Win and you’re in. Pretty simple for the Michigan Panthers in their Week 9 matchup vs the Pittsburgh Maulers, after losing to the New Orleans Breakers 24-20, this past weekend. The Panthers, like all Northern Division USFL teams, control their own destiny as far as making a playoff appearance, however a win this weekend from Michigan solidifies them, for a berth in the 2023 USFL playoffs.
Line: Panthers -1.5, O/U, 41 per Odds by FOXBET +100 Maulers, -125 Panthers
Date/Location: Saturday, June 10th, 2023, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium Canton, Ohio
Kickoff Time: 12:00PM EST
Weather Forecast: 82F Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. High 82F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph
TV/Streaming: FOX/Fox Sports App
Reggie Corbin will be inactive this week, for the first time this season due to a lingering Shoulder injury throughout the season. Corbin has totaled 984 All-Purpose Yards with his 412 Rushing Yards placing him 5th in the league coming into Week 9.
Former Nevada Running Back Toa Taua gets his first opportunity to make an impact as the rookie running back will be active for the first time this season. Per the Panthers Depth Chart, Offensive Coordinator Eric Marty will be rolling with Stevie Scott, and A.J. Richardson as the teams’ primary options in the backfield, with Toa maybe sniffing the field mostly on special teams. The Panthers also will be bringing up Vantrel McMillan a Defensive Lineman in favor over Ethan Westbrooks. McMillan has appeared in Seven games this season totaling 7 tackles, and 1.5 sacks as a rotational piece on the Defensive Line.
Keys to the Game:
Relying on the Law Firm:
With the Panthers resting Reggie Corbin due to his shoulder injury, Michigan may be forced to utilize the services of Scott, Richardson, and Taua to bare the weight of Corbin’s vacancy this week. While Scott has been a serviceable and versatile during his USFL career, his two understudies have had a limited opportunities in their professional careers. A.J. Richardson and Toa Taua will be asked to step up this week with Corbin out, with only Richardson having any experience in the USFL. Richardson a Wide Receiver has started taking snaps at Running Back and has totaled 39 All-Purpose Yards (29 Receiving 10 Rushing), while Taua is set to make his pro debut this Saturday.
All Eyes on Me:
With Corbin out, the spotlight turns to Josh Love to be the Panthers leader during Week 9. Love has shown vast improvement over the past three games, after the team fully invested in him as QB1, after Carson Strong’s injury. With Love in full control, the Panthers will continue to ride with the San Jose State alum, especially with the chemistry he’s manufactured with Joe Walker, Trey Quinn and his Tight Ends.
Keep Ringing the Bell:
One of the larger storylines of the 2023 USFL season was the Panthers signing of former Ole Miss Defensive Lineman Breeland Speaks. While Speaks has made a huge impact in his personal stat line, his contribution to players like Levi Bell, and Frank Ginda may be a overlooked in my opinion. Bell specifically, has been an asset for the Panthers carving out a starting role since signing with the team. The FCS All-American has totaled 2.5 sacks, playing opposite of Speaks and continues to provide a steady amount of pressure on every passing down often time requiring a TE or RB to assist opponents Right Tackles. While Speaks continues to dominate, the drafting/signing of Bell, bodes well for the Panthers to continue to create havoc with their Pass Rush especially with a mobile elusive QB like the Maulers Troy Williams.
The Maulers do have an outside chance of making the 2023 playoffs and will not be “laying down” to the Panthers in their Week 9 matchup. Even with standout WR Bailey Gaither sidelined this week, the Maulers have Ish Hyman, Tre Walker, and Isiah Hennie in their arsenal to aid the elusive QB Troy Williams, who is the Maulers most dominate option in the running game. With the Maulers, defense led by Kyahva Tezino along with a lean and mean Boogie Roberts, the Panthers run game which is missing Reggie Corbin could be forced to take to the air, in an effort to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
While the Panthers seem to have the edge on offense, despite Corbin’s absence, they’ll need a big game from their Linebacking Corps to keep Troy Williams contained in the rushing attack. Look for 3x DPOTW winner Frank Ginda to be sideline to sideline, constantly as the Maulers look to unload all the tricks in an effort to come out on top.
Overall, I think the Panthers win this game as the stakes are too high coupled with the fact that Michigan is away from Ford Field, and this is the second time, they are facing Pittsburgh. The Panthers win this matchup by a score of 27-17, due a solid outing from Joe Walker, and Trey Quinn coupled with a big sack from either Breeland Speaks or Levi Bell, to force a turnover.