now and is virtually full speed. Neat provides more speed to the Ole Miss offensive attack and was being used as a wideout and a tailback before his injury. How much he will play is being determined in practice this week, but it's safe to speculate he will have a package or two with his name on it.
* The changes made in the last week or so stand. . . LaMark Armour is still practicing at defensive end after being moved there the latter part of the open week to provide more punch to the position. Junior Wayne Dorsey backs him up. . . With Armour now at DE, junior Justin Smith moved up into the four-man DT rotation behind Ted Laurent. . . With Clair out, and A.J. now available, the coaches have opted to keep true frosh Evan Swindall at center and put Hawkins, who centered the first five games, at right guard in Clair's place. Hawkins played guard his first year as a Reb so the transition should not be difficult. . . With Enrique Davis back in the picture after missing some games with a knee injury/minor surgery, it's being sorted out now how the reps will fall between him, Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott, whose speed has added a dimension to the attack. It will be interesting to see how that pans out, but right now it would strictly be conjecture to try to say.
* Hawkins feels he will be ready for the task at hand - moving back to guard from center. "It's a lot different, even though it's just a couple of feet over. There are different steps and different assignments, but I'm taking the coaching pretty well," said A.J. "It's actually coming along quicker than I thought it would. I thought I would have to start at square one, but I still remember how to do the basics." Hawkins said his shoulder is completely well. "I don't have any aches or pains and I have a full range of movement," he stated. Hawkins said he was proud of Swindall, who filled in for him at center against Alabama. "Considering that setting, he did very well. I was there to help him and encourage him and I think he held up well," A.J. closed.