Beats' picks: Will Duke football keep undefeated season alive against North Carolina A&T?

Duke faces North Carolina A&T for the third time in four years Saturday.
Duke faces North Carolina A&T for the third time in four years Saturday.

Before every game this season, our football beat writers predict whether the Blue Devils will pick up a win in their weekly matchup and keep track of their records throughout the year. After winning its first two games, Duke returns home Saturday for a 6 p.m. matchup against North Carolina A&T.

Jonathan Levitan: Duke 41-16

Two games and two wins in, these Blue Devils—who topped 30 points on both occasions—look improved and exciting. But even with all that offense, what may have been most impressive about Duke's road win against Northwestern was its secondary play. The Blue Devils, looking to build upon their season-opening shutout against Temple, withstood 60 pass attempts from gunslinging Wildcat quarterback Ryan Hilinski, recorded an astonishing 14 pass breakups and sealed the win with timely forced turnovers by Brandon Johnson and Jaylen Stinson. The Blue Devil attack should have few issues Saturday—a less capable Duke team registered 45 points against the Aggies in 2021—but the defense will make this one a blowout.

Micah Hurewitz: Duke 45-10

History repeats itself. In the case of Duke games against Saturday’s foe from Greensboro, N.C., that could not be more true. The Blue Devils dispatched the Aggies 45-13 in 2019 and 45-17 in 2021, and Duke’s offense this season has looked as high-powered as ever (notice a trend?). Forty-five points is certainly a daunting task, but North Carolina A&T looked unsteady against the Bison of FCS power North Dakota State. Sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard will be back with the home crowd behind him after a rough second half at Northwestern, and the secondary somehow looks sharper than it did in its shutout against Temple. Head coach Mike Elko’s squad will come running and gunning out of the tunnel in front of a packed house to the tune of another blowout win.

Sasha Richie: Duke 48-7

The Blue Devils were a disaster last season, and that revealed itself early in 2021. Losing to Charlotte in the season opener was the first indication, and then a long slog through the first half of their game against North Carolina A&T—they went down 7-0 in the first quarter—was the next. Even with the state of the team what it was, Duke eventually vanquished the Aggies. Since then, the Blue Devils have apparently turned themselves around almost completely if the first two wins are any indication, while the Aggies have scored a combined 16 points and given up 71 in losses to North Dakota State and N.C. Central. All this being said, it will not be easy—the Aggies bring their best to Wallace Wade every year, especially because their fans love to travel—but regardless, Duke should have no problem taking its third-straight win.

Andrew Long: Duke 42-14

While last weekend’s shootout against Northwestern just ended in the Blue Devils’ favor, Saturday’s clash against the Aggies should be much more comfortable. North Carolina A&T is no pushover, but an Aggie secondary that has surrendered 71 points in two games this season will likely struggle against Elko’s born-again offense in a game with a history of Duke domination. Leonard has been a revelation at quarterback and the departure of star rusher Mataeo Durant has not slowed the ground game thus far, so it would be somewhat surprising if the Blue Devils falter in front of a packed house against a seemingly weaker opponent than in their whisker win in Illinois. Expect Duke to stay unbeaten.

Rachael Kaplan: Duke 34-10

I am by no means on the “Duke is back” train. We saw something far too similar last year after its 3-1 nonconference start. It may be easy to get sucked into the hype of Duke’s 2-0 start, but the second quarter against Northwestern was more telling than the quick start. When the team proves it can maintain a quick pace and win ACC games I might change my tune, but until then I will stay skeptical. However, North Carolina A&T will not be much of a challenge. The Aggies gave up 71 points over their first two games, and the Blue Devils' offense has been on a roll. Stinson is coming off of ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors and the defense is riding the high of last week’s win. In a sold-out Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke will get it done easily. 

Franck Djidjeu: Duke 42-0

Based on the first two meetings of this interstate matchup, it seems like every time North Carolina A&T lines up against Duke it turns out to be one of the Blue Devils' most emphatic wins of the season. I do not expect that pattern to change Saturday and, if anything, Duke's average margin of victory of 30 from the previous two meetings will only increase. Not only are the Aggies in a lesser conference, but they have already started the season on a down note with just two touchdowns scored and 71 points given up in their first two games. Duke has already executed a shutout and dominated Northwestern defensively in the early portions of the game. The only questions are how much Duke will be able to run up the score and whether or not it can keep its foot on the gas, as the Blue Devils have yet to maintain their first-half excellence through a full game. Either way, expect another home blowout.

Season records:

Levitan: 1-1

Hurewitz: 1-1

Richie: 1-1

Long: 2-0

Kaplan: 1-1

Djidjeu: 1-1

Sasha Richie profile
Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Andrew Long profile
Andrew Long | Sports Editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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