2021 Preseason Coaches Poll

Do we have an actual season schedule yet? Nope! Should we even be doing this? Almost surely not! But at least we have the preseason poll. So everyone rest easy.

2021 Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Florida (16 first-place votes) – 1167 points
2. Oklahoma (16 first-place votes) – 1152 points
3. LSU – 1076 points
4. Utah – 1073 points
5. Michigan – 1060 points
6. Alabama – 944 points
7. UCLA – 943 points
8. California – 919 points
8. Denver (1 first-place vote) – 919 points
10. Georgia – 847 points
11. Minnesota – 834 points
12. Kentucky – 773 points
13. Oregon State – 746 points
14. Auburn – 707 points
15. Arkansas – 678 points
16. Missouri – 638 points
17. BYU – 628 points
18. Iowa State – 573 points
19. Washington – 572 points
20. Nebraska – 569 points
21. Arizona State – 565 points
22. Illinois – 428 points
23. Southern Utah – 426 points
24. Arizona – 378 points
25. Iowa – 372 points
26. NC State – 359 points
27. Penn State – 297 points
28. Maryland – 290 points
29. Ohio State – 281 points
30. Boise State – 267 points
31. Stanford – 242 points
32. Utah State – 203 points
33. West Virginia – 203 points
34. Michigan State – 170 points
35. George Washington – 160 points
36. Pittsburgh – 105 points

We have, actually, a minor upset at the top, with defending first-place team Oklahoma just narrowly missing out on the top spot. This is only the 2nd time in the last 6 years that Oklahoma is not ranked #1 in the preseason poll. Instead, that honor goes to Florida, taking the top spot in the poll for the first time since the eve of the 2015 season.

It’s an interesting call. Not necessarily a bad one. I probably still would have voted Oklahoma first, but Florida was in 2nd place last season and is a very compelling title choice this year. I imagine this is primarily a reaction to the not-having-Maggie-Nichols of it all for Oklahoma for the coaches who are semi paying attention. Or are probably just, like, friends with Jenny. Or are SEC coaches looking out for their own.

Jenny Rowland is now only the third active head coach to have had her team ranked #1 in a coaches poll, joining KJ Kindler and Jay Clark (Georgia 2010).

We see that the same possible roster-awareness phenomenon at play in UCLA’s 7th-place ranking, the lowest preseason ranking for the Bruins since I’ve been writing about these (it seems the historical preseason polls have been lost to the sands of time…in predictable and bad fashion). Dropping UCLA is a warranted reaction to how many top gymnasts have graduated from that team, so it seems the majority of voting coaches had headline roster turnover in mind while making their selections.

Though it’s not that many coaches. Quite predictably, very few coaches voted in this year’s poll compared to years past. Almost like there’s some stuff going on and…are we even having a season?

I would like to give a special round of applause to the second annual “throwing a first place vote to Denver just cuz” from the anonymous coach who is taking this exactly as seriously as it warrants.

For the most part, teams are ranked right where they were ranked last season/finished last year. There’s an inherent mental hierarchy and loyalty that is very difficult to shift, hence things like LSU continuing to rank ahead of Michigan because…that kind of seems like where LSU should be? Or Denver having trouble climbing into the very top teams because…what’s a Denver?

There were a couple shifts, though. Washington is quite a bit lower than its finish last season, perhaps a reaction to another major roster exodus. And head coach exodus. Although I did have a dream this morning when going back to sleep after Euros that Elise Ray was back coaching Washington and they competed high bar and someone did a tucked Jaeger to land standing on top of the bar and almost died. For whatever that’s worth. Oh, nothing?

Stanford is also a bit lower than it finished last season despite the massive potential upgrade to its lineup, though that lower ranking can certainly be justified because…are you even going to be able to train? Can you season?

Overall, it seems like they kind of tried this year, but definitely a solid third to half of them just copied their homework off of Road To Nationals. A tried and true strategy.

35 thoughts on “2021 Preseason Coaches Poll”

  1. People are being really quick to count out LSU, but let’s not forget they have an insanely strong freshman class coming in – combine that with a huge, talented senior class and the reigning Freshman of the Year, and they could be a spoiler for sure. Maybe one could argue that #4 or #5 would have made more sense, but don’t write them off so fast.

    1. I personally would swap Bama and UCLA, since I still think UCLA is the better team on paper and has the higher potential. I’d also put Michigan in front of LSU and Utah, but then again they won’t likely recieve the generous scoring that the SEC and Pac-12 get. I also think Denver and Stanford are very under ranked, but i do see why they’d rank so low. And I believe North Carolina will be able to crack the Top 36 this season with Hallie Thompson being able to compete plus their freshman.

      1. I think UNC will be top 36 but I also get why they weren’t ranked since a solid half of their routines (maybe more) will come from a pool of five freshmen, two injury returners, and two transfers. Plus the coaching changes (a new bars coach can only be a net positive right?)

      2. Would have put Denver ahead of UCLA. Denver is underrated. Denver is a sleeper team that can come from behind in half a heartbeat 🙂

      3. College Gym News/Injury Updates reports that UNC’s Hallie Thompson removed with injury. Hmmm….what will UNC do for a replacement?

    2. Counting out LSU? They are #3. With UF and OU at 1-2, LSU at #3 is not only NOT counting them out, it is the highest possible, conceivable ranking for LSU.

      1. after LSU gym 101 I think #3 is much too high for them. They clearly have not been transparent about Covid-19 and don’t look anything close to being prepared.

      2. With or without Maggie Nichols, Oklahoma should be number one! Last season, OK, FL, UT and one other team were all undefeated… what does that say? Doesn’t that account for something? Honestly, there should be a ranking poll from fans, that would be more interesting! Coaches could have voted for their own teams, or not allowed to do so depending upon the rules, but then again perhaps this is why the poll is anonymous. Let’s get ready for an interesting 2021 season! Teams are pumped to get back into things!!

  2. Since a pre-season poll means next to nothing, I’ll comment as if this had any merit or perhaps it’s more of my thoughts based on last year’s results: 1. I can’t argue with Florida being #1, but until Jenny can prove she’s at the level of KJ and her staff (who can?), I’m going with OU. 2. There are a handful of teams that honestly should never be ranked as low as they are. Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Stanford and North Carolina are the ones that stand out to me. These teams really have very little excuse not to be considerably higher than they are. Georgia at 10? They don’t deserve any higher, but man, with their history, facilities, support, etc. that’s sad. Nebraska seems to really be struggling since they screwed up and let Kendig go. Big mistake. tOSU and PSU are two programs that could and should be top 10 material, yet they’ve dropped lower than even before when they had controversial coaching staffs. Stanford has dropped like a rock since the coaching change. Who can explain that? And UNC has a great university, always has great talent, great location, and yet they can’t make it to even regionals? 3. Utah was way over-rated last year. They had one E pass in their entire floor rotation most of the year, and their vault difficulty wasn’t great either. Based on the little we’ve seen so far, I don’t anticipate that changing much this year. Teams that barely made the top 36 last year had more difficulty than them. Look at their own state and compare difficulty on floor and vault with Southern Utah, BYU and Utah State. They pretty much just played it very safe, hit clean routines, and benefitted from their name. 4. I can’t help but think LSU and UCLA will end up struggling this year. 5. Michigan looks very good, Cal has my attention, and Denver far exceeds what I would expect from them. 6. My dark-horse pick is Western Michigan, because they lost their top gymnast last year and still looked competitive. If they have all their pieces back healthy, they will be top 30.

    1. Just one fan’s opinion, but I think the biggest thing holding UNC back is the thing least within its control: the fact that the ACC does not sponsor gymnastics. To be clear, I think this holds back all of the ACC schools, but possibly UNC the most because of the three schools, it is the biggest name overall in terms of sports and really should be a name brand. Competing in the EAGL means no television contract ensuring that the team can be seen weekly or near weekly on cable. That has got to hold them back in recruiting. In addition, it’s hard to dispute the fact that the EAGL has much stingier judging than the four P5 conferences that sponsor gymnastics. This also holds them back in terms of scheduling, because the conference has no big name schools and so there are fewer opportunities to use strategic scheduling to ride the coattails of schools that bring Carol out of the woodwork. Compare this to a school like Missouri, which isn’t one of the big fish in the SEC but gets to benefit from guaranteed meets with the same judges scoring Florida, Georgia, and LSU. This obviously isn’t their only problem (bars generally being a nightmare, the fact that their former gym was a dump) but it is IMO the biggest and the toughest to solve.

      The other problem, which theoretically should not be a problem anymore, was the bars situation. Let’s face it: bars were a nightmare and probably cost them a solid 5 to 10 spots in the rankings each year. But their head coach was the bars coach, and it was pretty clear he had job security until he decided to retire, which he finally did last summer. One would think the situation could only improve under the new guy (and if not, it’s easier to cut him loose).

      1. Some good insight on the challenges that UNC faces. I guess the only thing I would add though is that they do actually get good recruits. That part isn’t really lacking. Yes, they could do even better, but the level of talent they have had for quite some time doesn’t add up to their low rankings every year.

      2. The problem is depth — a typical UNC lineup on would be 1-2 routines that are a 9.7 on a good day, 2-3 that are 9.8 if they hit (but they’re less consistent), and then 1-2 that would compel the EAGL judges to maybe throw out a 9.9 if everyone else hits and there’s momentum. They’ve been stuck in that trap for years.

    2. Nebraska „Screwed up and let Kendig go“? Uh they HAD to, he violated NCAA rules. It wasn’t optional.

      (Not to mention it later turned out that he was making inappropriate comments that made his Black gymnasts uncomfortable).

      1. It was totally optional. If you follow NCAA sports in any degree you’d be aware that there are levels of violations. The level of what he did was minimal at best. The administration used it as an excuse to let him go but they certainly could have taken a small punishment and been just fine.

      2. I’d be curious to know if Nebraska has ever had to deal with this in other sports, and how they resolved it. Some athletic directors have a real hair trigger for this stuff, particularly for non-$$$ sports.

    3. Kendig had to go- he was basically caught paying someone who was in the unpaid assistant position. And once they started investigating that they were likely to pile up other smaller infractions as well. As someone else noted- he might have been axed anyway after some of the racist comments he let his gymnasts endure were discovered. Programs will go to the mat for football and maybe basketball. No one is risking their big ticket sports being impacted by women’s gymnastics. Then again Dana Duckworth still has her job. Jenny Rowland has done a pretty good job the last few years- LSU and OU have simply been hitting their all time peaks and UCLA went lights out for 1/2 of Super Six three years ago. She’s also dealt with injuries and the ebb and flow in talent.

      Aside from ’19 national semi-finals, UGA has done as well as you could with their roster for the last few years. They lost 2-3 needed gymnasts in the coaching change and have had a slew of injuries. Contrary to the imagine of gym legacies lasting forever, this was going to be a rebuild regardless and a couple of moves to plug holes panned out while others did not.

      1. I hate to break it to you, but in the world of college gymnastics, there are a ton of teams, high level and low end, who break the rule as far as how they use unpaid assistants for choreography, music, and many other things. What Kendig did was very minor and is very common. I’m not saying it was ok, but no way it worthy of firing him. I suspect someone just wanted a reason to let him go and used that as the reason.

      1. What makes you think they should be higher!? Last year they were not very good and got lucky they did not have to compete at regionals. They show nothing on social
        Media as far as actual routines, so what are you basing that on? Their freshman class is not replacing the quality routines from Vega and Dickson. So, how are they going to be higher?

  3. Georgia ranked 10th? They lucked out last year that season was cancelled. They lost two of their best gymnasts and not sure they were replaced with freshman. Victoria Nguyen will be good on beam & possibly bars. However, is there any reason Georgia never shows any actual routines? Maybe they need to take notes from other teams. They are doing themselves no favors. If you want people to get excited about your team or maybe help with recruiting show the intrasquads or routines. I honestly do understand their social media at all.

    1. I wonder how much of that is due to Kupets’ background as an athlete…there was a real “keep all your new skills a secret until the last minute” culture in US elite that didn’t really die out until the 2008 quad.

    2. UGA only loses 2.5 quality routines- Vega being their best athlete FX and BB plus being a viable vaulter. Dickson did not compete a single routine in 2020 so sadly there is not a ‘loss’ relative to last season. Nguyen will be an equal replacement to Vega on beam and reasonable on FX (if she has the front double full + punch front from last years videos.) Her bars should be an improvement. The big improvement for UGA will be Nguyen, Finnegan, and likely Cashman replacing those first three lineup spots that were lucky to go 9.8. If Schild is actually healthy that means they will have the potential to rotate he and Oakley for health’s sake. They were literally losing more in that rotation than any one gymnast would gain on the other events. I think vault and FX could see some improvement if the girls who were rounding into form at the end of the season start this season at that point. Austin and McGee could be useful there- as could Cashman if she is fully recovered. Upgrading Hawthorne of Vt and FX is also a key move. If one or more intefral athlete gets injured- ignore this post. But they have the potential to finish 7 or 8 but not 4 or 5 given the talent on hand at other schools.

  4. The top 5 are in their own group this year, then 6-9 and 10-13. I would expect the final season rankings to stay in those ranges.

  5. Overall, what would the rankings be had Covid not teared its ugly head? What would rankings be if FL, UT or a sleeper/underrated team won the championship? We will never know but we can remain hopeful that 2021 will be a memorable season for sure, perhaps even historic! Excited to see all teams finishing their business!

    1. I mean certainly reared its ugly head! So excited for the season that I’m typing faster than technology can input. GO NCAA!!!

    2. Or one of the top teams choked at regionals and failed to make it to Nationals like Florida did in 2019.

    1. How?
      They lost Korth, Kwan, and Poland which accounted for 8 routines in their final meet last season. Losing Mollie Korth alone is almost irreplaceable. They are even ranked higher than they were last season. Don’t be silly.

  6. Gymnastics is having a similar problem that college football is having with who gets to be in the top rankings…yes, a lot of the top teams ARE good but like someone pointed out, a lot of the higher scores (thus, nudging them up in the rankings) are due to subjective Carol judges who judge by the leo… good teams don’t need the 2-3 tenth gifts that the Carols give …and the judges need to acknowledge that good teams can have an off routine/meet/day and shoukd be scored accordingly.

    Like people are saying about the college football top teams always being in the playoffs, if you’re never going to let anyone else in, break off and have your own tournament. It must be discouraging to know from day 1 in the season, that no matter what you do, your team will never get the chance for scores like the ones the judges favor.

    1. Yep, the judging is creating an artificial cushion between say, the top five or six schools and the teams ranked roughly 5 through 20. However, unlike with football this creates a ripple effect all the way down the rankings, because of the “rising tide lifts all ships” effect created by the combination of overscoring and NQS. A team like Missouri or Arizona will always have an advantage over a team like NC State or Penn State because the former teams are given far more opportunities to get in front of Carol than the latter teams due to conference scheduling. It will be interesting to see to what extent the SEC’s (snd Pac-12’s?) conference-only schedule skews the rankings this year — in a typical year the savvy B1G or EAGL team could boost their NQS with a strategic non-conference meet or two, but no more.

  7. Let’s block judges during a meet from seeing the other judges scores and the team scores. Could be interesting and would produce cleaner scoring and the predictable home team on floor suddenly winning the meet by .1!

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