By RJ Young
FOX Sports Writer
Does the USFL have a new king of the hill? That certainly looks like a possibility after Week 3's action, which included a dominant performance by the New Orleans Breakers over the reigning champion Birmingham Stallions.
A season has its ebbs and flows, so we won't discount the Stallions this early in the season. But we will give credit to the Breakers, who made a statement in their 45-31 victory, and thus have launched themselves to the top of the power rankings.
Let's take an updated look around the league with our latest edition of the 2023 USFL power rankings.
1. New Orleans Breakers (3-0)
The Breakers threw down a gauntlet with a shellacking of the Stallions this past Saturday. With the win, New Orleans boasts the league’s leading passer in McLeod Bethel-Thompson, it's leading rusher — and Offensive Player of the Week — in Wes Hills, and its leading receiver in Sage Surratt.
Hills rushed for 191 yards on 34 rushes in the win. He also leads the league in rushing TDs with six.
And while it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the 45-point burst — the most any team has scored on the Stallions over the last 13 months — from John DeFilippo’s offense, the Breakers defense quietly became the first unit to hold the Stallions scoreless in the third quarter since the USFL’s return in April 2022.
Atop the South Division and with a win against what had been the best team in the league for well over a year, the Breakers now look like the team to beat with seven weeks of regular season football left.
2. Birmingham Stallions (2-1)
The Stallions met a match in the Breakers. But down just two scores with less than four minutes to play, Birmingham coach Skip Holtz felt his team just got outworked with the game on the line.
In their final possession, the Stallions gave up two sacks in three plays, voiding any chance of a late comeback attempt from the defending champions. They also allowed 45 points after allowing no offensive points the previous week vs. Memphis. In fact, Birmingham hadn’t allowed more than 18 points in any of its last 10 regular season games dating back to last year.
However, the Stallions still look like one of the three best teams in the USFL and will have an opportunity to avenge their loss later this month in Week 7, in a game that could be for the South Division title.
Alex McGough continues to show growth as the Stallions' starting quarterback, making just one mistake in the form of an interception in the loss. He leads the USFL in passing TDs with seven.
3. New Jersey Generals (2-1)
The Generals spoiled the Panthers’ home debut with a grinding, 28-13 win that featured an outstanding rushing attack and a defense that looked like it had a view of Michigan’s playbook down the stretch. Led by linebacker Chris Orr, who put together a second straight double-digit tackle performance, the Generals defense held the Panthers to just three second-half points.
With quarterback De'Andre Johnson behind center, the offense rushed for 198 yards while holding the ball for just 24 minutes. Big plays were the difference for the Generals in their win in Detroit with three touchdowns going for 35 yards or more. That matched the Generals’ total for the entire 2022 season.
New Jersey sits atop the North Division and looks every bit like a team prepared to repeat its 2022 performance — losing its first game of the season to Birmingham and then mounting a nine-game winning streak.
4. Michigan Panthers (2-1)
Two weeks after the most efficient passing performance in USFL history (18-for-20), Panthers quarterback Josh Love looked frustrated in the loss against New Jersey, completing just 15 of 31 pass attempts for 101 yards with an interception.
2022 All-USFL running back Reggie Corbin was held to just 38 rush yards on eight rushes in the Panthers’ first loss of the season. Michigan actually had the ball for 30 of the first 37 plays in the second half, but couldn’t finish drives and only ended up scoring three points after halftime.
With games against the Memphis Showboats and Pittsburgh Maulers coming up in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively, the Panthers will hope to right themselves ahead of a three-week stretch that will pit them against Birmingham, New Jersey and New Orleans in back-to-back-to-back weeks. Their next four weeks of football will likely define their chances of making the postseason.
5. Philadelphia Stars (1-2)
After looking like one of the four best teams in the league to begin the 2023 season, the Stars have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since the USFL’s return last season.
Philadelphia turned the ball over three times against the Maulers in a 21-13 defeat and was held to just three points in the second half. The Stars’ only TD came in the first quarter.
In each of the Stars’ losses, quarterback Case Cookus has thrown two interceptions. Bart Andrus’ Stars could also use some help in the running game — the Stars average a league-worst 2.75 yards per carry after averaging 5-plus yards per carry last season.
6. Houston Gamblers (1-2)
The Gamblers became one of two teams to record their first win this season, a 30-26 triumph over the Showboats.
Since the start of last season, the Gamblers had lost four games that they were leading with 2 minutes left. It looked like last week was going to be another collapse, but Houston rallied for a game-winning TD with 13 seconds left vs Memphis. Houston needed to score 16 fourth-quarter points and get a game-winning catch from wide receiver Justin Hall — on third-and-10 with 18 seconds to play — to secure the victory.
Houston quarterback Kenji Bahar also played well enough in the win with a second straight 200-yard passing performance to go along with two pass TDs and just one INT. Running back Mark Thompson added 81 yards on the ground on 21 rushes and two TDs in the win.
7. Pittsburgh Maulers (1-2)
The Maulers earned their first win of the 2023 season and just their third since the USFL returned with a 21-13 victory against the Stars, who finished last season in the USFL championship game. It took 26 drives into the season, but Pittsburgh finally scored its first offensive TD of the season. The Maulers will need to improve in the Red Zone if they want to pile on more wins — they have just one TD in nine red zone trips this year.
Former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster notched 11 tackles — including two for a loss — two passes defended and an INT in the win. While Maulers coach Ray Horton would’ve loved to find the end zone more often, kicker Chris Blewitt hit five field goals to help the Maulers win.
Offensively, though, the Maulers are still worryingly one-dimensional. Quarterback Troy Williams completed just 10 of 18 pass attempts for 96 yards with a TD in the win.
8. Memphis Showboats (0-3)
Todd Haley’s squad is in the unenviable position of being the only team in the league without a win. However, former Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley completed 21 of 38 passes for 307 yards with two TDs and an INT in the loss. He didn’t receive any help from the run game — Memphis running backs combined for 11 carries for four yards on Sunday.
At 0-3 and 0-2 in the South in the South Division, the Showboats need to start showing up if they expect to compete for a spot in the playoffs next month.
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.