Birmingham finished the regular season with a 8-2 record while also closing the year out on a five-game winning streak. During this stretch, the Stallions has shown the ability to win in multiple ways with three of the games being a close, one-score game while also dominating opponents like in the 38-15 victory over the Houston Gamblers in Week 9.
This is easily the more-anticipated matchup of the pair of USFL semifinal matchups with the North Division having two 4-6 teams battling it out while this one has the two best teams in the league battling it out for a spot in the USFL Championship.
The Stallions and the Breakers met twice in the regular season and split the two games. New Orleans won 45-31 in Week 3 before Birmingham were victorious in the rematch in Week 7 by a score of 24-20. Now in the trilogy matchup, all the chips are on the table with both teams having all the more to gain and everything to lose.
Line: Stallions -3, O/U, 44.5 per Odds by FOXBET -154 Stallions, +120 Breakers
Date/Location: Sunday, June 25th, 2023, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
Kickoff Time: 7:00PM EST
Keys to the Game
Rely on All-USFL playmakers
With the USFL regular season ending, the All-USFL team was named to honor the best of the best from around the league through the 10 games. On that list were Stallions quarterback Alex McGough and tight end Jace Sternberger. Both have acted like the engines to the Birmingham offense and have been the reason they have been so successful this season.
For the Stallions to win this game, McGough will have to continue playing at his brilliant level. In the regular season, he threw for 2,104 yards, a league-leading 20 passing touchdowns and a 108.3 passer rating, the best among qualified starting quarterbacks. Additionally, he finished sixth in the league in rushing yards with 403 yards along with five scores on the ground. As for Sternberger, he finished third in the USFL with 517 receiving yards while also leading the league in receiving touchdowns with seven.
It’ll be vital for the Stallions to keep Sternberger involved in the offensive gameplay while also letting McGough have the range to make plays through the air and on the ground.
Force Bethel-Thompson into tight situations
McLeod Bethel-Thompson shredded the Birmingham defense in the first meeting. He threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns while completing 71.4% of his passes. He didn’t have nearly as much success in the rematch but still possesses the ability to light up any defense. He led the league in passing yards with 2,433 yards. He also threw 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions this year.
Birmingham made sure that Bethel-Thompson felt the pressure in their Week 7 matchup. They will need to scheme the pass rush to make him tighten up and start forcing mistakes. The Stallions can’t let him get into a groove or else their season could come to an end one game short of the championship.
Limit Wes Hills’ impact
Just like Bethel-Thompson, the Breakers have the leading rusher in Wes Hills. He leads the league with 679 rushing yards and has the second-most rushing touchdowns with 10. He hasn’t bee nearly as explosive towards the end of the season, but the Stallions defense shouldn’t brush that off as he’s slowing down. Hill, along with many other running backs against Birmingham’s defense, had a field day in their first matchup, rushing for 191 yards and three touchdowns.
Hills has a knack for finding a way to make an impact in games, whether it’s on the ground or in the passing game. It’ll be important for defensive coordinator John Chavis to get his defense ready and make adjustments to ensure he doesn’t have another great performance.
There’s no better way to close out the weekend than with this thrilling USFL matchup. Everyone has known these are the two best teams in the USFL, and it’s only right that they meet in the playoffs. The two teams split the regular season matchup and with the spread being so close, it can go either way.
Birmingham’s offense is loaded with talent and that side of the ball is going to perform at a high level. Wide receiver Davion Davis has shown flashes throughout the year while Sternberger has been a safety blanket for McGough all season.
The only question is, how will the defense fare against the Breakers offense? They’ve played better in recent weeks but the depth and consistency on that side of the ball has been in question all year. They’ve also struggled at forcing turnovers and generating sacks, things that can create separation in big matchups.
It’s going to be a tight one, and the game will probably be decided based on which quarterback will out-duel the other and which team will have the ball last. McGough has proven to be the better and more consistent quarterback and should guide his team back to the USFL Championship for a second consecutive season.
Prediction: Stallions 27, Breakers 24