Spring football is back and it’s just as big as ever. The historic first game of the USFL will be simulcast on NBC and Fox. Will this league be as popular as the original USFL? If two major networks are willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars and commit to multi-year contracts, then it’s likely that the USFL will produce a solid spring football product.
Philadelphia Stars vs. New Orleans Breakers
The New Orleans Breakers are the splashy team. It makes sense, their logo is a wave. The Breakers have the names, but familiarity is meaningless unless it’s familiarity among teammates. Bettors that are familiar with a college player that didn’t make it in the NFL might have an edge, but the players that are familiar with each other because they played together — that’s a real edge. That’s the Philadelphia Stars. Their head coach, quarterback, running back, wide receivers and offensive line played together in The Spring League where they won two championships. While most people will not be familiar with the Stars in week 1, the Stars are familiar with the Stars’ stars, and the public will quickly come around after Week 1.
Michigan Panthers vs. Houston Gamblers
It’s hard to set a line for a brand new league, so the DraftKings Sportsbook played it safe and put similar lines on every game. This line is too favorable to the Houston Gamblers. This team is widely considered to be one of the worst in the league. The Michigan Panthers are the preseason favorite to win the championship. With the quick turnaround between the draft and game one, experience matters. A disciplined, well coached team does not need the strongest and fastest players to win in Week 1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will be victorious, and Jeff Fisher is taking his return to coaching very seriously. He could be fishing in Montana a million miles away from the daily hate he receives on Twitter. His comments about the social media criticism that he has received make it clear that he is out to prove something. Regardless of the chip on his shoulder, he is the better coach, and the better coach wins in these scenarios.
New Jersey Generals at Birmingham Stallions
This is just a matter of attacking one of the lowest lines. The USFL could be an up-tempo, high-scoring league similar to college football. The USFL has a 3-point conversion, alternative onside kick play (convert a 4th-and-12 to maintain possession after a score) and a 35-second play clock (NFL uses a 40-second play clock). The first sportsbook to post USFL lines had the games listed in the mid 50s. Sharps immediately hit those lines, and there was a 10-point swing. This seems like an over correction based on the slow start for the offenses in the XFL, but even if that is a trend that will continue in this league, the lines are still really low.
The New Jersey Generals may have the best running back in the league with Mike Weber (1,096 yards rushing for Ohio State as a freshman), and he’ll be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. At receiver, the Generals have the explosive speedster KaVontae Turpin who played with the Generals’ quarterback De’Andre Johnson in The Spring League. Although he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash on his pro day, off-the-field issues have limited his career. He’ll be flanked on the outside by J’Mon Moore. The Green Bay Packers’ 2018 fourth-round pick had over 1,000 yards receiving in his junior and senior season at Missouri. On the Birmingham Stallions side, they are deep at every offensive position. If one of their running backs or receivers are a bust, there are plenty of other options to fill the void. Even at quarterback, if Alex McGough (“mah-goo”) — a quarterback with NFL experience — doesn’t work out, J’Mar Smith could easily take over. Smith was the quarterback at Louisiana Tech when Birmingham Stallions head coach Skip Holtz was the head coach at La. Tech. McGough is not a lock to be the lead QB, but this offense is a lock to score points.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Generals RB Mike Weber has been transferred to the practice squad for Week 1.
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