USFL Week 1 power rankings: Birmingham Stallions remain class of the league

USFL Week 1 power rankings: Birmingham Stallions remain class of the league

Apr 18

By RJ Young
FOX Sports USFL Writer

Week 1 of the USFL's second season is in the books, and the campaign is off to a great start.

There is much yet to be decided over the next nine weeks of the regular season, but we're going to dive right in and take a look at the landscape around the league.

Here is our first edition of the 2023 USFL power rankings. 

1. Birmingham Stallions (1-0) 

The reigning champion Stallions picked up where they left off last year, proving to be the class of the USFL after Week 1.

Birmingham dispatched the New Jersey Generals, 27-10, in front of a home crowd of more than 20,000, riding an outstanding effort from quarterback Alex McGough, who accounted for 119 total yards.

The Stallions were by far the best second-half team in the league last season — outscoring their opponents by 65 points (the next closest was +18). They continued that trend in Week 1 of 2023, outscoring the Generals 10-0 after the half.

Skip Holtz’s squad is 12-1 dating back to the start of last season, and defensive coordinator John Chavis continues to field one of the league’s best defenses.

2. Philadelphia Stars (1-0)

Quarterback Case Cookus completed 20 of 29 passes for 212 yards and three TDs in the Stars' 27-23 win against the Memphis Showboats, with the win coming at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis in front of a crowd of more than 30,000 primarily Showboats fans. 

Former Cincinnati wideout Devin Gray led all Stars receivers with nine catches for 77 yards. Wideouts Chris Rowland, Corey Coleman and Jordan Suell help round out what looked like a formidable offense for Philly.

After finding their offensive groove at the midway point of last season, the Stars are averaging 30.5 points per game over their last six regular-season games — five points clear of the next closest team. 

3. Michigan Panthers (1-0)

The Panthers leaned on USFL Offensive Player of the Week and San Jose State product Josh Love in mounting a 29-13 comeback victory against the Houston Gamblers in Memphis. He completed a USFL-record 90% of his passes (18-for-20) for 215 yards and three TDs.

After muffing a punt that led to a TD for the Gamblers, Michigan wideout Joe Walker finished with six catches for 105 receiving yards, including a TD reception.

The Panthers outscored the Gamblers 20-0 in the second half on Sunday, and that +20 point differential is the highest in any half since the league resumed in 2022.

Mike Nolan’s Panthers have already won half as many games as last year’s Panthers, and they're 1-0.

4. New Orleans Breakers (1-0) 

Breakers quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson became the league’s first 300-yard passer this season while the New Orleans defense didn't surrender a single TD in a 22-15 victory over Pittsburgh.

The Breakers had the best scoring defense in the league last year and picked up right where they left off this weekend, holding the Maulers to just three offensive points and 156 total yards. They also have found a big-time kicker in Matt Coghlin, who went 5-for-5 in his first game in the league. 

Despite a rough start to the game, John DeFilippo’s Breakers look capable of challenging the Stallions for supremacy in the South.

5. Memphis Showboats (0-1) 

While Showboats coach Todd Haley still has a quarterback situation to sort out, defensive coordinator Carnell Lake’s unit demonstrated an ability to consistently get into the Stars’ backfield. The Showboats defense sacked Cookus five times — two each by defensive tackle Jordan Williams and linebacker Greg Reaves

The Showboats didn’t get the win in Week 1, but the offense moved the ball — only punting once in nine possessions. A few miscues cost them, including a turnover in field goal range, a missed field goal, a missed extra point and a turnover on downs in Stars’ territory in the final minute.

6. Houston Gamblers (0-1) 

Houston QB Kenji Bahar looked good at times against the Panthers, finishing with 109 passing yards. But the bright spot on the offense was the rushing of former Utah and Oklahoma running back T.J. Pledger, who scored two TDs and finished with 41 rush yards.

The wheels came off Houston's offense in the second half vs. Michigan, as the Gamblers only managed 85 total yards and turned it over four times. 

7. New Jersey Generals (0-1) 

This year’s season started just how last year’s did: an opening-week loss to Birmingham. Generals fans will be hoping this year’s group will also go 9-0 the rest of the regular season.

Mike Riley’s Generals have a quarterback situation to sort out, as neither Dakota Prukop or De'Andre Johnson took control of the job. However, they can still run the ball well. Behind reigning USFL Offensive Player of the Year Darius Victor, the Generals rushed for 197 yards against the defending champion Stallions.

8. Pittsburgh Maulers (0-1)

Ray Horton’s squad recorded the first defensive and special teams TDs of the season in the USFL, but an anemic offense kept them from securing a win against the Breakers.

Despite multiple trips inside the red zone, the Maulers couldn't enter the end zone, including a stop on a fourth-and-1 from the goal line.

Quarterbacks James Morgan (58 yards) and Troy Williams (23 yards) combined for just 81 passing yards against New Orleans, and no Maulers rusher accounted for more than 34 yards on the ground.

On the bright side, former 49ers first-round pick Reuben Foster had 12 total tackles in his first pro game since 2018 — a total that tied for the league-high in Week 1.  He also chipped in with a forced fumble that was returned for a TD. 

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The Number One College Football Show" on YouTube.

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