No. 3 Utah (6-1, 197.090) vs. No. 14 UCLA (4-0, 196.281)

When: Friday, 7 p.m. MST

Venue: Huntsman Center (15,000 capacity), Salt Lake City


Livestream: WatchESPN

Series: Utah leads the all-time series with rival UCLA 55-36-1, and is almost perfect at home against the Bruins with a 27-3 record in Salt Lake City. The Red Rocks snapped a five-meet losing streak to UCLA last year, when they upset the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion on the final routine of the competition. Abby Paulson clinched the win with Utah’s first perfect 10 on balance beam since 2008, giving the Red Rocks the 198.075-198.025 victory. Utah hasn’t defeated UCLA in consecutive meets since 2017, when it defeated the Bruins in Salt Lake City and then again at the Pac-12 championships.

The stakes

For Utah: After a bye week, the Red Rocks are still ranked No. 3 in the country, behind only No. 1 Florida and No. 2 LSU. No. 4 Oklahoma is breathing down Utah’s neck, however, after scoring a nation-best 198.225 at the Metroplex Challenge. With only four meets remaining in the regular season, the Red Rocks still need to show that they can reach the heights of those other national title contenders and who better to do that against than UCLA. The meet against the Bruins also has import in the race for the Pac-12 regular-season title, as Utah, UCLA and Cal are the only remaining unbeaten teams in conference play (Stanford hasn’t yet competed this season).

For UCLA: At 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-12, UCLA has done what it usually does, i.e., win. The victories this season have not been all that similar to those of recent years, though. The Bruins have twice earned a score lower than any recorded by the program since 2017, including their recent 195.625-193.500 victory over Washington. Thus far at least, this UCLA team isn’t close to being the team of the last three or four seasons. Remember, UCLA won the national title in 2018 and was one of the four best teams in the country in 2019. A win over Utah would signal some that much need improvement has been made and would put the Bruins in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 regular-season title.

Maile O’Keefe and Abby Paulson have each earned a perfect 10 at Utah. This is what they thought of each other’s routines

The gymnasts

For Utah: Any discussion of the Red Rocks begins with sophomore Maile O’Keefe. She is ranked No. 2 in the country on beam and No. 7 in the all-around. Junior Cristal Isa has been another key contributor and is ranked No. 14 on the uneven bars. Senior Sydney Soloski has been one of the nation’s best on floor, where she is ranked No. 17, while junior Cammy Hall is tied for No. 24 on vault. Other gymnasts of note include sophomore Abby Paulson, who has had back-to-back standout outings, sophomore Jaedyn Rucker and senior Alexia Burch, each of whom has scored a 9.9 or better at least once this season, with Burch scoring a 9.975 on vault and Paulson a 9.95 on beam.

For UCLA: Almost every year, the Bruins boast some of the most recognizable gymnasts in the country and this season is no different. The current face of the program is senior Nia Dennis, whose floor routine has already gone viral. An All-American, Dennis has competed in the all-around much of the season and is ranked No. 4 in the country on floor and No. 8 in the all-around. Also notable are Margzetta Frazier and Pauline Tratz. Frazier has competed in the all-around every meet this year, and recorded a season-high 39.3250 against Washington, while Tratz has gone from being an event specialist to a multiple event contributor.

Alexia Burch once dreaded the uneven bars. Now she enjoys them. What happened?

Next up

One week after facing the Bruins, Utah will host the other Pac-12 contender — Cal. The Golden Bears ranked are No. 13 in the country and have defeated Air Force, Arizona and ASU. Utah leads the all-time series with California 26-2 and has won six consecutive meets, including last season’s 197.550-197.325 win in Berkley. Utah last lost to Cal in 2018 and has never lost to the Golden Bears at home.

Utah schedule

Jan. 9 — vs. No. 11 BYU, No. 17 Southern Utah and No. 23 Utah State (Best of Utah)

Jan. 17 — at No. 4 Oklahoma

Jan. 23 — vs. Arizona

Jan. 30 — vs. Washington

Feb. 6 — at No. 16 ASU

Feb. 15 — BYE

Feb. 19 — vs. No. 14 UCLA (7 p.m., ESPNU)

Feb. 26 — vs. No. 13 California (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)

March 5 — at Oregon State (TBD)

March 12 — vs. No. 23 Utah State (7 p.m., TBD)

March 20 — Pac-12 championships (TBD)

All times MST