Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 16-17

Everyone plays this weekend and it’s all about the Big Ten, but first our numbers.

Last week
Drew Claussen: 2-3-1 (.188)
Paula Weston: 5-0-1 (.438)

Drew: 49-45-6 (.520)
Paula: 40-53-7 (.435)

I should have played the lottery.

This week

While everyone plays, not everyone plays two games. Michigan travels to Columbus for a single game against Ohio State Friday night.

Michigan at Ohio State

Drew: Michigan is rolling right now and I think that confidence will improve its road record over the next couple weeks. The Wolverines smoked the Buckeyes earlier this season, and even though I think home ice for Ohio State will help make this a closer game, I can’t pick against Michigan right now.

Paula: This is a game that makes me wish I still lived a short drive from the Schott — at least for a night — because it’s a game that draws in Value City Arena and there is real passion on the ice. The Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 8-3 when they met in Yost (Dec. 5), and — like Drew — I don’t expect the game to be quite so lopsided this time around. Michigan leads OSU 76-33-12 all-time, including 34-16-5 in Columbus, and the Wolverines are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games versus the Buckeyes. Last weekend, Ohio State split with Penn State while Michigan swept Minnesota. This game begins at 7:00 p.m. Friday and is televised by both Fox Sports Detroit plus and SportsTime Ohio.

Drew’s pick: Michigan 3-1.
Paula’s pick: Michigan 4-1.

Michigan State at Penn State

Drew: Unlike Minnesota, Penn State rebounded from a disappointing overtime loss last Friday evening and salvaged the series split against Ohio State. The Nittany Lions have cooled down since their sweep of Wisconsin, but not starting 2015 off 0-2 was huge for them. I do believe Penn State is the better team in this series and its 6-1-1 home record has me thinking sweep, but Michigan State hasn’t been an easy team to sweep this season. On the other hand, the Spartans haven’t been able to sweep an opponent either, so a split is a pretty logical choice.

Paula: It is hard to argue with that logic. Both the Nittany Lions and the Spartans are much improved this season. Each plays hard — although I’d argue that Michigan State plays a bit more consistently, game to game and within games, in spite of each team’s respective record. Last weekend, the Spartans beat the U.S. Under-18 Team 4-1 (Jan. 9), but the Spartans haven’t played a game that counted since the title contest of the GLI Dec. 29, a tough 2-1 loss to Michigan. The Spartans were 3-0-1 against the Nittany Lions in 2013-2014; in Pegula Arena last season, the teams skated to a 2-2 tie (Feb. 14) followed by a 2-1 Michigan State win the next day. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. and is not televised. Saturday’s contest starts at 5:00 p.m. and is carried by ESPNU.

Drew’s picks: Penn State 5-2, Michigan State 3-2.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 3-2, Michigan State 3-2.

Wisconsin at Minnesota

Drew: According to Minnesota’s players the rivalry with Wisconsin is about even, maybe slightly below, the rivalry with North Dakota. Although I personally would put a couple of the in-state schools above Wisconsin, the Gophers and Badgers usually play very closely contested games against each other and the two teams are without a doubt each other’s biggest conference rivals. The Badgers have struggled all season and the Gophers have struggled since their series with Minnesota-Duluth in mid-November. Wisconsin stole a tie from Boston University last weekend and Joel Rumpel has the ability to steal a game or two from Minnesota this weekend. If Rumpel doesn’t have a strong series, the Gophers have the firepower to win, but I’m more interested to see how their defense and goaltender Adam Wilcox rebound from their less-than-stellar stretch they’ve had. A Wisconsin sweep, or maybe even a split, would send Minnesota’s fan base into total meltdown mode but as much as I love a good meltdown, I don’t see that happening.

Paula: I don’t think either of these teams is as bad as either’s fan base is lamenting right now. Having said that, I think there is a huge gulf between the teams; while each may be struggling, Minnesota’s issues are localized and temporary at this point, while Wisconsin’s are growing pains that will take a season to cure. It’s true that the Badgers stole a tie from the Terriers last weekend — but, boy, did they try to lose that game, surrendering two empty-net goals in the final two minutes of regulation to negate a 3-1 lead. And it’s true that the Gophers were swept by the Wolverines, but Minnesota scored eight goals in the two losses. The last time the teams met, the Badgers swept the Gophers (Feb. 6-7, 2014) in two 2-1 games in Madison. Minnesota swept Wisconsin earlier in the season (Nov. 29-30, 2013), 4-1 and 4-3, in Minneapolis. According to Minnesota’s game notes, the Golden Gophers lead this all-time series 159-89-21 and are 93-27-8 versus the Badgers in Minnesota. Friday’s game begins at 8:00 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s rematch starts at 5:00 p.m. and is carried by Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin and Fox Sports 2.

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