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Birmingham Stallions vs. Michigan Panthers Breakdown

10 days ago

 

The second half of an afternoon of USFL football finds the league heading up north. Detroit’s Ford Field serves as the setting for Saturday’s late game.

If you turn on your television set or mobile device Saturday afternoon and head to FOX Sports, you’ll see an intriguing football game from Ford Field. Both teams in Saturday’s late game enter week six of the 10-week USFL season trying to rebound from defeats last Saturday.

One of the teams, however, has seldom lost since the USFL was rebooted last spring.

Stallions Clash With Panthers in Game Two of Saturday Doubleheader

Act two of the twin-bill sees the Birmingham Stallions (3-2) head to Detroit to take on Ford Field’s primary USFL tenant, the Michigan Panthers (2-3). Both teams have had a full week to prepare for this contest, having had the luxury of playing last Saturday.

Birmingham dropped a close one, 27-20 in the late game on Saturday a week ago to the Houston Gamblers. Michigan was blown out in the early game last weekend on its home field, 23-7, against the Pittsburgh Maulers.

The opening kickoff of the contest is set for just past 4 pm ET/ 3 pm CT on FOX. Fans with tickets to the game should take note that the Panthers will be honoring first-responders this week.

This ceremony is part of a league-wide Hats off to Heroes initiative taking place over the next couple of weekends in commemoration of the Memorial Day holiday in a week and a half.

Fair Weather Expected for Tailgate Parties

With this game taking place inside a domed stadium, weather concerns are nonexistent for the ballgame itself. What about the drive to the stadium and the associated tailgates taking place right afterward?

Current weather forecasts call for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s for any tailgate parties that happen outside Ford Field. A slight breeze out of the west-northwest will greet tailgaters early Saturday afternoon.

Birmingham Stallions vs. Michigan Panthers Betting Odds

As of late Thursday afternoon, the oddsmakers have the visiting Birmingham Stallions installed as a -5 1/2-point favorite on the spread and a -213 favorite on the money line. The homestanding Michigan Panthers counter as a +160 underdog on the line.

The over-under for the late game is set at 44 1/2 points. If you plan on betting on this or any other game happening over the weekend, please wager responsibly.

Look for Stallions TE Sternberger to Have a Good Day

Despite the Stallions’ defeat to the Gamblers last Saturday, their passing game had a great afternoon at home. Birmingham quarterback Alex McGough threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns in his fourth week as a starter in the wake of J’Mar Smith having his season end on opening night.

As far as the receiving corps are concerned, tight end Jace Sternberger led with four catches for 41 yards, but he was kept out of the end zone. McGough has a good fleet of guys to throw the football to.

If Sternberger can find space across the middle, he can make Michigan’s defense pay all day long. They’ve got to get him open and get him open often during Saturday’s game.

Can Sullivan Replicate Last Week’s Efforts?

On the other side of the football, Birmingham linebacker Elijah Sullivan had a banner afternoon last weekend, notching nine tackles all told. After having bounced around several NFL practice squads since going undrafted two years ago, Sullivan has found his footing in the USFL.

He’d been kept off of the stat sheet for much of the season up until last week, so if he’s able to find a lane to do some damage on defense, look out. Last week was his breakout game after only registering two tackles in week two against Memphis.

He’s poised to make a name for himself with Scooby Wright on injured reserve, but can he apply himself again this week? Tune in and find out.

Panthers Need to Create Room to Run and Team Gets Reinforcements at QB

Last week, the running game for the Michigan Panthers was a near-complete non-factor. They only gained 18 yards total against Pittsburgh on 18 carries.

You don’t need to be a math major to know that this amounts to an average of one yard per attempt. To a man, head coach Mike Nolan has been preaching this all week long in practice.

Birmingham enters this week allowing roughly 139 rushing yards per game through the first five contests, so there’s hope for the Panthers this week. There’s also some news on the quarterback front going into Saturday for Michigan.

Carson Strong was placed on injured reserve earlier on in the week. In his stead is an all-time great from Michigan State. Brian Lewerke, who passed for more than 8,200 yards as a member of the Spartans, was signed by the Panthers Wednesday

Lewerke won’t play this week, but could he be the spark this team needs down the road?

Breeland Speaks Bringing the Pain

It seems as though USFL fans can’t go one week without hearing about defensive end Breeland Speaks and his prowess to bring down opposing quarterbacks. Although the Maulers effectively silenced the Panthers a week ago, Speaks found an outlet to express himself.

With 2 1/2 sacks last Saturday, he secured the USFL Player of the Week Award in a Twitter vote on Monday. So far, he’s sacked opposing quarterbacks six times in five weeks.

It would come as no shock if after the USFL season ends in early July, Breeland Speaks finds himself on an NFL roster by training camp. A similar performance this Saturday at home would only bolster his case.

Final Thoughts

The Birmingham Stallions were the best of the class in the league a year ago, but they’ve had a challenging first half to this season. Can they turn things around?

Prediction: Birmingham 35, Michigan 21.

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