Pickin’ the Big Ten: Jan. 3-4

Penn State captain Alex Limoges rides a three-game, four-goal streak into East Lansing this weekend. (photo: Mark Selders/Penn State Athletics).

Happy New Year! When Drew Claussen posted the last picks blog of December 2020, the Big Ten hadn’t yet published the schedule for the rest of the season. Now we know that the rest of the season starts Jan 3. First a look at how Drew and I are doing with picks so far. That I’m performing worse than usual this season isn’t even newsworthy anymore.

Dec. 17-20
Drew: 1-2-1 (.375)
Paula: 3-0-1 (.875)

This season
Drew: 23-13-2 (.632)
Paula: 18-18-2 (.500)

This week

Technically speaking, we’re not midway through the Big Ten schedule, but it does feel as though we’re starting the second half of the season. To kick off the new year, there are two Sunday-Monday series, one conference tilt and one featuring Arizona State. All times are local.

Penn State at Michigan State
3:00 p.m. Sunday and Monday

Two points separate the sixth-place Spartans from the seventh-place Nittany Lions as January begins. After beginning the season 0-5, Penn State carries a three-game win streak into this series, having beaten Michigan Dec. 3 and swept Arizona State the following weekend. In their last series in December, the Spartans defeated and tied Notre Dame in two overtime games. Penn State leads this all-time series 11-15-4, but the teams have split each of their last two season series, each time going .500 at home and away. I can’t imagine that this series will be any different, but Drew and I differ on who wins when.

Drew: Michigan State 3-2, Penn State 5-2
Paula: Penn State 3-2, Michigan State 4-2

Arizona State at No. 1 Minnesota
3:00 p.m. Sunday, 7:00 p.m. Monday

The Sun Devils went 2-3-1 in December, but all three of those losses were by a goal and two came in overtime. In their last series, the Sun Devils tied the Buckeyes before beating Ohio State in another one-goal game. Minnesota brings its perfect 8-0 record into January, having last swept Michigan on the road Dec. 8-9. Fun fact about the Gophers — they have yet to trail an opponent this season. Drew is predicting that they’ll trail at least once this weekend. I don’t know if the Sun Devils will or will not lead this weekend, but I’m not picking against the Golden Gophers.

Drew: Arizona State 4-3, Minnesota 4-2
Paula: Minnesota 3-1, 3-1

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Follow Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter for our hockey takes, for Drew’s homebrew recommendations and photos of his adorable daughter, and for my occasional urge to break into song (poorly) with ukulele.