Beats' picks: Will Duke football pick up a win on the road against Northwestern?

Against Northwestern, Duke has a chance to reach 2-0.
Against Northwestern, Duke has a chance to reach 2-0.

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. In their first road game of the season, the Blue Devils travel to Northwestern at 12 p.m. Saturday.

Jonathan Levitan: Northwestern 23-19

The Blue Devils rolled in head coach Mike Elko's debut a week ago, and now face what is certain to be a more even, disciplined team against Northwestern. In a way, these teams are in similar positions heading into Saturday's matchup—both teams, coming off of disappointing 2021 campaigns, earned exciting wins and showcased a pair of improved offensive arsenals to reach 1-0. For Duke to make it 2-0, that young offense will be put to the test against a stronger defense. The Blue Devils will keep it close, but without the benefit of a positive turnover margin and the possibility of some red zone struggles, will head back to Durham 1-1. 

Micah Hurewitz: Northwestern 27-17

Duke’s fantastic start to the season may be coming to an end Saturday up in Evanston, Ill. The Big Ten program has a grit-and-grind dimension developed in part by excellent coaching by head coach Pat Fitzgerald—a dimension yet to be fleshed out by the Blue Devils and Elko. There is a path there, but Duke’s gameplay will really be put to the test. The veteran experience of junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski, redshirt junior running back Evan Hull and a solid defensive corps will be right in the Blue Devils’ way.

Sasha Richie: Northwestern 34-27

Oddsmakers have deemed Duke an underdog against Northwestern, and I’m inclined to agree. The Wildcats were on their game as they upset Nebraska 31-28 in their season opener way off in Ireland, with Hilinski commanding them to 528 yards of total offense. Northwestern also has the benefit of both an extra week of rest and a little more experience. I don’t doubt we'll continue to see the emergence of Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, as well as the rest of the team, but I think the Wildcats will ultimately get the edge.

Andrew Long: Duke 31-28

Duke comes into this game fresh off of dismantling Temple and will feel confident in its chances—as do I—about improving to 2-0 against Northwestern. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the Wildcats showed incredible resolve to come from 28-17 down to beat Nebraska in their opening game, and will certainly not push over as easily as the Owls did. It’s too early in the season to call this Duke team revitalized, but it has a bit of sparkle around it right now; Leonard is firing at quarterback and the secondary looked strong, and if both hold true again, the Blue Devils should fancy their odds. It’ll be a close one, to be sure, but a close one Duke should just edge.

Rachael Kaplan: Northwestern 37-30

While Duke's victory last week was convincing, Northwestern poses a much different challenge. Simply put, it is a better team than Temple. The Wildcats' offense put up more than 500 yards against Nebraska, and that attack was balanced between the air and ground. The Duke defense will have its work cut out for it, and I don’t think the unit is there yet. On the other side of the ball, Leonard is still getting his feet under him. The Northwestern defense is by no means bulletproof, but it picked off Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson twice en route to its comeback win. This is Duke’s first real challenge—of many—this season, and I don’t think the squad is ready just yet. 

Franck Djidjeu: Northwestern 28-20

A nonconference rematch from 2021, I think this will be a different story for the Blue Devils the second time around. Previously, it was Duke’s glory game amid an impressive three-game home winning streak. Now, the Blue Devils hit the road against a hungry Northwestern team with a chip on its shoulder after an insane 2020-to-2021 drop-off. Now, running back Cam Porter and Hill create an imposing backfield tandem. They already started the season off with a promising comeback conference win as underdogs. Duke, on the other hand, comes off a victory against one of the worst Group of Five teams. This will be the Blue Devils' first real test and a much harder version than the one they barely passed last year. I think this is where Duke’s holes and need to adjust to a new system will start to show.

Season records:

Levitan: 1-0

Hurewitz: 1-0

Richie: 1-0

Long: 1-0

Kaplan: 1-0

Djidjeu: 1-0

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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