Michigan Panthers vs. Arlington Renegades | Week 6 Preview Danny Etling

Michigan Panthers vs. Arlington Renegades | Week 6 Preview

Week six in the UFL will continue on Sunday, with the Michigan Panthers hosting the Arlington Renegades at Ford Field. Heading into this one, it feels like a lopsided matchup – but could very well end up as a trap game for Michigan.

For the Michigan Panthers, they’ve stayed above .500 throughout most of the season. This past weekend, they rolled past the Memphis Showboats, dominating their way to a 35-18 win. At 3-2, Michigan is already tasting a potential playoff berth, given the weakness in the USFL Conference.

Meanwhile, the Arlington Renegades have had a disastrous start to their season. At 0-5, it’s all but over for Bob Stoops and his squad. Week in and week out, they’ve been a let down. The same mistakes have haunted them often, and that was on display against San Antonio once again.

While there’s a clear favorite in this matchup, let’s take a look at the key factors.

Quarterback Play

The one thing that should be relatively equal throughout this game is the quarterback play. Luis Perez is leading the UFL in passing yards, and has been efficient for the Renegades this year. Arlington wouldn’t have won the Championship without him last year, and unfortunately haven’t provided him with much support in 2024.

Luis will have a challenge this week, facing off against an opportunistic Panthers defense. Given his lack of mobility (which is partially due to a knee injury he’s dealing with), Luis will have to look to get the ball out of his hands quickly on Sunday.

Danny Etling played really well against Memphis. He’s looked solid since taking over for E.J. Perry in the second half against San Antonio, and has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the UFL.

What makes Danny such an effective quarterback is his decision making. He’s not one to force the issue, and is confident and poised in the pocket. Etling threw for 175 yards against Memphis, doing what he had to do – working behind his running backs – and occasionally taking a deep shot when the window was open. Against a struggling Renegades defense, Etling could be in store for a big day.

Standout Playmakers

The Michigan Panthers have been discovering their offensive identity over the past few weeks. Running backs Wes Hills and Matt Colburn had a day against Memphis, and are bound for another breakout performance given Arlington’s issues.

Marcus Simms and Siaosi Mariner have emerged as two of the top targets for Danny Etling. Arlington made some changes at the secondary position this week, but that shouldn’t affect the production of these two.

For Arlington, their running backs have not produced at the level that the team needs. De’Veon Smith continues to operate as RB1, which doesn’t make much sense considering he’s averaging just 2.9 YPC. Clearly, you can’t win games when your star running back cannot put up reasonable numbers.

The Renegades do feature some of the top wideouts in the UFL. Deontay Burnett, Tyler Vaughns, and Sal Cannella have all done their part. Javonta Payton, in particular, has been a standout the past couple of weeks. Their passing game isn’t the problem in Arlington – it’s the lack of a ground game, paired with questionable coaching.

Tale Of Two Defenses

It’s been a different story for both of these defenses this year. Michigan has one of the top units in the UFL, leaning into their defensive group time and time again in key moments.

It starts up front, with the pressure generated by Breeland Speaks, Ron’Dell Carter, Kenny Willekes, and plenty of others. Michigan’s defense couldn’t be slowed down against Memphis, sacking Troy Williams six times.

The secondary is just as strong. Bryce Torneden, Keith Gipson, Nate Brooks, etc. – they’re all performing at a very high level. Not to mention, safety Kai Nacua is arguably the best DB in the league, leading all defensive players with 6 PBU’s and 3 INT’s.

Arlington, on the other hand, has statistically one of the worst defenses in the league. Granted, they did what they could this past week against San Antonio, creating three turnovers. This was the best we’ve seen the Renegades defense play all year, so that’s something they are hoping to build off of.

Their biggest problem is the inability to stop the run. John Lovett and Morgan Ellison tore the field up on Saturday night. This is a troubling trend, given Michigan’s recent success on the ground.

The key for Arlington will be if they can properly apply pressure on Etling. DT Jalen Redmond has been dominating the league defensively, but he’s the only one making a true impact on the line consistently.

Special Teams

The Michigan Panthers featured two of three specialists on my All-UFL Midseason selections, and easily could have had all three if a couple of bounces went Brock Miller’s way. Jake Bates, Brock, and Jordan Ober are the top ST unit in the UFL. They’ve been spot on week in and week out.

Jonathan Garibay recently joined Arlington to replace Taylor Russolino, but we haven’t seen him perform better by any means. A blocked kick on Saturday killed Arlington’s momentum before halftime.

Coaching Matchup

Michigan Panthers | Mike Nolan: Nolan is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Michigan. His personality fits the atmosphere perfectly, and he’s got this team in a position to make another playoff run. The Panthers are 3-2, riding quality coaching into what should be a postseason appearance.

Coach Nolan made some comments about what he’s expecting in this upcoming matchup:

“Arlington is hungry. They don’t have a win and they’re trying to get one. Someone is going to be their first win, and we don’t want to be that team. They have a very good unit, very skilled offense. Their quarterback (Perez) is #1 in passing. From a ranking perspective, offensively, they’re a really good football team. So we’ll have to be ready defensively to handle that. We’re taking everyone serious, we’re not in a position to do anything but that. I don’t expect us to let down in any way.”

Arlington Renegades | Bob Stoops: Stoops has arguably been the most disappointing coach in the UFL this year. His Championship team is a shell of its former self, having lost all five games so far this year. Throughout each week, there have been questionable coaching decisions made by both Stoops, and his staff in general. Things need to change, and they need to change quickly.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, the Michigan Panthers are the favorite in this game. They’re back at home for the first time in a couple of weeks, and are coming off their best showing of the year. Now, for Michigan, they will have to avoid falling into a “trap game” situation. Arlington is, no doubt, going to do everything they can to get in the win column.

The Panthers are also positioned to pull ahead in the USFL Conference for good. With a win here, they would improve to 4-2. Houston and Memphis are both facing tough matchups, so the odds of those teams picking up wins are relatively low.

Arlington is in a do or die situation, and has been since week three. They’re 0-5, and are in a division with two 4-1 teams. They need some divine intervention in order to still make a playoff run.

Full Roster Breakdowns: Arlington, Michigan

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Michigan Panthers and Arlington Renegades? Will Arlington pull away with a UFL upset? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!