1. Oklahoma Sooners
Previous ranking: 1
Oklahoma expanded its advantage in the #1 position this week following a nation-leading 197.975 at Metroplex. That’s the second-highest score of the young season, just behind Oklahoma in first and just ahead of Oklahoma in third. The story we’ve come to know. Maggie Nichols returned from missing the previous meet to compete bars and SURPRISE beam for 9.975 after not being in the initial beam lineup. Of note, Oklahoma recovered from the previous week’s performance to hit five good floor routines, the reintroduction of Bre Showers seriously solidifying a group that will become six strong again once Nichols returns to replace Draper.
2. Florida Gators
Previous ranking: 3
Florida just managed to leapfrog UCLA this week by four thousandths of a point on the strength of a superb three-event home performance against Kentucky—with a little Carol-infused 9.9ing for luck. The bars and beam rotations are going to be the highlight of the Florida team this year, with fewer built-in deductions for leaps on beam (and crisper handstands on bars) than nearly any other team. Vault is still not there, as is a common tale at this point, and we did definitely see the absence of Nya Reed showing in those vault and floor lineups despite the big total.
3. UCLA Bruins
Previous ranking: 2
UCLA dropped a hair behind Florida this week following the traditional perfectly-fine-but-kind-of-flat late January road performance. A 197.225 is still an acceptable score—if this counts UCLA’s annual bad road meet, they’re way ahead of the curve—but the team really only found its footing at the very end with the Ross and Ohashi beam routines that were finally up to the level we’d expect of this squad. The rest of the meet was short final passes and bouncy vaults that often took away a tenth from the potential score. We’re going to have to keep an eye on that Kyla Ross 1.5 again after she struggled the last two meets, this time “the Chamber of Secrets has been opened”-ing her way backward right into the vaulting table. That first-meet stick may have overpromised.
4. Utah Utes
Previous ranking: 4
Utah’s season-high 197.375 at Arizona State kept the team comfortably in 4th place this week, still needing a big break-out score to challenge the top 3 but safely ahead of LSU in 5th. For another week, Utah will chalk this one up as normal, acceptable, and a good progress point, but won’t be writing sonnets about this performance. You could see the fatigue creeping in with Skinner landing short on two passes on floor, which she doesn’t do. Though as is part of Utah’s approach this year, these are not final lineups, with every event waiting for someone new or some new difficulty (Reinstadtler was on only bars this week), so Utah will say that if it’s getting 197.375 on the road with B+/A- lineups, that’s solid for the end of the first month.
5. LSU Tigers
Previous ranking: 5
LSU will breathe easier having defeated Alabama in Alabama over the weekend. Even though I would say the performance was not dissimilar to the one against Florida the week before, the team will feel like the ship has been righted after this zero-fall victory. Floor is still an issue. As D-D mentioned after the meet, they have to get Desiderio hitting to be as competitive as they need to be, and who the sixth member of that lineup will be is still a big old question mark. Vault was fascinating, wasn’t it? I would say four of the six vaulters did the absolute best vaults they can possibly do (the inconsistency of the scores within that lineup of six, I can barely even talk about) in a lineup that was without Edwards and Priessman this week. Some real “is the 10.0 start worth it?” decisions to make as we go.
6. Georgia Bulldogs
Previous ranking: 6
Following a loss to Auburn, Georgia has nonetheless retained its 6th-place position on the strength of a 196.400 road score that’s actually not bad considering Georgia’s recent track record at road meets and the fact that the team struggled on two of the four events this time. For those circumstances, you take your 196.400 and get out of town before someone changes their mind. In this meet, we saw a vault rotation that’s getting there (though will still want Ward’s 10.0 start and Lukacs’ DTY to keep the difficulty competitive) and a beam rotation that did well to hit following Schild’s fall. But we also saw a bars rotation that desperately needs Marissa Oakley and a floor rotation that showed one of the most overtly fatigued floor performances in recent memory. Someone needs an eight-week nap. Not gonna happen.
7. Denver Pioneers
Previous ranking: 7
Another low 196 to take 2nd place at Metroplex keeps Denver at #7 in the rankings with every total this season over the 196 mark. Soon, however, Denver will have to start scoring into the high 196s to hope to retain this kind of ranking once the bigger-name programs are able to drop their clunker meets. This team will expect to be able to do that. On Saturday, Denver went 196.350 at a road meet where beam was still a wobble-burger that gave away multiple tenths, and Karr and Brown at the end of the floor lineup didn’t have their 9.9iest showings. We saw a team at Metroplex that is talented enough to hit 197 at a road meet when everyone’s on her game.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide
Previous ranking: 10
Alabama did lose to LSU at home—never a fun scenario—but with a second consecutive high 196 (this one achieved without best-one Lexi Graber), Alabama will also feel that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. The ranking is already back up to 8th, close to where Alabama finished the regular season last year, and that 194 from the first week hasn’t even been dropped yet. At the same time, high 196s aren’t the goal for this team and aren’t going to mean a lot in a couple months. With Alabama’s peer teams racking up the 197s every week, that has to become the immediate goal. And it’s very realistic. I saw 5-6 routines score 9.825-9.850 over the weekend that were a January-wheeee of a landing away from being a real-life 9.9.
9. Boise State Broncos
Previous ranking: 11
Boise State returned to the top 10 this week following a massive 196.625 in a home victory against Southern Utah. Boise State once again has just four home meets this season, and two of them have already passed, so even though it’s still very early in the season, a hit meet was crucial here to bank those high home scores. There won’t be too many remaining opportunities, so there wasn’t the luxury of a slow start. BSU spends the entire month of February at road meets, which will be a real test of how this team can perform in potentially difficult environments.
10. Michigan Wolverines
Previous ranking: 9
Michigan made a little bit of progress this week, scoring 196.400 instead of the 196.0s to which we had become accustomed. But with other teams going into the high 196s, that wasn’t enough to avoid dropping a spot in the rankings. There’s no question that evaluation has been tighter in Michigan’s meets thus far than in some of the crackier competitions elsewhere (not a new phenomenon for Michigan), and the social media quest to get a 10 for Natalie Wojcik on vault is gaining steam. Hers is one of those situations where the judges suddenly decide that their vision allows them to see things like pre-flight shoulder angle and you’re like, “Dolores, since when?” We’ll see what happens next week at home against Nebraska since it’s a “bigger” meet and those competitions can get more charitable.
11. Auburn Tigers
Previous ranking: 13
Auburn’s victory over Georgia with a 196.775 allowed the team to move up a couple spots this week, still outside the top 10 because two of the four meets have been excellent while the other two have had problems. Auburn is among the teams gearing up for a huge rise once we reach dropped-score season because those 196.7s are quite convincing—but only if the road performances come along to match. Auburn heads to Kentucky next weekend, not typically the most charitably scored location in the conference, a good test of whether 196.7s are the real deal and whether Auburn has worked the misses out of its system.
12. Washington Huskies
Previous ranking: 12
Washington lost to Oregon State at home with a 195.900 performance that no one will be framing, but it proved just enough to stay steady in the rankings. For the most part, this was a medium performance. We saw some impressive moments, the ends of the floor and beam rotations, the stuck vault from Thompson, but a still-ragged bars lineup and some early beam mistakes took away bigger scores on what should be strong events for this team in about a month or so. Vault wasn’t exactly weak, everyone did her job, but you still wonder about the 9.7ishness of the lineup overall. They’ll need Hoffa and Brooks in there and hitting by the end of the season to get truly competitive.
13. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Previous ranking: 19
It’s good to come home. Week 4 was turnaround week for Nebraska, following up that disastrous 194 on the road with a 197.250 at home, one of the biggest scores of the young season. Most teams in the middle of the top 10 aren’t getting close to that mark yet, even at their own charitably scored competitions, so this makes a statement. Sienna Crouse was back on three events (all but UB) and Schweihofer competed two pieces again, though you have to think that to continue getting anywhere near a 49.3 on bars as we progress, both of them will have to be in the lineup. It’s still going to be tough to challenge Michigan next week (despite scoring nearly a point better than Michigan’s season best here) unless the stars are on all their events.
14. BYU Cougars
Previous ranking: 17
BYU also returned to home meets over the weekend and returned to the mid 196s, scoring 196.450 in a victory over Utah State marked by four 9.900s, two from Shannon Evans. We’ve seen so many teams be all over the place in January—bopping from 196s to 194s to 196s—and BYU is in that family. It’s going to take an extra special performance to hit those 196s next weekend away at Cal for what should be a leveling meet in terms of how BYU, Cal, and Arizona State—three teams that have been trading ranking positions all month—truly compare to one another.
15. Ohio State Buckeyes
Previous ranking: 14
Yet to compete at home, Ohio State has already matched its final road-score total from last season’s RQS slate with its third straight 196, this time in a victory over Michigan State. Last season, Ohio State had to count a 195.850 road score, and there’s already no chance of that happening this year. OSU has been exceptionally steady with recording those low 196s for the last several weeks, similar to a team like Michigan, so it will be interesting to see whether that’s just the normal for this team or if we see a huge boost into crazy-high numbers at Ohio State’s first home competition this weekend.
16. Missouri Tigers
Previous ranking: 15
Missouri does drop another spot this week but will be mostly fine with the 196.200 road score achieved at Metroplex, despite the third-place finish. The beam wobblies still got to them to take away a potential mid-196, but the team was able to avoid counting a fall on both bars and floor after misses in the middle of the lineup, showing some solidity and resilience in the back of those orders. Missouri still needs to find a sixth floor routine (have had to drop a score in the 8s in the last two meets), but that ideally will be Becca Schugel should she be able to return on more than bars at some point this season.
17. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous ranking: 18
Kentucky is still hitting up against the wall of its low early-season scores, so the team was not able to progress too much in the rankings despite the exceptionally important 196.650 achieved at Florida. That’s a score more befitting the quality we expect from this team. It was a clear step up (or seven) over previous performances, particularly significant being the final five floor routines after the miss from Stuart in the leadoff spot. Floor has had its issues this year, but seeing Rosa come through with her DLO in the anchor position in an absolute must-hit position provides some more surety about where that lineup can be.
18. California Golden Bears
Previous ranking: 8
Welp. A nightmare bars rotation with missed routines from the first four competitors has sent Cal tumbling down the rankings, now waiting for RQS season to kick in so that road score can be dropped. It seemed an out-of-the-ordinary performance on what has been Cal’s go-to 49 event so far this season, so there won’t be any ringing hands about it yet, but this was a seriously missed opportunity for a mid-196 road score. A bright-side development was the subsequent vault rotation, easily Cal’s best of the season (because OF COURSE it was), and Keelen’s best-ever beam routine.
19. Arizona State Sun Devils
Previous ranking: 16
Arizona State lost some ground this week following a 195.825 against Utah, a score taken out of the 196s primarily by its own wobble-burger beam rotation that saw no scores higher than 9.750. Leonard-Baker recorded ASU’s highest score on every event and continues to carry vault, bars, and floor—though the team effort to put together a hit floor rotation following the season-ending injury to Lentz last week was the highlight of the performance and the most encouraging aspect moving forward.
20. Oregon State Beavers
Previous ranking: 20
Oregon State will be pleased with the developments of the weekend after breaking 196 for the first time this season in a road victory over Washington, a conference rival with a team of exceptionally similar quality and expectations. Oregon State looked in a mirror and won the mirror. Floor continues to be the highlight for OSU, though the ease shown on beam following the Lacy Dagen fall was also confidence-inspiring. The project of the next month will be vault and bars, two lineups that are not yet 49-competitive enough to get OSU back into the top 12 where this team really should be.
21. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Previous ranking: 23
Someone was listening. After weeks of getting hosed on the scores, Minnesota traveled to Penn State for a competition that was not subtle in the scoring by any means. Both teams suddenly got evaluated with the lens of a top-5 school, and the scores showed, Minnesota going 196.925 for its highest team total since the misty, water-colored Mable era of March 2016. Importantly, Ivy Lu showed her first counting beam routine of the season, scoring 9.900. Those bars and beam lineups are made competitive by the 1-2 punch of Ramler and Lu at the end, and both of them need to be in the lineups for this team to be at its best.
22. Penn State Nittany Lions
Previous ranking: 25
Though Penn State did fall to Minnesota, the 196.775 final score is a massive victory of its own, also Penn State’s highest score since March 2016 (the same meet just referenced for Minnesota). Penn State’s scores this year are always going to be built on bars, an event where the strength of Bridgens and Garcia can keep the score competitive with any other team in the conference, but what made the difference this time was the 9.850s coming on beam and floor instead of getting stuck in the 9.7s.
23. Arizona Wildcats
Previous ranking: 24
Arizona’s 195.975 was enough to steal an upset victory over Cal (due to Cal’s bars disaster more than anything else, but still). It was important for Arizona to be able to get this kind of score even while bars—obviously this team’s best event—was kind of blah with several 9.6s. Of note, Arizona’s last two 195s that have built this ranking inside the top 25 have both come at home, so the true test will happen this Friday at Utah, where Arizona will have to avoid paling in comparison to a top team and getting stuck in the 9.7s as a result.
24. Stanford Cardinal
Previous ranking: 21
Stanford welcomed a record crowd on Sunday—and even hit five usable bars routines in the second rotation. But that might have given all these new fans the wrong impression of how many deaths you will die being a fan of Stanford gymnastics, so they also had to count a fall on beam too just to settle expectations. That beam problem took the final score into the unusable territory of 195.125, though Stanford will still be pleased by just how competitive that floor lineup looks even without Price’s auto-9.950.
24. Arkansas Razorbacks
Previous ranking: 22
Despite recording a season-high score at Metroplex, Arkansas will continue to be frustrated by its performances thus far because Arkansas’s season high has no business being a 195.825. Case in point, that 195.825 was achieved with a counting fall and would have been comfortably into the 196s given a hit beam rotation. The counting mistakes are still cropping up every week, and Arkansas needs to come through with a hit at Georgia next weekend to take advantage of Georgia scoring. Arkansas has just four road meets left and no road scores it would prefer to count yet, so things are starting to get a little more urgent.