Another Saturday night in the spring in Birmingham means more USFL football in primetime. This week, FOX Sports sets up shop once again at Protective Stadium for the second half of a day-night doubleheader of action.
Memphis Takes on Birmingham at Protective Stadium Saturday Night
The night game on Saturday in the league finds two teams coming off of a full week of preparation as the Memphis Showboats (0-1), who were defeated by the Philadelphia Stars last weekend in Memphis in the opening contest of the season, travel to Alabama to play the defending champions, the Birmingham Stallions (1-0).
Birmingham bested the New Jersey Generals a week ago on opening night. Unlike the primetime game on FOX last Saturday evening, live coverage begins a half-hour earlier at 7 pm ET/ 6 pm CT.
Fans attending the game, take note that Protective Stadium is celebrating College Colors Night. The first 2,500 fans through the gates at the ballpark will receive a free Birmingham Stallions T-shirt.
TV Note: FOX’s coverage of the USFL is to be directly proceeded this Saturday night by a regional broadcast window of Major League Baseball. Viewers are to be advised that if the MLB games run over their allotted three-hour window, the football game might start on another channel.
Great Weather in the Forecast For Memphis/ Birmingham
Protective Stadium will host both USFL contests on Saturday and the fans who have tickets to the games are in luck. Current weather forecasts call for fair skies in the area.
After a projected afternoon high of 73 degrees in Birmingham, temperatures will cool off to around 60 degrees by the final whistle. No threat of rain is expected.
Memphis Showboats vs. Birmingham Stallions Betting Odds
As of late Thursday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the Birmingham Stallions installed as a -7 1/2-point favorite on the spread and a -500 favorite on the money line.
Memphis counters as a +300 underdog, with the over/under set at 44 1/2 points. If you plan on betting on this or any other game happening over the weekend, please wager responsibly.
Showboats Facing Tall Order vs. Defending Champs This Week
Let’s make it perfectly clear: The USFL schedule makers did the Memphis Showboats no favors by booking them to play Philadelphia and Birmingham in succession to begin the season. These guys have been battle-tested right out of the chute.
It won’t get any easier for them on Saturday when they face the Stallions on their home field. However, there’s a positive going into week two that could be helpful to Memphis against Birmingham.
Memphis Defense Stout in Early Going
Despite the Showboats’ defeat to Philadelphia last Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the season, they showed that they’ve got a tough defensive line thus far in the young campaign. Memphis’ defense sacked Stars quarterback Case Cookus five times in the latter’s first game back from a leg injury in the USFL Championship Game last July.
Any time a defense can record at least four sacks on an opposing quarterback in a ballgame, that’s a solid day. Thus, the key to victory on Memphis’ side of the field is to pressure the quarterback often against the Stallions. It won’t be the guy they prepared for all week long, however.
J’Mar Smith Out For Season, Leading to Alex McGough Under Center for Stallions
Birmingham starting quarterback J’Mar Smith will not be suiting up at Protective Stadium this Saturday, Wednesday night, the Stallions announced on Twitter that Smith was placed on injured reserve upon sustaining an injured left ring finger.
The full extent of the injury wasn’t known until the MRI results came back on Sunday, revealing that he had also sustained damage to the tendons on his non-throwing hand. Smith underwent surgery on the hand earlier this week.
He’ll be inactive for the rest of this season. Last Saturday night, before leaving the ballgame, Smith completed 10 out of his 15 total passes, finishing with 160 yards and a touchdown. Birmingham head coach Skip Holtz has named second-string quarterback Alex McGough as the starter going forward.
McGough spent time in the Seattle Seahawks training camp in 2018 and again in 2021. A former starting quarterback at Florida International University, he holds the school record for touchdown passes (48) with a career-high of 390 passing yards in October of 2015 versus Old Dominion.
This isn’t the first time that Alex McGough has subbed for J’Mar Smith. In the title game last year, McGough completed seven out of 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Stallions Also Without Williams
Not only will the Stallions have to turn to Alex McGough under center, but they’ll also be without their No. 1 receiver from 2022. Marlon Williams, who caught 31 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns a year ago, returned to the Stallions this season.
However, much like J’Mar Smith, Williams’ season will end earlier than he’d have liked. He’s gone for the year after tearing an Achilles tendon in the first half of play.
Birmingham is a resilient team, and with two major cogs from the offense out of action for the rest of the year, it’ll be a “next man up” mentality all the way through.
Even though the Stallions will come in banged up, they’re a very strong bunch. Picking against them is like predicting that Aaron Judge won’t hit a home run at Yankee Stadium.
Prediction: Birmingham 31, Memphis 17.
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