The fun starts tonight at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Ole Miss faces LSU in the opener of an SEC series, James McArthur vs. Alex Lange in a battle of aces. On Friday, at Founders Park in Columbia, S.C., Mississippi State opens its SEC series against South Carolina and, at Reckling Park in Houston, Southern Miss begins its C-USA series against Rice. These are captivating series for the Magnolia State’s Big 3 for a variety of reasons. Rankings, ratings, standings, pride … take your pick. Pitching-rich Ole Miss is 21-12 (6-6 SEC) with five straight wins but is currently unranked by Baseball America and not among the magazine’s picks for the NCAA Tournament field. LSU, ever the powerhouse, is 23-11 (7-5) and ranked ninth. USM, coming off a home loss to Ole Miss, is ranked 21st and projected to make a regional. The power-hitting Golden Eagles (46 homers) are 26-8 and lead C-USA with a 10-2 mark. Rice is having a rare down year: 12-23, 3-9. But the Owls, who just beat nationally ranked Houston, cannot be dismissed; USM has beaten them in only two of 11 series all-time. Mississippi State is ranked 13th by BA and takes a 23-12 (8-4 SEC) record into Columbia. The No. 17 Gamecocks are 21-11 (7-4), though perhaps a bit rattled by a 20-5 loss to North Carolina on Tuesday. Led by Brent Rooker’s video game numbers, the Bulldogs have been something of a surprise team, pegged – at the moment — to get a regional bid by Baseball America. “It’s going to be really hard for Mississippi State to keep this up, I think,” BA’s Teddy Cahill wrote in a chat this week. Sounds like bulletin board material, not that any is really needed for this particular monster weekend.