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Arizona enters the AP poll at No. 24

RELATED: My AP ballot: To rank Arizona or not rank Arizona?

Matt Scott

Matt Scott and the Wildcats have reason to jump for joy. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats find themselves relevant, coming in at No. 24 in this week’s AP poll after its 59-38 victory over then-18th-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday night.

“We’re trying to make ourselves relevant and I told the guys this week that the only way to do that is by beating ranked teams,” said coach Rich Rodriguez.

Although it seems like a football lifetime ago, Arizona was ranked as recently as Nov. 22, 2010.

The Cats were ranked No. 20 that week, sitting at 7-3 after two consecutive losses and a bye week. Arizona fell out of the rankings with a loss to Oregon, part of a season-ending five-game losing streak that began the downfall of coach Mike Stoops, who started the 2011 season with five more losses to teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“To what degree are we relevant, I don’t know,” Rodriguez said.

“But this is the first step in that way. We’ve got to follow it up. Now, if you don’t follow it up with another good win next week, then you wasted the effort.”

Arizona plays lower-division South Carolina State next Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

The Cats are one of five teams in the AP poll, moving into the rankings along with UCLA, which defeated Nebraska and debuted at No. 22. USC is No. 2, Oregon is fourth and Stanford is 21st.

Arizona appeared on 31 of 60 ballots, including mine. The Wildcats were as high as No. 12, as ranked by Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

While Rodriguez now might have to worry about the problems with rising expectations and too much flattery, those are good problems to have.

“You can coach off winning and you coach off a loss; it’s a hell of a lot better to coach off a win,” he said. “You sleep a lot better, food tastes better, I’m happier to the wife and kids. Everybody’s better.”

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