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Philadelphia Stars vs. Memphis Showboats Breakdown

The calendar does read April, but football is back. While the XFL is in the stretch run of its season, another league is just about ready to kick off.

This Saturday and Sunday, the second season of the rebooted USFL begins with doubleheaders on both days and games in Memphis and Birmingham, two of the league’s four hub cities for the 2023 season. Both games this Saturday are on the same network that owns the league.

Philadelphia at Memphis Opens USFL Season on Saturday Afternoon

To start, FOX Sports presents a game between a squad that was one win away from winning last year’s USFL Championship and a team who underwent a rebranding in the offseason. Quarterback Case Cookus and the Philadelphia Stars (6-4 in 2022) travel to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium (formerly the Liberty Bowl) in Memphis to play the renamed Showboats (4-6 in 2022 as the Tampa Bay Bandits.)

The Kickoff time of the opening game of the season is set for just past 4:30 pm ET/ 3:30 CT on FOX. Immediately following Philadelphia at Memphis, the scene shifts to the league’s central hub from last season.

Protective Stadium in Birmingham serves as the setting for the nightcap between the New Jersey Generals (9-1 in 2022) and the Birmingham Stallions (9-1 in 2022). Action from the late game begins at 7:30 pm ET/ 6:30 pm CT.

Inclement Weather Not a Factor for Stars at Showboats

A year ago, several games in the USFL were forced into weather delays because of lightning in the vicinity of Protective Stadium, including two games in the opening weekend. The game between the Bandits and the Pittsburgh Maulers was postponed on April 17, 2022, and rescheduled for the following evening.

All three games that Sunday was pushed back due to a lightning delay in the first game of the day. Thankfully, the USFL gets a break in the weather department for Saturday afternoon’s opening ballgame.

Originally, the Memphis weather forecast called for a high probability of showers and thundershowers on Saturday. As it stands currently, however, the worst of the weather should stay away from the area until after the game.

The only issue that the teams have to deal with is going to be the wind. Current projections are calling for sustained southerly winds at a maximum of 15 MPH with 30-MPH gusts.

Philadelphia Stars at Memphis Showboats Betting Odds

As of Thursday, the oddsmakers have Philadelphia as a -2 1/2-point favorite on the spread and a -143 money line favorite, with Memphis countering as a +110 underdog on the money line. If you plan on betting on this or any other USFL game this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Case Cookus Returns at QB for Philadelphia After Sustaining Injury in USFL Championship Game

By and large, Case Cookus was never supposed to be QB1 for the Philadelphia Stars during the 2022 USFL season. The man who became the starter for the balance of the season, a 12th-round selection in last year’s draft, was to have been a backup.

Current Toronto Argonauts (CFL) QB Bryan Scott, who began the season as the starting quarterback last year, sustained a knee injury in the Stars’ May 1, 2022 defeat to New Jersey. From there, Cookus guided the team to a 6-3 record down the stretch, including a berth in last July’s USFL Championship Game against the Stallions.

A Dream Season Derailed

It looked as though the Cinderella story would have a happy ending, until the fourth quarter hit in Canton, Ohio. Late in the game, with Philadelphia holding a 23-20 advantage, Cookus broke his right leg to end his season. Recently, he was interviewed by Mary Omatiga of USFL rightsholder NBC Sports, describing what happened.

“The Stallions ended up bringing the pressure off the edge and stepped up and I got tackled from behind,” Cookus recalled. “It was an awkward hit and I just kind of landed funky and ended up breaking my leg. I broke my fibula and a piece of my ankle.

Worse yet, the injury took place with less than two weeks to go before his wedding day.

“I flew back to LA, had surgery, and I got married five days after the surgery,” he said. “I was on a scooter rolling down the aisle.”

With Case Cookus now fully healed, can he recapture the magic he had last year? Watch the game to find out.

Bandit Ball Relocates to Memphis From Tampa Bay

Last season, the Tampa Bay Bandits finished in third place in the USFL’s Southern Division with a 4-6 record. During the offseason, it was announced by the league that the Bandits would not return for the 2023 campaign and the team would be inactive this year.

After that news, the former Bandits staff and roster would be confirmed to comprise the Memphis Showboats, but they’ll have a new man at quarterback this season. Last year’s starter, Jordan Ta’amu, has since left to guide the XFL’s DC Defenders to a berth in that league’s postseason.

White is to Start at QB for Showboats

Showboats head coach Todd Haley has named his starter under center for Saturday’s season opener. It’s a name already known to locals in the team’s home market, too.

Former University of Memphis quarterback Brady White, who played his college ball in the very same Liberty Stadium, will be taking snaps against the Stars this week. Haley explained the rationale behind the decision is familiarity.

“The name of the game is winning,” Haley said. “So, whoever gives us the best chance to win will be the guy handling the football most of the time. But Brady, having been with us most of the time last year, definitely had a head start.”

White has a decent guy to throw to this season, as well. Enter Derrick Dillon, a former receiver from LSU under Coach O, Ed Orgeron. Last season for Tampa Bay, he gained 386 yards on 28 receptions, scoring four touchdowns before briefly joining the Cleveland Browns in NFL training camp.

Final Thoughts

With the USFL only having a 10-game regular season, early-season contests like this one are most critical. This should be a fun one to watch.

Prediction: Philadelphia 24, Memphis 21.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

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