The Weekend Ahead – February 21st-23rd

The ranking scenario gets a little funky this weekend as we switch over to RQS. LSU currently leads the RQS battle with a 197.380, but the Tigers are heading away to Florida while trying to fend off an Oklahoma team that’s not far behind with a 197.300 (and still has a 196.675 to drop). If the Sooners score in the 197s this weekend (which seems likely), they will have the opportunity to move ahead of LSU’s current mark, though LSU can also increase its number by going 197.250+, which is also quite doable. Florida cannot mathematically move ahead of LSU this weekend (but can get close), so it’s a battle between LSU and Oklahoma for #1.

The top teams are confined to just a couple different meets this weekend, a few of which will make for a very enticing Friday of action. The showdown between LSU and Florida makes up part of LSU’s quest for a whole tuft of feathers in their cap, though Florida will enter the meet as the home favorite. It’s going to be an exceptional challenge for LSU to beat Florida’s 10 machine in Gainesville, but the Tigers also managed a few 10s of their own last weekend, so we could certainly see them fly tomorrow. Dueling 198s are not out of the question.

A few teams have come into Florida this season and stayed close for three rotations before falling back in rotation 4, performing on beam while Florida is on floor. LSU will also lose ground in the final rotation, so it’s vital that they be ahead by several tenths after three events to have a shot at the upset. The one area where LSU appears to have a clear advantage is in the first four performers of the vault lineup, so watch for that scoring comparison at the halfway point. LSU will need to pick up ground there. For Florida to maintain its pristine record, the team will need to eradicate those beam wobbles, obviously, but also focus in on sticking more of those bars landings. The Gators can and should have an advantage over LSU on bars, but it won’t happen if they’re not getting multiple stuck DLOs, which has yet to happen. I’m also eager to see how the scoring goes on floor since LSU is capable of matching Florida routine-for-routine on that event. Do they get the 10s as well?

Lest it appear everything is about these two teams, Friday will also feature the stacked Perfect 10 Challenge in Oklahoma City, which will be broadcast on a couple of those Oklahoma networks and provides another huge scoring opportunity for all the teams competing, especially Michigan, which can theoretically contend with these other teams in the 197s but has been stuck with lower scores for the last couple weeks. Even a high 196 would probably give the Wolverines the necessary distance over Nebraska and UCLA in the rankings. Look for Oklahoma to continue the 198 parade at this de facto home meet, but Alabama has been 197.500 lately and could jump back into the top group with a statement win here. The Tide will have to keep things relatively close on bars (within two tenths or so) to have a likely shot, but also keep an eye on vault. Alabama theoretically should have the stronger vault lineup, but Oklahoma has been better there so far this season. To win, it seems Alabama would have to lead on vault.

Georgia has been on ice for a while including last week’s cancelled meet, but the Gym Dogs get back in action by traveling to Auburn and can get their RQS up into the 197s by also scoring a 197.000 at this meet. Auburn just cracked the top 10 after a 197.100, which is a major accomplishment for the program, but the main focus of Auburn’s performance this weekend will be how they fare without Bri Guy, who tore her everything in a floor fall last weekend. She’s such a standout performer, so the pressure will be on Atkinson, Rott, and Walker to prove the team can contend and maintain top 10 status without her.  

On Saturday, the focus switches to the Pac-12, where the top four teams in the conference face off against each other. Utah is coming back home and can expect three big-scoring events, but the meet won’t be a true success unless they can figure out beam, while UCLA and Stanford should have an interesting battle considering Stanford looked superior to the Bruins this past weekend. The Cardinal will be maneuvering for a second-straight conference upset while UCLA will be maneuvering to arrive with a 197 finally.

Top 25 Schedule

Friday – 2/21/14
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [3] LSU @ [1] Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [25] Kent State @ Ball State
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – [15] Minnesota @ Iowa State
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Bart & Nadia Festival ([1] Oklahoma, [5] Alabama, [7] Michigan, West Virginia)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [6] Georgia @ [10] Auburn
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Kentucky @ [13] Arkansas
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [14] Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Northern Illinois @ Illinois State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – San Jose State @ [16] Boise State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [18] Denver @ Utah State

Saturday – 2/22/14
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – [17] Arizona @ [22] Arizona State
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – [20] Penn State, Temple, Ursinus @ Rutgers
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [11] Oregon State @ [4] Utah
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [12] Stanford @ [9] UCLA
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [24] Washington, Sacramento State @ [21] California

Sunday – 2/23/14
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Kentucky, Bridgeport, Wisconsin-Stout @ [8] Nebraska
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – [19] Central Michigan, [23] Ohio State @ [14] Illinois
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Gustavus Adolphus, Hamline, Winona State @ [15] Minnesota

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