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Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Prediction

David Cutcliffe

David Cutcliffe

It seems as though the Duke Blue Devils have already played two different seasons. Over the first four games, Duke averaged 40 points per game with each contest resulting in a victory. But during the last three, the Devils have scored just 37 total points and lost each time.

Pat Narduzzi College Football

Pittsburgh travels to Durham this week, and the Panthers don’t really want to hear about Duke’s troubles. Following a loss to NC State, Pittsburgh is now 2-5 and is winless in three ACC battles.

Pittsburgh holds a 12-9 series edge and has won nine of the last 12 dating back to 1955.

Pittsburgh at Duke

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 12:20 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network

Spread: Duke -8

Three Things to Watch

1. Daniel Jones

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Duke’s sophomore quarterback has had an inconsistent start to the season. His first two games were outstanding, then he slumped considerably with a 14-of-42 performance against Virginia being the nadir. He rebounded a bit in the loss to Florida State, and there should be plenty of opportunities this week against Pittsburgh’s 111th-ranked pass defense.

2. Pittsburgh quarterback situation

When Max Browne was injured, Ben DiNucci assumed control. But that may not have lasted long. Last week against NC State, with Pitt trailing by just seven points in the third quarter, head coach Pat Narduzzi replaced DiNucci with freshman Kenny Pickett. DiNucci re-entered the game for the final, meaningless two minutes. So once again, the quarterback position is unsettled at Pittsburgh, and predicting what Narduzzi will do next is probably a fruitless exercise.

3. Allowing pressure

Neither team is very good at keeping its quarterbacks upright. Both Pittsburgh and Duke have given up 19 sacks, tying them for 111th in America. This week, there will be more heat on the Pittsburgh offensive line because they’re facing a Duke defense that is ranked seventh nationally with 21 sacks and has multiple defenders who can bring pressure. With uncertainty at quarterback, Pittsburgh does not need Joe Giles-Harris, Mike Ramsay, and Victor Dimukeje in the backfield all day long.

Final Analysis

It’s difficult to watch what’s going on at Pittsburgh right now. The Panthers are 12th in the ACC in total defense, 13th in total offense, and the coach is making questionable quarterback decisions. It’s clear that Ben DiNucci is far from an All-America signal caller, but what message does it send to the locker room when he is removed in a close game after playing fairly well? While Duke has had its own problems in recent weeks, seeing the Panthers come to town may be the perfect medicine for the Devils. Jones played better last week against Florida State than he did in his dreadful performance against Virginia, and he should be able to feast on the Pittsburgh defense. Because Duke is not hitting on all cylinders right now, it may not be easy. But the Blue Devils will end their three-game losing streak this Saturday with a win.

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Prediction: Duke 27, Pittsburgh 17

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.