Two undefeated teams, ranked No. 1 vs. No. 2, battling in the Huntsman Center. It's a dream scenario for the self-promoter in Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden, and it's looking more and more like the scenario will become a reality.
The meet that stood out as the highlight on Utah's 2006 schedule before the season was a March 6 competition against rival Georgia. If anything, the matchup has only gotten bigger now that the season is under way.
Georgia is ranked No. 1 and Utah No. 2, and both should remain undefeated in the coming weeks. Utah plays hosts to Minnesota on Friday and is at BYU in two weeks. Georgia competes against UCLA, Auburn and Kentucky before meeting the Utes.
Georgia escaped Tuscaloosa with a 196.625-196.575 win over No. 3 Alabama on Friday, then defeated No. 6 Oklahoma 197.475-195.95 Sunday.
Last year, Georgia, the defending NCAA champion, edged Utah 197.275-197.15 in Athens.
The Utes vowed then to get the Dawgs at their place, and if both teams are still undefeated, so much the better said junior Nicolle Ford.
"That would be a hot meet," she said.
"I'm sure they're great, based on their scores," Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan said. "I know Utah will be up for us after their loss to us last year."
Utah may remain undefeated, but keeping its ranking might be more of a challenge because of its troubles on the road. The Utes have counted a fall in every away meet.
"I don't know if we can hold on to that No. 2 spot or if we even deserve it," Marsden said. "For us to deserve that, we have to be better on the road, in my mind."
Last year, the Auburn Tigers hosted the NCAA Championships, but failed to make the 12-team event. This year, Oregon State is hosting nationals, and is in danger of also missing the postseason.
Oregon State, a constant presence at the NCAAs in the 1990s, hasn't qualified since 2002, when it finished 12th. The Beavers are currently ranked No. 19, and are coming off a 195.4-194.925 loss to Arizona.
Oregon State last hosted the NCAAs in 1993, when it tied LSU for seventh.
No. 20 Minnesota, Utah's opponent Friday, scored just a 191.775 Saturday after four major breaks on the uneven bars. . . . SUU, which defeated BYU 194.825-194.05 Friday and is ranked No. 22, plays host to West Virginia on Saturday and Utah State is at Boise State on Friday. BYU, which breaks into the poll at No. 25, is off before traveling to Boise State on Feb. 20.
Tickets for the WAC Championships are on sale through Utah State, which is hosting the event on March 25. Utah State, Boise State, San Jose State and conference affiliates Cal State Fullerton, Southern Utah and Sacramento State will compete for the WAC title, the first time a conference title has been awarded in gymnastics since 1993.
In the rankings
This is the last week rankings are decided by an overall average. Next week, the rankings switch to the regional qualifying score, a formula where high and low scores are dropped. Michigan remains in fourth, one spot behind Alabama. Utah's Ford is fifth in the all-around and fourth on the uneven bars and beam. Kristina Baskett is 10th on the vault and bars.
1. Georgia 196.561
2. Utah 196.004
3. Alabama 195.929
4. Michigan 195.775
5. Florida 195.608
6. Oklahoma 195.525
7. Iowa State 195.260
8. Nebraska 195.242
9. UCLA 195.182
10. Stanford 195.135
11. Missouri 195.117
12. Arizona St. 195.090
13. LSU 194.946
14. Arizona 194.837
15. Penn State 194.690
16. Denver 194.271
17. Auburn 194.225
18. Kentucky 194.046
19. Oregon St. 193.925
20. Minnesota 193.270
21. Arkansas 193.025
22. S. Utah 192.950
23. Illinois 192.837
24. UNC 192.760
25. BYU 192.756