Daniel Olinger: Northwestern 23, Duke 21
I was painstakingly close to picking Duke. This Northwestern team hasn’t proven much of anything, yet goes into a road game with everyone telling them they’re going to blow the doors off a weaker team. It smells ripe for a “Duke wins in a surprising 38-17 rout of Northwestern” headline on Sunday. But I just can’t do it.
For the second week in a row, the superior football talent resides on the Northwestern sideline, and execution isn’t something to be counted on for the Blue Devils. Going back to last year, David Cutcliffe’s squad surrendered 56, 48, 56 and, you guessed it, 56 points in their final four games before giving up 31 to the underrated but still underqualified Charlotte team that upset them in their season opener. If I’m wrong, so be it. I’ll make up for it by picking against the ‘Cats in Big Ten play when they take on teams far better than this one. It’s not like anything has ever gone horrifyingly wrong for a team in a game against Duke, right???
Mac Stone: Northwestern 23, Duke 17
After last week’s offensive snooze fest, I don’t expect this one to be a shootout of any kind. I do expect the Wildcats to walk out of Durham with the W, due in large part to the fact that I see their defense continuing to improve this weekend. Sure, Mataeo Durant is really, really good, but his two impressive performances have come against Charlotte (who Duke lost to) and North Carolina A&T. I expect his output to be limited a bit based solely on that the ‘Cats are more talented than those two teams and that much of NU’s focus will be on containing him. Give me two Charlie Kuhbander chip shot field goals as the difference maker in this one.
Ben Chasen: Northwestern 31, Duke 24
In its first game of the season, Duke was absolutely shredded by the Charlotte passing attack. I don’t feel very confident in my game prediction, especially given how worried I am about the things Mataeo Durant could do Northwestern’s defense. But Hunter Johnson is going to have a big game, and, given the confidence-based nature of his play that has been described by his coaches often, that could be more meaningful to Northwestern’s season-long aspirations than any lone game result in September.
Still, my job in this piece is to predict the game results, not individual player performances. As I said above, I really could see the ‘Cats losing this game, but it certainly wouldn’t be because they weren’t capable of overcoming the Blue Devils. Outside of Durant, Duke lacks, in my eyes, a single positional advantage on NU. The Wildcats should walk out of Durham with the win. But it’s September, and the things that should happen for Northwestern in this early-season month don’t always play out as expected.
Jacob Brown: Duke 27, Northwestern 10
Duke has a fast QB and a top talent in Mataeo Durant. There is no reason that their offense should be anything other than exceptional against a Northwestern defense that is weak on the edges. Duke takes the lead on the first drive of the game and stays in control the rest of the way. Hunter struggles and Marty gets to play a few drives. 2019 vibes are back.
John Olsen: Northwestern 17, Duke 6
While Northwestern is tied with Duke in the US News National University Rankings at 9th for another year, this game will be a perfect opportunity for the ‘Cats to assert themselves as the superior nerds. Since it’s a non-conference game, the offense will be extremely basic and run-heavy, so I’m expecting another big day from Evan Hull and another game in which NU can’t move the ball after the 1st quarter. With Fitz being as vanilla as possible when it comes to a game plan, Duke will be able to hang with the ‘Cats for a while, much like Indiana State last week, but the talent discrepancy between the two schools will be abundantly clear, and that advantage in talent will ultimately power NU to a victory, albeit an ugly one. Also, I expect Anthony Tyus III to record his first collegiate touchdown and Brandon Joseph to get his first interception of the season.
William Karmin: Northwestern 20, Duke 17
An ugly, ugly contest finishes with a Charlie Kuhbander walk-off field goal.
Didi Jin: Northwestern 34, Duke 29
Both of these teams are not very good right now. If you have doubts about the quality of Northwestern’s defense, Duke’s is just as questionable, if not worse. And after a subpar outing against an FCS squad, Northwestern’s offense will finally find its groove in Durham both through the air and on the ground. Its defense will struggle to contain the talented Mataeo Durant, but the fans at Wallace Wade are not the Cameron Crazies, and home-field advantage won’t be enough for Duke to overcome Pat Fitzgerald & Co. for a third straight time.
Bradley Locker: Northwestern 24, Duke 16
The ‘Cats haven’t beaten Duke since 2016. Then again, former Blue Devils and current New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones had gone 4-0 against the Washington Football Team, and that changed on a walk-off field goal on Thursday night. In similar fashion, I think Northwestern is just good enough to change the tide and leave Wallace Wade Stadium with a victory, but, as Dan insinuated, I wouldn’t be surprised to see NU lose either. All in all, I think Brandon Joseph, Cam Mitchell and A.J. Hampton do a solid job in limiting Duke’s receiving duo of Jalon Calhoun and Jake Bobo en route to a ‘Cats W.
Andrew Katz: Duke 24, Northwestern 21
I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see the ‘Cats leaving Durham with a win this weekend. It felt good to see Northwestern win its first game of the season, but beating an FCS team doesn’t change my expectations. We’re only two weeks removed from Kenneth Walker murdering the Wildcats’ run defense, and Mataeo Durant, the NCAA leader in rushing touchdowns, could do just the same. Durant, who also ran for over 250 yards in Duke’s season opener, will be a serious challenge to a defense still trying to find itself two games into the season. To pull out a victory, Hunter Johnson needs to step up after an underwhelming performance against the Sycamores. Even with a strong game from Johnson, though, I see Duke emerging victorious.
Gavin Dorsey: Northwestern 17, Duke 13
I see another ugly offensive game for Northwestern, but, luckily for the ‘Cats, they still prevail over a Duke team that hasn’t faced very difficult competition yet. Mataeo Durant will be a handful for the Wildcats’ defense, but after getting back in their groove last week, the front four dominates and carries NU to its second win.
Lia Assimakopoulos: Northwestern 24, Duke 17
Special Guest Picker Noah Coffman: Northwestern 26, Duke 22
I do not believe that Northwestern is a very good team, but they also didn’t lose to Charlotte. Duke has a couple of solid offensive weapons, a defense akin to a particularly soggy paper bag, and a head coach approximately 25 years past his prime. The first and last components there have been enough to beat Northwestern in embarrassing fashion multiple times in the past decade, and it’s difficult to say with certainty that they won’t again. But it’s that middle third that makes this a team staring double-digit losses in the face, and Mike Bajakian and Hunter Johnson should be able to do enough to ride it to a win that will likely be closer than it should, if it comes at all.
Jacob Brown: 2-0
Gavin Dorsey: 1-0
Mac Stone, Ben Chasen, Daniel Olinger, Didi Jin, John Olsen, Lia Assimakopoulos, William Karmin, Eli Karp, Andrew Katz, Bradley Locker, Noah Coffman: 1-1
Sarah Effress, Colin Kruse, Brian Pager, Nik Mehrotra, Isaac Diaz, Sydney Supple, Jackson Gordwin: 0-1