The Birmingham Stallions are, yet again, playing on championship weekend for a chance to repeat as the USFL champions, as they will be taking on the Pittsburgh Maulers in the title game this Saturday.
The Stallions (8-2) defeated the New Orleans Breakers in the Division Finals, 47-22. Star quarterback Alex McGough put together a masterclass performance in the dominant semifinal win, throwing for 310 yards and four touchdowns on 31 pass attempts. Along with a 139.8 passer rating, he ran for 84 yards and a score on eight rushing attempts. His performance alone outshined the much-anticipated matchup, so much so that the commentators spent much of the fourth quarter debating whether or not a return to the NFL was possible for the Stallions quarterback.
For much of the regular season, Birmingham were one of the favorites to win it all but getting to the championship game wasn’t easy at times. They started the year 3-2, losing two crucial games to divisional opponents that put them in third place in the South Division. Nevertheless, the squad rallied behind its leaders and closed the season strong with a five-game winning streak.
The Stallions are riding off McGough’s hot hand, and confidence is at an all-time for Birmingham. However, there’s still one more game to be played to cement themselves as back-to-back champs.
Line: Stallions -7.5, O/U 45.5 per Odds by FOXBET -333 Stallions, +240 Maulers
Date/Location: 8:00 PM EST, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio
Weather Forecast: 75 degrees, 50% chance of rain, 78% Humidity, 4MPH Winds
Alex McGough vs. Maulers defense
McGough has played lights out for nearly the entire second half of the season but so has the Maulers defense.
He finished the year with the third-most passing yards (2,104), the most passing touchdowns (20), and the highest passer rating among qualified quarterbacks (108.3).
Meanwhile, the Maulers defense ranked second-best in scoring (17.2 points per game) and rushing defense (83.3) while being the best in total defense (257.4) and passing defense (174.1). This defense is legit, but McGough’s prowess has proven to be too much to handle for every other team. He has the weapons, firepower, and raw talent to pick apart any defense but with a championship on the line, he will need to perform at his best.
This will truly be the matchup to watch out for in this game.
Birmingham’s defense vs. Pittsburgh’s offense
These two units couldn’t be more different if you tried. Birmingham’s defense ranks dead last in yards allowed per game at 309. Meanwhile, the Maulers are last in the USFL in total yards (2,426) and passing yards (1,437) this season.
Birmingham’s defense has shown up in key moments throughout the season and will have to do so again against an offense that is starting to peak.
It’s been tough sledding for both units this season, but one side is going to have to give in this matchup. The Maulers have scored 76 points the last three games, so it’s going to be crucial for Birmingham to shut down the offense’s hot streak.
It all comes down to this. The whole season has been leading up to this game. A lot of people expected the Stallions to be in this game with a chance to defend its championship from last year.
The Stallions are, rightfully so, a touchdown favorite in this championship, but don’t overlook the Maulers. Despite the 4-6 record, they’re a resilient squad that will be hungry to pull off the unimaginable in Canton.
An important thing to watch out for in this game is the ability to sustain long drives and converting on later downs. The Stallions led the league in third-down conversation rate at 51%. Being able to move the chains in championships is vital, especially against the best defense in the USFL.
The upset is always possible in every championship game, but it’s unlikely in this one. Birmingham is too good and outclasses Pittsburgh in nearly every way. They’ve proven to be the better in the regular season and are looking to be the stronger team in this matchup. McGough is playing out of his mind the past few games and when he’s on, it’s nearly impossible to stop the Stallions offense.
When the clock hits zero, the Stallions will be the ones celebrating another championship.
Final score: Stallions 31, Maulers 17