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Beats' picks: Is Duke or North Carolina going to bring home the Victory Bell?

Senior running back Mataeo Durant will be a key deciding factor in Saturday's game against North Carolina.
Senior running back Mataeo Durant will be a key deciding factor in Saturday's game against North Carolina.

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. Duke goes down the road to Kenan Memorial stadium where it will be 20-point underdogs against North Carolina.

Jake Piazza: North Carolina 52-45

Look, I've never been more tempted to roll with an upset pick in my life, but North Carolina has too much talent for these Blue Devils to keep up. Quarterback Sam Howell is considered to be underachieving this year, and he still ranks near the top of the ACC in a handful of passing categories. In four weeks so far, Duke has impressed—on offense. But the Blue Devil secondary is not going to have fun chasing slot receiver Josh Downs all afternoon, and Howell has already proven he can get the ball to him whenever and wherever he wants to. North Carolina takes it in an offensive thriller. 

Max Rego: North Carolina 48-38

Since Mack Brown arrived in Chapel Hill, the gap between these two programs has widened, despite how this season has gone so far. The Tar Heels have reeled in blue chip talent on both lines, and Howell—when given time—is still the same guy that put on a tour de force of efficiency and touch against this Duke secondary last year. So while I’m expecting the revitalized Duke offense, specifically the Blue Devils’ conference best rushing attack going up against the fourth worst rush defense in the ACC, to keep up with the Tar Heels for the majority of the afternoon, North Carolina comes away with a couple big connections between Howell and top target Downs to ice it. 

Alex Jackson: Duke 42-40

I’m a stats major and I almost always put my faith in the analytics but this week I’m riding with my guy and my guts telling me Duke’s pulling off the upset. I’m the Blue Devil pessimist among the beats, but I actually believe Holmberg and the offense can out gun Howell and the Tar Heels. This will undoubtedly be a shootout between two subpar defenses but I think North Carolina will have a hard time slowing Duke’s up-tempo attack. Despite Holmberg's big game last week, I foresee Cutcliffe putting the ball back in the hands of Durant, who will go off for over 100 yards and a few scores.

Jonathan Levitan: North Carolina 38-30

I’m tempted to pick Duke, but I have to remind myself that this is, more or less, the situation I expected when I deemed this the Blue Devils’ preseason worst loss. Duke is flying high after a successful first month, and the Tar Heels are surely seeking to take out some of their frustrations against their rival at home. Holmberg’s emergence will keep this closer than I initially anticipated, but the Victory Bell stays in Chapel Hill another year.

Micah Hurewitz: North Carolina 45-34

Duke is coming off a three-game win streak, and North Carolina is 2-2 in the last four weeks. But one of these teams has Howell and Downs, and the other doesn’t. Holmberg, Bobo and Durant will all need to be at the top of their games and I just don’t know if they have it in the tank—let alone all the problems on the defense that the Tar Heels can expose early. This one could get close, and that’s why I have the Blue Devils covering the spread, but Carolina is winning this one.

Cam Polo: Duke 30-23

Sue me, please. This will more likely be wrong than right— but with Durant having the season he is, and Holmberg coming off a career game, I genuinely think that Duke has the potential to outduel North Carolina in this tobacco road matchup. 

Piazza: 2-2

Rego: 2-2

Jackson: 2-2

Levitan: 2-2

Hurewitz: 2-2

Polo: 2-2

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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