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USFL Championship Preview; Best Offense and Best Defense Set to Square-Off


Graphic by @RoyalRetros on Twitter


Canton, OH - There's an old adage in sports that 'Defense Wins Championships'. That held true in the North Division Championship game as the league's best Defense, the Pittsburgh Maulers, defeated the Michigan Panthers in a back-and-forth affair that needed overtime for a winner to be declared. The Birmingham Stallions put their faith and title hopes in their Offense, sporting the league's premier squad, led by MVP-favorite Alex McGough at Quarterback.


To help get you ready for this Saturday's Championship game from Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Campus, here is a breakdown of each team's three phases of the game, as well as a quick look at the men leading these teams.


Offense

Birmingham: The Stallions offense, as previously mentioned, is their meal ticket. Led by Alex McGough, who led the league in touchdown passes, it is a well-oiled machine for Head Coach Skip Holtz. Not only does McGough have a live arm, but he can also extend plays and make defenders miss in the open field when he tucks it and takes off himself. .


Graphic by @USFL


Pittsburgh: The Maulers offense was in shambles to start the season. Coach Ray Horton hadn't decided on a quarterback and it took a few weeks for Troy Williams to take the reigns of the job. In the second half of the year, the offense found some footing and was able to put points on the board as opposed to settling and relying on the foot of Chris Blewitt. While Williams has had some success through the air, the team still ranked dead last in passing for the 2023 regular season. They did however rank middle of the pack at 4th in rushing with 98.9 yards a game, right behind the Stallions at 115.6.


Defense

Birmingham: Birmingham is led on defense by USFL veteran and former NFL linebacker Scooby Wright. Wright was a 7th-round selection out of Arizona for the Cleveland Browns but injuries hampered his NFL career. Wright is the emotional leader for Holtz's team and while the strength of the team is their offense, the defense is nothing to scoff at. In the regular season, the Stallions allowed 19.0 PPG, which ranked 3rd behind the New Orleans Breakers and Pittsburgh Maulers.


Pittsburgh: As just mentioned, the Maulers were 2nd in the league in PPG allowed, coming in at 17.2. They allowed the least amount of yards, yielding an average of 257.4 per game. It should come as no surprise that a veteran defensive coordinator from the NFL would lead such a strong defense in the USFL. Ray isn't the only Horton with his fingerprints all over this side of the ball however, with his son Jarren serving as Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator and taking home the league award for Assistant Coach of the Year this season.


Graphic by @USFL

Special Teams

Birmingham: The Stallions feature the most accurate kicking game in the league this season, hitting 14/15 on field goals and perfect on their 35 PAT's. Deon Cain returns kicks for the Stallions and it was his 92-yard touchdown return in the regular season match-up between these two teams that was the difference. Cain led the league with 2 returns to pay dirt on the season.


Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh relied on the kicking game more than they would have liked, attempting a league-lead-tying 29 field goals, hitting 23 of those, but were only 10/14 on their extra point attempts. For the season, Chris Blewitt's long was 54, but he hit a 59-yarder in the North Division Championship and it looked to be good from 65. The other key component of the Maulers special teams unit is their return game, where they led the league in Punt return yardage, including the only return for a touchdown on a punt while finishing second to the Showboats on the kick return side of things in terms of yardage.


Coaching

Birmingham: Birmingham is led by Skip Holtz, son of famed College Coach Lou Holtz who played collegiately at Kent State University. Skip led the Stallions to the title last year in Canton and looks to go back-to-back this Saturday.


Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is led by Ray Horton, who has a decorated career as an NFL assistant, including two stops in Cleveland to serve as Defensive Coordinator. Horton is in his first year as Head Coach of the USFL's Maulers.


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