The overused phrase "must win" may actually apply at least once beginning Thursday as No. 21 Ole Miss (33-20, 14-13) travels to face No. 6 and division-leading Arkansas (37-16, 17-10) in a three-game set.
The Rebels are situated three games back of the Hogs but a sweep combined with a series loss by Mississippi State to Alabama would give Ole Miss the West title. On the other hand, a Razorback sweep would put the Rebels' Hoover, Ala., fate on life support with other teams having to lose for Ole Miss to qualify.
Ole Miss trails Arkansas in the overall series 30-20 but took three of four last season. The Rebels have already posted a win over the Hogs this season with their 5-4 victory during the Dairy Queen Classic in Minneapolis, Minn.
"We beat them in the Metrodome, but I am not sure what you can take from that game," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "The good part of it is that Will (Kline) pitched very effectively against their lineup, but the bad part is that their lineup got to see Will. And we had an early look at (Jess) Todd, who is their Saturday guy."
Neither team is entering the final weekend of the season exactly hot with Ole Miss and Arkansas both dropping their previous two series. The Rebels and Hogs both lost rubber matches last Sunday to Kentucky and Alabama respectively. The Razorbacks have lit up the Eastern Division with a 12-3 mark but have struggled against the West, going only 5-7.
Ole Miss will start Kline on Thursday in the opener as usual, but the rest of the series is still up in the air. It is undecided if sophomore Lance Lynn will take the mound during the second or third game of the set, while it appears that left-hander Brett Bukvich will re-enter the rotation in the other slot.
Bukvich was the game three starter for the first few weeks of the season before surrendering that role right before the Auburn series. The sophomore is 6-2 with a 3.47 ERA. Freshman Nathan Baker has started the last six Sunday games for the Rebels.
The Razorbacks enter the weekend with a .294 team batting average and led by Logan Forsythe at .346. Danny Hamblin holds the SEC lead for home runs with 20 on the year and is one short of the Arkansas career mark of 56.
On the mound, Arkansas is led by Nick Schmidt and Jess Todd, who are a combined 17-4 on the season. Todd has won four straight starts but took the loss against Ole Miss in Minnesota.
Through 53 games a year ago, the Rebels had posted a 34-19 record, a game ahead of this year's pace. Ole Miss was batting .307 as a team, while the pitching staff was holding to a 4.49 ERA through 467.1 innings pitched. The Rebels were 73-of-90 in steal attempts on the year. Ole Miss had hit 44 home runs on the year, one home run behind this year's total of 45 home runs.
Game times this weekend are 7 p.m., 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday - Saturday respectively. The games will be available on the Ole Miss radio network. Livestats and video will be accessible on olemisssports.com.
Other SEC match-ups
Alabama at Mississippi State
Auburn at Kentucky
LSU at Vanderbilt
Tennessee at Florida
Georgia at South Carolina
Rebels look for success in Arkansas
OM Spirit Top Stories
Freeze Pleased With Strong, HibblerDespite struggles at the linebacker position this season, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has seen some positives from two backups.
OM Spirit3:27 PM
Monday Ole Miss Recruiting RoundupOle Miss is set to host a pair of key official visitors this weekend. Who are they? We discuss that and much moire inside.
OM Spirit12:36 PM
Texas Hot 100 WR R.J. Sneed Talks StandoutsScout had the chance to catch up with Texas Hot 100 wide receiver R.J. Sneed following his team's big win on Saturday night. After the game Sneed talked about some of the schools…
Scout Football10:12 AM
Freeze Frames: ‘We’ve got to fight’Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference.
OM Spirit9:48 AM