The Utah gymnastics schedule was released yesterday. At first glance, it is an exciting schedule with the Red Rocks hosting the defending National Champion UCLA Bruins, a trip to the Mardi Gras Invitational against LSU, Missouri, and Stanford, plus Georgia, Michigan, and Penn State all on the nonconference slate in addition to several quality Pac-12 opponents.
I like the elite competition on the schedule. It will help prepare the Red Rocks for the postseason. This team was really young two years ago and relatively young last year. Now most of the team is seasoned and could make a big run at Nationals. The podium meet will be a great practice meet for the post season as well.
Co-head coach Tom Farden commented on the schedule:
“The best way to prepare for the postseason is to go against nationally-competitive teams week-in and week-out, which is what this schedule is all about,” said Farden. “That’s also why we scheduled a podium meet (The Mardi Gras Invitational in St. Charles, Mo.). Getting on podium before the NCAA Championships is critical in our preparation.”
One thing I like about gymnastics compared to say football is the top teams all compete against each other in the regular season. Teams do not shy away from competition in their nonconference schedule.
There are also two meets in Salt Lake City towards the end of the season, which should help Utah to boost their RQS. Those meets are UCLA and Michigan. I would not be surprised if ESPNU came to Salt Lake for that UCLA meet (they were in town for it two years ago).
The main downside is there are only five home meets compared to six road meets. That regular season ending meet against Georgia will be tough. They also have the Mardi Gras Invitational on Friday Feb. 15 and then have a meet at Stanford on Monday Feb. 18, which will be a tough turnaround for the Red Rocks (but also for Stanford who is also in the Mardi Gras Invitational).
It will be interesting to see how the new postseason format plays out. I do like that they have removed the byes because it seemed like the teams that had byes on the final rotation were at a distinct disadvantage, but it also puts more pressure on the Red Rocks to make the NCAA Semifinals and Finals because there are fewer spots. The Red Rocks have finished fifth or worse every year since they were runners up in 2015, largely due to miscues. They will need to be sharper this year at Nationals if they want to add National Championship No. 11 to their trophy case.