February 12, 2015

The Weekend Ahead – February 13th-16th

This weekend, we'll have mostly the usual Friday hyper-saturation of meets with 7 of the top 10 teams in action, but at least they're a little more spread out this time. So that's something. This is more like how it should be.

But this time around, Saturday is also a pretty big day with Utah, UCLA, Stanford, Georgia, and Nebraska all in action. Hopefully there's as little Valentine's Day folderol as possible during those meets. Everyone already has a pink meet so that they can pat themselves on the back for raising awareness. We don't need more opportunities for everyone to douse themselves in reds and pinks. You know someone is going to show up wearing 178 red bows with candy hearts tied to them and a box of chocolates hidden under her rat's nest bun. You know it.  

In the rankings, don't expect much action on top. Now that teams have several meets under their belts, but still before RQS kicks in (Feb 23), it's much harder to manage a big jump in season average. If Oklahoma keeps doing what they're doing and getting mid 197s, they're safe at #1. Even LSU would need a 7 million to catch them. The top 7 teams have separated themselves from the pack a little bit, but once again this week the teams from #8-#13 could end up in any order because there's such a small margin between them. Remember that UCLA is officially #13 but up to a provisional ranking of #8 after Monday's 197, so they lead the peloton for the moment.  

On Friday, the action starts early with Michigan getting underway at a slightly Early Bird Discount time of 6:00 ET, so remember to make sure your brain is rested enough to be able to process lights and sounds earlier than it usually is on a Friday night. An hour later, Florida hosts Missouri and will be eager to erase the averageness from last week. Florida hasn't had bad meets this year, but they've had a few just OK meets, including the recent 197.200 (which is a C+ kind of score for Florida, and frankly any team that hopes to make Super Six this year). Without Kennedy Baker, we started to see the tangible effect of all the injuries. The limits of their scoring potential were exposed, and we know now where the 9.850s run out.

Once everyone is back for Florida, expect a lot of talk about what a blessing these early-season injury issues were because they forced the team to explore depth, got tons of gymnasts comfortable competing in case they're needed, and now they can face any challenge even an avalanche of hurricanes, etc. I'm just warning you now.

Auburn keeps challenging the good teams. They put up a legitimate fight against Alabama last week and will hope to do the same thing at home this week, though LSU is a step up from Alabama right now and will make it harder to keep pace. The Tigers scored a 198 last weekend and will receive the boost this week of having Jessie Jordan back on bars and beam. Plus, Britney Ranzy is slated to make her return on vault. They've been honestly fine on vault without her, but bars could really use those 9.875s she was getting last year when she's able to get back fully. Savona is an acceptable replacement, but Ranzy's potential is greater. Auburn, I'm watching your floor. There is too much big-tumbling talent there to peak at 9.800s. 

Boise State will be visiting Alabama a bit later, and I'm eager to check that one out because I almost never get to see Boise State compete and am always impressed by their bars when I do. So bring it. Alabama is ranked just 12th on bars and has had too many falls already this year, so it will be worth comparing that rotation to the 7th-ranked Boise State bars team. It's unusual that Alabama would welcome a team like Boise State and look weaker on any event, and interested to see if it happens. Having Clark back there is a big boost to Alabama's potential.

On Saturday, the Pac-12 is taking over Big 10 day. Utah is visiting Washington and trying to convince us that they are the best spoiler to the predetermined Big Three this year. They've had a few high-profile overscores for certain Tory Wilson vaults, which undermines them because it makes their competitiveness seem artificial. A quirk of judging instead of quality gymnastics. Let's see how the big-scoring trend plays out on the road at Washington.

But I'm mostly excited for the UCLA/Stanford clash on Saturday, the Beautiful Disaster Rumble. Stanford is a big sack of worries right now, with Price's growing injury list meaning that their tendency to Stanford a bunch of these lineups only increases. They're still so lovely, but every single person has to hit every routine perfectly because there is less than no margin for error. Let's just hope for as much Vaculik as possible. UCLA is starting to manage to pull out results and legitimate scores in spite of issues, which is the usual UCLA February story. They've got to work out that bars lineup. It doesn't make me feel safe.

As always, the full weekend schedule is available at the link at the top.

Top 25 Schedule

Friday, February 13
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – [5] Michigan @ Michigan State
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Missouri @ [4] Florida
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [18] Denver @ West Virginia
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Perfect 10 Challenge ([1] Oklahoma, [21] Kentucky)
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – [2] LSU @ [9] Auburn
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – SEMO, Illinois State @ [14] Arkansas
8:30 ET/5:30 PT – [12] Boise State @ [6] Alabama
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – [23] Southern Utah @ BYU
10:00 ET/7:00 PT – [10] Oregon State @ [20] Cal

Saturday, February 14
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – [8] Georgia @ North Carolina
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [24] Ohio State @ [11] Penn State
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – [15] Illinois @ Iowa 
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [13] UCLA @ [16] Stanford
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [3] Utah @ [17] Washington
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – [7] Nebraska @ [22] Minnesota

Sunday, February 15
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – [25] New Hampshire, Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut @ Brown

Monday, February 16
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Arizona State @ [19] Arizona

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