Game Preview: Michigan Panthers at Birmingham Stallions, Saturday 1 June, 2024

  • Michigan Panthers (7-2) at Birmingham Stallions (9-1)
  • Saturday June 1, 2024 at 1:00 PM CT (2:00 PM ET)
  • Protective Stadium, Birmingham, AL
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: ESPN (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Drew Carter (Play-by-play), Sam Acho (Analyst), Cole Cubelic (Sideline analyst), Stormy Buonantony (Sideline reporter)
  • Odds: Birmingham -8, O/U 43.5 (DraftKings)

The season finale for the Panthers and Stallions will be their first matchup against each other since Week 2, where the Stallions defeated Michigan 20-13 at Ford Field. This is the fourth all-time matchup between the two franchises, with the Stallions winning the three previous meetings. Birmingham defeated the Panthers 27-13 at Ford Field last season during week six of the 2023 USFL season. In their first matchup in 2022, the Stallions took down the Panthers 33-17 at Protective Stadium, also in week six.

The Stallions want to win this game to make up for their only loss of the season, which took place last week to the San Antonio Brahmas in the Alamodome. A win would also seal up first place in the USFL conference. A win by the Panthers would tie them with the Stallions in the standings and give them momentum heading into next week’s USFL Championship game, which has already been scheduled to take place in Birmingham’s Protective Stadium.

What do we know?

Last week, the Birmingham Stallions’ 15-game winning streak came to an end at the Alamodome as they suffered their first loss since the 2023 regular season, falling to the San Antonio Brahmas, 18-9.

Quarterback Adrian Martinez completed 18 of 32 passes for 211 yards, throwing one touchdown and one interception. Martinez also led the team’s rushing efforts with 56 yards on five attempts. Jace Sternberger led the receiving corps with 110 yards and one touchdown on seven receptions, including a long of 49 yards. Marlon Williams added 42 yards on five receptions, and Amari Rodgers contributed 35 yards on three receptions.

Martinez has been one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but the Brahmas challenged his offensive prowess in Week 9. (How they did it) He is likely looking to return to MVP form in this game.

Defensively, the Stallions recorded 66 tackles. DeMarquis Gates led the defense with nine tackles (seven solo), one tackle for loss, and one sack. Kyahva Tezino had eight tackles (five solo), two tackles for loss, and one pass defended. Madre Harper added five tackles (four solo).

In the league’s rushing yards rankings, Birmingham quarterback Adrian Martinez holds the #1 spot for the season with 487 yards. The Stallions also boast two running backs in the top 10: Ricky Person Jr. at #7 with 297 yards and C.J. Marable at #10 with 237 yards. In terms of rushing yards, Birmingham is the only team with three players in the top 10.

Ricky Person Jr. also leads the league in rushing touchdowns this season with six. The Stallions lead the league in rushing, amassing 1244 rushing yards on the year. By 126 yards, this total surpasses the next closest team, the Michigan Panthers, who have 1118 rushing yards on the season. Birmingham averages 138.2 rushing yards per game, with no other team in the UFL averaging more than 124.2 rushing yards per game (Panthers).

The Stallions’ defense has been dominant this season, ranking first in rushing yards allowed with 638 and second in sacks with 28. Eight of those sacks came against the Memphis Showboats on April 13th, marking the highest sack count in a game for any UFL team this season. Additionally, Birmingham recorded seven sacks as a unit against the Panthers in Week 2. As for passing protection, the Stallions’ defense has tallied 44 pass breakups, ranking first in the league. Overall, the defense has only allowed 140 first downs, ranking the best in the league.

As for the Michigan Panthers, in their week 9 game against the Houston Roughnecks, quarterback Bryce Perkins came into the game in the second half and was a man on a mission, recording 121 passing yards, 79 rushing yards, and three total touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) in Michigan’s 26-22 comeback victory. The Panthers overcame Houston’s 16 unanswered points and a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter, and Michigan extended its winning streak to five games.

Quarterback Danny Etling made the start for Michigan, his first appearance since Week 6. Etling looked like his old self, completing 12-of-18 passes for 110 yards in the first half. Perkins took over for Etling in the second half but would throw an interception four plays into his first drive. Perkins improved, finishing with a game-high 76 yards on the ground, throwing for one touchdown, and scoring two touchdowns himself on the ground, including the game-winning touchdown with a five-yard rushing score with 3:36 remaining in the game.

Running back Matt Colburn is having a great season, filling in for an injured Wes Hills, but is inactive this week as he is resting a forearm injury. In this game, Nate McCrary will fill in for the rushing duties. Additionally, Marcus Simms is the #6 ranked receiver in the UFL, and Siasoi Mariner had a great game against Houston, contributing 95 receiving yards on eight receptions for the Panthers.

Michigan head coach Mike Nolan has indicated he intends to use a two-quarterback system in this game, playing both Etling and Perkins. This is an interesting maneuver, as the Stallions will prepare for both quarterbacks and be able to see both offensive schemes ahead of the championship game next week. Hopefully, Nolan leaves enough of his offense as a mystery so that the Panthers can roll it out next week in the game that really matters.

These teams match up well against each other. The Stallions average 361.3 yards per game (1st), while the Panthers average 298.1 (4th). Birmingham averages 27.2 points per game (2nd), with Michigan at 23.9 (3rd). Michigan gives up 267.6 yards per game (4th), with Birmingham at 252.3 (1st). Also, Michigan and Birmingham are two of the top rushing offenses in the UFL, with Birmingham averaging 138.2 rushing yards per game and Michigan averaging 124.2 yards per game.

What should we expect?

As we look toward this game, we know the Panthers are on a winning streak, winning five games in a row. Meanwhile, the Birmingham Stallions have just suffered their first loss in over a year, a game in which they scored only nine points, a performance that is completely out of character for the Birmingham squad. Surely, the Stallions will come into this matchup with the intent of getting things back on track.

Oddsmakers have given the Stallions an 8-point edge in this game. However, this may be a troublesome game to predict, as both teams do not have to win this game and may be looking toward next week’s USFL Conference Championship. Depending on the head coaches’ strategy, they might rest key players in this game.

The Stallions haven’t necessarily locked up the division title, as the Panthers could earn it with a blowout win this weekend. With that in mind, even if Michigan earns the title, Birmingham will still host the USFL Conference Championship due to a conflict at Ford Field.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.