After Notre Dame tightened up the B1G standings with a sweep of Minnesota last week, it’s starting to feel like the conference could open up a little — especially since the Golden Gophers play a nonconference set against Arizona State this week. It’s a full slate of action for the league, but first let’s see how Drew Claussen and I are doing with the picks.
Drew: 5-3-0 (.625)
Paula: 4-4-0 (.500)
Drew: 34-22-2 (.603)
Paula: 29-27-2 (.517)
Just seven points separate second-place Wisconsin from last-place Michigan State and everyone has a chance to gain some ground on Minnesota this weekend. The action is Thursday through Sunday and all times listed here are local.
No. 8 Michigan at No. 16 Notre Dame
6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Both the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish enter the weekend 3-1-0 in their last four games, each trying to follow a Big Ten sweep with another standings-climbing weekend. Michigan outscored Ohio State 9-2 at home last weekend while Notre Dame took a pair of one-goal games from then-No. 1 Minnesota on the road. The first game in this set is the 150th meeting between the programs, a series that dates back to 1923. The Irish have already taken two games from the Wolverines this season, a pair of one-goal road games in late November. There is one point between these teams in the Big Ten standings. Drew likes the Wolverines to sweep on the road and for good reason: Michigan has a winning record both home and away, and the Irish are 3-6-1 at home. I should listen to him.
Drew: Michigan 4-2, 3-2
Paula: Notre Dame 3-2, Michigan 5-2
Ohio State at Michigan State
4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
With 13 points, the Buckeyes are a point ahead of the Spartans in the B1G standings — and both teams are a sweep and some luck away from third place, because that’s how tight things are right now. (Yes, I know that Ohio State is within striking distance of second place. I’m rolling here.) Each team lost a pair of games last weekend, the Buckeyes on the lopsided end of things against Michigan and the Spartans dropping two close games to Penn State. Ohio State has an abysmal 1-5-0 road record and the teams split a pair of games in Columbus earlier this season. Drew always gives the Buckeyes the benefit of the doubt, but I think the Spartans make the most of this opportunity.
Drew: Ohio State 3-2, Michigan State 3-2
Paula: Michigan State 3-2, 3-2
No. 12 Wisconsin at Penn State
6:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Fresh off a sweep of Arizona State, the Badgers are 4-2-0 in their last six games as they travel to Penn State. In those four wins, Wisconsin outscored opponents 15-5 — so when the Badgers click, they really click. The Nittany Lions are likewise 4-2-0 in their last six, riding a little three-game win streak into this series after having swept Michigan State at home last weekend. Wisconsin beat Penn State 6-3 and 7-3 at home in November. This series could be wild or mild and I don’t think there will be any in-between. Even though the Badgers are good on the road, Nittany Lions are 5-1-0 at home. I’m with Drew on this one.
Drew: Wisconsin 5-3, Penn State 4-3
Paula: Wisconsin 5-2, Penn State 3-2
Arizona State at No. 4 Minnesota
7:00 p.m. Thursday, 4:00 p.m. Friday
After being swept at home by Notre Dame last weekend, how do you think the Golden Gophers will respond? Well, Drew and I are both thinking that it won’t end well for Arizona State. The Sun Devils were outscored 9-2 in two losses to Wisconsin last weekend. When these teams met Jan. 3-4, Minnesota won 4-1 and 6-4.
Drew: Minnesota 4-2, 3-2
Paula: Minnesota 4-2, 4-2
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You can connect with Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter. We sometimes talk hockey.