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Arizona Wildcats are bowl-eligible, which used to be a huge deal

The times are changing in Tucson, underscored by the fact that reaching six wins is no longer a big deal.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats are now bowl-eligible after improving to 6-1 on the season by taking down Washington State in Pullman on Saturday.

Not too long ago, that would have been a big deal. But the football culture in Tucson has changed drastically the last six years, and now there are bigger fish to fry.

Arizona's bowl history is not exactly a storied one. The Wildcats have only appeared in 18 bowl games all-time. Only Washington State, Oregon State, and Utah have fewer all-time bowl appearances in the Pac-12. But five of those 18 appearances have come in the last six seasons. The one season that did not result in a bowl appearance had a head coach fired in the middle of that year.

Which is why this has become old-hat for Arizona fans.

Say what you will about Mike Stoops, but he began this era of higher expectations for Arizona. After not appearing in a bowl game since 1998, he took Arizona to three-straight from 2008-10. He only won one of those however, the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl against BYU. In the other two, Arizona was outscored by a combined score of 69-10 against Nebraska and Oklahoma State.

Rich Rodriguez has taken that expectation to an entirely new level after winning bowl games in his first two seasons in Tucson. All of the sudden, becoming bowl-eligible has become somewhat of an afterthought.

There is now an opportunity for Arizona to do something that hasn't been seen in Tucson in nearly 20 years; compete for a conference championship.

Arizona currently controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South. The regular season finishes with games at Utah and hosting Arizona State, the two other teams in the division that currently have one conference loss. Can you imagine what it would be like for Arizona's last two games to have something on the line that is so much more than pride and bragging rights?

Of course, there are still other games to take care of first. UCLA next week, but the Bruins have proven to be not nearly as good as everyone thought they were going to be. Then home dates against a winless Colorado team and a Washington squad that hasn't exactly looked great this year.

Being bowl-eligible is nice and all, but this team and this program are capable of so much more than that. It's just one minor step on the road to bigger and better things.