Game Preview: St. Louis Battlehawks at Birmingham Stallions, Saturday 11 May, 2024

  • St. Louis Battlehawks (5-1) at Birmingham Stallions (6-0)
  • Saturday, May 11 at 3:00 PM CT (4:00 PM ET)
  • Protective Stadium, Birmingham, AL
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: ESPN (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Curt Menefee (Play-by-Play), Joel Klatt (Analyst), Brock Huard (Sideline Reporter), Mike Pereira (Rules Analyst)
  • Odds: Birmingham -3.5, O/U 47.5 (DraftKings)

The St. Louis Battlehawks and Birmingham Stallions will meet in a clash of the two top teams in the UFL, as well as the top two offenses in the league. The Battlehawks lead the UFL with 173 points scored through six games, while the Stallions have scored 171 points. Both teams sit in sole possession of first place in their respective conferences. St. Louis leads the XFL Conference at 5-1, and Birmingham paces the USFL Conference at 6-0.

The game will be a homecoming for Battlehawks quarterback A.J. McCarron, born in Mobile, Alabama, and who played for the University of Alabama in nearby Tuscaloosa,, from 2009–13. He won three BCS national championships with the Crimson Tide (2010, 2012–13) and is one of the two quarterbacks, along with Georgia’s Stetson Bennett (2022–23), to win consecutive national titles.

People are touting this game as a potential championship preview. Regardless, this will be the first meeting between the two franchises. In the lead-up to this game, ticket sales seemed robust, raising expectations for a titanic clash.

What do we know?

Leading the Battlehawks’ top-ranked scoring offense is A.J. McCarron, who has thrown a league-best 13 touchdown passes and 1,306 yards with only two interceptions. McCarron heads into his first professional game in his home state after his second three-touchdown pass performance of the season (also: Week 4 vs. Memphis) on May 4 in a Week 6 home win over the Houston Roughnecks. McCarron went 24-for-37 with a season-high 255 passing yards and his second interception of the season.

The Battlehawks extended their franchise-best winning streak to five games on May 4 in a 22-8 victory over the USFL Conference’s Houston Roughnecks. St. Louis has outscored its opponents 157-85 during the streak and moved a game ahead of the San Antonio Brahmas (4-2) for first place in the XFL Conference.

WR Hakeem Butler, the Battlehawks’ leading receiver in 2023, took sole possession of the top spot among UFL receivers with five touchdown receptions for the season after he scored on a pair of catches for the second consecutive week. Butler caught a 17-yard pass from QB A.J. McCarron with 6:12 left in the second quarter on May 4 against Houston for his first score of the game to put the Battlehawks in front, 6-0. He also produced the team’s final score of the game when he hauled in a 36-yard pass from McCarron, which extended the Battlehawks’ lead to 20-6 with 3:06 remaining in the contest. The 27-year-old Iowa State product led the team in receiving yards for the second straight week, totaling a game-high 134 yards on six receptions.

The St. Louis offense has also protected the ball as well as any team in the league this season. Through the first six weeks of the season, the Battlehawks have tied with the Arlington Renegades for the fewest giveaways in the UFL with five (3 fumbles lost, 2 interceptions). St. Louis has also scored a league-leading 43 points off of turnovers this season, 13 points more than second-place Birmingham with 30. The Battlehawks have produced all but three of those points in their last three games.

This season, the Battlehawks will play their fourth of five regular-season road games after going 2-1 through their first three road contests. St. Louis has outscored its opponents 92-54 in away games this season. The Battlehawks won four of their five road contests in 2023, tying for the best road record in the XFL. In those games, St. Louis outscored its opponents 119-88 after losing two of its three road games in the 2020 XFL season.

St. Louis re-signed LB Drew Lewis on Monday. Lewis split the 2023 XFL season between the San Antonio Brahmas and Houston Roughnecks, making a combined 24 tackles. He also spent time with the Battlehawks during training camp in March.

Following a 39-21 victory last Saturday against the Memphis Showboats, the Stallions clinched a playoff berth for the third consecutive season. By securing a spot in the postseason in just six games, they became the fastest team to clinch a playoff spot in modern USFL/XFL history. Birmingham quarterback Adrian Martinez threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the game, where the Stallions defense was just as effective, holding the Showboats to 217 total yards.

In the league’s rushing ranks, QB Adrian Martinez ranks second in total rushing yards with 327 on the season, just behind John Lovett of San Antonio (348). The Stallions also have two running backs in the top 10 in Ricky Person Jr. (#5 at 193 yards) and C.J. Marable (#6 at 190 yards). Birmingham is the only team with three players in the top 10 in rushing yards. Ricky Person Jr. leads the league in rushing touchdowns on the season with six, having scored one last weekend against the Memphis Showboats.

The Stallions are the league’s leading rushing team, with 874 rushing yards this year. That is 225 more yards than the next closest team, the Michigan Panthers, sitting at 649 rushing yards on the season. Birmingham rushes for 145.7 yards a game, with no other team in the UFL averaging more than 108.2 rushing yards a game (Panthers).

The Stallions defense has dominated thus far this season, recording a league-best 21 sacks through six games. Eight of those sacks came against the Memphis Showboats on April 13th, the most sacks in a game for any UFL team this season.

There’s little room for success in the air against the Stallions. The defense has pulled 29 pass breakups and six interceptions, ranking first in the league. Collectively, the defense is responsible for 312 rushing yards allowed, 87 first downs allowed, and 89 offensive points allowed, all ranked best in the league. Birmingham has also not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

Adrian Martinez is the only player in the UFL this season to throw for over 300 yards in a game, and he’s done it twice. He recorded 334 passing yards in a week-three victory against the Memphis Showboats. Last week, against the Showboats, he broke his own league-best record, recording 368 yards in the air, including four passing touchdowns (also a league-best). Martinez also had the second-best single-game rushing performance with 138 yards on the ground against Houston in week five.

The Stallions have depth at the quarterback position, with three pivots ready to tear up opponents: Adrian Martinez, Matt Corral, and J’Mar Smith. According to the current Stallions depth chart, Martinez will start this game.

What should we expect?

St. Louis has scored at least 22 points in each of the five games during its franchise-best winning streak and leads the league with 173 points scored for a 28.8 points-per-game average. The Stallions’ offense has produced 171 points for a 28.5 scoring average. St. Louis also leads the UFL with 20 touchdowns on the season, with Birmingham second at 18 touchdowns. If both McCarron and Martinez have the games they are capable of, this will be a high-scoring game.

Oddsmakers have determined the Stallions to be 3.5-point favorites in this game. They do have home field advantage; however, it is undetermined how many fans will show up and cheer for the Stallions, or they may just be on hand to see A.J. McCarron return to Alabama and relive his glory.

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