Game Preview: USFL Conference Championship, Michigan Panthers at Birmingham Stallions, Saturday June 8, 2024

  • USFL Conference Championship, Michigan Panthers (7-3) at Birmingham Stallions (9-1)
  • Saturday June 8, 2024 at 2:00 PM CT (3:00 PM ET)
  • Protective Stadium, Birmingham, AL
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: ABC (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Drew Carter (Play-by-play), Sam Acho (Analyst), Cole Cubelic (Sideline analyst), Stormy Buonantony (Sideline reporter)
  • Odds: Birmingham -5, O/U 43 (DraftKings)

The Panthers and Stallions will face off for the third time this season and twice in the last two weeks. Birmingham swept the regular season series, defeating Michigan 20-13 in their Week 2 game and 20-19 in their Week 10 game.

Last season in the USFL, Birmingham defeated the Panthers 27-13 at Ford Field. In their first matchup in 2022, the Stallions took down the Panthers 33-17 at Protective Stadium, also in week six.

In fact, a win for the Panthers in this game would be Michigan’s first victory over Birmingham since Michigan’s first game in their inaugural 1983 USFL season, beating the Stallions 9-7. That season, the Panthers went on to win the USFL championship.

What do we know?

Before losing to San Antonio in Week 9, the Stallions set the standard for the UFL with an 8–0 record. Adrian Martinez took over as Birmingham’s starting quarterback early in the season and has since helped the offense become the best in the league. Martinez has been productive on both the ground and in the air, leading the UFL in rushing with 528 yards and three touchdowns while also throwing for 1,750 yards and fifteen touchdowns.

For the Stallions, Martinez will be taking the snaps this weekend, with Matt Corral as backup. Martinez will be looking for more opportunities to show off his legs and ensure the Panthers are threatened by his two-dimensional offensive attack.

Tight end Jace Sternberger and wide receiver Deon Cain are Martinez’s primary targets. Sternberger has 42 grabs for 454 yards and four touchdowns, while Cain has 33 receptions for 436 yards and three majors. Carlos Davis (seven sacks) and safety A.J. Thomas (three interceptions, tied for the league lead) lead the Stallions defensively.

The Stallions formidable ground attack has included the efforts of running backs C.J. Marable, Ricky Person, and Larry Rountree. Marable and Person are scheduled to be active in this game, and they are ready and able to add significant yards on the ground.

Last weekend in Birmingham, the Panthers nearly pulled off an upset but missed a 53-yard field goal that would have won the game. Kicker Jake Bates has been on fire this season, connecting on 17 of 22 field goals. He got off to a great start with a 64-yard walk-off kick against St. Louis.

In this game, the Michigan Panthers will start Danny Etling, with Brian Lewerke providing backup due to Bryce Perkins’ injury. Having these types of changes to an offensive scheme would hurt the chances of any other team, but these Panthers seem to thrive on change, winning five of their previous six games under similar circumstances.

Marcus Simms is a key cog on offense. He caught 23 passes for 435 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 18.5 yards per reception. Michigan will likely have some key players back for the conference championship game in wide receiver Marcus Simms, running back Matthew Colburn II, and safety Corrion Ballard.

The league named four members of Michigan’s defense to its All-UFL defensive squad. Defensive end Breeland Speaks had 9.5 sacks to lead the league, and Kai Nacua had three interceptions.

What should we expect?

It’s do or die for both of these teams, and we can expect a no-holds-barred contest. The Stallions have seemed to wane in their final two games of the season, losing to the Brahmas in Week 9 and only eking out a win against the Panthers in Week 10. Don’t let these two games fool you. Birmingham will be showing up to the playoffs with all their guns firing and key players healthy in all positions. Not to mention, last week’s game against Michigan was a nothing game, while this game is for all the marbles.

That being said, the Michigan squad is no slouches. If they show up with their heads screwed on right, they can win this game handily. Of course, they need to have things go their way in order to make this game their ticket to the UFL Championship.

Oddsmakers have given the Stallions a 5-point edge in this game. I would not be confident enough to take the Stallions with all we know. However, his game could be extremely close, and taking the Michigan Panthers with the spread may be a decent bet.

1 thought on “Game Preview: USFL Conference Championship, Michigan Panthers at Birmingham Stallions, Saturday June 8, 2024”

  1. I really think Nolan wants this one but Holtz is a master of spring FB and its going to be a war. Read this morning Birm getting a few top players back – could be the difference. D seems to be firming up after the untimely departure of DC Chavis.

    Who knows! Just make it a fun game!


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