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Beats' picks: Can Duke football upset Northwestern in its first Power Five game of the year?

Duke faces it’s toughest opponent of the season so far in Northwestern.
Duke faces it’s toughest opponent of the season so far in Northwestern.

Every football game, our beat writers Cam Polo, Jake Piazza, Max Rego, Alex Jackson, Micah Hurewitz and Jonathan Levitan will be here to give you their picks for Duke's upcoming matchup, and we'll keep track of their prediction records every week. Northwestern comes to Durham as three-point favorites Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff at Wallace Wade Stadium against the Blue Devils.

Jake Piazza: Northwestern 31-17

The Duke offense has played well this season, but it’s not going to enjoy his introduction to The Northwestern defense. Safety Brandon Joseph and linebacker Chris Bergin are the two best defensive players Duke has come across and both are going to make that obvious Saturday. The Wildcats will manage to put up some points via running back Evan Hull and the ground game and head back to Illinois with win in hand. 

Max Rego: Northwestern 23-16

Neither team wants to start 1-2, so I’m expecting a physical game without a ton of separation during the first three quarters. But down the stretch, I’m expecting Northwestern to close it out. Wildcat signal caller Hunter Johnson threw for 283 yards against Michigan State on opening weekend, while tailback Evan Hull is averaging 106.5 yards per contest, so Northwestern presents a relatively balanced offensive attack. Add that to the fact that the Wildcats ranked eighth in red zone defense last season and will likely load the box to stop Durant, and I get the sense that Duke falls short in this one. 

Alex Jackson: Northwestern 27-13

As much as Duke fans would love to see the Blue Devils pull off an upset here, I just don’t see it happening. Northwestern boasts a great defense and is a large step up in competition from Duke’s earlier opponents. The Blue Devil offense looked great despite a stymied run game in its last matchup, but I just don’t see the Wildcats letting Holmberg get away with any mistakes. The pressure is going to be on and, I predict Duke will fall.

Micah Hurewitz: Northwestern 24-13

Northwestern comes in with a surprise out of the backfield in Evan Hull, a quarterback who has shown promise—although Johnson has struggled—and a strong defense that brought the Wildcats into the top 10 of the CFP poll for a time last year. They’ll give Holmberg some trouble, control the game early and keep the scoring low. Northwestern only managed 24 points against FCS-opponent Indiana State, but the defense will be enough to send Duke down to 1-2. 

Jonathan Levitan: Northwestern 27-17

Northwestern hasn’t had the cleanest start to the 2021 season, but last season’s Big Ten runner-up represents an enormous step up in competition for the Blue Devils. The Wildcats are tough and well-coached, and although their offense won’t put up enough fireworks to make this a laugher, Duke’s early-game woes will persist and be too much to overcome. In the end, Duke fights hard, but the better team wins with relative ease.

Cam Polo: Northwestern 30-20

While the Blue Devil offense made great strides last week by proving it could go to options other than the one-man-Durant show, the defense will prove to be too big of a hole in Cutcliffe’s gameplan to topple a team that contended for the Big Ten title next year. Expect a close first half with Northwestern pulling away in the fourth quarter, leaving the Blue Devil faithful walking back to campus without a win come Saturday evening.

Piazza:1-1

Rego: 1-1

Jackson: 1-1

Hurewitz: 1-1

Levitan: 1-1

Polo: 1-1


Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.


Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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