Game Preview: Michigan Panthers at Houston Roughnecks, Sunday 26 May, 2024

  • Michigan Panthers (6-2) at Houston Roughnecks (1-7)
  • Sunday May 26, 2024 1:30 PM CT (2:30 PM ET)
  • Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: FOX (Check local listings) (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Adam Amin (Play-by-play), Joel Klatt (Analyst), Jake Butt (Sideline Analyst)
  • Odds: Michigan -4, O/U 40 (DraftKings)

The Houston Roughnecks and the Michigan Panthers face off for the second time this season. The two teams previously met during Week 3 of this season, when Michigan beat Houston 34-20.

The Houston Roughnecks are out of playoff contention, while Michigan has qualified for the playoffs and will face the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL Conference championship game.

What do we know?

In Week 8, the Panthers continued their winning streak with a 24-18 win over the Memphis Showboats, hitting their stride in the final stretch of the season, having won four straight games.

In Week 8, while starter Danny Etling was injured, Michigan relied on the quarterback tandem of Brian Lewerke and Bryce Perkins to lead the Panthers’s offense, with both Lewerke and Perkins throwing for their first touchdown of the season, and both totaled over 80 passing yards each. Receiver Devin Gray had his best game of the season with six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, including a 50-yard score in the second quarter. Running back Matthew Colburn II recorded two rushing touchdowns on the day, his first multi-score game this season.

However, a recently released Panthers depth chart shows injured quarterback Danny Etling is back as QB1 for this game, with Bryce Perkins as QB2. Clearly, head coach Mike Nolan is making this move to ensure Etling is back in playing form for the imminent USFL Championship game against the currently undefeated Birmingham Stallions.

The Houston Roughnecks are an abysmal 1-7, placing them in a last-place tie with Memphis in the USFL Conference. The Birmingham Stallions defeated Houston last week 35-28 in a relatively close game. Nolan Henderson threw for 497 yards, while Reid Sinnett passed for 99 yards and one touchdown with one interception. However, Houston’s defense gave up 322 yards of total offense to Birmingham, including 149 yards rushing and 173 yards passing.

In their Week 9 game against the Panthers, the Roughnecks are expected to start Reid Sinnett at quarterback with Nolan Henderson as a backup. Curtis Johnson, the head coach, might opt for Henderson to take the field frequently in this game.

According to Pro Football Focus, running back Mark Thompson had his best performance of the season as he found the endzone twice and was the number one graded rusher (82.7) in Week 8 of the UFL.

On the season, Houston’s leading rusher is T.J. Pledger IV with 247 yards, while the leading receiver is Justin Hall with 425 yards and one touchdown reception.

Michigan outperforms the Roughnecks offensively, ranking 4th in the league with 2231 total yards, including 997 on the ground and 1334 in the air. Houston is ranked 7th, with 1948 total yards, 557 on the ground, and 1391 through the air.

Defensively, the Panthers have an edge, as they are ranked 4th in the league, allowing 566 rushing yards, 1388 passing yards, and 131 points on the season. The Roughnecks are ranked 5th, allowing 708 rushing yards, 1491 passing yards, and 188 points on the season.

What should we expect?

Michigan has hopes for the top spot in the USFL Conference, and a victory against the Roughnecks this week, along with a Birmingham loss against the Brahmas, could potentially position the Week 10 game between the Panthers and Stallions as a conference battle. By the time this game starts, the Panthers will know the outcome of the Birmingham game, so they may base their enthusiasm on that reality. However, even if the Panthers and Stallions end the season tied in the standings, it looks as if tiebreakers would still hand the conference to Birmingham.

The Roughnecks are out of playoff contention, but they just want to win for pride and film. They put together a good showing last week against the Stallions and have found themselves in contention for most of their games this season. Expect the Roughnecks to give the Panthers a good game.

Oddsmakers have given the Panthers a 4-point edge in this game. You should probably pay credence to this expectation and take Michigan and the spread.

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