Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 8-9

When Drew Claussen sent me his picks for the blog this week, he said something about redeeming himself after his holiday tournament picks performance. We’ve all been there. And, seriously, who knew that Ohio State — the only unranked team in the Florida College Classic — would prevail? I didn’t have them winning a single game in Estero and Drew did. In truth, any time either of us comes out of a week above .500, I think we’re doing pretty good.

Holiday tournaments
Drew: 6-4-0 (.600)
Paula: 6-4-0 (.600)

Drew: 50-31-13 (.601)
Paula: 53-28-13 (.633)

Everyone plays this week and it’s all B1G action. All games are Friday-Saturday. Interesting note: each series repeats the series that each team played at the end of the 2014-15 regular season.

Michigan vs. Michigan State

Drew: When two intrastate rivals play each other, each team’s record tends to go out the window. That being said, its still hard to have much confidence in Michigan State this weekend. The Spartans have a new four-game losing streak that started after a victory against Wisconsin ended a different four-game losing streak. All-in-all, the Spartans have only won once in their past 12 games. Michigan put together an impressive performances against Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech at the Great Lakes Invitational. In the four games after their defensive breakdown of a weekend against Wisconsin, the Wolverines are averaging 2.50 goals against per game. Michigan’s offense is good enough where if it can only give up two or three goals per game, it has a very good chance of winning.

Paula: This rivalry is so contentious that the two schools can’t even agree on their records against each other. According to Michigan, the Wolverines are 152-130-19 all-time against the Spartans; according to Michigan State, Michigan leads the series 156-130-19. Michigan was 4-2-0 against Michigan State in 2014-15, including the Wolverines’ 4-1 win over the Spartans in the Big Ten tournament in Joe Louis Arena March 20, 2015. I think the Spartans will play better in this series than they did in their 3-0 home loss to Wisconsin Dec. 12. For the record, I don’t think they looked bad in the GLI at all, but the Spartans couldn’t close out those two games and should the Spartans take a lead against the Wolverines, I don’t think Michigan State will be able to maintain it. A telling series for each team. Friday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m. in Munn Ice Arena and is carried by ESPNews; Saturday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. in Yost Ice Arena and is televised by the Big Ten Network.

Drew’s picks: Michigan 4-3, 6-2.
Paula’s picks: Michigan 3-2, 5-2.

Minnesota at Penn State

Drew: Penn State’s long unbeaten streak came to an end over the holidays with a loss to Robert Morris, but the Nittany Lions were able to rebound with a nice 5-1 win over Clarkson. The Gophers held off UConn on Friday and dropped an overtime game against Harvard to finish second in the Mariucci Classic. A home sweep this weekend would do wonders for Penn State’s title campaign, but I don’t see that happening.

Paula: I see this weekend’s series as a barometer for each team. Each team is keen for six points, and each team is capable of taking six points — but, like Drew, I see a split. The Golden Gophers are 7-1-0 all-time versus the Nittany Lions; the last meetings were 5-0 and 6-2 home wins for Minnesota. The BTN will carry Friday’s game, which begins at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday’s game starts at 3:00 p.m. and is not televised.

Drew’s picks: Minnesota 3-2, Penn State 5-3.
Paula’s picks: Penn State 4-2, Minnesota 3-2.

Ohio State at Wisconsin

Drew: Will the real Ohio State please stand up? Which team are we going to see in the second half, the one that couldn’t buy a win at the beginning of the season or the one that just downed two ranked teams in consecutive nights? I’m going with the latter. The Buckeyes showed some promise when they got swept at Minnesota and played two complete games against Boston College and Cornell. At least one of the games this weekend will be close, but I’m predicting that Ohio State leaves Madison with a sweep.

Paula: I, too, think the Buckeyes capable of a sweep in Madison — but I don’t think such an outcome will be easy given the tenacity of the Badgers, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Wisconsin pick up points. Wisconsin leads this all-time series 14-5-1 with a 5-2-1 edge in Madison; at the end of last season, Ohio State took four of six points with a 2-2 tie and shootout extra point plus a 2-0 win. Both games start at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday’s game is televised by The Wisconsin Channel.

Drew’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, 4-1.
Paula’s picks: Ohio State 3-2, 2-1.