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Beats' picks: Will Duke football close out regular season with a win against Wake Forest?

Duke welcomes Wake Forest for its last regular-season game Saturday afternoon.
Duke welcomes Wake Forest for its last regular-season game Saturday afternoon.

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 has one last regular-season game Saturday when Wake Forest comes to Wallace Wade Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

Jonathan Levitan: Wake Forest 34-30

Of the top five scoring offenses in the ACC, Duke has played only North Carolina. The Blue Devils were in position to win that Oct. 15 matchup and did make timely defensive plays, but the Tar Heel attack kept them on their heels for four quarters.

Wake Forest is the only other attack in the conference equipped to keep Duke on its heels like that; the redshirt junior duo of quarterback Sam Hartman and wideout A.T. Perry is one of the ACC’s best. The Blue Devils allowed big plays downfield in bunches to Pittsburgh quarterback Kedon Slovis a week ago, and Hartman has the tools and the receiving corps to take advantage if those openings are there again. Expect Duke to revitalize its rushing attack after a down week and chase the Demon Deacons up the scoreboard, but it will fall just short in first-year head coach Mike Elko’s reunion with Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson. 

Micah Hurewitz: Wake Forest 35-21

Despite Duke’s unforeseen successes this season, one thing has still gone as expected—the Blue Devils haven’t quite been able to snag that premier ACC win. With losses to North Carolina and Pittsburgh in the books, the Demon Deacons may pose a similar challenge and send the Blue Devils into the postseason with a 4-4 conference record. Hartman has struggled relative to expectations but Duke’s defensive pitfalls may leave room for some big plays for the Wake Forest offense. It will come down to the Blue Devils forcing turnovers and keeping control of the ball as they have done so proficiently so far, plus a solid ground game from the banged-up backfield. It’ll be a tough test at home: Elko could bring his team into bowl season coming off a win, but Wake Forest may just be too talented.

Sasha Richie: Wake Forest 31-24

With Hartman under center, the Demon Deacons have blossomed into one of the ACC’s foremost teams. They are on a down stretch, sure, ending a three-game losing streak by barely scraping by Syracuse. However, Hartman, a 23-year-old redshirt junior, has one of the most lethal arms in the conference, averaging the second-most yards per game on a 63% completion percentage. He has already announced that he will not exercise his extra years of eligibility, so expect that he will use his arm talent to ride off into the sunset against a Duke pass defense that seems to have stagnated. To the Blue Devils’ credit, they will certainly make Wake Forest work for it, but they haven’t proven yet that they can pass these hard tests. Therefore, I just don’t see what was once the No. 10 team in the nation dropping this one. 

Andrew Long: Wake Forest 31-24

I am constantly surprised by this team. Beating Miami behind eight turnovers, losing to Georgia Tech, hanging with North Carolina; this year has been far from what everyone expected, myself included. Duke probably should have beaten Pittsburgh, a team that won the ACC last year and hung with Tennessee to the last seconds, too. Following that sequence of surprises, I think Duke can, and will, match up with Wake Forest effectively and make this game a nervy one and competitive until the dying minutes. Nonetheless, I have a bit more faith in Hartman and his receiving corps to torch the backfield than I do in the Blue Devils, and their experience will carry the Demon Deacons over the line. Expect it to be a close one, but as Micah said, I think talent wins out here. Barely.

Rachael Kaplan: Wake Forest 35-32

Had Duke won against Pittsburgh, my tune might have been a little different. However, it didn’t put up a particularly strong performance and failed to come up clutch in crunch time. The Blue Devils’ vice was their rushing attack, an uncommon problem for them this season. While the Demon Deacons’ defense does give up about 40 more rushing yards per game than the Panthers, they sport a much better passing offense to go against Duke’s weakest link: its secondary. Hartman is averaging more than 300 passing yards per game and will have his way with the Blue Devil defensive backs. Riley Leonard and the Duke offense will be on their heels all game and will come up just short in their regular-season finale. 

Franck Djidjeu: Duke 35-34

Looking ahead to this game several weeks ago, it looked like the one time Duke was going to be completely overmatched as the Demon Deacons rose as high as No. 10 in the AP Poll. However, this is no longer that same daunting boss that lingered at the end of the Blue Devils' schedule but a Wake Forest team that has fallen completely out of the top 25 and dropped three of its last four. 

The Demon Deacons still have an offense rivaled only by the likes of North Carolina in the conference, but their defense continues to hold them back. They have shown to not be nearly as explosive on the road, as their 40 points per game drops to 29.5 away from Winston-Salem, N.C. Duke has lost just once at home, and it came down to last-second greatness by a better passing attack. If Duke can limit Wake Forest's offensive opportunities and control the game on the ground, it can finish a remarkable regular season off with a statement win.

Season records:

Levitan: 7-4

Hurewitz: 8-3

Richie: 7-4

Long: 7-4

Kaplan: 8-3

Djidjeu: 6-5

Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

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

Micah Hurewitz | Sports Managing Editor

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

Jonathan Levitan | Sports Editor

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

Rachael Kaplan | Assistant Blue Zone Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.

Andrew Long | Blue Zone editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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