Beats' picks: Will Duke football win again in road finale at Pittsburgh?

<p>Running back Jordan Waters (right) could prove crucial in a chilly, old-fashioned matchup.&nbsp;</p>

Running back Jordan Waters (right) could prove crucial in a chilly, old-fashioned matchup. 

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. Duke is set for one last road game Saturday against Pittsburgh with a four-game winning streak on the line.

Jonathan Levitan: Duke 21-20

The Panthers are getting around a touchdown from oddsmakers in what looks to be a frigid, low-scoring affair at Acrisure Stadium, and after what they did to Virginia on the road a week ago, you can understand why. But Pittsburgh has yet to pull through in a big moment this season—losses to North Carolina and Louisville stand out. I remain skeptical, even though the Panthers have not lost since October.

The evenly matched Blue Devils, at 7-3, qualify for a big moment, while this matchup means a lot in the hierarchy of the ACC’s second tier and its translation to bowl selection. Head coach Mike Elko’s team has figured things out on the road after some early issues. Expect Duke to brave the cold for one last road win in 2022.

Micah Hurewitz: Duke 27-21

Another stellar overall defensive performance against Virginia Tech has Duke at 7-3—a single game better than its opponents this weekend. In Pittsburgh’s last win, the Panthers unsurprisingly relied heavily on running back Israel Abanikanda after recording pick-sixes on back-to-back plays to sprint away from Virginia. In order to advance to 8-3, Duke will have to remain confident in its offensive approach without getting too greedy since the Panthers’ front line and secondary have the capacity to make Riley Leonard and company pay. On the other side, stuffing Abanikanda and keeping him out of the end zone would also greatly benefit the Blue Devils, who have not allowed a rushing touchdown since Oct. 15. 

Sasha Richie: Duke 21-17

There may be some snow on the ground, but it won’t seem like a winter wonderland when Duke meets the Panthers at Acrisure Stadium. Both teams will attempt some passes in the first quarter, promptly realize it is far too cold to catch a ball, then move on to ground-and-pound football. At first glance, Pittsburgh appears to have the advantage here, with Abanikanda near the top of the NCAA in most running back stats. However, that’s about where the Panthers’ rushing attack ends, and quarterback Kedon Slovis is especially immobile. Meanwhile Duke has four players with over 300 total rushing yards, including Leonard, giving it myriad options on the ground. With the Blue Devils possessing a top-20 rushing defense in the country, slowing Abanikanda even just a little bit can be just what they need to leave the Steel City with their fourth win in a row. 

Andrew Long: Duke 28-24

I’m hesitant with this one. On one hand, Duke is one of the foremost teams in the conference, the defense looked great against Virginia Tech and Leonard continues to climb up the quarterback ladder. On the other, Pittsburgh is in home territory, has a freight train of a running back in Abanikanda and went toe-to-toe with current-No. 5 Tennessee early this season. I think the decider in this game will be under center, and the fact is that Leonard is a much better quarterback than Slovis, and is on a more complete and cohesive team. This game will be a grind—make no mistake about that—and the arctic conditions November in the Steel City perennially presents will make it messy and stop-start. Nonetheless, football is a game of consistency, and the Blue Devils are consistent. Expect win number eight.

Rachael Kaplan: Pittsburgh 27-25 

Pittsburgh entered this season ranked 17th in the AP poll. It has fallen quite short of that standard. This game looks to be pretty evenly matched, which is shocking given both teams’ preseason expectations. The deciding factor will, once again, be Duke’s defense. Abanikanda alone is averaging 134.1 rushing yards per game while the Blue Devils defense is only allowing 121.8. While their secondary should be able to contain Slovis, the line will have its hands full with Abanikanda. This game will no doubt be a grind on the ground, and while I do think it will be a close one, Pittsburgh will come out on top on its home field. 

Franck Djidjeu: 24-21 Duke

This will be Duke’s most difficult test since facing current-No. 13 North Carolina in Week 7. The Panthers are very formidable against the run, allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game in the conference. This could be concerning for a Duke team that has relied almost too heavily on their ground game the past several weeks, to the expense of its passing game which has dropped to the bottom four. However, Leonard’s 64% completion percentage indicates that he can gain the advantage with his arm in a battle of powerful rushing attacks. Plus, one thing that Duke has maintained more than almost anyone is consistency. Despite three losses, the Blue Devils have never been out of a game. It will be tough on the road against the defending ACC champions who are still capable of dominant spurts, but I’ve got Duke winning a close one.

Season records:

Levitan: 7-3

Hurewitz: 8-2

Richie: 7-3

Long: 7-3

Kaplan: 7-3

Djidjeu: 6-4

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 | Recruitment/Social Chair

Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and recruitment/social chair of The Chronicle's 120th volume. He was previously sports editor for Volume 119.


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