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Beats' picks: Can Duke football escape Middle Tennessee with a victory?

<p>Duke will look to follow up a strong performance last week in its blowout win against North Carolina A&amp;T.</p>

Duke will look to follow up a strong performance last week in its blowout win against North Carolina A&T.

Prior to each Duke football game, The Chronicle’s Evan Kolin, Ramona Naseri, Derek Saul, Shane Smith and Dilan Trivedi 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 Middle Tennessee Saturday:

Evan Kolin: Duke 27-13

Middle Tennessee has had a strong start to its season, competing well with Michigan and blowing out Tennessee State. And I do believe the Blue Raiders will be able to hang around with Duke for much of the first half, especially on their home turf. But eventually, the Blue Devil offense will break through once again, and David Cutcliffe’s squad will enter ACC play with momentum on its side.

Ramona Naseri: Duke 24-21

This should be a pretty even matchup as Middle Tennessee and Duke hold many similarities in where their teams are at. Both programs are adjusting to the loss of elite quarterbacks, faced top-tier football programs in Week 1, and blew out FCS opponents last weekend. I see the Blue Raiders putting up a good fight in the first half, especially since quarterback Asher O’Hara has proven he’s well transitioned into his new starting position. However, the Blue Devils will respond late in the game and pull out another win. 

Derek Saul: Duke 24-20

I see this game as a toss-up. Both Duke and Middle Tennessee opened the season with a loss to a top-10 team before handling in-state FCS foes in the second week. I’m not sure we know much about either squad yet, but I’ll give the slight edge to the Blue Devils, as the Blue Raiders let an inferior Tennessee State team hang around well into the fourth quarter at home last Saturday.

Shane Smith: Duke 31-20

Similar to North Carolina A&T last week, the Blue Raiders are transitioning from a record breaking quarterback in Brent Stockstill. Their new signal caller O’Hara is a dual-threat who can give the Blue Devils problems, but Middle Tennessee struggled mightily rushing the ball against Michigan and I think Duke’s defensive front is just as capable as the Wolverines. Ultimately, the Blue Raiders will become too one-dimensional on offense and the Blue Devils will take their first road win of the year.

Dilan Trivedi: Duke 24-14

This game will be a lot closer than the Blue Devils will want it to be. The Blue Raiders played a top-10 team in Michigan at the start of the season, so will not be afraid of taking on another Power 5 team at home. If Duke’s defense can limit the big plays and keep the crowd out of the game while Quentin Harris builds on his career performance last week, the Blue Devils should be able to squeak out its first true road game heading into ACC play. 

Overall results:

Evan Kolin: 2-0

Ramona Naseri: 2-0

Derek Saul: 2-0

Shane Smith: 2-0

Dilan Trivedi: 2-0

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