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Northwestern-Duke 2023 Predictions

The optimism isn’t quite there.

NCAA Football: Duke at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another edition of the Nerd Bowl. Northwestern heads to Durham, North Carolina to face a revamped (and ranked) Duke team led by star quarterback Riley Leonard. While the ‘Cats won handily against UTEP last Saturday, the staff isn’t riding that wave of optimism today.

Iggy Dowling: Duke 27, Northwestern 6

The Blue Devils are too good defensively, and Northwestern’s offensive line remains unproven against Power Five competition despite a really nice day last week. It’s as simple as that.

Bradley Locker: Duke 35, Northwestern 17

In the last two meetings with the Blue Devils, Northwestern has been down 21+ points within the first minute of the second quarter. With the Wildcats’ defense struggling out of the gate in its first two games, I don’t foresee much changing in that department. The ‘Cats are outmatched by a Duke team that’s got legitimate ACC title aspirations, dropping their fifth in a row to their Durham academic foes.

David Gold: Duke 31, Northwestern 24

I can’t explain why, but the Wildcats always seem to play the Blue Devils close. At the end of the day, I think Duke’s offense is just too much for NU to handle. Riley Leonard is one of the best QBs in college football, and will pick apart the ‘Cats if they can’t get pressure. If it turns into a shootout, I think Northwestern won’t keep up and will fall back to under .500.

Natalie Wells: Duke 31, Northwestern 9

Last week’s drubbing of UTEP was truly amazing to watch. It almost made up for the pain and sorrow that NU fans have endured in these last two seasons. But like everything in sports, what goes up must come down. The ‘Cats won’t be able to run at will against Duke’s front seven like they did against the Miners. Forcing Ben Bryant to throw 25 passes is not a recipe for success. The Wildcats will fall back to earth in Durham.

Ascher Levin: Duke 27, Northwestern 14

Following its first win in more than a year, Northwestern is coming into this game against Duke with confidence. While it was a great second half, where Northwestern outscored UTEP 31-0, Duke is a much tougher opponent. The Blue Devils’ defense is their strength, and they have held Clemson and Lafayette to seven points in their first two games. Northwestern’s offense is going to have to run the ball well if it wants to sustain drives and score points. On the defensive side, the Wildcats have to stop the quarterback run. Duke’s quarterback, Riley Leonard, ran for 699 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, and Northwestern has to have defenders in position to handle the zone read whenever Duke runs the ball. Duke is the best team that Northwestern has faced in the first three weeks, and the Blue Devils’ run game and great defense will prove to be too much for the Wildcats.

John Olsen: Duke 38, Northwestern 0

The best part about this game is it’s on ACC Network, so no one can (legally) see the beatdown this team is about to endure.

Ashleigh Provoost: Duke 28, Northwestern 7

Northwestern’s win last week showed a lot of promise. In an unbelievable turn of events the ‘Cats put up 38 points, forced multiple turnovers, and everything seemed to be finally coming together… but that was against UTEP. Duke has been in unbelievable form lately — now No. 21 in the AP Poll — and after witnessing Duke knock Clemson down 16 spots with a win that saw students storming the field, I can’t see any reality where Northwestern takes this one. I think the only thing helping us put up one score is that lingering post-win confidence from last week.

Noah Poser: Duke 31, Northwestern 15

Good teams win, GREAT teams cover; that’s the saying, right? Let’s be honest with ourselves on this one. Duke is a really good football team and this game isn’t likely to be close. On the bright side, I do see Northwestern covering the spread as it stands right now at Duke -17. Now, this game isn’t a total lost cause because there is one glaring weakness for the Blue Devils that the Wildcats could look to exploit. Duke ranks 105th in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing 169.5 rushing yards per game. After a weak start on the ground against Rutgers, Northwestern turned it around last week, rushing for 184 yards as it beat UTEP. If the Wildcats can keep that up and take advantage of what looks to be a suspect rushing defense for the Blue Devils, then there is a chance (albeit a slim one) that they pull of the upset. Ultimately, as I said before, the game won’t end up being close because it’s doubtful that the Wildcats actually manage to dominate on the ground. Duke wins.

Patrick Winograd: Duke 34, Northwestern 17

I was encouraged enough by the offensive outbreak against UTEP that I am choosing to believe this team can put up an okay performance offensively. However, it would be totally irresponsible to assume that a team that scored 28 points against Clemson (albeit, aided by three Clemson turnovers) and has an NFL quarterback would get any less than 30 against Northwestern. I do think that Northwestern’s defense has been more solid than people have given the Wildcats credit for, but that’s not enough to keep this game super close. It will be a comfortable win for Duke, but I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping Northwestern can keep it within a reasonable margin.

Brendan Preisman: Duke 31, Northwestern 14

So far this season, Northwestern’s fate has been determined in the trenches. If their offensive line can get traction, the ‘Cats will pile up nearly 200 rushing yards, like they did in their dismantling of UTEP. If the line can’t get traction, then the rushing total may be far closer to two than 200 (22 carries for twelve total yards against Rutgers should prove that). It’s a similar story on the defensive line: two tackles for loss against Rutgers, nine against UTEP. Unfortunately, this week the Wildcats face a squad with much better line play. Duke averages six yards per carry, has tallied 12 tackles for loss, and sacked the opposing quarterback four times while not allowing their quarterback to be tackled behind the line of scrimmage a single time this season. It’s going to be a war decided in the trenches, but Duke’s guns are much more formidable than Northwestern’s.

Jake Mozarsky: Duke 27, Northwestern 13

I think this game is closer than Vegas indicates, but the Duke defense has been one of the top in the country and has a lot of stars. I do think Northwestern’s defense can keep it in the game or keep the score closer, but Mike Elko has his team fresh off nine wins, on a high, and should take care of business today.

Season Standings

2-0: Bradley Locker, Jake Mozarsky, Natalie Wells, Brendan Preisman, Sammy Krimstein

1-1: Iggy Dowling, David Gold, Ethan Segall, John Olsen, Ascher Levin

0-2: No one!

1-0: Jeremy Song, Patrick Winograd, Noah Poser

0-1: Ashleigh Provoost, Adam Beck, John Ferrara