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  • Writer's pictureNick Vetrone

USFL Championship Betting Odds, Preview, and Pick

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

With the odds set, USFL Championship betting is underway. Fans of the rebooted league will recognize a few similarities in this preview between last year’s season finale and the matchup set to end the 2023 season.


For one, the Birmingham Stallions look to run it back as repeat champions. They advance after beating the New Orleans Breakers in the previous round and are heavy favorites in the title game: both repeats of last year’s script.



However, their opponent this year may be surprising in retrospect. The Pittsburgh Maulers were the worst team in the league in the ’22 season, claiming just a single victory out of their ten contests on the way to the definitive worst record in the league.


While they were much improved this season, much improved looked a lot like a 4-6 record. Of course, that was good enough for playoff contention in the woeful North division where every team finished sub .500. So, where does that leave things? Will the Stallions steamroll the revitalized Maulers, or can we make a case for the underdog?

 



The case for picking the Maulers


+7.5 (-110) / +240 ML


Key Players:

Mark Gilbert (DB), Troy Williams (QB), Reuben Foster (LB), Isiah Hennie (WR)


Key stats:

Turnover differential +8 (1st) l DEF INTs 13 (1st) l Return AVG 28.2 (2nd) l Pass yards 1437 (8th) l Yards per game 243 (8th) Third Down conversion 30% (8th) Fourth down conversion 30% (8th)



The Maulers formula for winning is an ugly one. With the league’s best turnover differential and two of the top five ball hawking DBs in the USFL, the Maulers’ defense creates numerous opportunities for their much more limited offense. In addition to their highflying defense, they also boast one of the best return groups in the league, with Isiah Hennie and Joshua Simmons notching nearly 30 yards per return.


Together their special teams and defensive units create a short field for their offense, which, in turn, ranks worst in the USFL in yardage, 1st downs, and 3rd/4th down conversions. In short, they haven’t necessarily needed to air the ball out on the short fields created by the two aforementioned units.


When they do need offense, they look to dynamic QB Troy Williams, who leads the team with 9 total all-purpose TDs. As the team’s leading passer and rusher, Williams has generated points for the Maulers, while only tossing three INTs this season.


The fear for the Maulers is that, outside of Williams, they have very little in terms of offensive game. Garret Groshek leads the team in rushing attempts, yet still has about 150 yards less than Williams for the year. Additionally, Williams ranks as the 7th best passing QB in a league with eight teams. Can they really keep up with the Stallions passing attack?


If you are betting the spread, which continues to swell to 7.5 on some books, it might be hard to turn down so many points. Last year, the Stallions also beat up on the Breakers, before just squeaking out a 3-point win against the seemingly weaker Stars. Could we see that repeated here? Perhaps so if the first meeting between these two teams—a 4-point Stallions’ win—is an indicator.


For the spread, it certainly seems plausible that the Maulers can use turnovers to keep the game within a touchdown. Last time, they grabbed two balls from the Stallions’ star QB and ended with a +2-turnover margin. Birmingham will likely be conservative with the ball if they hold a lead into the last quarter, trying to avoid any comeback-igniting turnovers.


While the spread is tempting in favor of the Maulers, can Pittsburgh push beyond and pull an upset? At +240, I don’t mind the value pick here. This is not an unwinnable game for the Maulers—and as far as the league is concerned, that isn’t a bad thing. The USFL has a good narrative running with some of the least competitive squads from last year producing on the field. What better way to end the season than with a Maulers, the worst team of 2022, getting crowned over the reigning champs?

 

The case for picking the Stallions


-7 (-110) / -300 ML


Key Players:

Alex McGough (QB), CJ Marble (RB), Dalton Davis (WR), Jace Sternberger (WR)


Key stats:

Yards per game 3326 (1st) l 3rd Down conversion 51% (1st) l Pass TDs 21 (1st) l Turnover differential -2 (6th) l Yards against per game 309 (8th) l Rush yards against per game 118 (7th)



For Birmingham, Alex McGough has been the talk of the team, and the league for that matter. The former Florida International QB has been red-hot as of late, carving up the Breakers with a 310 passing yards, 4 pass TDs, 84 rush yards, and 1 rushing TD performance. A far cry from his 2 INT, 56 QBR outing against the Maulers back in May.


McGough leads an offense with the league’s leading TD receiver in Strenberger and one of the top rec yard receivers in Dalton. Complementing the deadly passing attack are CJ Marble, a top 5 RB in USFL, and McGough’s sneaky wheels—good for 1000 rush yards as a tandem this season. With these personnel, it isn’t hard to see how Birmingham holds 1st place in the USLF in yards per game and an exceptional 51% conversion rate on 3rd down.


Offensively the Stallions are worldclass, but the other side of the ball is a point of concern. The Stallions lead not only in yards per game, but yards allowed per game, too. Will their offense be enough to overwhelm the Maulers? -7.5 is a lot to lay with an alt league team, but it may not be as treacherous as it seems.


The money line is hard to bet, given the juice, but the spread may not be a bad play, as some books have this game at -7. As mentioned, the last meeting between these teams saw McGough play a poor game, curtesy of the Mauler’s excellent secondary. Yet, the Stallions still won by more than a field goal. If McGough, who is on fire right now, can play even half has effectively as he did last round, the Stallions should grab a double digit win here.

 

The Stallions are a team with many ways to do damage on offense, and even with a D that surrenders a lot of yards, the Maulers simply don’t have the offensive firepower to take advantage of Birmingham’s flaws. If the Stallions don’t force the ball and utilize their 3rd down offense to nickel and dime their way across the field, we might see some familiar faces in the winner’s circle.


Look for the Stallions to repeat as USLF champions and win by 10 or more in a game that gets controlled by the reigning champs by halftime.


Pick: Stallions -7



Stats and team rankings via USFL.com

Player stats also via thefootballdb.com

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