Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 14-15, 2014

The schedule for this season has allowed for few conference-only weekends, all on a Friday-Saturday schedule, but that’s what we have this week in the Big Ten. First, let’s see how Drew Claussen and I are doing with picks this season.

Last week
Drew: 1-3-2 (.333)
Paula: 2-2-2 (.500)

Drew: 70-35-11 (.651)
Paula: 71-33-13 (.662)

This week

All times are local and five of the six games are televised.

Michigan at Minnesota

Drew: This all-time series has been played fairly evenly with the Gophers holding the 128-117-14 advantage. In a way both teams have something to prove this weekend. Minnesota needs to prove that last weekend’s sweep at Wisconsin was a mirage and avoid going on an extended losing streak. You know Michigan is going to be fired up and wanting to put its shutout at the hands of Penn State in the rearview mirror. These two teams haven’t played each other this year. Three players on Minnesota have played Michigan in their careers and two Wolverines have played the Gophers. Minnesota needs to pounce early on Friday as the majority of the Michigan squad adjusts to playing in an unfamiliar arena and on a larger ice sheet.

Paula: Yes, both teams will be motivated. The Golden Gophers are six points ahead of the Wolverines in Big Ten standings and Michigan has two games in hand on Minnesota, so in a way these points are doubly important. I’m not picking a sweep, but I think that any combination of wins, losses and ties is possible. Friday’s game is the late game on the Big Ten Network’s Frozen Friday, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Central; Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports North and Sports Time Ohio.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 4-2, Michigan 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 2-1, Minnesota 4-2.

Michigan State at Penn State

Drew: I have to hand it to the Penn State fans. Even when the team didn’t get off to the best of starts, the Nittany Lions are still drawing 6,000 plus at Pegula Ice Arena. Those fans who showed up last Saturday got to see their team’s first Big Ten win and shutout. Those who come out this weekend get a chance to see if the Nittany Lions can turn that into a winning streak. Tom Anastos wasn’t pleased with the way Michigan State played Michigan earlier this season and I can’t imagine that he was pleased with its two ties against Ohio State last weekend. At this point in the season, playing a last-place team, this is a must sweep for the Spartans.

Paula: I must respectfully disagree with my partner-in-writing. I don’t see this as must-sweep for either team, as Penn State is likely to finish last in the standings and Michigan State may remain where it is as well. I don’t think that Anastos was disappointed in his team’s play against Ohio State, either; the Buckeyes are a far better team than most people give them credit for, and the Spartans were pleased to keep OSU’s top scorers from finding the net in Saturday’s game, without question. I do think that the Nittany Lions have a chance to put together back-to-back wins if they play a savvy game, and it is dangerous to underestimate either of these teams. Much depends on how disciplined and consistently the Nittany Lions play, because few teams play as consistently as the Spartans. These teams met in East Lansing Jan. 17-18, with the Spartans sweeping, 3-0 and 3-2. Friday’s game is the early game on the Big Ten Network’s Frozen Friday, with a 6:30 p.m. start time; Saturday’s game is carried by ESPNews and is even earlier, with a 3:30 p.m. face off.

Drew’s pick: Penn State 4-2, Michigan State 3-1.
Paula’s picks: Michigan State 3-2, 3-2.

Wisconsin at Ohio State

Drew: The Badgers are coming off of a sweep of the No. 1 team in the land. Ohio State is coming off of two pretty entertaining ties and shootout wins. Ohio State has shown it can play the top three in the Big Ten closely, but its only win was the Saturday night game at Wisconsin. I expect the games this weekend to be about the same as the ones played at Kohl Center in January. It should be two closely-contested games. Maybe one will end in a tie.

Paula: The Badgers know they are just four points out of first place and so these road games are big for Wisconsin. The key here, though, is that they are road games; the Badgers are 1-6-1 on the road this season and the Buckeyes are 12-3-1 at home. I think this series will be very close. Friday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. and is not televised; Saturday’s game starts at 8:00 p.m. and is carried by NBC Sports.

Drew’s picks: I want to pick OSU to steal one, but I’m going to go Wisconsin 3-2, 4-2.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 2-1, Wisconsin 3-2.