Now, the Tigers’ closest pursuers are a couple of familiar names. Southeastern Conference Western Division brethren Alabama and Arkansas are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, marking the first time the top three BCS teams have come from the same conference, not to mention the same division.

“Hats off to this conference and this division that the teams have lined up this way,” LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo said Monday. “We know we have the best football in this conference in the nation, so I’m just happy to see we’re getting a little recognition for it.

It’s a tremendous thing.”

LSU has already beaten the No. 2 Crimson Tide and plays the No. 3 Razorbacks on Friday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.

“It’s just crazy,” defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “I feel like you’ve got the three best teams in the nation, but it’s crazy, because they’re from the same division.”

At least one of three is almost certain to play in the BCS Championship Game. An all-SEC BCS title matchup is a distinct possibility as the conference seeks its third consecutive national championship. But which SEC team or teams will be in the final game is still wide open.

“We don’t live in a fantasy world,” cornerback Ron Brooks said. “We live in the real world, and we don’t focus on what-ifs and possibilities and what could be and things like that. We’re worrying about right now, and right now we’re facing Arkansas and we’re going to prepare and get ready for that team.”

The Tigers have spent most of their season getting ready to play ranked teams. Arkansas is the seventh opponent that has been ranked at the time of its game against LSU, joining then-No. 2 Alabama and then-No. 3 Oregon as the highest-ranked foes.

“I feel like we’ve played the best,” running back Alfred Blue said. “We played Alabama in their home stadium. Arkansas is coming here. We’re playing the best each week, and I think every week we get each team’s best.”

The other ranked teams were No. 16 West Virginia, No. 17 Florida, No. 19 Auburn and No. 25 Mississippi State.

“It just shows how dominant the SEC is and how dominant our side of the SEC is, and how difficult it is to win out and stay undefeated on this side,” safety Brandon Taylor said. “It just shows the competition level and the level of recruiting that goes on down here.”

Of the seven ranked opponents, two — Oregon (Pac-12) and West Virginia (Big East) — were not from the SEC.

“The SEC is always talked about as being one of the toughest conferences to play in,” punter Brad Wing said. “We’re in there, and we’re playing those teams week in and week out, and it just makes us feel good about what we’ve accomplished so far playing such nationally ranked teams. It does make us feel a bit more accomplished knowing we’re playing the best teams in the country.”

That is likely to continue. A victory against Arkansas would send LSU to the SEC Championship Game Dec. 3 in Atlanta to face No. 13 Georgia, and the Tigers might end up there even with a loss. Somewhere down the line, a BCS title shot or at the very least a bowl game against another ranked team awaits.

“We’ve got some tough games left ahead of us,” guard Will Blackwell said. “But we’ve played a lot of tough games this season. I feel like we’re prepared to take on that challenge mentally.”

The SEC’s 1-2-3 ranking came on the heels of a weekend during which No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Oklahoma were all upset, allowing the Crimson Tide to return to No. 2 from No. 3 and the Razorbacks to jump from No. 6 to No. 3.

Blackwell was asked if he was hoping it would shake out the way it did.

“No, not at all,” he replied. “We don’t want anybody in our division to be up there with us, but it’s a great thing for the conference.

“Any time you can pick an SEC team over another conference, it’s great notoriety and it’s great for everybody in the conference, but those are our rivals. We don’t want them to do good, and they don’t want us to do good. It’s part of the game, but they’re ranked in the top 3, more power to them.”

The top three teams have a combined two losses: Alabama’s 9-6 overtime loss to LSU and Arkansas’ 38-14 loss to Alabama.

“It makes the West look very good,” defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “It says something about SEC football. Some teams wither away, but this shows that hard-nosed football, which is what the SEC is known for, is dominant football.”