Birmingham Stallions vs. Michigan Panthers | Week 10 Preview | C.J. Marable

Birmingham Stallions vs. Michigan Panthers | Week 10 Preview

Just like that, it’s the final week of the UFL season. Things will kick off this Saturday with the Birmingham Stallions hosting the Michigan Panthers, in what is a preview for the USFL Conference Championship.

Heading into this affair, the Panthers are rolling. They’ve won five games in a row, which is the longest win streak the team has had since their return in 2022. Michigan finds a way to get the job done late in games, coming back late against Houston on the road.

Meanwhile, the Birmingham Stallions just lost their first game in over a year. They scored just nine points, the lowest number for any game Birmingham has played in since their return.

With these teams playing each other in back to back weeks, let’s take a look at what we can expect this weekend.

Quarterback Play

To be honest, the quarterbacks are an unknown heading into this game. The depth chart, which will be released tonight, will help provide more clarity. For Birmingham, one would expect Adrian Martinez to start again, especially given some of his struggles a week ago.

Martinez has consistently been one of the top playmakers in the UFL, but did look a bit vulnerable last week against a stout San Antonio defense. He completed just 56% of his passes on Saturday. Adrian will have to try and bounce back, and it won’t be easy given Michigan’s defensive success this year.

While Danny Etling started this past weekend against Houston, it was Bryce Perkins who lifted the Panthers to victory. Since joining the organization a few weeks ago, Bryce has looked like the quarterback with the most potential.

Mike Nolan does intend on using two quarterbacks this weekend, though, so it’s expected that Etling and Perkins will both play. It remains to be seen as to who will start.

Standout Playmakers

Offensively, these two organizations have some of the top talent in the UFL. Now, it’ll be intriguing to see if they’re all active – as neither team will want to risk injuries to their stars.

That said, Michigan has found a way to continue to find offensive production, despite the injuries. Matt Colburn has had his best spring football season in a while, stepping up in the absence of Wes Hills. Additionally, Marcus Simms has been tremendous – and Siaosi Mariner has proven to be a reliable WR2 in OC Marcel Bellefeuille’s system.

For the Stallions, they need to get the ground game going once again. Ricky Person Jr. had seven carries for -1 yards against San Antonio, and C.J. Marable was only given two touches himself. Birmingham has arguably the most depth in the league at each position, so they should bounce back efficiently.

A player who can truly help this organization reach another level is TE Jace Sternberger. This is a guy who should be seeing at least 5-8 targets a game. His seven catches for 110 yards and a score led all receivers on both teams this past Saturday.

Comparing The Statistics

While the Birmingham Stallions are, statistically, at the top of the leaderboards, the Michigan Panthers aren’t too far behind. These teams match up well against each other, and one would expect this game to come down to the wire in Birmingham:

  • Stallions average 361.3 yards per game (1st), Panthers at 298.1 (4th)
  • Birmingham averages 27.2 points per game (2nd), Panthers at 23.9 (3rd)
  • Michigan gives up 267.6 yards per game (4th), Stallions at 252.3 (1st)
  • Birmingham leads the UFL with 17 takeaways, Michigan has 11 (T-5th)

We’re looking at two of the top rushing offenses in the UFL. Birmingham obviously has Adrian Martinez who is leading the league in rushing yards, and the team averages 138.2 rushing yards per game (1st). Michigan isn’t far behind, in second place with 124.2 rushing yards per game. The Panthers did recently lose Wes Hills – so they’ll need production from others, such as Nate McCrary, to make up for it.

Looking Back At Week Two

When these two franchises faced off back in week two, they were still figuring out their identity. The Stallions, for example, were set on playing both quarterbacks at the time. Matt Corral and Adrian Martinez split time, and it was Martinez who looked like the better signal caller in that game.

In fact, Matt Corral almost allowed the Panthers to get back into it late, throwing an interception to Keith Gipson Jr. The game itself was more of a defensive affair, with Michigan’s defense bending but not breaking – holding the Stallions to four field goals.

On the Panthers side of things, E.J. Perry had an up and down performance. He hit Marcus Simms for a 76 yard touchdown, but outside of that, Michigan looked lackluster offensively.

Fast forward to week ten, and the Panthers are a well oiled machine offensively. They’ve been tremendous lately, seeing consistent production from all of their playmakers. Birmingham’s defense has taken a step back the last couple of weeks without John Chavis – who is no longer with the team – so that is a storyline to monitor closely.

Coaching Matchup

Michigan Panthers | Mike Nolan: Nolan is in his second season with the Michigan Panthers, and truthfully should be in the running with Skip Holtz for the “Coach of the Year” award in the UFL. With all of the struggles Michigan has faced from an injury perspective, they still find ways to win football games – and it starts with Nolan and his staff. Mike is currently 0-2 against Holtz in his spring football career, so he’ll look to get one back this weekend.

Coach Nolan spoke to the media this week about this game, and the approach you have to take as a coach playing a team in back to back weeks:

“The injury situation with our football team…hopefully we get some back. With that same thing, I’m wondering ‘do I want them back now, or do I want to wait until next week to get them back?’. Naturally, this game is important to us for a lot of personal reasons, I would say as much as anything. We all know that whether we win the division or not we’re going back to Birmingham, but we want to win regardless. As far as who’s going to play, we’re not going to know that for sure until later in the week.”

Birmingham Stallions | Skip Holtz: For the first time in over a year, Skip Holtz has had to figure out how to respond to a loss. After dropping their matchup against San Antonio, Holtz said it was a “great wake up call” for the team. With back to back games against Michigan, it’ll be interesting to see how Skip approaches things. Do you want to give away your entire game plan in a rather meaningless game this week?

Final Thoughts

It is an interesting scenario for the UFL – and these teams – to be in. Birmingham and Michigan will play each other twice in a row, with the first matchup meaning next to nothing in the grand scheme of things.

The Stallions haven’t necessarily locked up the division title, as the Panthers can earn that title with a blowout win this weekend. With that in mind, even if Michigan earns the title, Birmingham will host the USFL Conference Championship, due to a conflict at Ford Field.

The Birmingham Stallions will host the Michigan Panthers at 2pm ET this Saturday, on ESPN.

Full Roster Breakdowns: Birmingham, Michigan

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between Birmingham and Michigan? Which team needs to win this week in order to win two in a row? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!