1. Oklahoma Sooners
Previous ranking: 1
Oklahoma once again widens its lead over the rest of the country with a third-straight score of 198. The Sooners own three of the four 198s recorded so far this season and are setting up for yet another assault on the RQS record after coming so close last season. This week’s 198.150 was not Oklahoma’s strongest performance of the season despite the giant score, with two OOBs on floor and no sticks on vault, but even with those errors on floor, Oklahoma is starting to show the skeleton of what would work as competitive floor six as long as Natalie Brown is able to return to the lineup, floor having been the one question mark so far this year.
2. UCLA Bruins
Previous ranking: 4
UCLA makes the big leap from 4th to 2nd this week after a road 197.750 in a victory over Cal. That’s the highest road score by a non-Oklahoma team so far this season, one achieved without full-strength lineups (because these scores, you guys), which means it may be time to start discussing UCLA not simply as a Super Six team but as a possible title contender. The jump between categories has been made largely because of a reinvented floor lineup that’s far superior to last season’s group, though the perennial vault concern has not disappeared. Vault comparison will be a significant feature of next week’s clash against Utah.
3. Utah Utes
Previous ranking: 2
The Utes drop behind UCLA this week after a fine-but-unremarkable 197.075 at home. It’s a score the team won’t expect to keep around for the RQS picture in a performance marked by counting a 9.650 on floor—an event where Utah typically would have expected to run up the total (of note, Soloski sat for this meet). Utah enters the testing portion of its season schedule now with four away meets in its remaining five, which theoretically will make it more challenging to rack up big scores. Then again, no one expects next Sunday’s meet at UCLA to be scored conservatively.
4. LSU Tigers
Previous ranking: 3
LSU drops another spot this week amidst the same old story we’ve been telling for at least the last month: the potential for a huge performance was marred by one mistake, keeping the Tigers in the lower end of the 197s. This time, it was a counting fall on beam after misses from both Campbell and Edney. LSU is usually able to mix-and-match with that third spot in the beam lineup, and do so comfortably, but with the hitting struggles this year (falls in 4 of 6 meets), I wonder if the coaches will change course and opt for stability. It’s inevitable that LSU will break out for a big total soon (this weekend’s two meets provide some juicy options), but it has been six weeks now and we haven’t seen this team really hit yet.
5. Florida Gators
Previous ranking: 5
A second big score of the season for Florida (197.850 in victory over Alabama) helps close the gap between the Gators and the top four, a gap that really shouldn’t have existed in the first place given the team Florida has this season. Like UCLA, Florida will be pleased with its ability to record a giant score without first-choice lineups and also with its ability to snatch a bunch of 9.9s on bars, since that event really should be a strength for this roster. This was, however, a home score, and Florida still very much needs two more RQS-usable road scores out of the final three road meets, adding some interest to this Friday’s visit to Georgia.
6. Michigan Wolverines
Previous ranking: 7
First task accomplished for Michigan, enduring the opening meet of the post-Karas era with a 24-for-24, 197.250 performance at home against Michigan State. As expected, Michigan was able to come up with acceptable replacements who hit for countable scores, but who also inevitably showed a drop-off in scoring potential (except on beam, where Shchennikova emerged for the best routine in the whole lineup because of course). Still, that 197.250 is better than the season high for any team ranked outside the top 6, which reinforces Michigan’s current position in the national array.
7. Alabama Crimson Tide
Previous ranking: 9
It’s getting better—a little. Alabama was able to use its visit to Florida to record a season-high 197.075 and hit an acceptable vault total for the first time this season (still a lot of fulls, but having the better fulls from Winston and Mahoney made a difference). Other highlights included Ernst hitting beam well for 9.900, but those vault and floor rotations still feel like a week-long visit to 9.8 City. We’ll all be watching for more postseason-y lineups and to see whether the 9.9s actually exist in the coming weeks. “You have 9.8s, but do you have enough 9.9s?” is not a new question for this team.
8. Arkansas Razorbacks
Previous ranking: 10
Arkansas returns to 8th after recording a 196.750 at home in a massive victory over Auburn, a performance marked by huge bars scores rather than the huge beam scores we had been seeing in the team’s previous strong outings. Maintaining this position in the top 10 means we have to start addressing whether this Arkansas team is a legitimate contender for nationals, currently telling a familiar story of “nationals contender at home, #3 regionals seed on the road.” The jury is still out. Medium-fun fact: RQS may not have officially started yet, but Arkansas’s RQS is already half a point better that it was at the END of last season.
9. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous ranking: 6
Kentucky got the dud this week, dropping three places in the rankings after a blah meet against Georgia for a season-low 195.550. The performance was a real 9.750 even before a beamtastrophe made the score completely unusable, continuing Kentucky’s trend of being way better on the road than at home. Kentucky is starting to look like one of those teams that just counts 6 road meets for RQS because they only host one meet every year. Kentucky hosts a bunch of meets but will just pretend that all of them never happened. The wonders of RQS.
10. Denver Pioneers
Previous ranking: 12
Denver hit a meet! Like the whole thing! All the events! Even bars! That accounts for the two-spot rise in the rankings, though the final score was only the team’s third-best of the season, 196.725, ranking behind two meets that included counting falls on bars. Because scoring. It would have been a completely encouraging result if not for the absence of Lynnzee Brown, which ended up 9.6-ing and 9.7-ing up a couple lineups. I’m just impressed Denver was able to come up with five good hits on vault and floor even without Brown, who had been one of exactly five competitors on those events most of the season. It’s like a magic trick or something.
11. Oregon State Beavers
Previous ranking: 11
Oregon State remains in a perfectly fine position in the rankings after a perfectly fine 196.500 in a road loss to Washington, nonetheless standing as Oregon State’s strongest road score of the season so far. It was a primarily even performance, save for a makeshift lineup on beam that threw in a couple wobbleburgers, but the triumphant return of Dani Dessaintst to bars and the triumphant debut of Lena Greene with a 10.0 start on vault both bode well for future prospects.
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Previous ranking: 8
Life did not go great for Nebraska in week 6, putting up just a 195.675 for a meet that did not feature any counting falls. It was, instead, a whirl of wildly uncontrolled vault landings that took Nebraska out of contention for a good score even before bounciness on floor and wobbliness on beam sealed the 195. It marks Nebraska’s second rough road performance in as many road meets, but Nebraska’s schedule is back-loaded and road heavy, meaning there are still plenty of opportunities to erase those totals.
13. Washington Huskies
Previous ranking: 16
Washington picks up some serious ground this week after an overall impressive 197.000 victory over Oregon State, the team’s best performance of the year by quite a margin, particularly in the beam department where we finally saw the crisp showing we’ve been waiting for. That meet was very 2017 in pretty much every way, pushing back against concerns that Washington would not be able to keep it up for a second straight season.
14. Georgia Bulldogs
Previous ranking: 13
Another low 196 keeps Georgia down amongst the commoners in the mid-teens, injecting a little more urgency into the team’s March road meets, where at least mid-196s will be required if Georgia wants to avoid ending up in this ranking purgatory. To do that, Georgia will have to shore up vault, where some big bounces in the lineup of five took away the opportunity for a good score this week, a blow that couldn’t be undone even by the fantastic bars routine from Marissa Oakley—the highlight of the meet for either team.
15. Boise State Broncos
Previous ranking: 14
Boise State nearly had a huge score going this week, but a spate of 9.5s and 9.7s on beam took away the opportunity for a 197. Still, a 196.400 at an otherwise hit road meet was enough to stay relatively steady in the rankings and set the team up in reasonable RQS position heading into the second half of the season. The sudden realization that Mary Frances Bir is good on vault continued for another week with a team-high 9.925, following her 9.950 from the meet before.
16. Auburn Tigers
Previous ranking: 15
A mixed-bag two-meet weekend ends up being more or less a wash for Auburn in the rankings. The Friday 194 against Arkansas, featuring four falls and no rotation scores in the 49s, was basically erased by a much stronger performance on Sunday for 196.500—still nearly as many falls, but none of them counting, so everyone can pretend they never happened. When Milliet, Day, Krippner, and Watson are all firing, this team can be very exciting, but it also always looks like it’s teetering on the verge of disaster.
17. Arizona State Sun Devils
Previous ranking: 17
Arizona State stays steady in the rankings after settling for a 195 away against Utah. Counting a 9.550 on bars, along with a few too many 9.7s throughout, made a fourth 196 of the season too much to hope for, but the team also avoided counting a fall in the absence of Christopherson, with Kaitlyn Szafranski stepping into a couple more events for 9.7s to make up the difference. ASU is another team that has already exceeded its final RQS from last season by nearly half a point before RQS even begins this year.
18. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Previous ranking: 18
Minnesota stays at 18th after its third 196 of the season, this time in a victory over Illinois. It was Ivy Lu’s 9.975 on bars and Lexy Ramler’s 9.950 on beam that saved the team from a rash of 9.7-itis, which could otherwise have taken the total into the 195s, quite a valuable asset that Minnesota did not have last season. There wasn’t a true rotation-savior score hanging out at the end of the lineup for when things aren’t going amazingly, and now there are several.
19. BYU Cougars
Previous ranking: 21
The 196.450 against Southern Utah, despite the loss, may prove the most important result of the season for BYU as it serves as a very competitive road score for a team that had previously been launching the 196s only at home. BYU also has three 196s on the slate already, and with a relatively packed schedule of 7 remaining meets, there’s plenty of time to get three more and contend for a regional seeding.
20. Missouri Tigers
Previous ranking: 24
Missouri broke the 196 mark for the second time this season in a meet that seemed willing to bring the high scores on most events—except for bars where a perfect storm of tight performances and tight scores combined make that number sag and keep Missouri’s overall total in the good-not-great realm. Still, it was a precious 196, enough to improve the team’s ranking by four spots. The Tigers are among the schools still searching for some road scores actually befitting a seeded team, making the three upcoming road meets in the next two weeks rather critical.
21. George Washington Colonials
Previous ranking: 21
George Washington absorbed the loss against Denver with a nonetheless acceptable road score of 195.950. It’s not the 196 that teams in this portion of the rankings are typically looking for if they want to get up into the much-vaunted top-18 zone, but it is still GW’s third-highest score of the season so far and more or less gets the job done. Of note, another 1-2 vault punch of CDA for 9.900 and Winstanley for 9.875 keeps George Washington ranked in the top 10 on vault.
22. Iowa State
Previous ranking: 23
Iowa State regressed a little bit in the scores this week, dropping back into the 195s because of falls on bars after finally breaking the 196 marker at home the previous week. The 195.750 is nonetheless ISU’s road high on the season so far and is enough to pick up a spot in the rankings for the time being, even if the team will expect to improve on that number in the season’s three remaining road meets.
23. California Golden Bears
Previous ranking: 29
Cal returns to its rightful position in the top 25 this week after spending several editions of the rankings on the naughty step because of not hitting. A 197.225 at home against UCLA, in what was simultaneously Cal’s best meet of the season and loosest-evaluated meet of the season, does wonders for team average. This was a very high-quality performance with 24-for-24 hit routines and no scores under 9.775, a meet befitting a team that could legitimately challenge for a nationals spot if this kind of showing is actually a thing rather than an exception.
24. Arizona Wildcats
Previous ranking: 25
Arizona gains a single spot in the rankings after scoring 195.725 in victory over Stanford, a meet that could have brought a huge number if not for a counting fall on beam. The performance did have its highlights but was deflated by the serious-looking injury to Payton Bellows on floor in the final rotation. Her 1.5 (stuck again this week) had been the savior of Arizona’s vault rotation, turning that event an actual strength these last few weeks. Her injury puts quite a bit of pressure on the landings of the other gymnasts as Arizona heads out for a crucial run of road meets.
25. Stanford Cardinal
Previous ranking: 20
Oof. Stanford actually managed three quite good events this week, but none of that mattered too much after a bars disaster with two counting falls for 47.450, reinforcing all our worst fears about Stanford’s bars. The bars situation was all the more painful because Stanford actually announced six bars workers, only for that to turn out to be a lie because…if there was ever a time when a 6th person should have come in. It will be hard to consider Stanford a true spoiler threat at regionals this year without some support for Price and Bryant in that bars lineup.