Into the final quarter of the year we head, and the era of solidifying lineups and cleaning routines begins.
1. Florida – 197.440
Week 9: 198.425
Week 9 leaders: AA - Hunter 39.800; VT - Hunter 9.975; UB - M Caquatto 9.975; BB - Sloan 9.975; FX - King 9.975.
So much for everything I said last week about the #2 ranking being the ideal position for the Gators so as to slightly lessen their status as the expected champion. As was true with Oklahoma last week, the score itself is irrelevant and won't be maintained to this degree away from home. What's more important is that the people who will be counted on in the postseason recovered while the lower (relative term) scores in the meet came from those who won't remain in the lineup. Florida is on a well-timed bye this week, but watch those lineups the next week to see how the leadoff spots are being handled (i.e., get rid of anything under a 9.825) along with the status of Alaina Johnson.
2. Oklahoma – 197.410
Week 9: 197.275
Week 9 leaders: AA - Brewer 39.300; VT - Olson 9.975; UB - Olson 9.900; BB - Spears 9.950; FX - Olson, Albright 9.900
There was always going to be a letdown from last week. Through the first two events, the Sooners' performance did not waver significantly from the home 198, but the landings were not as precise, which ended up accounting for some of the depression in scores and meant that those 9.925s became 9.850s. If Oklahoma is to contend for the title, that contention will be built on sticking almost every landing. A fall and some 9.7s marred the beam rotation, but otherwise the issues appeared minor and very March-like. The Sooners have two home meets over the weekend, so expect some backups and some resting (especially in the first meet since the second is senior night).
3. Michigan – 197.080
Week 9: 197.300
Week 9 leaders: AA - Sampson 39.650; VT - Sampson 9.950; UB - Sampson, Gies 9.900; BB - Gies 9.925; FX - Sampson 9.950
The Wolverines have not faltered in the way that one might have expected them to, given that the team is relatively unheralded and that the expectations going into the season were along the lines of "It has to be better than last year, right?" It's encouraging that they didn't really have a full-strength lineup or hit to potential on any event and yet scored in the 197s. What we're going to need to see next, however, is how well this team can score when it does hit to potential. The best teams won't be counting any scores under 9.850, and Michigan still needs to weed out those early 9.800s.
4. LSU – 196.965
Week 9: 197.050
Week 9 leaders: AA - Courville 39.450; VT - Courville 9.925; UB - Wyrick, Morrison 9.925; BB - Jordan 9.875; FX - Hall - 9.950
How do we feel about LSU being #4 in the country? This is one of the features of RQS, that teams are able to drop the meets in which they do not look championship caliber and are ranked based more on ideal performance than total performance. Ranked by average, LSU would be #6, which I think better accounts for the concerns I have about the beam rotation. Once again last week, the Tigers just got through it, and that's likely what we'll see each week. The result of which is that LSU's total ceiling is lower. If we assume a 49.000 for a hit beam rotation, then the Tigers are going to top out in the low-mid 197s (if they get #1-quality performances on vault and floor, which is common for them) and likely won't be in control of their own fate when we get down to the end of Championships. If we're playing the silver lining game, though, they are really accustomed to competing after falls.
5. Alabama – 196.910
Week 9: 197.075
Week 9 leaders: AA - Jacob 39.425; VT - Clark 9.900; UB - Sledge 9.850; BB - Priess 9.925; FX - Milliner, Jacob 9.950
Alabama looked . . . fine against UCLA. Beam was probably the most convincing event and even without Gutierrez on floor, that rotation should be solid enough if Sledge comes back in. Vault was certainly understaffed at that meet, but at this point in the season I would not have expected to be still talking about vault as a problem area for the Tide. I fully anticipate that the landings will come together, but a lack of Gutierrez makes that Milliner stick for 9.950 all the more important. As for bars, what is there to say at this point? Alabama cannot compete with Florida without significant changes.
6. UCLA – 196.765
Week 9: 196.375
Week 9 leaders: AA - Zamarripa 38.825; VT - Zamarripa 9.950; UB - Zamarripa 9.900; BB - Larson 9.900; FX - Courtney 9.875
If there was ever evidence how much this team relies on Zamarripa, it was this meet. Consider that if Zamarripa had hit to the level we expect of her on floor and beam, the team score would have been in the high 196s, and the narrative would be completely different. I don't expect a repeat of that performance from her, but this meet was still a step back for the Bruins because of the nature of the mistakes we saw from the team as a whole: falls, severely missed handstands, and significantly under-rotated tumbling. At this meet, I counted three good routines per event (two on floor), and that's not enough. A team as injured as this one needs to squeeze every possible .050 out of all the backups who are being forced to compete. Wong was supposed to come in on floor at this meet and didn't. She desperately needs to.
7. Utah – 196.740
Week 9: 197.126
Week 9 leaders: AA - Wilson 39.450; VT - Wilson 9.950; UB - Dabritz 9.900; BB - Wilson, Lofgren 9.875; FX - Tutka 9.925
Utah keeps plugging away, which is what they are going to have to do to have a shot at making Super Six this year. I have a bit more confidence in Utah's beam than I do in LSU's, but that is quite a little contest. We're beginning to see a trend where the rotation starts out perfectly fine, then Lopez has an issue, which turns into a Dabritz issue, and the score falls apart. Next week at Georgia, that has to stop being a thing. It's always a big meet at Georgia, and the lack of comfort the Utes will feel should be a good test of the progress of that beam rotation and how mentally sturdy it can be.
8. Georgia – 196.725
Week 9: 196.825
Week 9 leaders: AA - Rogers 39.225; VT - Davis 9.900; UB - Rogers, Davis 9.900; BB - Worley 9.900; FX - Tanella 9.875
Another injury to Noel Couch was the last thing this team needed, and she will be out for multiple weeks. Floor will miss her the most as Brittany Rogers has not been a solution in that fourth position. The Gymdogs are fighting against depth and losing on that particular event, and even though they should take pride in working out beam these last few weeks, a lack of Couch does not help that situation either. Of course it would be that once they get beam in order, they regress on the good events. This is the second straight week of some lackluster vaulting, and that has to be a 49.400-49.500 rotation for Georgia to succeed.
9. Stanford – 196.590
Week 9: 197.200
Week 9 leaders: AA - A Morgan 39.050; VT - Hanset 9.925; UB - A Morgan 9.925; BB - Hong 9.925; FX - A Morgan, S Morgan 9.925
Most important things first: Stand up and give a round of applause to Stanford for figuring out the live scoring. Now back to our regular issues. The scoring in last week's meet was going into the stratosphere until a counting fall on beam brought the Cardinal number back into normal land. Consistency has to be a focus because if Stanford is going to make Super Six again, it will be because of beam, where they should be top three in the country. Don't count Stanford out because there are so many potential 9.9s here, but this is the kind of team that will reduce your nails to stubs every week.
10. Oregon State – 196.565
Week 9: 197.175
Week 9 leaders: AA - Stambaugh 39.525; VT - Blalock 9.950; UB - Stambaugh 9.950; BB - Jones 9.875; FX - Jones, Stambaugh 9.950
Like Stanford, Oregon State lost the opportunity for a massive number at a high-scoring meet because of beam. But whereas Stanford should eventually excel because of beam, the Beavers will want just to get through it and live to compete on another event. For this team to be a contender in the postseason, Stambaugh must continue on the current level, and Jones must be winning floor and hitting beam. They won't be able to rely on always getting the 9.875s and 9.900s from the supporting cast members that they got last week, but the stars can carry this team farther than it looked like it could go even a few weeks ago.
11. Auburn – 196.495
12. Nebraska – 196.365
13. Denver – 196.150
14. Minnesota – 196.130
15. Penn State – 195.845
16. Arizona – 195.775
17. Kent State – 195.755
18. Ohio State – 195.750
19. Illinois – 195.685
20. Kentucky – 195.635
21. West Virginia – 195.625
22. Washington – 195.520
23. Boise State – 195.485
24. Maryland – 195.435
24. Arkansas – 195.435