ACKSON, Miss. — Houston Nutt gave Arkansas fans one final gift before leaving: A true Southeastern Conference rival.

About a third of the questions aimed at the Mississippi coach during his Monday news conference concerned Saturday’s return to Arkansas.

And the fans are buzzing about Nutt’s return to the school where he spent 10 seasons, winning three SEC West titles but not the undying love of Razorbacks fans.

Arkansas has never had a true rival in the SEC since moving over from the old Southwestern Conference. No series in the new conference evoked the kind of hate you’d find in, say, an Alabama-Auburn game.

Nutt believes the Razorbacks now have a game to circle in red every August.

“I’m sure it will be (a hot rivalry),” Nutt said. “There will be a lot of people at the ballgame, and it was probably an instant rivalry as soon as most of our staff came over here since there was so much talk about it.”

HARDY’S HOOF:@ Greg Hardy reinjured his foot during the 24-20 loss at Alabama and is wearing a protective boot this week.

Nutt said his status for Saturday’s game remains unclear. Hardy missed three games after preseason surgery on his right foot to place a screw in a fractured bone.

The junior defensive end said he had been playing essentially pain free in the three games before Saturday.

“I don’t know if he will be out,” Nutt said. “We will see as we go along.”

Mississippi State

When things aren’t going so hot, that’s a great time to seek a second opinion.

Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom did just that. Croom wouldn’t give a lot of details but said he asked Tennessee coaches for an evaluation after Saturday’s 34-3 loss to the Volunteers.

“We talked to some of their people because we don’t play them for a long, long time,” Croom said. “We asked them what they thought about us and we all were on the same page. They felt we had a pretty good attack against them. The biggest thing is we didn’t take advantage of some situations early.”

The Bulldogs host Middle Tennessee State on Saturday in Starkville. At 2-5, there are few adjectives to adequately describe Mississippi State’s chances of making it to a bowl. The turnaround to reach six wins would have to be remarkable, but Croom isn’t yet ready to give up.

A win against the Blue Raiders would leave the Bulldogs with four games to win three and reach bowl eligibility. They finish the season with Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss.