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Beats' picks: Can Duke football stay hot against Pittsburgh?

<p>Deon Jackson will be turned to to ignite Duke's offense.</p>

Deon Jackson will be turned to to ignite Duke's offense.

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 Pittsburgh Saturday:

Evan Kolin: Duke 34-27

I originally had this game as Duke’s “worst loss” in my preseason predictions. With quarterback Kenny Pickett back, Pittsburgh’s offense will be better than it was last week against Delaware, but, after watching the Blue Devils beat up on Virginia Tech, it’s tough to bet against them against in a mid-tier ACC matchup at home. This one’s going to be a battle in the trenches, with Duke doing just enough to come out on top.

Ramona Naseri: Pittsburgh 45-38

Pittsburgh has consistently been the dominant team in this series and with the return of Pickett, I expect that the Panthers will add to their winning streak. I also see Pittsburgh’s defensive line winning the battle against Duke’s offensive line.

Derek Saul: Duke 37-34

Though the over/under for this game hovers a hair below 50 points, do you really expect a Duke-Pittsburgh matchup to not become a shootout? A fast-paced affair may not be to the Blue Devils' favor, but quarterback Quentin Harris has a whole crop of shiny weapons at his disposal. Deon Jackson and Jalon Calhoun will both crack 100 all-purpose yards and Duke will eke out the win in an exciting, fireworks-filled contest under the lights.

Shane Smith: Duke 45-35

Like Virginia Tech last week, the Panthers have given Duke fits over the last number of seasons, but I won’t make the same mistake twice. It’s unclear whether or not star Pickett will be as impactful for Pittsburgh, but it should be a high-scoring game regardless. Harris has been nothing but outstanding since the Alabama game and, facing his toughest test since that season opener, I expect him to deliver when the Blue Devils finally find themselves in a close game.

Dilan Trivedi: Duke 27-14 

The Duke offense is rolling under Harris and will not be slowed down at home. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is dealing with injuries and inconsistent play—competing with Penn State until the end and upsetting Central Florida, but also surviving a scare from Delaware and squeaking by Ohio. The Pittsburgh offense is too banged up and the Duke defense is too strong to lead to another shootout. Duke will take this one easily.

Overall results:

Evan Kolin: 4-0

Ramona Naseri: 4-0

Derek Saul: 4-0

Shane Smith: 3-1

Dilan Trivedi: 4-0

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