USFL: Michigan Panthers (1-4) vs. Birmingham Stallions (5-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Or: Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama.
Double: Stallions -6.5
• THE SCORE OF THE BOX
LAST WEEK:Panthers rally late, but can’t hold off Bandits in 27-20 loss
Tony Garcia:Will the Panthers and the USFL succeed? Who knows? Will it be fun? You bet
Game Notes: With just five weeks left in the USFL’s 10-week schedule, that means the playoffs in Canton, Ohio — which will face the top two teams in each division — are looming. The Panthers are on the outside, third in the North Division, but only one game behind the Philadelphia Stars. And by point differential, the Panthers are plus-7, one of four teams with a positive differential. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they face the team with the best point differential, the Stallions at plus-37.
Birmingham leads the league with 129 points, thanks to quarterback J’Mar Smith’s connection with receivers Victor Bolden Jr. and Marlon Williams. Smith is 63 for 111 (56.8%) passing for 784 yards and six touchdowns, while Bolden has 29 receptions for 259 yards and a touchdown and Williams has 11 catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
The Panthers’ passing game finally broke through in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, as former Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson completed 27 of 34 passes for 304 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It also doesn’t include a 30-yard pass from wide receiver Joe Walker to tight end Ryan O’Malley for a touchdown, after Walker caught a forward pass from Patterson behind the line for the league’s first double pass. history of the USFL.
But the Stallions present a tough challenge on defense, led by linebacker DeMarquis Gates (formerly of Ole Miss). Gates was named USFL Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after leading the Stars with four tackles, including one for loss and 1½ sacks. He will enter Saturday’s game with 31 tackles and four sacks, good for third in the league.
After finishing with the Stallions, the Panthers will wrap up their South Division games against the New Orleans Breakers at 9 p.m. on May 28 (FS1). Michigan will then end the season with three straight games against its North Division rivals. Likewise, the Stallions will face the Pittsburgh Maulers on May 29 and then face their Southern rivals to complete the regular season.
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