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Beats' picks: Can Duke football get back on track against Virginia?

Duke has lost five consecutive games against Virginia, including a lopsided 48-14 defeat last season.
Duke has lost five consecutive games against Virginia, including a lopsided 48-14 defeat last season.

Prior to each Duke football game, beat writers Evan Kolin, Shane Smith, Jake Piazza, Max Rego and Cam Polo will make their predictions for the contest, and we’ll track their records throughout the season. Here are their takes on the Blue Devils’ trip to Virginia Saturday, which has the Cavaliers as a 4.5-point favorite.

Evan Kolin: Duke 27-20

The Blue Devils haven't started 0-3 in ACC play since 2016, and I don't expect that to change this season. While the loss of cornerbacks Mark Gilbert and Josh Blackwell will hurt, expect Duke's pass rush to feast on an inexperienced Virginia offensive unit. On the other side of the field, I fully trust that David Cutcliffe and Chase Brice have made the necessary adjustments throughout practice this week to move on from last Saturday's debacle. This offense had high expectations entering this year for a reason—don't give up on it after one bad showing.

Shane Smith: Virginia 27-16

Putting Duke’s abysmal offensive performance a week ago aside, the Blue Devils have repeatedly struggled against Virginia and its bruising play in the trenches. The Cavaliers are nowhere near the top-25 contender that won the Coastal last year, but a depleted Duke secondary and a third straight week of facing a team in its season-opener will mean another sloppy loss for the Blue Devils. Look for a strong defensive showing from Cutcliffe’s squad, but not enough offensive firepower to stay in the game.

Jake Piazza: Virginia 34-20

I haven’t picked Duke to win this season, and that’s not going to change this week. Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong is no generational talent, but his running capability is going to suppress the Blue Devils' pass rush and lead to big Cavalier plays. Duke's depleted secondary is going to hurt too much, although I expect the Blue Devils to show some offensive success this week.

Max Rego: Duke 24-17

While Duke's injuries in the secondary will hurt, the absences of Gilbert and Blackwell will be offset by Armstrong not making a single start at quarterback to this point. The Cavaliers were mediocre last year in terms of forcing turnovers, so a well-executed offensive game plan will lead to the Blue Devils getting in the win column.

Cam Polo: Virginia 30-17

The Blue Devils didn’t put up a good showing last week in a very winnable game, and I don’t expect them to be able to right the ship against a tough Cavalier squad. Duke has lost its last five matchups with the Hoos, including a blowout defeat last season. Given a couple key injuries on the defensive side and Brice’s struggle to fit in on the offensive end, this matchup might result in a tough ride home for the Blue Devils.

Overall results:

Evan Kolin: 1-1

Shane Smith: 1-1

Jake Piazza: 2-0

Max Rego: 1-1

Cam Polo: 1-1

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