The Birmingham Stallions are hitting their stride at the right time. They went through a tough stretch towards the middle of the season but are starting to click in all phases of the game. This has led to the team putting together consistent performances week after week to achieve a three-game winning streak for the first time this season.
Week 8’s matchup against the Philadelphia Stars definitely felt like a turning point in the season for the Stallions when it comes to overcoming adversity. The Stallions trailed for much of the game, including a 14-10 deficit heading into the final quarter. But the team — and most importantly, star quarterback Alex McGough — were unfazed and stayed composed towards the end of the game.
Birmingham scored on each of its three fourth-quarter possessions, including a nine-play, 65-yard touchdown drive on the team’s final drive. With just over 30 seconds left to play and after converting on a must-have fourth and eight, McGough connected with La’Michael Pettway in the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown to retake the lead, 27-24. That would be the final score with Case Cookus throwing an interception on the final play of regulation.
With the win, Birmingham reclaims the top spot in the USFL standings at 6-2. The race for the playoffs isn’t over yet, though, as the rest of the South Division sit at 5-3 each.
The Stallions will close out the season with two divisional opponents with this weekend’s matchup being against the Houston Gamblers. The Gamblers are coming off a narrow 20-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Maulers and will be looking for another win this weekend to boost its chances of making the postseason.
Line: Stallions -3.5, O/U, 45.5 per Odds by FOXBET -182 Stallions, +140 Gamblers
Date/Location: Sunday, June 11, 2023, at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
Kickoff Time: 2:00PM EST
Birmingham’s defense is definitely a weakness and has proven to be incapable of making key stops or even moderately slowing down competent opposing offenses. They’re not good enough at forcing turnovers and allow plenty of yards on the ground and through the air. It’s a bend but don’t break defense. It’s a style that works until It doesn’t. Against the Gamblers, the Stallions defense just needs to stop one facet of the game and make them one dimensional. To narrow this down even further, the defense needs to focus on Mark Thompson and limit his production.
Thompson dominated against the Stallions in their last matchup, rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a sturdy back that has a nose for the end zone, as he’s scored 13 times this season, the most in the USFL. He’s arguably the most dominant back in the league and if he even comes close to replicating his performance, it could be a long day.
On the other side of the ball, the Stallions simply need to do two things: scheme up a combination of runs for McGough and CJ Marable, and let McGough cook. Marable has come on strong the past couple of weeks and is fourth in the league in rushing yards with 437 yards. He doesn’t get in the end zone often, but that’s where McGough comes in. He has the sixth most rushing yards in the USFL with 337 yards while also having four rushing touchdowns.
McGough has had one MVP-worthy performance after another this year. He leads the league with 16 passing touchdowns and has the highest passer rating among qualified quarterbacks. Whether it’s through the air or on the ground, he has good instincts and tends to make the best decision possible in various circumstances. With him at the helm, Birmingham will always have a chance. The Stallions ride or die with McGough and he will ultimately be the reason they win.
Believe it or not, Week 9 will be a first for the Stallions, as they will be playing at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium for the first time this season. This is important because it’s a new field and a new environment, so it will be interesting to see how the squad adapts to the situation.
As of writing this, there is expected to be some thunderstorms and rain in the Memphis area this weekend, which could affect the conditions and the play of both teams. This also appears to have affected the spread and why it’s so close. Both teams are well equipped to beat one another, and it’s going to be another grueling matchup similarly to how it was when these teams met in Week 5.
By this point in the season, each team knows its own strengths and weaknesses, and Birmingham’s positives outweigh the negatives. McGough has a great supporting cast around him that can create separation and gain yards after the catch. Davion Davis has shown flashes throughout the year while tight end Jace Sternberger has been a safety blanket for McGough all season.
At the end of the day, Birmingham is riding high and are the best team in the league when they’re clicking. McGough is going to have the offense ready and the defense just needs to hold up enough to secure a tough, gritty road win. Expect the Stallions to take this one and extend their winning streak.
Prediction: Stallions 27, Gamblers 24