By Elizabeth Grimsley, Christina Marmet and Caroline Medley
Like most weeks, we have another great slate of meets on the schedule with one top 10 matchup and three other top-15 showdowns. Plus, some of the top teams will compete twice, testing their stamina ahead of postseason. As always, find an updated injury report, previews of the upcoming meets, our predictions on the top matchups and all the links you could possibly need.
Out of Action or Questionable for Week 8
Illinois, Northern Illinois, Washington at Kentucky: Friday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. ET
Who thought this would be quite an exciting meet at the start of the season? Each team has had its successes and downfalls so far in 2017. Illinois has made a great comeback from a no good 2016, posting mid-196 scores more often than not, thanks to nationals qualifier Lizzy Leduc. Northern Illinois has been flying under the radar in 2017 but a string of high 194s and 195s, including a 195.575 this past weekend, has given the team some ground to stand on in the MAC conference. Washington has been strong this season, ranking No. 13 in the country by average but only No. 18 by RQS due to lower road scores than at home. While the Huskies do kill the competition at home—last week they scored a whopping 197 against Arizona—they are less proficient away from Seattle. Notching a high road score in Lexington this weekend will be the main goal. Kentucky has had a similar story to Washington this season. The Wildcats are stellar at home, breaking program records left and right, including a 197.450 upset win over Alabama. But on the road, things get sloppy and a little too 195 for the team that’s trying to make a bid for not only the night session at SECs but to nationals as well. While this is another home meet for the Wildcats, which won’t help a ton when it comes to RQS, proving the gymnasts can still get the job done and bounce back after last weekend’s mediocre performance will be key.
Caroline: Since it’s at Kentucky, I gotta go with the Cats. Huskies second for sure, but I think the Cats will stay on top for now.
Christina: I have to go with Kentucky. I think Washington will put up a good fight for the W, but Kentucky has been stellar at home so far this season (and not so much on the road, but that’s another story). I don’t see the Wildcats losing at home.
Elizabeth: Kentucky, mainly because Washington isn’t as good on the road as Kentucky is at home.
Georgia at Oklahoma: Friday, Feb. 24 at 7:45 p.m. ET
Oklahoma’s goal at this point in the season, with the No. 1 ranking essentially wrapped up, is more about staying consistent and potentially hitting a program RQS record as well as the all-time RQS record before the end of the season. And at this meet, there’s a good chance of tacking on another 198 score as the seniors will be honored and the scores are likely to fly. Maggie Nichols is coming off a near-perfect 39.925 in the all around at the GymQUARTERS Invite last weekend and shows no signs of slowing down. But it’s not just about her anymore. Stefani Catour has come into her own this season, winning her second Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week award this week and producing huge scores on bars and beam week after week. And you can’t forget about AJ Jackson, Brenna Dowell, McKenzie Wofford… We could go on. Georgia leaped up the rankings this week with the switch to RQS as it allowed the team to drop that nasty 193 holding it back when things were calculated by average. The Gymdogs will look to improve the total even more with another strong road performance, and, hopefully, get Sydney Snead back on more events. But in the meantime, Rachel Dickson has been showing she’s a freshman to watch after career highs on two events last weekend and earning the SEC Gymnast of the Week honor. While moving up to No. 6 in the country is a tall task that might not be possible after just this weekend, adding another strong score to the mix can’t hurt.
Caroline: OU, easily. Georgia will get a good preview of what they’ll be up against at Nationals, should the Regionals gods smile upon them and grant them a berth, but it likely won’t stand a chance.
Christina: Oklahoma, without questions. This still should be a nice road score for UGA, but I don’t see the Gymdogs coming anywhere close to beating the Sooners, especially at home. Except if they have a meltdown of epic proportions, but K.J. probably would rather cancel the meet halfway than witness that.
Elizabeth: I mean, duh OU, but it should still be a good competition nevertheless.
Boise State at Alabama: Friday, Feb. 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET
In yet another surprisingly good matchup, Boise State travels to Alabama for a top 15 showdown sure to excite fans. Boise State has been on the rise this season, producing high 196s and 197s nearly every week. Meanwhile, Alabama has had more of a rollercoaster ride, upsetting Florida with a season high but also being upset not once but twice at Arkansas and Kentucky. Boise State will look to catch the Crimson Tide on another off day. However, if that’s not in the cards, the Broncos should be happy to settle with another strong road score to get the team back in the top 10 after dropping out, most likely briefly, due to the switch to RQS. Alabama seems to deal with a controversy or two each time out on the floor with last meet’s being Aja Sims being knocked out (almost literally) of the competition due to precaution after a hard fall on bars. She should be good to go this week, though. But what Alabama really needs to do is produce another high 197 like it had in its meet against Florida. The team's other scores have been too low-197 to challenge the top three up to this point. But another strong season or near-season high should alleviate that. It’ll also be interesting to see how the Broncos not only do on the road but in SEC country in front of Alabama’s 10,000 fans. Will they fall to pressure or rise to the occasion?
Caroline: ...I have to go with Bama, as much as I don’t want to. Challenging them at home is a very difficult task, as we saw when Florida traveled to Tuscaloosa. But I expect Boise to put up a big fight.
Christina: Alabama. While both teams have shown struggles on the road, the Tide will be at home and should be untouchable.
Elizabeth: Alabama although I totally want Boise to pull off the upset. I don’t see the Tide having yet another meltdown this season.
Oregon State at Stanford: Friday, Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. ET
Each week we say, “Maybe this is the meet Stanford pulls it together.” But each week we’re disappointed. Yes, the Cardinal scored a solid 195 last week at Arizona State, but wasn’t nearly enough if the team wants to be a seeded team at regionals—a dream that slips farther and farther away with each missed opportunity. But it’s almost worse for others teams that Stanford is continuing to improve each week yet might be an unseeded threat come April. We know we wouldn’t want the Cardinal in our group as a bubble team with four other strong contenders. But back to this weekend’s action. Stanford takes on Oregon State at home for yet another opportunity to finally score at least a 196 it so desperately needs. Elizabeth Price was back on bars last week, but that’s not nearly enough if the team hopes to score big. Plus, there’s just too many errors each week across the events to feel comfortable just yet. Oregon State, conversely, is on quite an upswing. Typically a bubble team that finds itself sitting on the outside looking in come nationals, OSU is making a case for a more secure seeding this season. The Beavers not only upset Utah at home but put in a high road number at California despite losing the meet to the Golden Bears. Another strong away score will help solidify the team’s place in the top 12 even more. And if Kaytianna McMillan continues to excel the way she has been in he senior season, anything is possible for the Beavs in 2017.
Caroline: OSU. I just… I can’t with Stanford right now.
Christina: Oregon State. While Stanford kinda, sorta got it together last weekend, I don’t realistically see it contend with the Beavs quite yet (if ever?), even at home, especially with Ebee only competing one event.
Elizabeth: Beavs. I think Stanford will do better but not good enough to pull off the win.
California, SEMO, Utah State at Nebraska: Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. ET
Utah State is coming off an almost-win at UCLA (mainly because the Bruins were lackluster but still…) while SEMO has been having an up-and-down season. But this meet is really all about California and Nebraska. The Huskers finally put up a nationals-worthy performance at the GymQUARTERS Invite, taking advantage of some crack judging, on floor in particular. California also had a great showing at home against Oregon State last weekend, posting a 197 even without the help of Toni-Ann Williams who is out with a season-ending injury. But that’s not the only adversity the Bears have faced this season as just last week they lost Dana Ho to yet another ACL tear and freshman Cassidy Keelen has been out with a dislocated knee for a while now too. Cal is one of those teams that is stronger at home than on the road, so it’ll look to change that this weekend at Nebraska. Fans will also look to see if Nebraska’s last meet was a one-time thing or the new norm.
Caroline: Nebraska is on the rise and Cal is on the decline… I’ll go Huskers. The fight I think may actually be between Cal and USU, if the Aggies can put together a 196-worthy performance.
Christina: Nebraska at home should be the clear favorite. If Cal had been healthier, I could have seen a potential upset, but the Bears are just too depleted at this point.
Elizabeth: Hmm… This is an interesting one. If Toni-Ann was still healthy, I’d go with Cal, but she’s not so I’m going Nebraska.
Other Notable Matchups
Denver at Ohio State: Friday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. ET
Denver is coming off two strong performances at home and will now go on the road to test if it can replicate the success outside the state of Colorado. Maddie Karr, Nikole Addison, Julia Ross and company are the backbone that keeps this limited-depth Pioneer roster afloat. The team has made it not even matter that the lineups are depleted. But one mistake and things might come crashing down. Ohio State has quietly been having a pretty good season as well with Alexis Mattern hitting in the 9.9-range more often than not. She’s one to watch come regionals for a possible nationals berth.
Missouri at Florida: Friday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. ET
If Florida wants to challenge LSU in the rankings and potentially move up, it'll start with this meet. The Gators need another huge score and with the meet being at home, there’s a good chance of that happening. However, there was some adversity the team had to face this week when lone senior Claire Boyce announced her medical retirement due to ongoing hip pain. While she only competed floor for average scores, the Gators lose the lineup routine as well as a leader. But she won’t go far as she’s staying on as a student coach. Missouri has been doing better in recent weeks after losing Morgan Porter. Britney Ward has come out as a big leader on the meet for the Tigers. The team will look to take advantage of Florida’s high home scoring and put up a big number this week.
LSU at Auburn: Friday, Feb. 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET
While still looking for its first win of the season, there’s little chance of that happening this weekend. But that’s no reason for Auburn to get down on itself. This will still be another opportunity to blow its past season high out of the water and finally put up a 197 or at least a high 196 for the first time this season. LSU has been cruising this season, putting up a season high in its last meet out with a stellar vault rotation that rivals some of the best in a long, long time. Putting up a potential high-197 or even a 198 at this road meet will be the goal.
Arizona at UCLA: Saturday, Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. ET
Arizona just can’t catch a break. The Wildcats suffered another setback last weekend when Skyler Sheppard went down on vault with a knee injury, forcing the team to put up only five on floor in an already depleted lineup. But since then, Sheppard has tweeted she is expected back in a few weeks. UCLA went from a high score at Utah to nearly a season low at home two days later. The Bruins are still looking to drop that 195 so they can move back up past the Utes in the rankings, so nailing this meet will be a priority. No more D-team floor lineups and everyone has to be on.
Utah at Arizona State: Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. ET
Utah is coming off a slightly cracky but still high-scoring performance at home last weekend, so the real test will come this weekend in Tempe when the team tries to prove those scores weren’t a fluke and replicate the result against ASU. Arizona State, on the other hand, is slowly improving with each passing meet, putting up another 195 last weekend and nearly breaking its “Rene Lyst high score” in the process. That benchmark is close and can easily be done Saturday with a hit meet.
George Washington, Kent State at N.C. State: Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET
GW had two strong outings last weekend, posting two solid 196s with one coming at home and the other on the road. The Colonials need to continue what they’re doing and a seeded spot at regionals will be a very attainable goal. Kent State is coming off a loss to Central Michigan. But the Flashes still performed well in the close matchup. N.C. State, though, has been having an off season. Usually quite strong in the EAGL conference, 2017 has been and up and down so far with the most recent meet being down at 193 level. The Wolfpack will look to be back on the upswing this week.
Southern Utah at Michigan: Sunday, Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. ET
Southern Utah, like a lot of teams this season, has been better at home than on the road this season. But its road meets have been even worse than some others. Making sure this meet doesn’t turn into a splat-fest and stays at least consistent if not at home scoring levels will be the huge goal in Ann Arbor. Michigan, like SUU, has been fine at home but not so great on the road, which the Wolverines won’t have to worry about because they’ll be in the Crisler Center Sunday. So since they can’t alleviate those road scores this week, the Wolverines will instead work to post a season high and bump up their RQS as much as possible.
Oklahoma at TWU: Sunday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. ET
Oklahoma will be back at it Sunday for its second meet of the weekend. And against a D-II team like TWU, while good, expect the Sooners to rest some lineup regulars this competition. With the team secure in the RQS-ranking picture, there won’t really be a need to push for a higher score this go round. So look for new faces in those lineups, to give backups a chance to compete and gain experience in case of emergency later in the season. TWU is having itself quite the season as well, putting up a whopping 196 and tying a program record last weekend against Penn State, Sacramento State and Western Michigan in its amazing throwback leotard, alumni meet. If the team can continue to put up to huge numbers, it’ll surely challenge two-time defending champs Lindenwood for the national title come April.
Illinois, Illinois State at Denver: Sunday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. ET
In another meet featuring the second competition for these teams this weekend, it’ll be interesting to see if the same strategy is taken for resting stars. Denver doesn’t really have the luxury to rest the big names because of how little depth there is. So the priority more likely will be to post another big score at home and take advantage of the comfort of Denver scoring. Illinois has more room to play with but won’t want to stray too far from traditional lineups as posting a big away score would be a good addition to its RQS. Illinois State will also look to stay consistent and clean at this meet.
These aren’t the only meets happening this weekend! To see all the matchups all in one place, take a look at our master schedule. You can also find live scoring and video links below.
Do you play Fantasy Gymnastics and don’t see a team some of your gymnasts’ teams competing this weekend? See if they’re on a bye this week (or competing twice) below, and check out the entire byes and doubles list here.
Want to receive the latest collegiate gymnastics news in your inbox? Sign up for the NCAA Gym NewsLetter here.
Days until the 2017 National Championships