February has arrived, a month has passed in 2019, and the heart of the NCAA Gymnastics season is here, with a massive Friday night blockbuster duel to ring it in. An extremely rare occurrence in the regular season, number two Florida will travel to face the top team in the country, Oklahoma, with confidence and bragging rights on the line in Norman in this non-conference matchup. Top teams being challenged will be a highlight of week five action, with number three UCLA facing Pac 12 foe Oregon State on Saturday and Nebraska and Michigan going head-to-head in the Big 10 on Sunday.
Here’s the three to see this weekend in NCAA Gym:
Marquee Meet of the Week: (2) Florida vs. (1) Oklahoma- Friday, February 1st: 8 PM ET- Fox Sports
Week five features the biggest meet of the NCAA Gymnastics season so far, with a massive one vs. two duel slated for Friday night in Norman. A rematch of their thrilling meet last season in Gainesville that went to Florida at home on the last routine, this meet will see undoubtedly the two best, most consistent teams through the first month of action face off, possibly for the top spot in the rankings.
Back at home in the Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooners are hoping to have junior star and defending national all-around champion Maggie Nichols back on all four events, while the Gators will bring their top freshmen class- led by US National Team member Trinity Thomas– into Norman and hope to squeeze out another win. The Sooners and Gators have history in the biggest meets of the season, tying for the National Championship in 2014 before the Gators once again upended Oklahoma in 2015 for their third consecutive title. Both teams come into 2019 with loads of talent and strong depth, but Florida’s early-season vaulting struggles will be exposed against Oklahoma’s line-up of six 10.0 start-value vaults, helping the Sooners narrowly get the win.
(3) UCLA vs. (20) Oregon State- Saturday, February 2nd: 2:30 PM ET- Pac 12 Network
A long-time Pac 12 showdown between two powerhouses, UCLA and Oregon State both know what it’s like to win conference championships and compete against one another. This year, the Bruins come in as the defending national champions, while a disastrous regionals from Oregon State left the Beavers out of nationals last year and gave them a chip on their shoulder for this season.
Ranked number three in the country, UCLA comes into Corvallis undefeated and looking for another Pac 12 Championship after triumphing last year. The Bruins will hope to refine some of their vault and bars performances after errors at Stanford last weekend, but with stars like Katelyn Ohashi and Kyla Ross, the Bruins will hope to put up another big number and extend their winning streak. Oregon State will need to perform clean, consistent vaults and rely on their strong floor exercise performers, like all-arounder Kaitlyn Yanish, to keep pace with the Bruins but expect UCLA to pull away late in the final two rotations.
(13) Nebraska vs. (10) Michigan- Sunday, February 3rd: 2 PM ET- ESPN
Possibly the most important and consequential meet of this weekend, the Big 10’s historical top two teams will face off inside the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor with likely the conference regular season title on the line. Both Nebraska and Michigan have had their ups and downs over the first month of the season, with both teams scoring well at home and earning some strong wins to help build their confidence.
Led by freshman all-around phenom Natalie Wojcik, the Wolverines have looked like a very talented team through January, with lots of potential and consistency across all four events. Returning seniors Olivia Karas and Emma McLean, the vault and floor have been standouts for Michigan, while balance beam has been the key event for the Wolverines. Nebraska, led by three all-arounders in Megan Schweihofer, Taylor Houchin, and Sienna Crouse, has gotten off to a fast start in 2019 despite several injuries, and their impressive bars and beam work has set them apart early. Both teams will perform to their potential inside an expected big crowd in Ann Arbor, but the home advantage for Michigan will give the Wolverines a crucial Big 10 victory to begin February.
Prediction: MichiganTags: Big 10, Big 12, Emma McLean, Florida, Florida Gators, Kaitlyn Yanish, Katelyn Ohashi, Kyla Ross, Maggie Nichols, Megan Schweihofer, Michigan, Michigan Wolverines, Natalie Wojcik, NCAA Gymnastics, Nebraska, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Sooners, Olivia Karas, Oregon State, Oregon State Beavers, Pac 12, SEC, Sienna Crouse, Taylor Houchin, Trinity Thomas, UCLA, UCLA Bruins