No. 4 Utah (9-2, 197.685) vs. No. 9 Minnesota (7-5, 197.015)

When: Friday, 7 p.m. MST

Venue: Huntsman Center (15,000 capacity)

TV: None

Radio: ESPN 700

Livestream: Pac-12 Insider

Series: Utah hasn’t competed against Minnesota in over a decade (2008), but leads the all-time series 31-1. Utah is unbeaten at home against the Golden Gophers with a 13-0 record. The Red Rocks’ only loss to Minnesota came in 2000, at a neutral site meet in Tempe, Arizona.

Utah and Minnesota last met at the 2019 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, where the team’s competed against each other twice. Utah came away with a win in both meets. Utah was supposed to travel to Minnesota during the 2021 season, but that trip was canceled due to pandemic-induced conference-only schedules.

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The stakes

For Utah: The Red Rocks just finished the most difficult stretch of their regular season, finishing with a 2-1 mark. Utah recorded its two best team scores of the year in wins over Oregon State and Washington, but also posted it worst team score in the loss to Arizona.

Ranked No. 4 in the country, Utah is less than a tenth of a point behind No. 3 Florida in the rankings and remains within striking distance of No. 2 Oklahoma with three competitions remaining before the postseason (the Pac-12 championships factor into NQS rankings).

If Utah hopes to drop a score and improve its NQS, it will need to do better than the 197.675 recorded in the win over Stanford earlier this year.

For Minnesota: The reigning Big Ten champions, Minnesota has been up and down this season. The Golden Gophers are one of only six teams to score a 198 or better this year, but have also scored in the 196 range in three meets.

Minnesota has lost to five different opponents, with the team’s most notable win coming against UCLA early this season.

The Golden Gophers are less than a tenth of a point behind No. 8 Cal in the NQS rankings, but are also less than a tenth of a point ahead of No. 10 Kentucky. Minnesota can improve upon its ranking by scoring better than a 196.225, recorded in a tri-meet against Maryland and Pittsburg in mid-February.

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The gymnasts

For Utah: Arguably no Utah gymnast is in better form right now than Grace McCallum. The freshman is ranked in the top 20 on every event: No. 4 in the all-around and on floor, No. 13 on vault and balance beam, and No. 16 on uneven bars.

Five other Utah gymnasts are ranked in the top 25 on an event: On beam, Maile O’Keefe is ranked No. 2, Cristal Isa is No. 10, Abby Paulson is No. 17 and Amelie Morgan is No. 22. Sydney Soloski is ranked No. 3 on floor, while Lucy Stanhope is No. 6 on vault, Jaedyn Rucker is No. 13 on vault, and Sage Thompson is No. 22 on bars.

For Minnesota: The Golden Gophers boast some of the best gymnasts in the country, chief among them reigning AAI Award winner (and Big Ten Gymnast of the Year) Lexy Ramler. Ramler is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in the all-around and No. 5 on bars and beam.

Hardly overshadowed by Ramler are Ona Loper and Mya Hooten. Loper is ranked No. 12 in the all-around and No. 18 on floor, while Hooten has a 9.975 on vault this season.

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Next up

The Red Rocks travel to Baton Rouge for their regular season finale, where they will take on the No. 5-ranked LSU Tigers. LSU and Utah are quite familiar with each other, given multiple meetings last season at NCAA Regionals.

Additionally, former Utah coaches Garrett Griffeth and Courtney McCool Griffeth are now with LSU, while former LSU standout Myia Hambrick is Utah’s volunteer assistant coach.

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Utah schedule

Jan. 7 — vs. No. 14 BYU and No. 16 Utah State, No. 21 Southern Utah (Best of Utah)

Jan. 14 — vs No. 2 Oklahoma

Jan. 21 — vs. No. 15 Arizona State

Jan. 29 — vs. No. 20 Stanford

Feb. 4 — at No. 17 UCLA

Feb. 12 — at No. 8 Cal

Feb. 18 — vs. Oregon State

Feb. 21 — at Washington

Feb. 25 — at Arizona

March 4 — vs. No. 9 Minnesota, 7 p.m.

March 11 — at No. 5 LSU, 6:30 p.m.

March 19 — Pac-12 Championships

All times MST