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. Saturday's matchup in Lawrence, Kan., has undefeated Duke as a significant underdog to undefeated Kansas.
Jonathan Levitan: Duke 34-30
Saturday’s matchup should provide a fitting conclusion to nonconference play for both of these surprising teams, but regardless of who comes out on top, Duke and Kansas are equally likely to encounter some tough truths at the hands of the other. The Blue Devils have not yet seen a passer quite like Jalon Daniels or an offense with a motor like these Jayhawks. The much-improved Jayhawks, on the other hand, field a secondary whose development is still a year behind schedule. This one has the makings of a shootout, but Duke—which fields the nation’s ninth-ranked turnover margin—has more playmakers on defense. That will make all the difference.
Micah Hurewitz: Kansas 38-35
What head coach Lance Leipold has done with the Jayhawks has been something to behold. Inheriting a bottomfeeder, he has worked with young players and transformed Kansas into a potential Big 12 threat. Daniels has been solid through the air and with his feet and figures to challenge Duke’s defense with a dual-threat unlike Temple’s D’Wan Mathis or Northwestern’s Ryan Hilinski. The storylines are all there: undefeated basketball schools, two teams striving to bounce back from a rough stretch of seasons and the final game of a nonconference schedule with the potential to send the victor into the top 25. Both Elko and Leipold are sure to learn a lot about their squads from this matchup, and it will be tight from start to finish. I think that the Blue Devils’ first-quarter magic may run out and Duke will play a grind-it-out game to the wire before losing in the game’s final minutes.
Sasha Richie: Duke 41-38
Who would have thought? Duke and Kansas, each undefeated, capping off their nonconference schedules against each other in a hyped-up, sold-out game—and it’s football season. It's difficult to even say this is the result of playing unchallenging out-of-conference teams—Duke beat Northwestern while Kansas beat Houston and West Virginia. This is a genuinely intriguing and high-stakes game between two teams previously thought of as the worst in the Power Five. It gets even more interesting when you consider the matchups. At quarterback, both Leonard and Daniels are new to the starting lineup, and both are mobile and athletic, but the former is a more prolific passer while the latter is a more prolific runner. Meanwhile, Duke has a top-10 rush defense with Kansas sitting in the middle of the FBS pack, but both have middling passing defenses. This is a game in which anything can happen, and I have a feeling everything possible will happen.
Andrew Long: Duke 35-31
As fun as it has been to watch, one basketball blue blood will see its surprise run to unbeaten stardom end this weekend, and I’m inclined to believe that Elko’s storybook start to life in Durham will hold for another chapter. Duke’s win against Northwestern was thrilling, but the Blue Devils will face their most potent offensive threat of the season against a Kansas team that has scored 159 points in three games. The Jayhawks are susceptible in the air—they rank 86th nationally in passing yards allowed—and I think sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard’s hot start will cause the Kansas secondary problems. It will be a shootout, to be sure, but I think Duke has the tools to come home with its first 4-0 start since 2018. Strap in.
Franck Djidjeu: Duke 45-42
This clash of surprise 3-0 teams looks to be between a well-rounded unit with a balanced attack against an offensive-focused, rush-heavy opponent. It is an example of the debate between the jack of all trades and master of one. Kansas is, in every sense of the word, a master when it comes to running the ball, ranking first in the Big 12 with 259 yards per game. Duke, on the other hand, has the ACC's fifth-ranked scoring offense and fourth-ranked scoring defense. However, its rush defense has been mediocre, which Kansas may expose. In order to win, the Blue Devils will likely have to score a ton of points against a subpar Jayhawk defense. I think another strong start will give Duke enough momentum that its greater offensive flexibility will give it an edge down the stretch.
Rachael Kaplan: Kansas 32-27
In my opinion, Duke’s season starts Saturday. Its hardest challenge thus far has been Northwestern, which went on to lose to Southern Illinois 31-24. If the Blue Devils want to prove that they have what it takes to be contenders in the ACC, now is the time. Daniels has a 67% completion rate, 566 yards and seven touchdowns—and that’s only through the air. He is the Jayhawks' leading rusher with 237 yards; 123 of those came last week against Houston. Duke has not faced a mobile quarterback yet this season. While the secondary is lacking, Kansas’ defensive line is better than any the Blue Devils have faced—Lonnie Ham alone already has three sacks. Leonard will have to be precise and explosive in the air to keep Duke in it. I think Kansas will be too much for the Blue Devils to overcome and will hand Elko his first loss.
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.