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CGN Roundtable: On Big Matchups, Schedules and Underrated Meets in 2022

With the majority of the 2022 schedule now released, we wanted to take a moment to dive into the matchups and pull out some of the ones we’re most looking forward to seeing play out this season. From the most anticipated meets to underrated thrills, this week’s roundtable is all about the 2022 schedule.

Which meets are you most excited for in 2022? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

We’ll start with the obvious. Which 2022 dual are you most looking forward to?

Elizabeth: I’m really intrigued by Oklahoma at Utah on Jan. 14 in week two. Both teams will already have one meet out of the way to work out the kinks, and I’m more optimistic of judging facilitating a tight competition with it being at Utah vs. Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a lot of question marks this year, but it’s Oklahoma, while Utah has one of the strongest squads top to bottom—preview of one half of the national final come April? Honorable mention goes to Oklahoma at Florida and the annual Utah/UCLA matchup.

Emily M: I’m looking forward to Auburn at LSU on Feb. 5. LSU’s meet production is always next level, but imagine the marketing and hype around having Suni Lee in the house? The PMAC is going to be electric. 

Brandis: Utah at UCLA on Feb. 4 has been circled on my calendar for a while now. This meet usually goes down to the wire, and both teams just added phenomenal freshman classes loaded with international elites and Olympic medalists, giving this meet the potential to be an all-time classic.

Katie W: I’m excited for Utah at LSU on March 11. This one should be a great competitive battle on LSU’s senior night with the added storyline of coaching swaps between the two programs.

Tavia: I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m still dreaming about Florida squeaking past LSU by a tenth in the PMAC last season. That meet showcased some of the best gymnastics of the regular season. LSU travels to Florida Feb. 11 for a rematch in the O’Dome. I’m excited for this competition because Florida and LSU always elevate their game when they compete against each other. The excitement will be high, and my guess is the competition will once again come down to a tenth or less. 

Tara: There’s lot’s that I’m excited for, but I’m going to go with Oklahoma at Utah on Jan. 14. Utah is poised for a great year, and Oklahoma is, well, Oklahoma so it should be a good early-season meet. A close second is Michigan at Oklahoma on March 4. It’s a battle between the reigning champions and the powerhouse Sooners. Being in March, this meet could give us a glimpse into how these teams stack up against each other heading into the postseason.

There are a fair few fun quad and tri meets this season as well. Which one do you think will be the most interesting?

Elizabeth: It seems like recently we’ve been getting more non-standard matchups across the NCAA, and I’m all for it. One that stands out to me for 2022 is North Carolina and Western Michigan at Alabama. While the outcome likely won’t be up in the air, the storylines are pretty juicy. Danna Durante will make a return to her former team’s rival while UNC takes its first step in raising the bar for the program in time for ACC gymnastics in 2024, Alabama will look to continue its underrated success in the SEC and prove its 2021 conference tite wasn’t a fluke, and Western Michigan will be well on its way to attempting to defend its regionals berth from this past year.

Emily M: North Carolina is in some really fun multis in January. Auburn, Bowling Green and N.C. State at North Carolina on Jan. 7, New Hampshire, North Carolina and N.C. State at Rutgers on Jan. 15 and George Washington and Missouri at North Carolina on Jan. 22. I love that Danna Durante is getting her team up against a variety of squads and bringing diverse groups of away fans to Carmichael Arena. I’m also happy to see SEC teams on the calendar. Durante is clearly thinking big and looking toward ACC competition in the future—and using her old SEC connections to lock down some nice matchups.

Katie W: As the 2020 MRGC editor, I really enjoyed tracking the in-conference battles between the programs. The Best of Utah kicks off the season with three of the four conference teams involved (Southern Utah, BYU and Utah State). The conference has been signing higher rated recruits than ever before and has exciting freshmen like Brie Clark making their debut at this year’s event. Utah remains the favorite to win the competition, but second place is anyone’s game at this annual competition. 

Tavia: I would echo Elizabeth’s sentiment that there are quite a few non-conventional matchups on deck this season. I’m excited to see Oklahoma, SEMO and Air Force compete at TWU for a couple reasons. First, there’s a 10.0 count going every time the Sooners come to Denton. Second, I’m excited to see SEMO, TWU and Air Force fight it out for second place. The energy in Kitty Magee Arena is bound to lead to some competitive gymnastics and strong landings. 

Tara: I’m intrigued by Arkansas, Nebraska and Oregon State at Denver on March 13. That’s quite an interesting dynamic between teams—with Olympian Jade Carey (and Jordyn Wieber), an up-and-coming Arkansas team, a rejuvenated Oregon State, Denver’s senior night and…Nebraska just hoping to get through the meet.

Let’s talk neutral site meets. Which one do you have your eye on for 2022?

Elizabeth: I’ve always been a fan of Best of Utah. All the attending teams are pretty fun to watch, and they all bring something different to the table. Plus, with it being the first week of the season, in years past the competition has been closer than people may have expected beforehand. Utah is a clear favorite, but anything can happen on the day.

Emily M: I’m fascinated by the Cal Grand meets this year. We’re almost getting a week one preview of the Pac-12 meet, minus Utah, which will be at Best of Utah, and Stanford, which is idle. 

Katie W: I already mentioned it above, but Best of Utah is just a staple competition to the start of a new NCAA season for me. 

Tavia: The Metroplex Challenge is always a fun meet regardless of who is competing in the college session. This year is bound to be particularly entertaining to watch. I’m intrigued to see Oklahoma and Denver battle it out on neutral territory after Denver took home the Big 12 title last season. I’m also excited to see Washington compete! It’s looking strong this preseason. I’m ready to see how it measures up against other top contenders. I’m hoping Stanford will finally be able to return to its former glory now that it will be able to have a full preseason to train. 

Tara: I’m excited for Best of Utah! The Utah teams are so fun yet so different from each other, and all of the teams have stepped up their game in recent years. Utah is the clear favorite, but each team is capable of great gymnastics on any given day, which will make for an exciting meet no matter what happens.

What’s an underrated meet on the calendar that you think will end up being particularly competitive that fans may not necessarily consider?

Elizabeth: Lindenwood vs. SEMO is always a hotly contested matchup, and 2022’s edition will be particularly interesting with LU’s new coaching staff and SEMO entering as the defending national champion.

Emily M: Michigan State at Ohio State on Feb. 25. We only saw Michigan State twice in 2021, so the Spartans are a little bit mysterious. That said, with Skyla Schulte and Baleigh Garcia ready to go, they have the potential to be a really exciting group. Add to that an Ohio State team that ended the year on a surge, and the great choreography on both sides from Mike Rowe and Meredith Paulicivic, and you have yourself a meet that could end up being both very exciting and very close.

Brandis: I may be a tad biased as a Hawkeye alum, but Iowa at Iowa State on March 4 should be a great meet. With COVID restrictions preventing this heated rivalry from happening last season when both teams had breakout years, I am expecting both squads to be coming into this one with extra motivation. And with conference championship meets looming soon after, both the Cyclones and the Hawkeyes should be close to top form.

Katie W: I’m going to stay with the BIG10 here with Illinois at Penn State on Jan. 29. Penn State is gaining an extremely talented freshman class alongside the return of Lauren Bridgens for a fifth year. On the flip side, Illinois is losing its top scorer on floor and beam with Shaylah Scott announcing her retirement. The Nittany Lions might surprise fans this year and come away with some unexpected wins during the season. 

Tavia: Lindenwood vs. SEMO competitions have been feeling more and more like rivalry meets every year, and 2022 will be no different. I’m excited to see who ends up on top. 

Tara: Echoing Emily M, Michigan State at Ohio State on Feb. 25. Michigan State could fly under the radar after its down seasons and abbreviated 2020 and 2021. The Spartans have potential to make this an interesting meet, especially when you factor Skyla Schulte and her freshman classmates into the mix. I can definitely see these two teams being on similar levels and making it a close competition.  

Which team do you think has the “best” schedule in terms of fun opponents or exciting matchups?

Elizabeth: I’m breaking the rules a little because this is just in reference to half a schedule, but Minnesota’s home opponents this season are nearly perfect. UCLA, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa, plus a fun little quad with up-and-coming Utah State, Temple and LIU? Minneapolis-area fans are truly #blessed in 2022.

Emily M: I’m very interested in Michigan’s out-of-conference schedule this year. Georgia! Arizona State! Oklahoma! Auburn and West Virginia! It’s a really fascinating and fun collection of teams. I especially love Bev Plocki’s alma mater West Virginia visiting Ann Arbor.

Katie W: Utah has some fantastic out-of-conference meets that will certainly pose a challenge. The Red Rocks will be competing against Oklahoma, Minnesota and LSU! Utah has two in-conference matchups I don’t want to miss either: UCLA, which is always a nail-biter, and the added storyline of Tokyo Olympic teammates competing against each other with Oregon State. 

Tavia: This is a hard one, but I’m going to go with Florida. Florida’s schedule is stacked with strong SEC opponents. The conference gets more and more competitive every year! Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia… Every single team in the conference is poised to have a solid season. Any of these meets could come down to the final rotation. The Gators are book-ending the season with a pair of out-of-conference meets that should ease them into the season and into postseason. And don’t forget about Oklahoma in the O’Dome on Feb. 25! That one is bound to be a nail biter!

Tara: It’s hard to beat an SEC team’s schedule with the amount of competitive teams in the conference, but Utah’s schedule is great, too. Outside of its normal conference meets, all of its out-of-conference meets are top-notch, with Oklahoma and Minnesota in the Huntsman Center and a trip to Baton Rouge to face LSU.

Name one meet from your beat that fans should keep an eye on.

Elizabeth: I obviously don’t have a beat since I oversee the whole site, so I’ll take this opportunity to bring up another meet I’m excited for in 2022: Auburn at Arkansas. This may seem like just another SEC dual, but it’s a big deal for the Razorbacks specifically, who will be welcoming Olympic gold medalist Sunisa Lee and the Tigers to Fayetteville for the team’s first ever meet in the big arena typically reserved for men’s basketball. Jordyn Wieber is only entering her third season as head coach and is already facilitating game-changing moves for the program.

Emily M: Michigan at Minnesota on Jan. 24. The Gophers bested the Wolverines for the Big Ten trophy last year. We know Michigan refers to Big Tens as “our meet,” so we can expect the reigning national champs to come to the Pav looking for revenge. Minnesota won’t go down easily, though, with Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper back for one last shot at the national final. It’s a meet that could really bring down the house. Lucky for us, Kalley will be there in person to live blog, so don’t worry if you don’t get BTN.

Brandis: Emily M alluded to it earlier when talking about Michigan’s home schedule, but I am pumped for Arizona State to visit defending national champion Michigan on Jan. 15. The Sun Devils are a team on the upswing, and this meet will give us all a great idea as to how far we can expect them to go in the postseason. Also keep an eye on the Sun Devils the following week when they travel to Utah, my pick for runner-up in this category.

Katie W: San Jose State at UC Davis on Feb. 6. The MPSF is a hidden gem of a conference, but both programs have massive freshman classes with the potential of competing E-level skills. These two programs are fighting for the first conference championship awarded since 2019. 

Tavia: UW-La Crosse competes against its two closest conference rivals two weeks in a row in 2022. Feb. 11 the Eagles will take on UW-Whitewater on the road, and on Feb. 18, La Crosse travels to Oshkosh to take on the Titans. Both meets should be a fairly evenly matched. Any team could end up on top!

Tara: If you want the most bang for your buck, it’s definitely Best of Utah since three of the four MRGC teams will be competing in BYU, Southern Utah and Utah State. Plus, you might even see Brie Clark compete her Biles I. Other than that, I’m excited for Boise State and Oklahoma at Arizona State on March 11. Boise State looks to be back to its normal self after a rough 2020 and could easily compete with Arizona State.

If you could attend any meet on the 2022 schedule in person, which one would it be?

Elizabeth: I already mentioned this meet in my first response, but I’m seriously considering going to Oklahoma at Utah since it falls on MLK Jr. Day weekend. That’ll be an electric atmosphere to kick off the fans’ return to the Huntsman Center.

Emily M: Utah at LSU on March 11. The Griffeths vs. their old team! Two of the most-hyped programs in a sold-out arena! Battle of two legendary coaches in Tom Farden and Jay Clark! Plus, Utah fans travel. The PMAC will be rocking, and the Utes and Tigers are on my shortlist for the national final this year. Everything about the meet screams headliner. 

Brandis: I’m again copying Emily M with my answer, but I cannot wait for Utah to take on LSU. Both of these schools have massive fan bases, and I am imagining the atmosphere in the PMAC to be electric that night with the rowdiness of the Tiger fans battling with the always well-traveled Red Rocks. Any true fan of sports would be thrilled to experience that live.

Katie W: The fact that I may have the opportunity to see a live gymnastics meet in Gainesville is good enough for me this season. Oklahoma at Florida and LSU at Florida are both at the top of my radar for electric meets that will come down to the last routine. 

Tavia: Words cannot express how excited I am to see live gymnastics again! On a personal level, my dream competition to attend would be Centenary at Springfield. I could see my alma mater compete and show some love to my favorite Springfield graduate assistant coach, Sierra Ponder. If I’m thinking purely as a gymnastics fan, I would want to attend either Oklahoma at Utah or LSU at Florida. You can’t beat the atmosphere of a packed Huntsman or O’Dome! Both meets are really going to feed off the crowd and should be exciting to watch!

Tara: I’m not sure I can describe how excited I am to get back to a live meet again! While I’ll definitely be at Denver meets and am looking forward to them, I want to highlight a couple other competitions I would highly consider attending. I already mentioned Utah’s two out-of-conference home meets—Oklahoma on Jan. 14 and Minnesota on March 4. Going to a Utah home meet is definitely on my bucket list, and it’s such an easy trip from Denver.

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Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Emily Minehart, Brandis Heffner, Katie Walsh, Tavia Smith, Tara Graeve

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