Pickin’ the Big Ten: Nov. 29-Dec. 2, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Sure, the day itself is over and we’re all the worse for it — okay, so I am the worse for it — and everyone who celebrates Christmas is rushing right into that, but there is still plenty for which to be thankful today. Here in the States, we can be doubly thankful that Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, a holiday mashup that last occurred 125 years ago.

What better way to celebrate everything this season has to offer than with the start of Big Ten conference play?

Last week
Drew: 3-2-0 (.600)
Paula: 3-2-0 (.600)

Drew: 37-18-4 (.661)
Paula: 38-18-4 (.666)

This week

There are four series this week and two of those series kick off the first-ever weekend of Big Ten conference play. That this begins with two traditional rivalries makes it all the better.

Ohio State vs. Michigan

Drew: Hey, Ohio State is finally playing a real team! Yes the Buckeyes’ winning streak has come against some softer teams, but I still think the confidence gained will help them out in the long run this season. Is it enough confidence to pick up a win over Michigan this weekend? Probably not.

Paula: While I respectfully disagree with my partner-in-writing about Ohio State’s previous schedule, this will be a big challenge for the Buckeyes — and not just because Michigan is a the No. 3 team in the country. This rivalry is huge and is heightened emotionally this week by that Ohio State-Michigan gridiron game. The rivalry is as old as I am (hint: 1964) and the Wolverines have pretty much owned the Buckeyes, going 72-33-11 all-time in the series. Michigan is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings and the Wolverines swept the Buckeyes Feb. 22-23, 2013, 5-3 and 6-3. Ohio State swept Canisius two weeks ago and had last weekend off; Michigan beat Niagara, 6-0, Nov. 22. This is a Friday-Monday, home-and-home series. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. in Ann Arbor with Monday’s contest starting at 7:05 p.m. in Columbus.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-2, 3-1.
Paula’s picks: I don’t see the Buckeyes winning, either. Michigan 4-2, 4-2.

Princeton at Michigan State

Drew: The Spartans are probably just happy not to be playing another team from Michigan this weekend. This is a matchup of three-win teams, each with one impressive victory this season; Princeton’s 4-3 victory over No.4 Quinnipiac came last weekend.

Paula: Last weekend, the Spartans dropped a home-and-home series to former CCHA rival, Western Michigan, 2-0 and 4-1. The Tigers and Spartans last met in 1980, so the history between these teams is less than meaningful. The young Spartans look to me like a team still transitioning, still looking for its collective identity. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m.; Sunday’s game begins at 1:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Michigan State 3-2, Princeton 2-1.
Paula’s picks: I think they’ll split, too, but I have no idea how to call it. Michigan State 3-2, Princeton 3-2.

Union at Penn State

Drew: Union seems to be in a good place, winning four of its last five, and I haven’t seen nearly enough out of Penn State to pick them over any ranked team yet. So I don’t have much to say about his one.

Paula: Each team comes to this game well rested, each having last played two weekends ago. Union rides a three-game win streak into this weekend, having beaten Cornell Nov. 9 and swept Rensselaer Nov. 15-16. Penn State hopes to break a two-game losing streak after dropping a series to Massachusetts-Lowell Nov. 14-15. One year ago, the Dutchmen beat the Nittany Lions in Schenectady, 2-0 and 4-1. This is a Saturday-Sunday series, with games beginning at 7:00 p.m. each night — and there’s a teddy bear toss during Saturday’s game! I do so love a teddy bear toss.

Drew’s picks: Union 3-0, 5-2.
Paula’s picks: Union 3-1, 4-1.

Wisconsin at Minnesota

Drew: Minnesota looked mortal for pretty much the first time this season last Sunday against UMD, and Wisconsin just straight up hasn’t been playing that much lately. I think the Badgers’ experienced players will help them this weekend and the games will be close, but I don’t think they’ll be able to grab a win.

Paula: This is the other storied rivalry of the weekend, dating back to 1922. The Gophers are 157-87-21 all-time against the Badgers, including a mark of 91-27-8 at home against Wisconsin. As Drew mentioned, the Gophers actually lost last weekend (gasp!), splitting with Duluth with a 6-1 win and 6-2 loss. I suspect that that specific loss was a great motivator in practice this week. The Badgers last played Nov. 15-16, a road split with Miami (2-0 loss, 3-2 win). Minnesota was 2-1-1 against Wisconsin last season. Friday’s game begins at 4:00 p.m., Saturday’s game at 5:00 p.m.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 3-3 tie.
Paula’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, 3-2.

Say hello

I’m not sure where Drew is this week. I am the proverbial star-crossed hockey lover: I am in Columbus, Ohio, visiting friends for the Thanksgiving holiday while the Buckeyes are playing in Ann Arbor — an hour from where I live in Michigan — Friday night.

Tweet us: Drew, me.