1. Oklahoma Sooners
Previous ranking: 1
Obviously, Oklahoma extended its advantage in the rankings following an already infamous 198.325 that stretched the bounds of sanity far beyond their breaking point. It ranks as the sixth-best meet in the history of Oklahoma gymnastics despite, you know, two people falling on beam (hi, falling onto the beam is .5), and if we talk about that score any more we’re just going to implode. Let’s just pretend the scoring never happened, as we must to retain sanity. If we do that, Oklahoma will look at this three-fall home performance against Florida and say, “Eh, we’ve got some things to sort out.” Nichols was still limited to bars and beam—her triumphant return to the AA will automatically sort out several of those things—but Oklahoma will still not be sold on who the beam and floor six are following recent performances. That stellar parade of vault difficulty has been papering over some other issues.
2. Florida Gators
Previous ranking: 2
Florida was there too, at Oklahoma Hallucination Palace 2019, and will have absolutely loved the opportunity to be part of that preposterous score-scape, despite the loss. It’s a 198 road score. Florida will find a way to sleep at night. Like Oklahoma, and pretty much every other team, the floor lineup still needs to find its six because SJS’s routine has been the dropped score in every meet this season, but mostly it’s vault that still lingers as the one event holding Florida’s scores “down.” And by down, I mean out of the 199s the judges were apparently trying to reach at that meet. It will largely feel like one step forward and one step back for Florida’s vaulting because Schoenherr finally brought the vault she’s been capable of against Oklahoma, but then pretty much everyone else struggled.
3. UCLA Bruins
Previous ranking: 3
UCLA recorded a season-high 197.900 in its victory at Oregon State for a meet that hasn’t gained the same scoring outrage as the OU/Florida meet because it was a lower-profile contest but was quite bad in its own right. So far this season, we’ve seen the top 3 teams evaluated based on what they’re capable of doing rather than what they’re actually doing, so while it makes sense to have these teams in the top 3 positions, the margin between them and the rest of the country isn’t really justified based on the actual meets. The big victory for UCLA from the OSU meet was the performance of Nia Dennis, with the best beam and floor routines she has done in college both coming at the same time. Now let’s see if UCLA can get her into a bars lineup that is still currently 5 (and only 5) routines deep and needs to find its 6th member.
4. Utah Utes
Previous ranking: 4
Utah has been comfortable but not outstanding, remaining in the 4th position week after week now, though the Utes will take some pride in being all, “Ours aren’t even the home scores you’re complaining about anymore…” Give it time. Those floor scores are already on a medium simmer and are going to boil any second, especially when Skinner is back in. It was unusual to see Skinner rested on floor this past weekend with a sore ankle since she’s the AA iron woman, but her floor landings the week before were seriously un-Skinner-like, so it’s not surprising to hear that there was something going on. Her scores are everything to these lineups, so precaution must be the rule.
5. LSU Tigers
Previous ranking: 5
LSU’s 197.150 in a victory over NC State did increase the team’s average but is still not the kind of meet LSU will be looking back on with fond memories in a few weeks’ time. An opening miss on floor and some other tumbling struggles depressed those scores, and the absence of Sami Durante was felt, particularly in a beam lineup that clearly needs her. If it wasn’t obvious before that Durante’s presence on beam is already essential, it is now. Her presence is similarly essential on bars of course, though getting Bailey Ferrer into that lineup for the first time ensured Durante’s absence didn’t really show. While Ferrer’s highest-scoring events in time (late this season? next season?) will be vault and floor, her most important event on the 2019 team will be bars because of the relative dearth of options. A full-strength postseason LSU bars lineup likely has Ferrer in place of Dean.
6. Georgia Bulldogs
Previous ranking: 6
Not to be ignored in the crazy score parade, Georgia got a 197.475 home score this week for a meet that was…fine. Unsurprisingly, floor and vault brought the biggest numbers at this home meet despite having the least settled lineups, with Roberts still limited to only bars and Ward out of the vault lineup. That vault lineup has a chance to be a major strength for Georgia with a competitive amount of 10.0 starts, but it’s not there yet in terms of either personnel or (non-Snead) landings. Can it get there in time? That’s the question as we go along, as is whether Georgia has the luxury to rest Dickson and Snead, who have been going going going in the AA every single meet.
7. Denver Pioneers
Previous ranking: 7
Denver is not interested in letting this #7 ranking go any time soon, getting the claws firmly entrenched with a 197.450 road score at West Virginia, exploding the previous season high by more than a point. This was another of the lower-profile crazy judging meets over the weekend, but I still don’t expect these scores to dip any time soon because Denver will spend the entire remainder of the month of February at home. Hosting Oklahoma next weekend should be a fascinating display. Denver’s best weapon in attempting to maintain these scores this season is likely going to be bars, a lineup that has the handstands throughout all six positions to avoid the 9.825itis that claims many teams.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide
Previous ranking: 8
Alabama scored 196.850 for a second consecutive week, and following a 196.900 the week before, a theme is emerging. These scores are solid, but when mid-197s are being thrown at teams like Denver and Oregon State, in addition to all of the usual suspects, Alabama will find it difficult to improve on its current ranking with these scores. Worth noting are the lineup absences during these last few meets, Graber missing out against LSU before returning successfully in the AA this past weekend, just as Armbrecht went out. A full lineup probably goes 197 both times, but it hasn’t happened yet. Emily Gaskins also got into Alabama’s floor squad for the first time in the anchor position, falling on a double pike and going OOB, but her presence will be necessary as a potential 9.9 in that lineup in March/April.
9. Boise State Broncos
Previous ranking: 9
Boise State is not going away and not being easily consigned to the realm of “well you know these home scores” following a 196.525 road victory. That gives the team its third mid-196 in four meets, this one achieved despite a kind of iffy vault rotation where the score had to be saved by a strong 1.5 from Means. But the true highlight was exactly the one we expect from this team, the bars rotation, capped by a 9.975 from Emily Muhlenhaupt in the anchor position. Boise State isn’t going to be easily knocked down the rankings by the more famous teams once we get to RQS season.
10. Michigan Wolverines
Previous ranking: 10
The weekend brought another season high for Michigan, this one a 196.500 featuring a solid recovery from a vault rotation that could have taken things down a very dark path. Big bounces on fulls, followed by a scary fall from Wojcik on her 1.5 (she’s fine), put Michigan in a giant hole, but overall composed performances on the remaining events, including essential hits to drop falls on beam and floor, gave Michigan a solid total and the continuing hope that the 197s will come soon. But those 197s haven’t come yet, or been close to coming, so it’s still a concern. If Michigan has hopes of a top-8 ranking going into the postseason (i.e., seeded to advance to nationals) none of the current scores can be kept around for RQS with seven meets remaining.
11. Oregon State Beavers
Previous ranking: 20
On Saturday, Oregon State got to experience what is life is like as a top team, being given the benefit of the doubt and having routines viewed with the orange-colored glasses that this squad doesn’t typically get—at least not to that degree. It will be difficult to come back to earth and live among the peasants again. OSU’s massive ranking rise is mostly due to the preposterous scoring of that meet for 197.450, but clear lineup improvements were also made on every piece, with a sturdier performance on beam, crisper showings from the important bars routines, and some useful new options on vault poking up their heads.
12. Auburn Tigers
Previous ranking: 11
Auburn just did snatch a victory away against Kentucky, keeping the team’s conference win streak alive for a fourth weekend (though next week is away at Florida, so stay tuned). A 196.125 is not a tragic number by any means, though this one was not at the level of the performances Auburn recorded for 196.7s in its home meets. Medium-sized mistakes counted on beam and floor, events where Abby Milliet’s absence was noted by all and felt in the scores. We’re still waiting for Auburn to put together a full road performance. The big deal in this meet was getting a strong, hit 1.5 on vault from Jada Glenn, something that, if continued, can give Auburn four real-life 10.0 starts with scores befitting those 10.0 SVs.
13. Missouri Tigers
Previous ranking: 16
Missouri enjoyed a ranking leap this week on the strength of a 196.550 recorded against Alabama in a home loss. It was not a score built on individual standout routines or wow scores, but Missouri displayed its improvement over previous weeks in minimizing mistakes (and also being at home, let’s be honest). There isn’t a ton of depth in those vault and floor lineups, but getting McCrary back in on those pieces should give the team six clear options and should round out a cohesive supply of twenty-four 9.800 routines, providing Missouri the 196 ability that’s necessary to play a spoiler role this season.
14. California Golden Bears
Previous ranking: 18
Cal pulled it back together this week with a season-high 196.700 in a comfortable victory over rivals ASU and BYU—the kind of result Cal needed to reinforce its place in the NCAA hierarchy. The score hinged primarily on a program-record 49.425 beam score (a much more befitting program beam record than the 2.125 it used to be a couple seasons ago), the most encouraging aspect of which was Maya Bordas’s 9.900. She hadn’t appeared in the lineup since the hilarious events of the first week despite beam being her prettiest event and the one where she should find her highest scores. Critically, this meet also had zero counting falls on bars instead of infinity counting falls on bars. You know when Emi Watterson fell in the 4th position you were like, “[clench]…here we go.”
15. Washington Huskies
Previous ranking: 12
Washington’s 195.825 in a road victory over Stanford was mostly on track with what we’ve seen from the team this year, but the Huskies nonetheless lost ground in the rankings as other teams started to find their 196 feet again. This Washington team should be better than the scores so far and should have no trouble putting together full lineups of 9.8s in time, but it’s still understaffed on vault and floor (will be eagerly awaiting getting Hoffa back on VT and Nelson on FX) and still displaying early-season rust. This team lost a whole lot of essential routines from last season, and we haven’t yet seen anyone bring “I can replace those scores exactly” gymnastics.
16. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Previous ranking: 13
Nebraska traveled back to earth this week, following the big 197 performance of the previous week with another 195.700 road score. Nebraska hasn’t actually scored a 196 yet this year. Just 194s, 195s, and 197s. The vault performance against Michigan was exceptionally encouraging, featuring four now-realistic looking Y1.5s that can all score 9.850+ if performed just like that. This is starting to look once again like an “advancing to nationals” level vault lineup. It was a counting floor fall that took away the 196 this week, but the bigger concern is still the early routines on bars and beam that may not have the competitiveness to get those rotations well into the 49s.
17. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous ranking: 17
Kentucky stays at 17th after a not-horrible score of 196.000 in what was nonetheless a disappointing loss at home against Auburn. This one mostly came as a result of a struggle-burger on beam that led to two counting 9.550s from no-longer-mysterious sophomores. Kentucky was absent Angeny and Warren in this meet—noted and significant—but it’s also somewhat surprising that Kentucky hasn’t really broken through so far this year despite having all of the big four gymnasts in the all-around once again. It really emphasizes how important those less-heralded supporting routines are. When they’re suddenly 9.7s (or 9.5s), Kentucky is ranked down in 17th.
18. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Previous ranking: 21
The scores have started to come for Minnesota with two high 196s in the last two weeks following the streak of dumpy 195s that began the season. What makes Minnesota dangerous is that the ends of the lineups can compete with pretty much any team. You put Ramler and Lu (UB/BB) and Williams (VT/FX) and Loper and Sales (UB/BB) up against top-10 lineups, and they’re going to match those top-10 teams handstand for handstand and split jump for split jump. That’s why we’re seeing these high 196s, and that’s why Minnesota is going to be very dangerous this season, a team that can play a non-Pac12/SEC spoiler role in the same way as Boise State. Minnesota is about 1.5 routines on each event away from being among the big-name schools.
19. Arizona State Sun Devils
Previous ranking: 19
A 195.700 at Cal kept Arizona State steady in 19th this week, a performance pretty similar to what we’ve been seeing the last few weeks, though one that was short a Heather Udowitch and short a CLB 9.950 or two this week. The beam and floor lineups missed their friends. These are acceptable totals for ASU, not disappointments and certainly a dream compared to the ASU scores of a few years ago, but they are not the 196s we were seeing at this equivalent moment last season—from what is largely an intact roster.
20. Ohio State Buckeyes
Previous ranking: 15
Home is overrated. Ohio State is ready to get back on the road. Following an interminable stretch of road meets to begin the season during which OSU put up a streak of three consecutive 196s, the Buckeyes finally got to compete at home, and it didn’t go great. With a fairly serious implosion on beam taking the rotation score under 48, as well as some minor struggles on floor and a limited group on vault, this performance for 195.000 was a step back. At least they head back out to a road meet this weekend at Maryland.
21. BYU Cougars
Previous ranking: 14
In a more expected phenomenon, BYU can’t wait to get back home. In four meets so far this season, two at home and two on the road, BYU has recorded two 196s at home and two 194s on the road. Reality is probably somewhere in between. Counting a fall on bars was the culprit in this one, taking away what should have been a comfortably mid-195 performance based on the other events. BYU will worry that those early routines are a little too 9.7y to get the big numbers once we head into the serious meets, but Shannon Evans is performing this season like the kind of AAer who can save rotation scores, putting up a 39.475 against Cal and sitting at #13 in the country.
22. Arkansas Razorbacks
Previous ranking: 24
Arkansas still won’t be thrilled, but the team did finally get into the 196s by recording a season-high 196.125 at Georgia and jumped two spots in the rankings as a result. Bars struggles and a shuffled beam lineup showcasing some newbies were responsible for taking away the mid-196 that could have been on offer, though mostly I can’t really get past the 9.825 for a perfect Y1/2 from Sarah Shaffer. Especially because the scoring was quite loose at this meet (mostly for Georgia, but they did totally ignore an OOB for Sydney McGlone too). And then that Shaffer score is…just obviously super low?
23. Iowa State Cyclones
Previous ranking: 26
Iowa State is our new entry into the top 25 this week, snatching a couple spots by also taking advantage of that West Virginia tri-meet for a gigantic 196.700 road score. The caveat to this score is that it was built in large part on vault scoring that was Florida/OU-level insanity, but Iowa State does have a couple big 10.0 starts from Sievers and Martin and some realistically clean fulls that can provide a serious leg up compared to the other teams in this ranking section. That’s the kind of advantage that could keep ISU out of the play-in meets if the landings get there.
24. Stanford Cardinal
Previous ranking: 24
Bars. For as much as there can be optimism about Stanford’s four-event squad this year because the team has added enough bars routines to put together a more complete lineup, bars is still a real problem. This week, Real Problem took the meet score down to 195.475 after a bunch of counting 9.5s and 9.6s and only Kyla Bryant’s score acting as a life raft. Beam proved much more secure this week, floor remains the team’s best event, and there were a couple highlights on vault (like Rachael Flam going 9.850 for a vault that would have been 9.950 at some *cough* other meets this weekend), but bars bars bars bars.
25. Arizona Wildcats
Previous ranking: 23
Arizona’s 195.400 in a visit to Utah increased the team’s average, but it was still a lower-mid 195 and therefore not enough to avoid a drop in the rankings. The big surprise here was what a struggle bars proved to be, with all manner of 9.5s and 9.6s essentially making it a counting-fall rotation. I still maintain that with the quality of Spencer and Berg (and also Hendrickson who doesn’t often get the scores in that first position), bars is Arizona’s best event, the one with multiple realistic 9.900s, but the performances haven’t come consistently enough this season. Suddenly floor is the good event and nothing makes sense.
25. Penn State Nittany Lions
Previous ranking: 22
While Minnesota kept things going following the high-196-a-thon those two teams engaged in last weekend, Penn State suffered through a reality check on the road against Illinois, a meet in which all the vaults were suddenly 9.7s and a fall from Hosek in the anchor position on beam led to some troubling numbers being counted. Penn State is among the teams that have been all over the place this season, but right now the high-194s and low-195s seem to be winning out. Penn State has a big road meet coming up with Rutgers this weekend, pretty badly needing a 196 road score.