Pickin’ the Big Ten: Feb. 3-4

It’s all conference play for the six teams in the Big Ten this week. As always, though, we look at how Drew Claussen and I are doing with our picks.

Last week

Drew: 2-3-0 (.400)
Paula: 1-4-0 (.200)


Drew: 60-38-13 (.599)
Paula: 60-38-13 (.599)

The three B1G series this week are all single-site, all Friday-Saturday, and five of the six games are televised.

No. 11 Ohio State at Michigan

Drew: The Buckeyes were brought back to Earth by Wisconsin last weekend, almost the same way Ohio State humbled Penn State the weekend before. Michigan hasn’t been swept at home this season, so I think this one will produce a split. Of course, Ohio State playing means that a tie is also a probability.

Paula: I don’t remember the last time these two teams played when Ohio State was ranked and Michigan wasn’t. Fans unfamiliar with the Big Ten may not realize the intensity of this rivalry; these teams hate each other, in a good, old-fashioned, sporting way. This series is as old as I am (we both go back to 1964) and Michigan leads Ohio State all-time 79-36-13, including a 40-15-7 advantage in Ann Arbor. Ohio State went 2-1-1-1 against Michigan last season. The Wolverines last played Jan. 20-21, a loss and tie to Michigan State. Friday’s game in Yost Ice Arena begins at 8:05 p.m. and is carried by the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s game at 7:35 p.m. is the single B1G game this weekend that isn’t televised.

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

No. 6 Penn State at No. 7 Minnesota

Drew: Penn State is on its first losing streak of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Nittany Lions. Penn State will have to develop a road-warrior mentality if it plans on being in the mix for the Big Ten title down the stretch. Including this weekend’s series at Minnesota, the Nittany Lions have to play two game at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan. Their only two home series left are against the Gophers and Badgers.

I expect this to be a high-scoring series. Penn State likes to fire a lot of shots on net and Eric Schierhorn has been shaky in the past when he’s been tested with more than 30 shots in a game. Penn State is almost a shoe-in to get more than 30. The Gophers, however, have proved this season that they have an offense that’s capable of getting into a track meet with anyone. I’m going to pick a Minnesota sweep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Penn State takes a game.

Paula: I think it’s hard to pick against the Gophers this weekend because they are the most consistent, unified team right now in the Big Ten. I also have a hard time seeing Penn State lose three in a row — unless what we’re seeing is a team that peaked earlier than it should have. Last weekend, Minnesota lost a close game to Minnesota-Duluth before handling easily Bemidji State, while Penn State lost to a Princeton team it should have beaten. In that loss, the Nittany Lions gave up three third-period goals to lose 5-4, just as they did Jan. 21 in their 6-3 loss to Ohio State. Minnesota leads this all-time series 9-3-0 and the teams were 2-2-0 last season, splitting in each building. The Nittany Lions are 1-5-0 in Mariucci Arena. Games Friday and Saturday night begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday’s game is on Fox Sports North Plus, while the Big Ten Network has Saturday’s.

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

No. 18 Wisconsin at Michigan State

Drew: The Badgers picked up their first sweep of the season about a month ago when they defeated the Spartans twice at Kohl Center. Wisconsin is 5-1-0 in 2017 and climbed into the national rankings for the first time since early in the 2014-15 season. Michigan State ended a nine-game losing streak last time out when the Spartans defeated Michigan and then tied the Wolverines the next night. Wisconsin still has some liabilities on the defensive side, but it’s hard to pick against the Badgers considering their recent results.

Paula: Tied for first place with Minnesota, it’s the first time this season — the first time in years — that the Badgers have had to play with targets on their collective backs. In fact, the last time Wisconsin was in first place was back in the old WCHA days, when the Badgers were tied for first with six other WCHA teams in October 2011. It will be interesting to see how they respond. I am really impressed with this Wisconsin team and with how hard it plays; that having been said, I know that Michigan State plays tenacious hockey as well. The Spartans had a bye week last weekend and that may play into the series. The Spartans are 53-49-3 against the Badgers all-time, including a 3-1-0 record against UW last season. Games begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and are carried by Fox Sports Wisconsin Plus.

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

The Twitters

You can join both Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter this weekend. I’ll be in East Lansing for Wisconsin-Michigan State Friday, and Drew will be covering Saturday’s Michigan-Minnesota game.