USFL Preview and Picks: A Look at Opening Weekend Matchups, Score Predictions, and More

Written and Edited by Seth Brown, April 14th, 2023

After becoming the first Spring Football league to complete a first season and move on to a second since the original USFL of the 1980's, the first offseason has finally come to an end, and the regular season is almost upon us. Four matchups span Saturday and Sunday this weekend, giving us our first look into 7 returning franchises and 1 new franchise. 

Philadelphia Stars @ Memphis Showboats

Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee, 4:30pm Saturday

Stars -2.5

The first game of the regular season sees the 2022 USFL North champion Philadelphia Stars, who finished the regular season 6-4 and fell in the USFL Championship to the 9-1 Birmingham Stallions, take on the USFL's newest team, the Memphis Showboats, who will replace the Tampa Bay Bandits for this season, taking over their roster and coaching. 

Philadelphia: Coming off a great year and a championship appearance, the Stars look to get back to work. Dating back to the USFL of the 80's, the USFL championship has never not featured the Stars. This season looks to be no different, as the team returns star QB Case Cookus and many other key playmakers. Considering their success last year and retained talent, these Stars have no reason to not be the stars of the league this year.

Memphis: Despite being considered a new team in a new location, Memphis inherited the Tampa Bay Bandits roster and coaching. What they didn't inherit, however, is Quarterback Jordan Ta'amu, who went to the XFL. Considering Ta'amu's importance to the Bandits last year, and how he was seemingly the only thing keeping them close to .500, the showboats look to be one of the worst in the league this year.

Seth's Pick: Stars 31 - 23 Showboats

Zach's Pick: Stars 28 - 17 Showboats

New Jersey Generals @ Birmingham Stallions

Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama, 7:30pm Saturday

Stallions -5

Under the Saturday Night Lights we see our first nighttime matchup of the 2023 USFL season as the Stallions and Stars face off in a rematch of last season's Opening Night, which ended in a Stallions 28-24 victory after sixty minutes of thrilling action. It's also a rematch of what almost everybody expected would have been last seasons USFL championship game, as both teams finished their regular seasons 9-1 and Regular Season Division Champions.

New Jersey: The Generals started last season on a bad note with a last minute loss to Birmingham. Despite starting 0-1, the Generals would not lose again, winning all 9 of their remaining regular season games. Despite this win streak, and sweeping the Philadelphia Stars in the regular season, the Generals fell to the Stars 14-19 in the USFL Semifinals. After a bright 2022, the Generals have a much more bleak outlook in 2023. Losing starting QB Luiz Perez to the XFL and MVP WR Kavontae Turpin to the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, as well as many other playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Generals look to be in for some decline in year two.

Birmingham: Birmingham had an incredible 2022. They went 9-1 in the regular season, with their only loss being a massive upset to the 3-7 Gamblers, and finished as USFL Champions, winning 33-30 over the Stars. The Stallions had an offseason as great as their prior season. The Stallions retained QB J'Mar Smith, RB Bo Scarborough, and many of their best defenders, which means a lot for a team that was run heavy and defensively powerful. Birmingham currently sits as co-favorites to hoist the trophy with the Generals, but after a couple weeks in, expect these Stallions to stand alone on top of those odds.

Seth's Pick: Stallions 27 - 13 Generals

Zach's Pick: Stallions 31 - 27 Generals

Michigan Panthers @ Houston Gamblers

Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee, 12:30pm Sunday

Houston -1

Both of these teams had similar 2022 seasons. Strong defensive performances, but records that didn't show it. Finishing with 2 of the 3 worst records in the league. Both of these teams put in the work to build better rosters and fix their holes in the offseason and now look much better poised to play in 2023, despite what their Championship Odds may say. After meeting Week 1 in 2022, where the Gamblers barely escaped with a 17-12 win after a Panthers touchdown was called back due to one foot being out of bounds with less than 20 seconds left, this years matchup looks to be much more exciting. 

Michigan: Michigan had an odd year in 2022. They ranked top 3 in Defense and Rushing per game, and first in the league in Passing per game. But the Panthers still finished 2-8, with their only wins coming against the lowly 1-9 Pittsburgh Maulers. Despite the great numbers all around, these losses came at the hands of their Quarterbacks Shea Patterson and Paxton Lynch, neither of which remain with the team. These two Quarterbacks, despite racking up yards, threw interception after interception. It was these QB turnovers that kept Michigan away from the win column a lot. However, 2023 sees a revised Michigan QB room featuring Josh Love, who was acquired in a trade with the Breakers. A revised QB room and a built up offensive line should fix the few holes Michigan had and show massive improvement in 2023.
Houston: In a similar boat to the Panthers, Houston had a dominant 2022 defensively, featuring DPOY Chris Odom on their Defensive Line. Despite the strong defense, Houston finished 3-7 behind very poor offensive outings. In the offseason, Houston has made moves and signings to fill these holes, while actively keeping the defensive side of the ball strong as well. Although the moves weren't as much as the Panthers made, expect 2023 Houston to look nothing like the lowly 2023 Houston did.
Seth's Pick: Michigan 20 - 17 Gamblers

Zach's Pick: Michigan 20 - 24 Gamblers

Pittsburgh Maulers @ New Orleans Breakers 

Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama, 6:30pm Sunday

New Orleans -3.5

Of all of the Week 1 matchups, this game has the two teams with the widest gap between 2022 performances. Throughout the prior 3 games, the widest difference in records between the two teams was 2 games, between the 6-4 Stars and 4-6 Showboats. In this matchup, however, these teams were 5 full games apart in 2022, with the Breakers finishing 6-4 and making the playoffs, while the Maulers sat at 1-9 at the end of the season. Despite this massive difference in 2022 performance, what is more important heading into their Week 1 matchup is their offseason performances. 

Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh saw a lot of changes in the offseason, starting with the brand as a whole, switching from their purple and orange scheme to classic Pittsburgh Black and Gold. Furthermore, both sides of the ball got a massive overhaul, going beyond the roster and into coaching too. The Maulers of today look nothing like the Maulers of last year, both figuratively and literally. Expect this years Pitt to see the win column some more, even if they aren't hunting for the playoffs.

New Orleans: Two weeks into 2022, the Breakers looked unstoppable. Coming off a dominant 35-3 over the Bandits and heading into a game with the Stallions with a 2-0 record, many considered the Breakers the best in the league. Everything went downhill after that, as the Breakers would finish 4-4 in regular season play and face a 30-17 beating in the playoffs that was much worse than the score suggests. Beyond the season, QB Kyle Sloter left the team, originally for the NFL after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, before then signing in the XFL. Many key pieces to this Breakers team also looked for more opportunities, leaving a lot of questions about if the Breakers retained enough talent to run it back with revenge this year.

Seth's Pick: Maulers 20 - 23 Breakers

Zach's Pick: Maulers 17 - 27 Breakers