Michigan, Denver, Bowling Green @  Alabama
Friday, 7:30 CT, SEC+
Alabama recorded a poor score in its first meet, and while we can chalk some of that up to a tougher judging eye that turned what would typically be a mid-195 into a 194.750, a mid-195 is still not remotely the level of this team. If Alabama doesn’t jump up into the 196s this week, it will find itself not only losing a home meet but consigned to a poor average and a ranking outside the top 10 for weeks to come, desperately waiting for RQS to kick in.
Over the last few years, we have seen Michigan and Alabama emerge as evenly matched foes, meeting in the 6-7 regional each of the last two seasons. If Alabama recovers from its first meet to deliver a performance at the normal level, we should enjoy Michigan and Alabama pushing each other to the final routine in a thoroughly tight meet with only little bits of advantage here and there. Because Michigan got up to 196 last week, the alarm bells didn’t ring, though Michigan will still be eager to improve on that performance and erase the memory of its own issues on beam that semi-soured proceedings from the start. All eyes on beam here.
What makes this one truly interesting, however, is the Denver factor. Basic expectations will be that Denver takes a “no shame in that” 3rd place in its season debut, but nothing about that first weekend will cause Denver to shake with fear. For a Denver team that broke the 196.5 barrier 9 times last season, those Michigan and Alabama performances will have looked very beatable.
Essential for Denver in that victory quest will be complete performances on vault and floor from a lineup that was a little bare on those events last season and has lost Nikole Addison. Karr and Brown will need a a couple new supporting scores if Denver is to keep up with teams of the level of Michigan and Alabama. We nerds are also waiting with bated breath to see Alexis Vasquez in NCAA.
Bowling Green will enter this one with minimal result expectations. The scoring ceiling isn’t there to challenge the numbers put up by the other three teams—and how we muddle through life now without Laura Mitchell is still TBD—but Jovannah East should put up a few scores that are in line the best from the other lineups. BG is competing against its own expectations and capability here, and scoring 195 would count as a huge victory.
 Georgia @  Oklahoma
Friday, 7:00 CT, FSN
For Georgia, the first task here will be seeing if it’s possible to match/improve on that 196.600 in a road context. Last season, Georgia didn’t really have a problem getting into the higher 196s at home, but the road scores lagged. It took until March for Georgia to prove that it was more than a 196.1 team without the benefit of being at Stegeman, and progress in 2019 will be built on getting real road scores earlier in the process.
In that first meet, we all know Georgia got away with one on beam to score over 49, so the lineup will be eager to put up a more composed performance there. Improvement on floor will also be a focus. Georgia should have the depth to play around with options on floor this year—even with Roberts still out—but the preliminary lineup there is intact from last week, so that’s interesting.
- Florida opens its season by hosting Missouri on Friday. The college debut of Trinity Thomas will bring eyes, but also look for how freshmen Savannah Schoenherr, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Nya Reed, and Leah Clapper might (or might not) be integrated into the lineups on what is still quite a deep team.
- UCLA, Cal, UC Davis, and Michigan State will compete in Anaheim on Saturday alongside the California Grand Invitational, one of those gigantic JO meets. Despite the strong score, UCLA did have three falls in its opening meet with some characteristically unsettled lineups. It’s never a surprise to see UCLA shuffle things around significantly from meet to meet, so I expect to see some changes in most of the lineups for this one. Plenty of spots to be earned. Cal will look to resolve the issues that brought last week’s beam scores into the 9.7s, since the performance as a whole was on track for a 196 for most of the meet. Getting that 196 will be the aim here, something that didn’t happen until mid-February last season.
- LSU travels to Auburn with both teams looking to erase the one very big problem that took away a usable score last weekend— LSU missing on vault and Auburn falling apart on floor. Beyond that for LSU, those “errr…how’s that going to go?” lineup additions on bars and beam did their jobs in the first meet, but they’ll need to prove that’s an every-meet thing, especially since we didn’t see Bailey Ferrer in the first competition and she’ll be pushing for spots in multiple lineups in time.
- Washington opens its season by traveling to Nebraska for what should be a tight competition on Saturday evening. Washington will need to develop some new lineup stars this season, and while typically that leads us to look at the freshmen, keep an eye on sophomore Geneva Thompson, who missed last season with injury but was expected to break into those vault and floor lineups.
- The highlight of Sunday’s schedule is an Illinois quad meet with Oregon State, Kentucky, and Lindenwood coming to town. We’ll get our first look at Oregon State as the Beavs try to establish their position in a Pac-12 landscape that is suddenly very unsettled beyond the top couple teams. Is Oregon State in the top four or the bottom four now? Also keep tabs on an Illinois team that really struggled in its first meet for a 192 marked by some key absences. Was that a first-meet blip or the real story for Illinois this year?
Injury and roster news
- Emma Engler, who had Auburn’s #1 bars routine in the 2017 season but did not compete in 2018, has been removed from Auburn’s roster.
- Giulianna Pino hasn’t been with the UCLA team in a competitive capacity for a while, but she has officially been removed from the roster now. She’s still with the team on the sidelines looking all stylish.
- We saw some mid-meet injuries last week, including Skyler Sheppard from Auburn having to stop her floor routine after two passes, Mary Korlin-Downs from Minnesota receiving a 0.000 on beam, and Felicia Hano from UCLA suffering an ankle sprain.