USFL Week 8 power rankings: Showboats, South Division rule

The USFL playoffs are just around the corner. Still, with only two weeks left in the regular season, all eight teams remain in the running for a postseason berth.

As the season has gone on, however, the South Division appears to have a definite competitive advantage over their counterparts in the North, sporting a 13-3 record in head-to-head matchups — including 4-0 last week. 

That disparity is reflected in the latest edition of our 2023 USFL power rankings. Let's take a look.

[If the playoffs started today]

1. Memphis Showboats (5-3, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Beat New Jersey, 25-16.

The Showboats have won five in a row — the longest such streak in the league this season. 

They also lead the league in turnover margin at +5, and Carnell Lake’s defense leads the league in interceptions with 11 in eight games — three more than the next-best team (New Orleans).

With that kind of defense being played, the offense is able to lean on its running game, and the Showboats did so in their win against the Generals. Running back Kerrith Whyte went for 102 yards in the win. The Florida Atlantic product had rushed for just 174 yards all season before Week 8.

The ground game also helped Memphis control the ball, holding it for 40:55 on Saturday. That's the most time of possession by a team in any game since the league returned in 2022. Over their five-game win streak, the Showboats lead the league in that category — 33:51 per game.

2. Birmingham Stallions (6-2, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Beat Philadelphia, 27-24.

Alex McGough put together an MVP-level performance in the Stallions’ victory over Philadelphia on Saturday. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 333 yards and three TDs against the team with the best record in the North Division.

McGough now has 20 TDs this season (throwing and running) — that’s 80% of the Stallions' total offensive TDs (25) — the highest percentage in the league.

The Stallions have won three in a row and are beginning to look like a team ready to make a charge into the playoffs.

3. Houston Gamblers (5-3, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Beat Pittsburgh, 20-19.

The Gamblers rode the heroics of their star tailback Mark Thompson, who stretched his USFL record for TDs in a season to 13. He carried the ball 14 times for 98 yards in the Gamblers’ narrow win.

And they needed him to do just that with quarterback Kenji Bahar hitting just 11 of his 20 passes for 146 yards with a TD.

All 13 of Thompson's rushing TDs have come since his season debut in Week 3 — that’s more than double any other team over that span.

4. Philadelphia Stars (4-4, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Lost to Birmingham, 27-24.

The Stars held a four-point lead against the defending USFL champions with 3:05 left to play before letting it get away. Late-game heroics from McGough and tight ends Jace Sternberger and La’Michael Pettway thwarted Bart Andrus’ latest attempt to earn a win against Birmingham (he's 0-3 vs. the Stallions dating to last season).

However, the Stars look like the best team in the North Division, and wideout Corey Coleman, who had four catches for 107 yards in the loss, looks like a star. Philly could be on a collision course with the Stallions in the USFL title game for a second-straight year.

5. New Orleans Breakers (5-3, 2-2 in South)

Last week: Beat Michigan, 24-20.

The Breakers broke their three-game losing streak with a win against the second-best team in the North Division behind a breakout performance by former Ohio State wideout Johnnie Dixon

Dixon caught nine passes for 136 yards with two TDs and leads the league in catches and receiving yards since his return from a quad injury three weeks ago. Teammate Jonathan Adams is second in catches and third in receiving yards in that span as well.

Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 25 of 34 passes for 328 yards, with two TDs and two INTs.

6. Michigan Panthers (3-5, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Lost to New Orleans, 24-20.

Despite an outstanding second-half performance by the defense, the Panthers dropped their last cross-division matchup this season to the Breakers. After going down 21-0 in the first half, the Panthers fought back to within a score.

Panthers QB Josh Love hit 22 of 32 passes for 221 yards with two TDs and an INT in the loss. Linebacker Frank Ginda led Michigan in tackles with 11.

The issue for Michigan has been a running game that continues to struggle for consistency. The Panthers got a 33-yard run by Reggie Corbin in the first quarter but only managed 18 yards on the other 14 carries the rest of the game. Michigan has seen 22% of its rush attempts go for negative yardage this season, the worst mark in the league.

7. Pittsburgh Maulers (2-6, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Lost to Houston, 20-19.

The Gamblers narrowly escaped Canton with a win after kicker Chris Blewitt, well, blew it, from 41 yards out after making kicks of 53 and 54 yards earlier in the game. But Pittsburgh should’ve never been in that spot.

A 13-0 lead might’ve been a 21-0 lead if the Maulers’ offense had reached the end zone. A 20-for-26 passing performance for 214 yards from quarterback Troy Williams felt wasted. The Maulers scored just once in three red zone attempts while the Gamblers were a perfect 1-for-1.

This was the sixth time this season that Pittsburgh has been held to one or fewer offensive touchdowns. Unsurprisingly, the Maulers are last in the league in scoring at 16.5 points per game.

8. New Jersey Generals (2-6, 2-2 in North)

Last week: Lost to Memphis, 25-16.

The Generals have not won a game since April, and they have not had a single 200-yard passer in any game all season. They are also dead last in turnover margin at -8.

The Generals have yet to find a starter at quarterback they can stick with. Mike Riley has turned to De'Andre Johnson, Dakota Prukop and Kyle Lauletta, but none have been consistent.

With two games left to play and just a game back from a playoff spot, fixing that will be of utmost importance.

Last season, New Jersey led the league in first-quarter scoring, but this year has been very different. The offense has scored a total of six points in the period during their current five-game losing streak. This season, they have 17 first-quarter points in their two wins.

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.