USFL Week 2 power rankings: Birmingham Stallions look better than ever

Week 2 of the USFL has come and gone, and there have already been some interesting developments.

Three teams remain unbeaten, including the defending champion Birmingham Stallions, who appear to be even better than last season. 

Meanwhile, two teams that reached the playoffs last season — Philadelphia and New Jersey — have experienced mixed results and are 1-1, while three teams are still seeking their first win.

Let’s take an updated look around the league.

Here is our latest edition of the 2023 USFL power rankings.  

1. Birmingham Stallions (2-0)

The Stallions continue to look dominant after rolling Memphis, 42-2, behind a 21-of-28 passing performance for 302 yards and four TDs from quarterback Alex McGough

Tight end Jace Sternberger, who has become a breakout star pass-catcher for the Stallions, had five catches for 126 yards with a TD. McGough and Sternberger are roommates, which has contributed to their on-field chemistry. 

With Week 1 starter J’Mar Smith out for the year, McGough’s play adds stability to a position that has seen Smith and McGough duel for playing time since last season. Since McGough took over, the Stallions have outscored their opponents 59-2.

The Stallions defense also pitched a shutout on Sunday, as the offense’s safety spoiled what would’ve been a scoreless game against Todd Haley’s Showboats. 

2. New Orleans Breakers (2-0)

The Breakers rode the back of Wes Hills in their late 38-31 win against Houston last week. The Slippery Rock product rushed 18 times for 110 yards with two TDs in the victory.

Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson kept the offense clean with 251 pass yards and zero INTs, while linebacker Vontae Diggs made the game-sealing INT inside the last 30 seconds of the game.

Tight end Sage Surratt, a former Wake Forest standout, emerged for 11 catches for 121 yards and a TD in the game. Through two weeks, Surratt leads the league in both receptions (16) and receiving yards (206), with both numbers already surpassing his totals from last season with the Stallions. 

3. Michigan Panthers (2-0)

Behind the efforts of All-USFL tailback Reggie Corbin, who had 131 rush yards and two TDs on just 11 carries in a 24-10 win against Philadelphia last week, Mike Nolan’s Panthers have already matched their win total from the 2022 season.

The Panthers must be encouraged by their ability to earn a win by passing in Week 1, then with their ground game and outstanding defense in Week 2.

Nolan, known as a defensive guru from his time coaching in the NFL, has guided a defense that already has eight takeaways through two games.  The Panthers didn’t pick up their eighth takeaway until the seventh game last season. Linebacker Frank Ginda, the defensive player of the week, added 10 tackles and an INT in this week’s win. 

4. New Jersey Generals (1-1) 

The Generals’ strength running the football was fortified by an outstanding defensive effort in their 20-3 win against Pittsburgh.

New Jersey’s offense scored 17 consecutive points in the second half, while its defense saw former Wisconsin Badger Chris Orr produce 10 tackles, including a sack.

The Generals might have also found their full-time QB in Dakota Prukop, who managed the offense admirably to help earn New Jersey’s first win of the season.

Since the league resumed in 2022, New Jersey is now a perfect 10-0 in the regular season when facing any team other than Birmingham. 

5. Philadelphia Stars (1-1) 

Despite quarterback Case Cookus completing 29 of 44 passes for 283 yards, the Stars weren’t able to overcome his two INTs against the Panthers. 

Cookus’ fumble on the last play of the game, which came on a sack by Breeland Speaks, felt indicative of the Stars fighting inclement weather and a Michigan team that looks to be for real. Cookus has now been sacked a league-worst nine times through two games — particularly notable as the QB is coming off a broken leg suffered in last year’s championship game.

However, defensive back Amani Dennis’ two-INT outing was encouraging for a defense that was statically the USFL’s worst last season.

6. Houston Gamblers (0-2)

Quarterback Kenji Bahar took a step forward with 266 pass yards and three TDs, but his three INTs ultimately were too much for the Gamblers to overcome against the Breakers. 

Wideout Justin Hall also played well with an eight-catch, 110-yard performance, giving a boost to a Gamblers team still seeking its first win of 2023.

If that’s going to happen, though, the Gamblers are going to have to fix their turnover problem. Houston has turned the ball over a league-worst seven times already this season — with all seven coming in the second halves of their games. 

7. Memphis Showboats (0-2)  

The Showboats followed their narrow loss to Philadelphia in Week 1 win with a 40-point loss to the Stallions in Week 2, the most lopsided game since the USFL resumed play last season.

The Showboats need a win against Houston in Week 3 in a season in which each team plays just 10 regular-season games.

8. Pittsburgh Maulers (0-2) 

The Maulers managed just 166 yards of offense and scored just three points against the Generals.

Quarterbacks James Morgan (eight of 14 for 54 yards) and Troy Williams (11 of 16 for 70 yards) are still challenging for the full-time QB job while the rushing attack churned out just 70 yards.

Pittsburgh is the only team to score a defensive touchdown this season, as well as the only team to score a special teams touchdown. Unfortunately, they are still looking for their first offensive touchdown after two games.

Mauler coach Ray Horton was blunt about his offense following the loss.

“I didn’t go to MIT, but I know if you extrapolate three points a game over 10 games, that’s 30 points for a season,” Horton said. “And that’s not going to get it done. The turnovers were atrocious, and the special teams were atrocious. And that doesn’t fall on the players. That falls on me. I’ve got to find a way to help these young men that are busting their butts.”

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The Number One College Football Show” on YouTube.

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