The final game of week two in the USFL is set to be quite entertaining. The Philadelphia Stars will host the Michigan Panthers, as two of the top teams in the North Division battle it out in Canton.
Both of these organizations were spot on in week one, putting on a show. Each team features plenty of talent on both sides of the football.
Let’s take a look at the main factors heading into Sunday night’s game, and what to expect on the football field.
This matchup will be a battle between two of the top quarterbacks in the USFL. Case Cookus needs no introduction. He’s been sensational, most recently posting a three touchdown performance against the Memphis Showboats.
Case Cookus is ridiculous. He looks even better than he did in the #USFL Championship last year.
He set a USFL record, completing over 90% of his passes en route to tossing three scores, as the Panthers rolled past Houston. With Michigan’s exceptional receiving core, backfield, and Love’s emergence – expect plenty more out of Josh this weekend.
Across the board, both these teams are stacked offensively. To start with, the backfields are some of the best in the USFL.
In Michigan, All-USFL RB Reggie Corbin leads the way. He didn’t make a major impact in week one, but it’d make sense to see him play a more important role against a stronger Philadelphia team. At the same time, Stevie Scott is a solid back in his own regard – rushing for a team high 61 yards on Sunday.
Matt Colburn and Dexter Williams playing on the same team is unfair. Both came into their own towards the end of the 2022 season, and Colburn in particular has been lights out. His ability to burst through holes and accelerate past defenders makes him a sleeper candidate for OPOY.
Michigan’s lineup of receivers is impressive. They retained a lot of talent from last season, with Joe Walker leading the way. Walker is the only receiver to have over 100 yards right now, as he was unstoppable against Houston last week. With the supporting cast around him, Walker is poised to be one of the top receivers in the USFL in 2023.
Jordan Suell will look to get into a groove this week, after posting minimal stats against Memphis. Philadelphia was on fire offensively, with all of the weapons: Corey Coleman, Devin Gray, Chris Rowland, etc. – however, Suell is their biggest WR, and showcased just how important he is to this team in the USFL Championship. Expect Suell and Cookus to dial up some magic early on.
While both offenses are top of the line, you can’t sleep on either one of these defensive units. The Michigan Panthers may very well have the best defense in the USFL – but, it’s going to be put to the test this weekend.
To be fair, the Houston Gamblers offense isn’t even close to that of the Philadelphia Stars. But, Michigan completely stifled the Gamblers in that second half, making several excellent adjustments. Led by Breeland Speaks, who had three sacks last Sunday, this unit is looking as fierce as ever.
Breeland Speaks is having a monster outing for the @USFLPanthers today.
Can any defense slow down the Stars and Case Cookus? That is currently unknown. If anyone can do it, it’s the Panthers. They held Houston to under 200 yards of total offense in week one, and generated three turnovers which swung the momentum swiftly in their direction.
On the other end, Philadelphia boasts the USFL’s 2022 leader in interceptions: Channing Stribling. He got to work quickly against Memphis, picking off Brady White on their opening drive.
The Stars will have to look to take away the Panthers ground game if they want to secure a victory. Josh Love had an excellent week one performance, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to do it again. If Michigan is struggling to run the football, the pressure is on Love to perform – and that’s where a team like Philadelphia loves to be.
What To Expect
The last time the Philadelphia Stars played the Michigan Panthers, Case Cookus posted five touchdowns as the Stars scored 46 points, absolutely wiping their opponents clean.
Will this weekend see the same outcome? Probably not. Michigan’s defense has tightened up quite a bit since then, and from a competitive standpoint, are more equally matched this time around.
This game certainly has the potential to be an offensive shootout. It depends on how the first couple of drives go. If Cookus and Love come out firing, then we’re in for a high scoring affair.
Additionally, offensive line play will prove to be crucial. Cookus was running for his life often against the Showboats, but still managed to get the job done. He might not be so lucky against Michigan, though, considering how stout that defense is.
Philadelphia should be slightly favored in this matchup. They have the more complete team, and carry plenty of chemistry over from a season ago. With that in mind, Mike Nolan’s Panthers are not the same squad from 2022. This unit looks capable of doing plenty of damage this season.
This game will tell us a lot about the North Division. Both Pittsburgh and New Jersey were quite lackluster in week one, while their counterparts put on impressive performances.
If these trends continue, Sunday night’s game could be a preview of the North Division semi-finals. It will be intriguing to see how both teams match up against each other.