Apparently, the east coast broke, so some of these teams will not be competing this weekend because they’re being preserved in ice for future archaeologists to find. George Washington is out of Saturday’s meet, but as of now, the meet is still expected to go ahead. Penn State was supposed to travel to Maryland, but that meet has been postponed because of “as if.”
Top 25 schedule + other notables
I’ll be here live blogging all the Friday slop as usual—get all your devices and alternate monitors and time machines ready because there will be periods when you want to watch three meets at the same time—as well as UCLA/Arizona on Saturday (but not Oregon State/Utah, just a heads up).
-Most of the top teams are getting their meets out of the way on Friday, with only the major Pac-12 sides holding out until the weekend. Though the result is in doubt for very few of these meets, many of these teams are coming off nasties of varying severity in their most recent showings, so there are a couple key rotations to watch. Yeah, I’m talking about Georgia’s beam. The SEC Network should definitely cut in to Florida/Auburn when Georgia is going on beam with a breaking news update because we all need to see that thing.
-The premier meet of the week is Florida’s visit to Auburn because it features the highest-ranked underdog and because I haven’t seen a full Auburn meet yet this season. My needs make things important. Florida is the heavy favorite in this one, with a fuller contingent of both starring 9.9s and supporting 9.8s that would have to thrown up a relative splatfest for Auburn to come out on top. The Gators turned in the strongest and most complete performance in the country so far this season in their last meet, though the scoring was crazy-pie, so part of the interest in this meet will be how similarly hit routines are scored away from home. It should be a better indicator of where Florida is at this point in the season.
Perhaps surprisingly, or not, the floor rotation is the biggest question for Florida so far this year, once again last weekend featuring three great routines and three weak routines. Bridgey will chug along and get into form eventually, but that is a lineup that looks a step behind where it could be given the quality of Baker, Sloan, and Boren. Right now, they’re just missing that DLO from Wang or piked full-in from Spicer, or even the 9.850 that Boyce could bring in the first spot to make this a complete and dominant lineup 1-6. For a championship side, everyone in the floor lineup should be a possible 9.900. We’ve seen Florida, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, etc. do that recently, but that’s not the case for Florida right now. That wouldn’t be a real problem until Super Six, because this floor lineup is still great, but it’s something to keep in mind.
For Auburn, the first couple meets have been fine but not ideal. At this point, the team is still expecting to count some 9.7s and will need more time to develop routines from Krippner and Engler into 9.825-9.850 early-lineup options, rendering a 9.750 a drop-score rather than a phew-score. It will take more than a single January to get to that place, but those are the freshmen I’m watching with the biggest vulture-eyes in this meet. It has been encouraging to see Abby Milliet develop into a true and viable second-in-command to Atkinson on bars and beam (she even did floor last week). The question about Auburn this season is whether this will be a complete contending team or just the Caitlin Atkinson show, especially on bars and beam in the absence of Megan Walker. Milliet has already stepped up the quality from last year to fill that role.
-Let’s talk LSU and Georgia. Both teams had crazy scores going halfway through their most recent meets and then fell into the wood chipper never to be seen again. At the most basic level, this next meet is about…hitting beam. The situation is more serious for Georgia than for LSU because Georgia’s issue is a pattern rather than a single catastrophe, and it’s just getting worse. It’s also overshadowing what we’re seeing on the other events: the strongest vault rotation of any team so far this year (Monday against Stanford), improved floor fitness over this point last season, and a complete bars rotation that isn’t the weakness it seemed it might be without Davis and Brown. If beam comes together, this is a legitimate Super Six team, but beam has to come together.
Beam should be one of LSU’s best events and still will be as long as everyone stops losing her mind. Macadaeg, Hambrick, Finnegan? Come on. Don’t even start. The only thing standing between them and being a top-3 beam team is a case of the beautiful disasters, though one meet does not constitute a fully-fledged case of the beautiful disasters. Mostly, we learned from the Vegas meet that LSU is more dependent on Priessman and Kelley than it may have seemed at the very beginning. That’s perhaps a no-brainer, but the Tigers clearly missed those routines in Vegas and will need those scores. If one, both, or part of either is back this weekend, Florida’s nation-leading mark will be attainable.
-Alabama put on a show of floor depth during the double-meet weekend, marching about 75 people in and out of that lineup and getting competitive scores for all of them. Depth is Alabama’s best weapon this season and will serve them very well once things start to matter. They shouldn’t have too much trouble with Arkansas, although through the first couple weeks Arkansas has proven to be a more formidable and complete team than the roster seemed to suggest, one that has six competitive, minimum-9.750 routines on each event and is quite capable of 196s.
-The Pac-12 takes over on Saturday, the showcase being Oregon State’s visit to Utah. In a gigantic twist, Oregon State is the Pac-12’s best vault team right now, which given historical precedent, is preposterous, but that’s the vaulting state of the Pac-12 right now. No Pac-12 team has even hit 49.200 through the first few weeks of the season. A lot of this comes down to difficulty, with the Pac-12 schools showing relatively few 10.0 vaults compared to their SEC peers, but the fulls we’ve seen so far have also not been remarkable enough to warrant high 9.8s. On Saturday, keep an eye on vault because all of these teams need to prove that they have multiple real 9.9s in their lineups, not just average fulls for 9.825s. Otherwise, it’s going to be an excruciatingly SEC season.
-Utah would be the favorite against Oregon State at either location, but that favorite status increases at home. The Utes could use a little traditional Utah boost after some lulls in the first couple meets. While Utah’s performances so far haven’t been outstanding, it’s clear that this will become a team that can low-mid 197 others into submission as the season progresses. The depletion of the floor lineup, however, has been quite evident early on. Floor won’t be the 9.9-a-thon of years past and the tumbling will not be as big, but Lee and Lewis need to come into their own to make this a competitive event instead of 13th in the country. It’s hard to challenge without at least 49.3s/49.4s on floor.
For the most part, Oregon State has been doing normal Oregon State things in the first couple meets. The Beavs will be in a position to pounce if Utah has to count a mistake, though the question from the preseason over where the 9.9s will come from remains, even stronger now without Aufiero this season and with Dani Dessaints mysteriously not competing last weekend. I haven’t seen one routine yet that looks like a sure 9.900+ every single time.
-UCLA has started the season quite well, especially by the standard of “The Bruins Do 194s” that we have come to expect from time to time in January and February—when UCLA just has a beam crazy for no reason and then Valorie performs some extensive feelings about it. In general, the landings and endurance look pretty good for mid-January and improved over some recent years. The meet against Florida was more encouraging than the first because of the progression shown on bars, which now needs to be maintained and come to vault as well. With the downgrade, somewhat flat, medium-distance fulls are not going to cut it against teams like Georgia that are sticking multiple 1.5s.
The Yimettes had a horrible, three-beam-fall meet last weekend, one not remotely befitting the legacy of The Tabitha or Arizona’s ability and prettiness on beam. Like Georgia and LSU, but lower profile, The Fightin’ Arizonas need a comeback meet this weekend. They won’t beat a hit meet from UCLA and would have to rely on falls to win, but…let’s at least get back into the top 25, OK?
-Cal heads to Stanford on Sunday for their second showdown already this season (why?) in a meet that no one will be able to see (why?). Cal beat Stanford the first time around, but Stanford showed some strides against Georgia by, you know, hitting and should feel more comfortable about their chances to win this one. Floor is still a big struggle, the bars lineup is incomplete, and vault is not at all competitive, but it’s getting better. Vault and floor are where Cal should have the advantage, with more believable 9.800s through the lineup, but achieving a second-straight smackdown of Stanford will hinge upon the ability to hit beam. Stanford can pretty anyone’s face off on beam, so Cal cannot afford to throw up another 48.5/48.6. That’s just too much to make up. Beam beam beam. The week of beam.