Beats’ picks: Will No. 17 Duke football rebound against N.C. State at home?

Sahmir Hagans and Riley Leonard converse during Duke’s loss to Notre Dame.
Sahmir Hagans and Riley Leonard converse during Duke’s loss to Notre Dame.

The 17th-ranked Blue Devils return to the field Saturday night against visiting N.C. State, hoping to get back in the win column after a gut-wrenching loss to Notre Dame before their bye week. The Chronicle’s beat writers are here to offer their predictions: 

Andrew Long: Duke 24-21

After a week of rest, Duke is back on the Wallace Wade Stadium turf — and without its starting quarterback. Naturally, the key point of emphasis for this game is whether junior Riley Leonard’s absence spells doom for the Blue Devils against an N.C. State team that is better than it seems, but has struggled in recent weeks. MJ Morris is a promising signal caller for the Wolfpack and Kevin Concepcion is a dangerous target out wide, so I think this game will be more interesting than it appears on the surface, especially with Leonard out of commission.

That said, it’s one I think Duke will win. Head coach Mike Elko has crafted a unit on both sides of the ball that’s tough to break down and executed consistently at a high level, and the system he has built feels stable even if Leonard isn’t marshaling it. Backup Henry Belin IV is a capable understudy and has a powerful arm, which may even add a new dimension to the Duke offense. Growing pains and legs rusty from a week of rest will keep this one tight, but the Blue Devils just feel like the more complete group at the moment.

Rachael Kaplan: Duke 21-17

The early bye came at an interesting time for the Blue Devils. Elko’s squad hasn’t seen the field since that fateful last minute against Notre Dame, when its chance at another top-10 win was wrenched from its grasp in the form of a nasty-looking injury, and subsequent fumble, from Leonard. But the sun came up the next week and the junior, according to Elko, is now day-to-day. 

Rested and with Belin at the helm, N.C. State should be the perfect opponent for a reeling and rebounding Duke team. The Wolfpack have been a little all over the place, with an early blowout by the Fighting Irish and a narrow victory against struggling Virginia to show for Brennan Armstrong’s tenure. But Morris is trying to turn the season around, and has been fairly successful. It will be a close one, but the Blue Devils have the talent and the tenacity — and the rest — to take their first ACC game. 

Ranjan Jindal: Duke 27-17 

This is shaping up to be an intriguing game with two well-coached football teams that have some questions at the quarterback position. Outside of understandable first-start jitters, I have confidence in Belin if he is the starting quarterback. Duke’s rushing attack should be able to ease the redshirt freshman into the game, and the skill position experience around him will help. On the other side of the ball, Morris gives the Wolfpack perhaps a less consistent quarterback than Armstrong, but a more explosive threat. Therefore, I think Morris can produce a few big plays to keep it interesting. However, the Blue Devil defense has been outstanding recently and I don’t think N.C. State has enough offensively to win. 

Dom Fenoglio: Duke 20-10

The Blue Devils will likely play Saturday without top signal caller Leonard, but I do not foresee his absence causing too much of a problem for Duke — at least in the final score. The defense will be itching to redeem itself after a last-minute drive from the Fighting Irish broke the hearts of Blue Devil fans two weeks ago. Moreover, Duke should find success if it turns to its running game, led by graduate back Jordan Waters. I think that Leonard’s absence may show in the red zone, and the Blue Devils will have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns a few times, but ultimately the defense will overwhelm N.C. State and its inexperienced quarterback.

Caleb Dudley: Duke 13-10

Saturday will be a different test for the Blue Devils, as it is likely the matchup with the Wolfpack is the first time we see an Elko-led squad without Leonard at the helm. However, I think Belin can fill in admirably if needed, and Duke will continue to lean on its strong run game and excellent defense. With inexperienced quarterbacks on both sides, I foresee the matchup being a defensive struggle, especially with the projected forecast of rain. In the end though, I see the Blue Devils squeaking one out, picking up their second ACC win in a 13-10 victory. 

Micah Hurewitz: Duke 24-14

With Belin under center it will be a fun one for the Blue Devils if not a nail-biter. Duke will be a bit more recovered after the bye following it’s brutal loss to Notre Dame and N.C. State is offering some new looks themselves with Morris the new starting quarterback. The Blue Devil defense is sure to be the difference-maker in this one, and while I believe the passing offense will be alright, they will be committed to running the ball. A lot. Duke will take its second conference win in prime-time.

Records:

Long: 1-1

Kaplan: 1-1

Jindal: 1-1

Fenoglio: 2-0

Dudley: 1–1

Hurewitz: 1-1


Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing 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.


Dom Fenoglio | Assistant Blue Zone editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


Ranjan Jindal profile
Ranjan Jindal | Assistant Blue Zone editor

Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone 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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