This weekend the Birmingham Stallions in Philadelphia Stars are set to kick off the inaugural USFL championship game. This game should be a prime example of what the USFL hopes to offer to its fans. An excitement field game full of questions and story lines left to be answered.
Birmingham Plays Goliath
This is as close to the David and Goliath story as you can get in the football world. The Birmingham Stallions were one game short of going undefeated in the regular season. Only the Houston Gamblers have been able to crack the code on how to defeat the Stallions this season. While the Philadelphia Stars stumbled down the stretch losing two straight to close the season 6-4.
Birmingham has found success on the strength of game plans that would make Bill Belichick proud. The Stallions have predicated themselves on mistake free football. Leaning on a deep running back depth chart and solid defensive performances led by the Shark Dog himself Scooby Wright.
With versatile play-makers like Victor Bolden Jr, who often put the team before themselves serving any role they need, it’s no surprise that the Stallions find success in 2022. The Stallions fortunes seemed to turn when Skip Holtz turned to his former college QB J’Mar Smith who actually had a stint in New England under Belichick.
However over the last three weeks the Stallions have shown that their team is not flawless. After the loss to the Gamblers, teams since then have had a blueprint on how to defeat the Birmingham Stallions in 2022. Removed from their ultimate advantage of home games through all 10 weeks of the regular season, it’s Philly who could find an advantage in the crowd, if there is one to speak of.
The Stars have had to live by the next man up mentality since week three. Losing starting quarterback Bryan Scott to injury, following a three week stretch that saw him among the league leaders in passing yards per game. With that being said Case Cookus has brought a very Philadelphia mindset, simply grabbing his lunch pail and going to work.
With Cookus at the helm the Stars struggled through bouts of injury at the offensive skill positions whether it was QB, WR, TE or RB. With less than 3 days until the Championship Game the Stars were dealt another blow. They lost Matt Colburn II to injury in last week’s playoff match with the Generals. Colburn II will not be able to go this weekend.
With that being said the Stars turn to their “next man up” mantra once again. This time that man is former Notre Dame running back, and 6th round pick by the NFL in 2019, Dexter Williams will look to fill that Colburn II role in the offense. I expect heavy doses of Paul Terry, and Darnell Holland as well.
The Stars need to establish the run early and often. Case Cookus needs that to lean on to find space in the passing game, and for the sake of providing a legitimate threat on play action passes. This will also open up the Run-Pass-Option game as well, a facet of the game that has been helpful for Cookus.
With a backup Quarterback, and now a backup running back stepping in for their most consistent back this season, the Stars will need to lean on guys like Chris Rowland, Paul Terry, and Maurice Alexander in the passing game to provide big plays after the catch. The Stars have found success with this model before, and it helped lead to the highest point output of the season in the USFL when the Stars put up 46 points on the Panthers.
Final Word on the Championship/Prediction
As I mentioned before this is your quintessential David and goliath style match up in the football world. With that being said do you air on the side of momentum or do you stick with the proven commodity in the Stallions?
In my eyes when it comes to sports I always ride with a hot hand. That being said I think Cookus steps up in Philly’s moment of need. I could see him having an efficient game taking what the defense gives him buoyed by a run game led by new-comer Dexter Williams. With that being said I’m expecting a knock down, drag them out style game that could quickly turn into a shootout. My best guess on a score is 35 to 28 with the Stars putting points on the board late but needing a last second stop by their defense once again.
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