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Beats' picks: Can Duke football win its 4th straight matchup with North Carolina?

<p>Duke's defense will need to bounce back against the Tar Heels.</p>

Duke's defense will need to bounce back against the Tar Heels.

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 North Carolina Saturday:

Evan Kolin: Duke 31-28

Outside of the team’s opener against Alabama, I have yet to pick against Duke this season. While I really do want to show I have the capability of siding against the Blue Devils in a competitive matchup, Saturday will not be the day I do so. Head coach David Cutcliffe’s squad will storm into Chapel Hill with a vengeance following last week’s blowout loss to Virginia, claiming the Victory Bell for at least one more year.

Ramona Naseri: Duke 27-17

After last week’s embarrassing loss to Virginia, Duke will come back this week motivated to play harder against North Carolina. Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell poses a serious threat, but Duke’s defense is ready for the challenge.

Derek Saul: North Carolina 34-24

In the Blue Devils' losses to Virginia and Pittsburgh, Duke turned the ball over 11 times. While turnovers, especially fumbles, often come down to luck, Howell has proven to be more apt at protecting the ball than Duke quarterback Quentin Harris all fall. Assuming North Carolina can force multiple giveaways, I expect the Tar Heels to defend their home turf.

Shane Smith: Duke 34-31

Duke's losses to the Cavaliers and the Panthers have come against opponents that excel in getting to the quarterback, with Pittsburgh and Virginia each ranking top-five nationally in team sacks. North Carolina simply does not have that same pass rush and Quentin Harris should have enough time to pick apart the Tar Heels’ defense. It should be a great crowd on hand and North Carolina has certainly improved, but Duke should continue its streak in the series and keep the Victory Bell Duke blue.

Dilan Trivedi: Duke 31-27

The Blue Devils will look to bounce back against their rivals following last week’s ugly loss to Virginia. The Cavaliers boast a much stronger defense than the banged up Tar Heels, who are missing key pieces in the secondary and pass rush. As a result, I think Duke will be able to move the ball infinitely better than last week, though admittedly a low bar. 

Overall results:

Evan Kolin: 5-2

Ramona Naseri: 6-1

Derek Saul: 6-1

Shane Smith: 5-2

Dilan Trivedi: 5-2

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