It’s a showdown weekend. Across two days, we have five different meets featuring perennial Nationals qualifiers facing off with each other, so expect some sparks to fly…is what I would be saying if wins and losses mattered. As it is, expect a lot of simultaneous high-quality gymnastics (no flipping to another meet for half the routines) as all the teams iterate that they’re only focused on themselves and don’t really care what anyone else is doing.
In the rankings, we’ll see the biggest shakeup of the season on Monday once the new RQS standings debut. Feel free to check out my RQS breakdown to see where teams are likely to end up and what ugly scores they still need to drop. Oklahoma is guaranteed to retain the #1 ranking for at least another week, as neither Florida nor LSU can get within a tenth of a point of them after this weekend’s competition. The Sooners have a bit of a lead. Utah has a chance to move up as high as #2 with a solid 197, but they would also need Florida/LSU to be a bit of a splatfest, so that seems less likely. The introduction of RQS is the best news for Georgia and Stanford as both teams look primed to jump in the rankings even if they have poor meets this weekend.
Alabama is visiting Georgia, and Dana Duckworth has been having sugarplum dreams of a delicious victory over the old arch-nemesis all week. Alabama is on the upswing after last week’s result, while Georgia is still sort of all over the place. It looked like the Gym Dogs were pulling things together, but then last week’s performance featured a beam fall and a whole royal court of 9.7s. Having to count a Mary Beth Box fall on beam is a blip, but the 9.7s are the real concern. Those are still way too likely to show up on both beam and floor, with tenativeness on beam and flatness on floor, and they need to turn back into 9.825-9.850s this weekend. The good news for Georgia is that they still have a weak 195 on their RQS, so even an average performance is going to look pretty good in the rankings.
Simultaneously, Oklahoma will be visiting Michigan. The meet will be tape delayed on the Big Ten Network but shown live on BTNPlus. BTNPlus and I are in a fight right now (heads up, trying to cancel a BTNPlus subscription is harder than climbing Everest), so you gallant heroes who watch it can keep the rest of us posted in the comments if you feel like it. Oklahoma doesn’t really have to worry about scores now, but they had a little bit of a meh last week on beam—the only event where they’re not #1 in the country—so point a discerning eye at the security of that rotation this week. There all still some consistency issues on both bars and beam (not major issues, more random 9.7s here and there issues) that they’ll need to iron out over the next month.
Michigan is also coming off an OK. Lindsay Williams had a random poor meet, so watch to make sure that’s not a snowball situation, but the major routines of interest will be Nicole Artz on floor and Austin Sheppard on vault. Artz has gone OOB two weeks in a row, and they rely on her for Sampson-esque scores, and Sheppard finally came on vault last week but just did a Yhalf tucked, so let’s hope we get another step forward this week.
Later on, the feature meet will be Florida against LSU. While Alabama and Oklahoma come in as the relative favorites in their meets, there isn’t a favorite in this one. It’s all to play for. Bars is going to be really interesting, partially because of how much variation we’ve seen in the landing quality from these two teams and how much influence that should have in the result, but mostly because we’re allegedly going to see the triumphant return of Bridget Sloan. I know that it will have been 7 weeks since her injury (and we were originally told she would be out six weeks), but doesn’t it still seem super fast? For all the chatter about the significance of her injury, she has come back in about a millisecond. The bars rotation is where they need her the most, and even if she’s very much in “I”m still fragile” mode (as I would expect), she makes that lineup look so much better. Discussion question: Who would you take out? And, scandalously, is it Kennedy Baker?
On vault, Florida has been the better team so far this year, but LSU has the talent for equivalent scores (though they miss that second 10-potential vault that Florida has in the Hunter/McMurtry duo). If LSU gets the landings from last week, there shouldn’t be much difference in the scores at all/a slight advantage to LSU. Similarly, the two teams have tended to be pretty evenly match on floor. I would say that, at its ideal, LSU is the stronger floor team 1-6, but Florida is more likely to get hugely huge numbers from Baker and Hunter to lift the overall rotation score. LSU should get about the same scores from Courville/Hall, but haven’t often enough this year. Last weekend was a good example.
In the LSU column, the main advantage event should be beam. Florida is coming off a huge beam score last weekend, but overall, LSU has more likely 9.9s in that lineup, which Florida has a couple more just-fine 9.825-9.850 routines in there. Beam is always a question because it’s beam, but to come out with a win, LSU needs to take advantage of how much pretty they have. It will be very tough to beat Florida if they’re counting wobbles for 9.8s. What I’m saying is, this should be a good one.
On Saturday, UCLA hosts Nebraska in an essential meet for both teams. Nebraska is suddenly in fairly urgent need of a strong road score and can’t waste this opportunity to get one if they’re going to maintain a solid ranking through the rest of the season, while UCLA kind of needs to put together a complete meet. That means no random 9.6s on bars, no beam falls, and bringing the landings on vault and floor. UCLA can be a mid 197 team at home if they do that, but we haven’t seen it yet.
Utah also hosts Stanford in a meet that is much more important for the Cardinal than the Utes. Sure, Utah would love to get back to its home, high 197, 10 parade ways, but Stanford needs a score. Like now. They have just four meets left before Regionals, are already counting a mid 196 road score, and can’t afford to throw in another beautiful disaster. Just keep the beautiful part.
As always, the full schedule is available at the top.
Top 25 Schedule
Friday, February 20
7:00 ET/4:00 PT –  Oklahoma @  Michigan
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Michigan State @  Illinois
9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Auburn @ Missouri
9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Oregon State @ Arizona State
9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Stanford @  Utah
10:00 ET/7:00 PT –  Cal, Seattle Pacific @  Washington
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Hamline, Winona State, Gustavus Adolphus @  Minnesota