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 evening, Duke is a 2.5-point favorite as it hosts Virginia for its ACC opener at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Jonathan Levitan: Duke 24-10
Recent history, as it is, does not bode well for Duke heading into Saturday’s matchup. The Blue Devils have lost seven straight to the Cavaliers dating back to 2015, and suffered an indescribable defeat in Charlottesville, Va., a season ago.
Saturday, that one-sided chapter of history should mean very little: Duke and Virginia are led by first-year head coaches in Mike Elko and Tony Elliott, respectively, rendering this series’ past useless moving forward. All that matters is the on-field product through four weeks and, with Cavalier quarterback Brennan Armstrong still catching up to his 2021 self, the Blue Devils looked far better in nonconference play. Weather is a factor, and Virginia’s sluggish offense will not be able to keep up on the ground with Duke’s quietly excellent rushing attack. The Blue Devils secure a physical win, their first in-conference since 2020.
Micah Hurewitz: Duke 30-24
The Blue Devils’ stretch of losing at the hands of the Cavaliers will finally come to an end Saturday. Their last loss against Kansas will help narrow focus on the areas for improvement while Virginia looks nothing like it did last season. The Cavaliers may have an advantage in the receivers-cornerbacks matchup with their height, but with Armstrong playing as he has of late, Duke’s secondary may not be facing the threat it did last season in its 48-0 drubbing to Virginia. This one will be a mud bath, but Duke is getting its first ACC win since 2020.
Sasha Richie: Duke 14-10
This one is going to get ugly. There is not a star in this galaxy that could evaporate all the mud from Brooks Field in time, and then there’s the wind. Duke’s air attack has been stellar this season and Armstrong could magically snap into his former self, but that won’t matter if the ball gets blown into the press box mid-pass. That means we are in for some ground-and-pound football, and I’m taking the Blue Devils in that battle. While Virginia’s offense as a whole can’t seem to find its footing, it also only has one running back with over 200 yards. Senior Perris Jones is carrying the bulk of the rushing load, scoring two touchdowns in the process. Meanwhile, Duke's Jordan Waters and Jaylen Coleman each have more than 200 yards and three and four scores to their name, respectively. The Blue Devils also rank second and fourth in the ACC in yards per attempt and yards per game. It’s really just a numbers game: With more tools you can build more houses, and Duke has a deeper running back corps at its disposal.
Andrew Long: Duke 21-14
I expected Duke to lose this game in my preseason predictions, largely due to Virginia’s explosive offense last year and the Blue Devils’ then-shaky defense. While I’m still not entirely sold on Duke as the finished package, this call is more about the Cavaliers’ woes and the potential changes in gameplay caused by Hurricane Ian. Armstrong has seen a catastrophic dip in form and Saturday’s weather will surely curtail the passing game for both sides, meaning that soggy, labored running will be the name of the game. I have faith in Waters and Coleman to assume that burden and carry the Blue Devils to their first ACC win of the year.
Rachael Kaplan: Duke 24-20
While I think calling Duke a contender in the ACC is a stretch, this is a game it has a chance in. Virginia is already 2-2 and the majority of its offense runs through Armstrong. However, he is not invincible—in each of the Cavaliers’ losses, Armstrong failed to hit 200 total yards. On the other side, Duke quarterback Riley Leonard has been lighting up opposing defenses—he has 1,047 passing yards. However, with the extreme weather moving through, the passing game will be less reliable. That’s where Duke’s advantage comes from. Waters and Coleman have been a dynamic duo out of the backfield, and if the game comes down to the ground, the Blue Devils will come out on top.
Franck Djidjeu: Duke 24-21
Coming off their biggest test of the season thus far, the Blue Devils now have to confront the nightmares of their past, the first of which is a Virginia team that handed them their most embarrassing loss of a 3-9 season in 2021. However, this is not that Virginia team with one of the ACC’s top offenses, nor is this that Duke team with the inability to score. The Blue Devils rank third in the ACC in total yards per game, while the Cavaliers rank 11th and Armstrong has the worst completion percentage in the conference at just 52%. This means that Duke will likely not have to worry about being carved up through the air as it was against Northwestern and Kansas. I believe the Blue Devils’ 3-1 start this year will not be a facade and their first ACC game will also be their first ACC win.
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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 senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.