The Southeastern Conference could clinch a sixth consecutive national championship in college football before the bowl games are even played.
History was made Sunday night when LSU, Alabama and Arkansas became the first teams from the same conference to occupy the top three spots in the Bowl Championship Series standings. The Tigers (11-0), Crimson Tide (10-1) and Razorbacks (10-1) also were 1-2-3 in the USA Today and Harris polls, which are used in the BCS formula, and the Associated Press poll, which isn't.
"It's a great league, and the Western Division is stout," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "They might be the three best teams in America. I'm not going to sit here and try to dispute that. I know they're all great football teams that are coached well and have great support, and they're believing, so they're all tough."
South Carolina's Steve Spurrier weighed in on the feat as well, saying, "It is very interesting, and if Arkansas nips LSU this week, it will really be interesting."
The only other instance in which one league had the top three teams occurred after the 1971 season, when Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado gave the Big Eight a sweep in the AP rankings.
Sunday's BCS standings had a new look following a weekend in which Oklahoma State lost at Iowa State, Oklahoma lost at Baylor and Oregon lost at home to Southern Cal. There was no such trouble among the SEC's elite, with LSU humiliating Ole Miss 52-3, Alabama downing Georgia Southern 45-21 and Arkansas whipping Mississippi State 44-17.
Arkansas has its highest AP ranking since October 1978, when Lou Holtz was in his second season as Razorbacks coach.
The Razorbacks will face LSU in Baton Rouge on Friday, having won three of the past four meetings against the Tigers. LSU is 11-0 for the first time since 1958, 7-0 in league play for the first time ever and has registered the most lopsided victories in series history against Tennessee (38-7), Auburn (45-10) and Ole Miss (52-3).
Alabama will play at Auburn (7-4) on Saturday looking to reverse a trend in that series. The Tigers are 7-2 against the Crimson Tide since 2002 and won last year's matchup in Tuscaloosa 28-27 after trailing 24-0.
Tide coach Nick Saban said the focus is on this week and not the national championship race, and players on each side don't need a lesson on the importance.
"After last year, you know they're going to have a chip on their shoulder," Auburn defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker said. "They just got back to No. 2, so you already know they're thinking championship, but they have to come through Auburn. We already have a mutual respect, but you know how this rivalry is. It's Auburn and Alabama -- they make specials for games like this."
Said Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower: "We are looking forward to Auburn. It is something that we have had on our minds since the season started."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...