Sunday, March 31st. 2pm Central, Rice Stadium on ESPN

This Sunday, March 31st, the UFL’s 2024 season kicks off, and the Houston Roughnecks are hosting the Memphis Showboats at their new home stadium. This USFL division matchup marks the beginning of a new era in Spring Football, as the USFL and XFL come together under one roof. Memphis and Houston both sat at a 5-5 record last year, and it will be interesting to see how each team progressed throughout this offseason.

The Offenses

Both starting quarterbacks are former Denver Broncos, fun little fact for Coloradoans out there. The Showboats are fielding Case Cookus, who had two highly successful seasons in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars, and the 28 year old passer will look to build on that resume in 2024. Jarrett Guarantano played four years at Tennessee, and another at Washington State, and after a great preseason performance with the Arizona Cardinals in 2022, found his way to the Houston Roughnecks, where he won the confidence of coach Curtis Johnson.

Each team features a premiere Spring Football RB, as Memphis is starting XFL/USFL veteran Darius Victor, and Houston brought back 2023 OPOY Mark Thompson in their backfield. I’m curious to see who will rack up more yards, and they both bring a hard-charging running style to the game.

The Defenses

The Showboats are fielding an impressive defensive front, and if they run 3-4 looks with the trio of veterans John Atkins, Josiah Bronson and P.J. Hall, it could be a long, hard day in the trenches for everyone. Eyes will be on former Edmonton Elks “Most Outstanding Rookie” in Vontae Diggs, who will look to carve out a role at linebacker, and veteran DB’s T.J. Green and Quenton Meeks figure to make an impact in the secondary. With a young QB and star RB on the other side, smart money is they’ll try to dominate the point of attack and force him to throw.

The Roughnecks D also bring a lot to the table, and I think the name of the game here is going to be rushing the passer. 2022 DPOY Chris Odom is back after an NFL stint, and I’d look to him to make a big impact there. Man had 12.5 sacks in 10 games two years ago. They also have Toby Johnson, who I really like at DT, and one of the team’s bigger storylines in Reuben Foster, who’s on his second season of his spring football comeback.

The Odds

Draftkings has both teams at -110, with the OU at 41

author avatar
Matthew Nagashima
Matt Nagashima has been covering Spring Football with News Hub since the XFL's 2019 Draft, and received Press Credentials to cover the Dallas Renegades in 2020. He has also covered the NFL with Pro Football Doc, and received his Bachelor of Arts in History from Colorado State University.

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