Birmingham Stallions vs. Memphis Showboats | Week 3 UFL Preview

Birmingham Stallions vs. Memphis Showboats | Week 3 Preview

Believe it or not, week three of the UFL is upon us. The USFL conference has a big-time showdown on Saturday night, as the Birmingham Stallions make their home opener against the Memphis Showboats in what should be an exciting affair.

So far, Skip Holtz’ Stallions look like one of the best teams in the UFL, which isn’t a surprise. The back to back Champs have reloaded their roster, and are even better than a year ago in a lot of ways. This past week, they held off the pesky Michigan Panthers, coming away with a 20-13 win.

For the Showboats, this team needs to make a statement. They choked away a 16 point lead in the fourth quarter against the Brahmas this weekend, losing in heartbreaking fashion. Head Coach John DeFilippo is going to have to find a way to motivate this group to refocus and regroup, as they have a very difficult task ahead of them.

Let’s take a look at what we can expect from this matchup.

Quarterback Play

Case Cookus is leading the UFL in total offense at the moment, largely because he’s had to do everything himself. He leads Memphis in passing and rushing yards. If this trend continues, no matter how good Case plays, it’s going to be tough for the Showboats to win football games.

Cookus has been playing relatively well through two weeks. Aside from a couple of mistakes with turning the football over, Case has played up to expectations. With how good the Stallions defense has been playing as of late, though, it’ll be a challenge for Cookus to be productive. They effectively shut E.J. Perry down, and Case could be in the same position if he doesn’t get any help.

With Birmingham, Skip Holtz is adamant about continuing his 2-QB system. So far, they’re 2-0, so we can’t say that it “isn’t working” – but, one has to wonder if this offense would be more efficient if he stuck with just one signal caller.

Both Matt Corral and Adrian Martinez are two talented signal callers, and have put that on display the past two weeks. At the same time, though, it feels like neither can get into a rhythm passing the football when they’re alternating drives throughout the game. Martinez had the stronger passing performance against Michigan, so we’ll have to wait and see as to who ends up being the first to take snaps this weekend.

This game will feature three of the top quarterbacks in the entire UFL, so expect solid play from each one as long as their offensive lines give them the necessary protection.

Standout Playmakers

The wide receiver rooms for both of these teams are tremendous. Starting with Memphis, their go-to guys are Jonathan Adams and Daewood Davis, who have been getting better with each and every week. Their size and speed are NFL-caliber. Vinny Papale and TE Sage Surratt fill out an impressive group for Case to target.

On Birmingham’s side, they haven’t had a receiver truly separate themselves as WR1 quite yet. That said, there is no shortage of talent with Deon Cain, Amari Rodgers, Kevin Austin, etc. all making plays. Jace Sternberger has been shockingly quiet to start this UFL season so far. Hopefully, Holtz can find a way to get him going this week.

Where these two teams differ is in their ground game. Memphis has playmakers, don’t get me wrong, but they have not been efficient. Darius Victor had a better showing in week two, but even then he hasn’t been up to par with what we saw from his days in New Jersey. Meanwhile, Titus Swen and Trey Williams are nowhere to be found.

For the Stallions, C.J. Marable has consistently been producing this season, and actually leads the UFL in rushing yards through two weeks. The one-two punch of Marable and Ricky Person Jr. has been fun to watch, and should make an impact again this week. Given the trends set by these two groups this year, the Stallions no doubt have the edge on the ground.

Stellar Defenses

The Memphis Showboats have been playing quite well defensively, at least when they’re not trying to prevent last minute comebacks. This unit has looked impressive under the second year leadership of Carnell Lake. As of right now, they have the best run defense in the UFL, allowing just 39 yards per game.

On the other side, Birmingham is allowing just 13.5 points per game. Their defensive line might be the best in the entire league. Michigan had zero answers on Sunday, as the Stallions sacked Perry a whopping seven times.

Birmingham’s Lorenzo Burns has been playing outstanding football, and is easily one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He leads the UFL with 3 PBU’s, and one would expect him to garner some of the toughest assignments this weekend.

Memphis is going to have to find a way to contain Adrian Martinez. Martinez has devastated opposing defenses with his legs, running all over the Panthers this past weekend. If he’s consistently escaping the pocket and utilizing his speed, it could spell trouble for the Showboats.

Special Teams

Memphis has also had some struggles with their specialists. Matt Coghlin hasn’t been perfect on the season as a kicker, and those who watched the field goals on Saturday, saw a couple of poor snaps from Turner Bernard. This has to be corrected moving forward.

For Birmingham, Chris Blewitt has done a nice job of replacing Brandon Aubrey. He was 4-4 against Michigan, and played a key role in their win.

Coaching Matchup

Memphis Showboats | John DeFilippo: Coach Flip is in his second season in spring football, after leading the Breakers to a 7-3 record a season ago. He’s got Memphis in a position to make a playoff run, but will have to find a way to knock off the behemoth that is Birmingham in order to succeed this year.

Coach DeFilippo spoke on what his team needs to do in order to beat Birmingham on Saturday:

“Last week we let San Antonio off the hook…probably one of the most disappointing games I’ve been a part of. Big game for us on the road this week. Obviously we have great respect for them, the Stallions have won a lot of games. Our coaching staff is very familiar with them. We have to contain the quarterbacks on defense. They want to run the football. We have to be able to contain them. Special teams wise, we have to be ready for the exotics that they bring especially on their punt block. On offense, we can’t be one for six in the red zone. I don’t care who you’re playing, we have to score touchdowns in order to win this game.”

Birmingham Stallions | Skip Holtz: Holtz is a spring football legend at this point. His teams have consistently been the best from year to year, and that seems no different in the newly formed UFL. One thing to note – his 2-QB system feels like it’s holding this unit back from reaching their full potential. At some point, he might have to shy away from that approach.

Final Thoughts

One thing is for certain: it’s going to be a fun environment in Birmingham at Protective Stadium. The Stallions fans are ready to pack Protective, and their hero from a year ago, Alex McGough, will be in attendance.

Considering the Stallions continue to win – and given their success at home last season, it’s hard to pick against them in this one. Memphis will absolutely put up a good fight, but Birmingham feels like the favorite to pull away with a one score win.

The offensive line play will be crucial. For the Showboats, they’ve had a rough go. Cookus is almost always running for his life, it seems. Birmingham hasn’t been perfect, but overall their group has been one of the better units in the UFL. Will they be able to produce against the best run defense in the UFL? Time will tell.

The Birmingham Stallions host the Memphis Showboats on Saturday, at 7pm ET on FOX.

Full Roster Breakdowns: Birmingham, Memphis

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Birmingham Stallions and Memphis Showboats? Which UFL players are you looking forward to seeing? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!