Nearly one year to the day since the New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions faced off in the USFL inaugural kickoff, they open up their 2023 seasons. The 2022 USFL Champion Stallions look to start their title defense in front of their home crowd.
Last Year’s Battle
They start by facing off against the other team that finished 9-1 last regular season. A lot has changed for these two squads, but we have also seen a lot of carry over from year one. We can only hope for as good of a game as last year’s where the Stallions won a thriller in the final minute off a J’Mar Smith touchdown run.
Despite the loss, the Generals ran for 222 yards on 44 carries (5 YPC) and set themselves up for a season of dominance on the ground. They led the USFL in rushing yards per game and the Stallions were right behind them at second in the league.
Running backs Darius Victor and Trey Williams lead the New Jersey run game alongside quarterback De’Andre Johnson who is expected to start Saturday night. Bo Scarbrough and CJ Marable also return for another year after great seasons for them at running back.
But these two teams don’t just run the ball well, they are well-rounded offensive attacks as a whole. Both Birmingham and New Jersey were only bested in points per game by the Philadelphia Stars and averaged 23.4 and 23.2 points per contest, respectively.
Quarterbacks J’Mar Smith and Alex McGough return for the Stallions and De’Andre Johnson is back for the Generals. We may even see former CFL quarterback Dakota Prukop have snaps sprinkled in for New Jersey. I expect Smith and Johnson for the most part, in what should be an excellent game.
From everything I’ve seen and heard surrounding the @USFLGenerals, it seems De’Andre Johnson will start at QB and Dakota Prukop will back him up. We might even see both get snaps on Saturday. That leaves Kyle Lauletta as the inactive QB3. #USFL
On the defensive side, stars like linebacker Scooby Wright, cornerback Brian Allen, and defensive lineman Willie Yarbary are back for the Stallions who only allowed 16.1 points per game in 2022. Losing linebacker DeMarquis Gates hurts, but I fully expect their defense to excel again this season. For the Generals, they bring back studs like defensive lineman Toby Johnson, safety Shalom Luani, and linebacker Chris Orr who helped their defense play just as well, allowing a league-best 73.6 yards per game on the ground.
The Generals will certainly miss MVP KaVontae Turpin and quarterback Luis Perez, but they have added some young speedsters to their receiver room and look well positioned at quarterback. Both of these groups made great offseason additions and retained over half their rosters. I expect to see them both come out of the gates fast.
Coach of the Year Mike Riley returns to guide his team against a championship head coach in Skip Holtz, the two best head coaches in the USFL. It’s clear that from top to bottom, these rosters and coaching staffs are terrific and should provide some fireworks Saturday night.
Despite what the odds makers in Vegas think, I expect to see a nail-biter even though Birmingham is favored by 5.5 on Fox Bet. I believe this game is closer to a pick’em, with the Birmingham Stallions giving three points to account for home-field advantage. I do see the home team taking this one in the end, though.
Their roster is so talented and well-coached, and there is a reason they’re the defending champs. The rich got richer when they signed tight end Thaddeus Moss, son of NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss, on Tuesday as well. Adding another weapon to an insanely talented bunch spells danger for the other seven teams.
I would not be shocked by any result we see Saturday night outside of a blowout. Although the rest of the league has made real strides to close the gap, these two teams are the cream of the crop. This could be a preview of the USFL Championship Game we expected in year one before the Stars upset the New Jersey Generals in Canton. The last game we saw this league play in July was incredible, and I believe we are in for a treat as USFL fans heading into year two.
These two teams will face off on Saturday, at 7:30pm ET on FOX.
Are you excited for this matchup between the Birmingham Stallions and New Jersey Generals? Which USFL players to expect to shine? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!