Bulldogs up first for Rebels

The No. 5 Rebels (11-4) meet their rivals on the first weekend of SEC play, and while the scheduling has caused ire from both team's fans, Mike Bianco has no problem opening with the Bulldogs (7-7) instead of finishing the year with them.

The conference is discussing a new rule that would pit rivals against each other on one of the final three weekends of the regular season. However in 2008, Ole Miss travels to Starkville on the first weekend.

"Mississippi and Alabama are the only states with in-state rivals in our conference, and it is different when you play them," Bianco said. "It's an emotional game, and to say it has to be on the last weekend is not fair. It can be on the last weekend, but it shouldn't have to be because who does Georgia have to play on the last weekend. What about LSU? South Carolina isn't playing Clemson. They aren't in our league.

"My point is why does it have to be at the end? It should fall where it falls. They are an SEC opponent. The games count the same. To have to play it the last weekend isn't right. Everyone talks about attendance. Well you know what, they are going to draw more this weekend than if they were playing Georgia. So, they will make up the attendance because we are coming to town. I don't understand what the big deal is."

The league schedule is interesting with the top two teams in each division's preseason coach's poll competing this Friday through Sunday. Predicted West winner Ole Miss faces State, who was projected as the runner-up, while Eastern favorites Vanderbilt and South Carolina begin conference play on the same field.

Ole Miss is using the same weekend rotation of Lance Lynn, Cody Satterwhite and Nathan Baker, but the Bulldogs are shuffling their staff after some mound trouble the last few weeks.

Normal Friday night starter Justin Pigott has been moved to Saturday because of a high pitch count last weekend against Baylor. In the opener, freshman Forrest Moore (1-1, 6.57) will get the nod, and Ricky Bowen will start the final game on Sunday. Experienced right-hander Chad Crosswhite will occupy a bullpen role.

Also, MSU closer Aaron Weatherford is questionable due to a lingering injury, and infielder Brandon Turner is out for the three-game set.

"It is the start of the second season," Bianco said. "Conference play is of the utmost importance. We are in the SEC, the number one baseball conference in the country. It is tough to make up ground. There are 30 of them, and you go out and fight to get as many of them as you can."

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