Keep in mind that this is a super-extendo-weekend, beginning tonight and going through Monday, on which we fulfill the national tradition of celebrating the memory of Martin Luther King by bitching about vault landings. As he would have wanted. It’s a busy one, with many many teams forcing themselves into two meets in three days for some horrible reason.
Top 25 schedule + other notables
10:00 ET/7:00 PT –  LSU vs.  NC State (Las Vegas, NV)
9:00 ET/6:00 PT –  Kent State @ Utah State
As always, the full schedule can be found at the link at the top.
I will definitely be here live blogging on Friday for UCLA/Florida and Georgia/Arkansas and on Monday for Stanford/Georgia. Other than that, it’s a maybe. So stay tuned, but don’t weep into your handkerchiefs if it doesn’t happen. Or do.
-The day starts with the big matchup, Florida and UCLA. UCLA will take relief from the win over Alabama, but beating Florida in Florida would be quite the little upset. For some reason, I don’t think Bridget Sloan is going to get stuck in the 9.8s again this weekend. Watching how Florida Scoring (TM) plays out in the post-Rhonda era should be one of the more interesting parts of the meet. Remember that time Florida got a 49.8 on floor? Ah, the memories.
The Gators were just OK in the opening meet, but even though it’s early, I think we all expect to see a real step forward this weekend, particularly on vault. As in, Alicia Boren is probably not going to fall again. I’m also eager to see how the vault and floor lineups develop in the coming weeks as they looked a little…unsettled in the opener, featuring a couple backup routines. That floor lineup needs the Bridgey anchor score this year much more than ever before since they may be throwing in two routines in the lower 9.8s.
Really, if Florida was able to go 196.825 last weekend when hitting just one of four events at an expected level, a serious 197 must be the task on Friday.
-This weekend, UCLA should be happy with replicating the beam and floor performances from the first week. Floor won’t score the same on the road, but if the Bruins compete those two events at a similar level, that should be enough to earn an early road 196 to rest on. Beam remains the team’s best event, the only potential weakness being an attack from the inconsistency monster, so finishing on beam in front of a bigger road crowd cheering some (presumably) giant floor scores this week will be a valuable and necessary challenge. While Florida also scored well on beam in the first meet, this is the one event where the Bruins are the stronger side, so they’ll have to take advantage.
But if UCLA is to have a real chance at winning this meet, and at not being a depressing ghoulish phantasm this season, bars cannot be as bleak as it was in the opener. The primary concern for UCLA’s bars is that many of the deductions we saw on Sunday were built-in, but that’s definitely not true of all of them. Real hits from Ohashi and Metcalf would go a long way to making the lineup look a bit more healthy.
This is also UCLA. Miss Val is not afraid of some good, old-fashioned lineup experimentation. Those 48s on vault and bars from last week are not going to cut it against Florida, so let’s see what else is out there. Bring on exploring depth. It can’t hurt. Unless it does.
-Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah should all go through comfortably on Friday, though the trends in vault scoring will be worth watching in all three of those meets. Alabama needs to step up the performance more than anything else, but Oklahoma and Utah both played it relatively safe with vault choices in the first week and did not score nearly as well as we would normally expect from those teams. I’ll be checking for whether that 9.825ish trend continues and whether they choose to make an adjustment and throw more difficulty to get the scores.
-Keep an eye on Auburn’s freshmen. They contributed plenty of routines in the first meet but not many significant scores. They’re more talented than that and will have to be more than just early-lineup/depthy options this year for Auburn to keep up, so let’s see if anyone jumps up into the 9.850s for meet two.
-Georgia goes to Arkansas with a serious point to prove that this year is not going to be like last year when it comes to beam. The first meet was not remotely encouraging on that score, and the beam-bads cannot start to be a thing again. Two meets makes it a thing. While event is never a must-hit in January, it would be huge for Georgia’s mental game to come back with six not-bad beam routines right away. And it’s going to be necessary. Arkansas is famous for low-196ing a tentative opponent into submission for the upset, and that’s exactly what Arkansas team would have scored in Cancun for a hit meet. The capability is there.
-In spite of the rankings, the most important meet on Saturday is Nebraska/Penn State since both teams died of consistency in their openers and dropped all the way out of the top 25. It’s way, way, way early, but being unranked is sort of unacceptable for a Nebraska team. Some of the problems were just weirdness, like Hollie Blanske having her worst meet ever, but some of them were also incomplete/non-competitive lineups featuring backups that put too much pressure on the main scorers to deliver.
-Michigan hasn’t shown a glaring issue in either of the meets so far, so there’s no reason to doubt that this will be another “our consistency is coming for you” season. Although it is two 196.9s in a row now, so let’s see a little bit of cleaning and refinement to get that 197. No need to stagnate here.
-Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn, and Arkansas will all compete in their second meets of the weekend on Sunday. Auburn and Alabama are conducting their (what is now) annual Birmingham “no one’s broadcasting this” meet, which is just great. Fun for the whole no one. At least Oklahoma/Arkansas will be on SECN+. It’s hard to know what to watch for in these meets at this point since we haven’t seen the Friday meets yet. We’ll see how the first one goes. Oklahoma is a pretty heavy favorite and should be able to waltz through with a hit, though Auburn and Alabama looks like an excellent showdown. Alabama is the better team on paper, and an ideal performance would see them winning every event, but the problems against UCLA betray a team that isn’t necessarily just a week away from dominance. The opportunity is be there for Auburn to snatch it.
-Perhaps my most anticipated meet of the weekend is Stanford/Georgia because…who the hell knows with this one. It’s going to be beautiful. It may be a disaster. Stay tuned. Given Georgia’s depth compared to Stanford’s not-that-even-a-little, Georgia should be able to pull this one out comfortably. Although, based on what we saw in the first meet from both teams, Stanford looks quite capable of winning bars and beam even though it’s January before they’ve really started trying. The problem for Stanford comes from being too depleted on vault and floor to expect to keep the meet close enough to be able pounce on bars and beam, even with the undeniable power of Ebee. If Stanford is still throwing up a Ylayout and some 9.6s on floor, the deficit will just be too great, even with 9.9s on bars and beam.