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Beats' picks: Will Duke advance to 5-0 for the first time since 1994?

<p>The Blue Devils have started the season with four straight wins in back-to-back seasons.</p>

The Blue Devils have started the season with four straight wins in back-to-back seasons.

Prior to each Duke football game, The Chronicle’s Ben Feder, Derek Saul, Michael Model, Mitchell Gladstone and Winston Lindqwister make their predictions for the contest and we’ll track their records throughout the season. Here are their takes on the Blue Devils’ matchup with Virginia Tech Saturday:

Note: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. Saturday following the announcement of Daniel Jones as Duke's starting quarterback

Game predictions:

Ben Feder: Duke 23-13

With Virginia Tech starting a backup under center and Daniel Jones reentering the mix after a two game absence, the game will be decided at the line of scrimmage. Can Duke force quarterback Ryan Willis into third-and-long situations? The Blue Devil front six has been nothing short of impressive to start the year, and with Virginia Tech having dismissing its leading pass rusher this week, Duke will overwhelm in the trenches to cement its status as a contender in the ACC Coastal division.

Derek Saul: Duke 20-17

Nothing but optimism surrounds the Blue Devils right now, and for good reason—Duke is off to its second consecutive 4-0 start, and appeared in the AP poll for the first time in nearly three years. Virginia Tech is trending in the opposite direction, falling last week to lowly Old Dominion and losing its starting quarterback to injury. And yet, I have a feeling that the Blue Devils could have some trouble this week. The Hokie defense is easily the strongest that Duke has faced, and I believe the Blue Devils will struggle to generate much offense, resulting in a low-scoring, hard-fought contest.

Michael Model: Duke 17-14

The Blue Devils have been driven by their defense and I don’t expect that to change Saturday. Duke shutdown a very strong Baylor offense, stomped on Northwestern’s and Army’s as well. Despite the physicality Virginia Tech brings on offense, the Blue Devil defense will provide a tough test for Willis and Duke has had success against strong running backs in the past. I think the Blue Devils will etch out a win, but Duke will need to win the turnover battle and capitalize on opportunities in order to do so. 

Mitchell Gladstone: Duke 30-20

I’ve struggled with this pick. Nothing tell me that Willis has the chops to make a whole lot happen against the Blue Devil defense. Both teams have plus ground games and whatever home-field advantage Duke has will almost certainly be canceled out by the mass of Hokie faithful that descend on Durham. All that said, the Blue Devils haven’t gotten a big home win since 2013—and with Jones back, they'll have all the momentum to cash in for a massive victory.

Winston Lindqwister: Duke 17-10

A week ago, I would’ve chalked this up as the first loss for the Blue Devils. However, without quarterback Josh Jackson and defensive end Trevon Hill, the Hokies will be severely weakened on both sides of the ball. Virginia Tech will far and away be the toughest defense Duke has faced thus far, and with Jones back in the mix after sitting out two games, there's no telling if the Blue Devils will show the same offensive efficiency they demonstrated against Army. However, with Willis under center for the Hokies, I predict DUke's elite defensive unit will come through yet again.

Overall results:

Ben Feder: 2-2

Derek Saul: 4-0

Michael Model: 4-0

Mitchell Gladstone: 4-0

Winston Lindqwister: 3-1


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