Beats' picks: Can Duke football overcome Pittsburgh to close regular season with home win?

Ja'Mion Franklin extends to sack Anthony Colandrea during Duke's loss to Virginia.
Ja'Mion Franklin extends to sack Anthony Colandrea during Duke's loss to Virginia.

After dropping its road contest against Virginia a week ago, the Blue Devils return home one final time in 2023 for a clash with Pittsburgh at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Chronicle’s beat writers are here for one final time this regular season to forecast whether Duke can emerge with a win:

Andrew Long: Duke 21-17

Aside from its much-discussed failure to stop Notre Dame on a crucial fourth-and-16 in late September, the Blue Devils have been a relatively solid and otherwise undefeated unit at home, though most of that has come with an at least close to full-strength squad. That’s certainly not the case now, as head coach Mike Elko has been operating in the reserves on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, and without both his first-choice corner (Myles Jones) and quarterback (Riley Leonard) for multiple weeks. The results, so far, have been middling — a shutout loss at Louisville, then a tight bowl-clinching win against Wake Forest at home, then two successive losses at North Carolina and Virginia, both by one possession. It’s fair to say that Duke’s wounds are far closer to a gash than a papercut, and it has hurt because of them.

And yet, I still think the Blue Devils can get the job done at Wallace Wade Stadium one final time against the Panthers, if for no other reason than it being the final time the likes of DeWayne Carter, Jacob Monk and Jordan Waters see Duke’s home field. Pittsburgh is coming off a win, yes, but has severely underwhelmed all season, and even while battered the Blue Devil defense is still fairly solid. I foresee an ugly and unconvincing game on both ends that may not well change either team’s big-picture fortunes, but with its seniors to play for and on favorable turf, I like Duke to just squeak by.

Rachael Kaplan: Pittsburgh 27-21

Watching last Saturday’s game in Charlottesville, Va., deflated my expectations for this team. At its best and with its stars on the field, it can hang with anyone, but it is far from that at this point in the season. Both teams are streaky. Of the Panthers three wins, two were against bowl-bound programs (now-No. 9 Louisville and Boston College). Rodney Hammond Jr. ran for 145 yards against the Eagles, and against a Blue Devil defense that gave up quite a few chunk plays to the Cavaliers, could very well find his groove on the ground again. Freshman quarterback Grayson Loftis will need to be more efficient for his crew to consistently put points on the board. Duke hasn’t played what Elko would call “its game” for four straight quarters in a while, and I don’t see that happening Saturday. 

Ranjan Jindal: Duke 24-16

On paper, this should be a positive Senior Day for Duke, as Pittsburgh has had an uncharacteristically poor season for head coach Pat Narduzzi. However, the Blue Devils learned the hard way to not overlook any ACC team, even one with a woeful conference record. That said, the Panthers are a different team than Virginia, with a pedestrian offense that lacks explosivity. Narduzzi’s teams are well coached and play hard, so I think this could be fairly close, but Duke has matchup advantages in too many areas for Pittsburgh to win. 

Dom Fenoglio: Duke 21-13

While Duke has stumbled to the finish line this season, with injuries and out-of-character miscues causing tough losses, I think Saturday will mean something greater to the vast number of seniors on the team. Further, last year’s brutal loss to Pittsburgh will pile even more kindling on to the fire. I predict that the Blue Devils will finish an up-and-down regular season on a high note, and allow their seniors to finish their careers in Wallace Wade with a win.

Caleb Dudley: Duke 20-14

Simply looking at the rosters and output of work this season, Duke should handle business in its regular-season finale. However, Narduzzi’s teams have a reputation of playing tough, hard-nosed football, a style the Blue Devils have struggled to match at times this year (hello, Louisville). Hammond is very talented while also coming off his best game of the year and will likely cause problems for Elko’s team, but I believe Duke will find a way to send its seniors walking Saturday out on a high note.

Micah Hurewitz: Duke 28-24

If I was picking this game four or five weeks ago I think it would look a bit different than the narrow victory I think the Blue Devils will snag to finish their regular season. But Duke’s offense has looked quite poor as of late, and the Blue Devils still haven’t picked up more yards than their opponent since their win against UConn back in September. Obviously they will have to step up their game from last week, when they benefited from over a hundred yards off of Virginia penalties but still couldn’t win — so the Duke defense and passing game will need to improve to beat a Pittsburgh team which before last week had wins against only Wofford and Louisville. My take is that the Blue Devils return to their desired game script and take the finale in a close one.

Records:

Long: 5-3

Kaplan: 6-2

Jindal: 5-3

Fenoglio: 6-2

Dudley: 5-3

Hurewitz: 6-2


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.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Beats' picks: Can Duke football overcome Pittsburgh to close regular season with home win?” on social media.