Arizona Football

Arizona ranked in AP poll; what’s next for the Wildcats?

(Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics)

The Arizona Wildcats are back in the AP poll after more than a two-year absence.

Rich Rodriguez’s team, shot out of cannon in October, with Khalil Tate lighting the fuse, has won four consecutive games to reach 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12 and climb from obscurity to No. 23 in the poll.

Now what?

It still sounds crazy to write this or say this out loud, but the Pac-12 South lead will be on the line when the Wildcats play at No. 17 USC (7-2, 5-1) on Saturday, with kickoff set for #Pac12AfterDark at 7:45 p.m. from Los Angeles.

“We’re going to have to play better,” Rodriguez said Saturday night after a 57-38 victory over then-No. 15 Washington State. “We know we are capable. Our guys know we have to do that next Saturday.”

What does November look like?

Hey, with Tate all things are possible … but that’s the thing. All things — good or bad — are possible. Enjoy this run while you can. I don’t mean that in an ominous kind of way, but I think it’s kind of like what Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com tweeted on Saturday night: “I don’t know how good Arizona is, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it.”

The last time Arizona was ranked — No. 16 the week of Sept. 26, 2015 — the Cats were still riding high off a Pac-12 South title, ESPN’s College GameDay was in town, Scooby Wright was returning from injury … and, well, you probably know all you want to know about the beginning of two years wandering in college football darkness.

This time around, none of the four games left on Arizona’s schedule appears unwinnable. The Trojans rebounded from its Notre Dame debacle with a 48-17 victory at previously-hot Arizona State on Saturday night, but something has been amiss most of the season, with the Trojans — certainly banged-up on the defensive front — not living up to preseason expectations of dominance.

After that, Arizona comes back home for its “surest” win — against Oregon State. Maybe more than 42,822 — the announced crowd for Homecoming against the Cougars — will show up for the final home game of the season.

The Cats finish with games at Oregon (which should have starting quarterback Justin Herbert back from a broken collarbone by then) and at Arizona State.

Before the season, you might have taken 2-2 in that stretch. Now?

Yep, all things are possible.

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