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’ rivalry matchup with North Carolina, which pits the Tar Heels as a 12-point favorite.
Evan Kolin: North Carolina 34-20
While on paper it may seem as if Duke's offense is on a hot streak, its two impressive performances have come against perhaps the team's two weakest opponents all year. With the type of offensive personnel North Carolina has, it's almost a guarantee the Tar Heels put up 30-plus points. The question will be if the Blue Devil offense can keep up with that number, and from what I've watched this season I just don't see it happening.
Shane Smith: North Carolina: 38-24
If it weren’t for a mind-boggling jump pass turned interception last year in Chapel Hill, the Blue Devils would be winners of the last four against their arch-rivals. Now, we’ll get to see how the two programs fare against each other another year into North Carolina’s revival under Mack Brown. Unfortunately for Duke, the Tar Heels have more than enough firepower to turn this into a shootout perfect for their style of play. The Blue Devil defense can hold its own for the first half, but ultimately Duke will lose control to finish the game as the offense continues to struggle against Power 5 competition.
Jake Piazza: North Carolina 38-37
This game has all the markings of an upset victory, with the slumping Tar Heels taking on a confident Blue Devil squad. But I can’t pick against Sam Howell. The sophomore quarterback's numbers are lower than where they were a season ago, but last week seemed to be the clicking point for the North Carolina native. Duke’s going to keep it close all afternoon, with its pass rush and running back duos giving the Tar Heels all they can handle, but ultimately Howell is going to edge the visiting squad to victory.
Max Rego: North Carolina 35-24
The pressure is on the Tar Heels as the favorite. Howell has shown poise throughout his sophomore campaign, but Duke presents easily the toughest test from a pass rushing perspective that North Carolina has faced this year. While the Blue Devils will hang around thanks to Rumph and Dimukeje bringing the heat and a sturdy rushing attack, it won't be enough to pull off the upset as the Tar Heels win their second straight Battle for the Victory Bell.
Cam Polo: North Carolina 35-17
I’m usually the eternal optimist for the Blue Devils, but I just can’t give them this one. After a blowout against Charlotte, everything seems to be clicking, but now Duke has to face a Power 5 opponent. Howell will pick apart the Blue Devil secondary and the Tar Heels will pull away late, taking the Victory Bell with them.
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Evan Kolin: 4-3
Shane Smith: 4-3
Jake Piazza: 7-0
Max Rego: 4-3
Cam Polo: 5-2