On paper, the difference between finishing first and third in the Western Division of the SEC is two games. In reality, it's a little bigger.

"We know it's going to be tough to go down to LSU and sweep," admits Mississippi State head coach Ron Polk, whose 16-11 club trails Alabama by one game and LSU by two games heading into the final weekend of the season.

"But we have traditionally done well against LSU and we've done well down there at their place, so we'll see what happens."

Beating the numbers is something the Ole Miss Rebels understand. Don Kessinger's club is 6-21 in SEC play, but 5-4 in the past nine starts including series wins over Alabama and MSU.

This week, the Rebels wrap it up by hosting Arkansas (13-14), a team that desperately needs a series win to qualify for the SEC Tournament. Without qualifying for the SEC Tournament, Arkansas can virtually kiss an NCAA Tournament bid goodbye.

"We've been cast in the spoiler's role and that's something you don't really want, but we were out of the race early," Kessinger said. "The best thing we can do is make life miserable for everybody else and so far, we've done that."

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The Rebels (23-28 overall) have gotten strong performances lately from infielders Richy Harrelson, Keith Lewis and Todd Mensik. Right-hander Mickey Callaway (6-7) has recorded four of the club's six SEC wins.

As for the Bulldogs (35-18), they've cooled off after winning 31 of 41 games in the middle of the season. The Bulldogs can still field a lineup that features as many as seven .300 hitters, including infielders Adam Piatt, Brian Clark and Rob Hauswald.

MSU's starting rotation of Eric DuBose (8-4), David Hooten (8-5) and Keith Dilgard (5-3) has been solid all year. Scott Polk has struggled lately from the bullpen, but reliever Van Johnson of Saltillo still ranks among the top five in the SEC in ERA (2.70).

"We've beaten them two of three the last few times," Polk said. "We're still thinking we've got an opportunity to move up, especially since Alabama has to play Auburn (at Alabama) and that's a rivalry series.

"Everybody does a little scoreboard watching at this point in the season. But the most important thing is to come out and play well. That's something we haven't been doing as much lately."

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