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Michigan Panthers vs. Philadelphia Stars Breakdown

Week two of the USFL season concludes this Sunday night with FS1’s second game of seven planned for the year (barring, of course, any flex scheduling of games, later on, to allow for better contests to air on FOX Sports proper). This Sunday, Canton, OH plays host to both games, including the primetime contest due to a scheduling conflict.

Live coverage of the game begins at 7 pm ET/ 6 pm CT on FS1, immediately following the network’s telecast of an MLS match pitting Atlanta United and Chicago Fire FC (no relation to the dramatic series airing on NBC) against one another. After the final whistle of the soccer match, the other kind of football takes over in the evening.

USFL and XFL Go Head-to-Head on Sunday Night

It won’t be the only spring football game airing at 7 pm this Sunday. A week ago, the XFL, in conjunction with its rightsholder ESPN, announced that the starting time of this week’s Las Vegas Vipers at Seattle Sea Dragons game would be delayed to 7 pm ET/ 6 pm CT to directly compete against the scheduled USFL game on FS1.


The XFL game will be the last of its regular season before the division championships are played the weekend of April 29-30.

Michigan and Philadelphia Square Off in Best Game This Week

When the 2023 USFL schedule was initially released back in February, there were, undoubtedly, a few games that fans circled on their calendars right away. A couple of them happened last week. Beyond the opening weekend of the season, viewers generally need to wait until later in the year to see any potential blockbusters.

However, the league offers up its best game of week two in the final game of week two. Sunday night, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, the hub ballpark for both the Pittsburgh Maulers and the New Jersey Generals, hosts a neutral-site game on its grounds featuring two clubs that emerged victorious on an opening day.

Josh Love and the Michigan Panthers (1-0) travel to Northeastern Ohio to square off against Case Cookus and the Philadelphia Stars (1-0) to close out week two of 10 in the league. Canton hosts this game because of a scheduling conflict.

Note: Under any other circumstance, this game would have been held in Detroit at Ford Field, the hub venue for both the Panthers and the Stars. However, this stadium is hosting a previously-scheduled tour stop for country music vocalist Luke Combs on Saturday night, making it unusable for a football game.

Ford Field makes its USFL debut next Saturday when the Panthers meet the Generals in a 4 pm ET kickoff.

A Cold Night Expected in Canton

Following the passage of a frontal boundary in the Akron/Canton area earlier on in the weekend, temperatures are expected to drop to below-average readings on Sunday for both games of the doubleheader. It’ll be a crisp night for football.

WKYC‘s forecast calls for afternoon highs to only top out near 50 degrees with minimal chances for rain. Those with tickets to the game are going to want to wear a jacket, especially after the sun goes down. Low temperatures following the ballgame are expected to be close to 40 degrees.

Michigan Panthers vs. Philadelphia Stars Betting Odds

As of late Friday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the Philadelphia Stars as the smallest favorite of the weekend on the points spread (-3), as well as a -167 favorite on the money line, with the Michigan Panthers countering as a +130 underdog on the money line.

The over-under is set for Sunday night’s game at 46 1/2 points. If you plan on betting on this or any other game being played this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Panthers Off to Great Start Thanks to Josh Love

Anybody who tuned in to watch last weekend’s contest between the Panthers and the Houston Gamblers had to be wondering to themselves, “Hey, why’s Michigan so good all of a sudden? Weren’t the Panthers terrible last year?” Starting quarterback Josh Love made Michigan fans forget all about what happened in 2022 with his performance last week.

He threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 29-13 win over Houston in Memphis last Sunday. In so doing, the USFL named him the Offensive Player of the Week for week one.

Michigan looked like a squad in midseason form a week ago, so if Josh Love has another big night this Sunday, the Panthers could find themselves at 2-0 after the final whistle.

Michigan Has Stout Defense

For every bit as awesome as Josh Love and the offense had been in week one, the guys on the other side of the football are great as well. The Panthers will be anchored this Sunday night by Breeland Speaks, a defensive end out of The University of Mississippi.

Speaks spent time in the Kansas City Chiefs organization between 2018 and 2019, only recording 1 1/2 quarterback sacks all told. From there, he bounced around with stints on the Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Buffalo Bills, but seldom received playing time.

In one game, Speaks has doubled his entire output of sacks from the NFL, recording three last Sunday against Houston. Much like Josh Love did on offense, Speaks took home Defensive Player of the Week honors after a fan vote.


If the Panthers’ defensive line can pressure Case Cookus, expect Speaks to add to his total. At the same time, Case Cookus has been a challenging guy for opposing defenses to try and contain in the USFL.

Case Cookus Brilliant in First Game Back From Injury

Going into the new season, one of the questions surrounding Case Cookus was one of “How well will he be able to play after suffering a leg injury in the championship game last season?” A 212-yard performance with three touchdowns was a sufficient answer for the Stars.

However, the offensive line struggled to protect him, allowing five total sacks last Saturday afternoon. If the protection breaks down for Cookus and the O-line, the Stars are going to be in trouble this week, especially when you consider that the Panthers recorded four sacks in week one.

Red Zone Offense and Defense Key for Both Teams

Just as the offensive line is paramount in football, what the teams do when they get to the red zone is equally important. Both the Panthers and the Stars capitalized inside the 20-yard line during week one. Philadelphia was a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone against Memphis on April 15, while Michigan scored on two of their four trips close to the goal line against Houston.

When you watch Sunday night’s game and one of these squads gets in the red zone, you’re going to see what both teams are made of. Protection and/or pressure up front on the line will be key in Canton on Sunday night.

Final Thoughts

This could be the highest-scoring game of the season in the USFL. Don’t miss this one Sunday night, or you might regret it on Monday morning.

Prediction: Michigan 35, Philadelphia 31.

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