The 2023 USFL Championship game is set, as the Pittsburgh Maulers will take on the Birmingham Stallions. Skip Holtz's Stallions are the defending champions, going 9-1 last year and 8-2 this season. The Maulers won just one game last season, but they ditched their orange and purple color scheme for the traditional Pittsburgh black and yellow, hired former NFL defensive assistant Ray Horton and finished 4-6 this year after starting 2-6. It's been quite a road for Pittsburgh. Can David slay Goliath?
The Maulers defeated the Michigan Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, 31-27. It was a wild, high-scoring matchup no one anticipated, and even required overtime. As for the Stallions, they completely embarrassed the New Orleans Breakers, 47-22. The game was never close, as Birmingham led New Orleans, 40-7, entering the final quarter.
Below we will break down how to watch the USFL championship and give our gambling pick.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook
Pittsburgh Maulers at Birmingham Stallions
When: Saturday, July 1, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game location: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
Line: Birmingham -7
What was more surprising from the Maulers' first playoff matchup: That Michigan scored 27 points against the No.1 defense, or that Pittsburgh's offense scored 31? USFL bettors were likely hammering the Under and were left feeling silly. As we predicted, Troy Williams led the offense, accounting for 203 passing yards and a touchdown, and also led the team with 36 rushing yards. Isiah Hennie impressed with 83 receiving yards on six catches. It was a solid outing for the worst offense in the regular season, but how did the best defense in the league allow 370 total yards and 10 more points than they normally do? That's not a good sign for the Maulers as they prepare for the top offense.
Alex McGough, what can't you do? Last week, the Stallions quarterback completed 21 of 31 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 84 yards and another touchdown. Some (including myself) thought the Stallions were on upset alert. That turned out to be hilarious, as Birmingham averaged 8.2 yards per rush, and 9.9 yards per pass attempt.
These two teams faced off once in the regular season, with the Stallions squeaking out a 24-20 win. Birmingham was actually down 12-10 entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Pittsburgh 14-8 in the final stanza to emerge victorious. McGough threw for 157 yards, scored two total touchdowns and threw two interceptions, while Williams scored the lone Maulers touchdown on a 34-yard rush. Chris Blewitt went 4-for-4 on his fields goals with a long of 46.
Ultimately, I think this game comes down to how the Maulers handle the Stallions offense. My projected line for the championship was Birmingham -10 or -10.5, so I was a bit surprised to see it open where it did. With that said, you can tell I'm going to take Stallions -7. If I had to predict how this game goes, it's close until the fourth quarter, where McGough and Co. cover the spread as Birmingham goes back-to-back.
The pick: Stallions -7
Projected score: Stallions 24-13