The Michigan Panthers are coming off a thrilling week 1 victory to play host to the back-to-back USFL Champions, the Birmingham Stallions. The Panthers defeated the St. Louis Battlehawks 18-16 in week 1 thanks to their kicker, Jake Bates, giving them the lead with 3 seconds left via a 64-yard field goal.

Game Details:

Date/Location: Sunday, April 7 /Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Kickoff Time: 12 PM ET, 9 AM PT
Channel: ESPN

Spread: Michigan +6.5 (+100), Birmingham -6.5 (-120)

Moneyline: Michigan +230, Birmingham -280

Over/Under: 41.5 (Over -115, Under -105)

UFL Week 1 Power Rankings

Clink: UFL Week 1 First and Second Team of the Week

Michigan Panthers (1-0): 

Despite the oddsmakers having the Panthers as the most likely team to lose last week, the Panthers pulled off the win over the St. Louis Battlehawks. The defense demonstrated exceptional run stopping as they held Wayne Gallman to 42 yards on 13 carries (3.1 average). While the pass rush was limited by the Battlehawks’ offensive line I was impressed last week with the cover defense in moments when AJ McCarron had an extended amount of time being protected.

E.J. Perry completed 12 of his 24 passes for 176 yards with 2 interceptions. The first interception was a bad read while the 2nd one involved an unfortunate deflection on a throw placed low in the red zone. While the stat line leaves room for improvement there were some plays that reassure his ability to lead the passing offense such as a 41-yard play to tight end Cole Hikutini or a 42-yard play to Devin Ross. Perry did use his legs effectively and scored 2 rushing touchdowns. He demonstrated fearlessness on the first rushing touchdown charging across the goal line and taking a hit from a linebacker.

Running back Wes Hills looked very good in his first game as a Panther rushing 11 times for 85 yards and averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

Birmingham Stallions (1-0): 

The Birmingham Stallions looked like a true contender in week 1. They earned the top spot on our most recent power rankings after winning the clash of champions in week 1. They won decisively on the road against the Arlington Renegades 27-14 who were last year’s XFL Champions.

Quarterback Matt Corral impressed in his first career start as the Ole Miss product completed 12 of his 21 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. He connected with wide receiver Deon Cain down the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown with 3 seconds left in the first half.

The Stallions flexed their muscle as they put on display a solid running game with CJ Marable rushing 18 times for 67 yards and Ricky Person adding 31 yards on 13 carries. They also utilized their 2nd string quarterback on some packages as Alex Martinez rushed 3 times for 52 yards.

The Stallions defense had an effective pass rush often pressuring Luis Perez in week 1 with Jonathan Garvin leading the way with 4 QB hurries and also getting involved on a sack. Against the run, Carlos Davis and Jordan Thomas were both involved in 2 run stops. Arlington’s runningbacks Leddie Brown and De’Veon Smith combined for 47 yards over 15 carries.

Panthers Quotes from the Tunnel Following Last Week’s Victory

LB Noah Dawkins

“Man, it’s amazing to be 1-0. To bring the first win of the UFL season back to Detroit.” Panthers linebacker Noah Dawkins said in the tunnel after the game. “You know our fans been here for us through thick and thin. They were here late in the season last year. We just want to come back and bring that energy and bring a W to the city.”

“We don’t look at betting lines. We bet on ourselves” Dawkins said when asked if he cares that the oddsmakers had them heavy underdogs last week. “All we can do is control what we can control and go out there and play how we played, and that’s dominant. We go 1-0 every week. I want to give a special thanks to the Panthers fans for coming out and supporting us. We plan on bringing another win next week against Birmingham. Let’s ride man, go hunt.”

CB Keith Gipson

“It’s an honor to be here. My team got knocked out of the merge, so like I said, coming here to Michigan, all the players were welcoming us, all the new guys.” Cornerback Keith Gipson said following last week’s victory in the tunnel. “Coming out with this victory today, it’s huge. It’s gonna give us a lot of confidence to go into the next weeks coming up.”

“No, it’s Michigan man,” Gipson responded on if he cared that the Panthers were regarded as underdogs last week. “You know that Detroit lifestyle, you know. They love the underdog.”

CB Nate Brooks

“Yeah, so we knew we had AJ, a good veteran quarterback.” Cornerback Nate Brooks responded when asked about the success of the defensive pass coverage. “Our plan was just to show him mixed looks. Not let him know what we have presnap so that way he wouldn’t dissect it and go where he wanted to go. Just giving him mixed looks and kind of changing up the coverages for sure.”

“That’s what we do. I don’t know why anybody would be surprised, we have a great secondary. We balled out in camp.” Brooks responded when asking his thoughts following the game in which the Panthers coverage played to a degree that would surprise people. “I think we have a great group of guys that showed that we can ball in the past. So I don’t know why anybody would be surprised. We put it on film, we’re going to continue to put it on film. Anybody that’s doubting us, keep doubting us. We gonna show you.”

Is there a sense of relief after having the first game in the books after an offseason with so much uncertainty?

“So we really didn’t know how it was gonna go, especially playing an XFL team and all the other stuff. Just getting that first one out of the books, getting the pregame jitters and first-game jitters out of there, and calming down. I think that will help us in getting some momentum throughout the next week.”

Panthers Keys to the Game

“I’m not taking credit away from them. I think the best part about their team is their front.” St. Louis Battlehawks quarterback AJ McCarron answered when I asked his thoughts on the secondary’s play from the Panthers last week. “Their linebackers played well, but their front four are big dudes and get a lot of push up front. I thought they had some good blitzes that we’ll go back and see. For us to beat them on, myself, can make some different checks and probably take advantage of it a little more. Listen, I’ll take my guys vs. any secondary. I thought my guys stepped up and made plays when they had to.

Good Reads and Composure From EJ Perry

In week 1 the Stallions’ pass rush was quite effective yet at times its impact was minimized by composure in the pocket from Renegades’ quarterback Luis Perez. If Birmingham continues to see their defense generate pressure in week 2 then the Panthers will need a EJ Perry to play with composure. Additionally, they will need good reads from Perry as the margin for error against Birmingham as they do not allow for a large margin of error.

Pound the Rock

Wes Hills is the current rushing leader and Michigan will need another big game from him. If Birmingham can stop Michigan’s run the game could become disastrous. It will be imperative for Michigan to have a multi-dimensional offense to keep the defense on its toes.

Neutralize the Run Game

The Panthers will need to see their stout run defense continue to perform at a high level. Matt Corrall played very well under center for the Stallions in his first start at the professional level. If Michigan can take neutralize the run game and make them 1 dimensional they can create a difficult test for the young quarterback.

Blow Up Some Plays With the Pass Rush

Last week the St. Louis Battlehawks did an exceptional job providing pass protection. The Panthers will greatly benefit if they can get to the quarterback and blow up some plays to help stall some Stallions’ drives. If the Stallions put in Alex Martinez at quarterback for a series they will need to ensure he remains contained in the pocket to prevent him from using his fast legs to rack up rushing yards.

The Panthers did do a good job last week getting pressure from linebacker blitzes. The linebacker would be showing coverage schemes but then enter a motion to blitz when McCarron would say “1-80” before snapping the ball.

Stallions Keys to the Game

The Stallions just need to be the Stallions and they have a great chance to win every week. Last week they performed well in passing, rushing, run stopping, pass rushing, and pass coverage. They need to prevent big plays from the Panthers on offense and keep Wes Hills to an average day. Birmingham will want to avoid costly mistakes and keep their quarterback protected.

Panthers to Watch

#31 RB Wes Hills

Hills leads the USFL in rushing yards after rushing 11 times for 85 yards (7.7 yards per carry).

#80 TE Cole Hikutini

Hikutini showed off his speed last week picking up some YAC after a catch over the middle and taking off down the right sideline for a 41-yard gain.

#95 DT Daniel Wise

Wise made 3 solo tackles, 8 total tackles, 2 sacks, and a tackle for a loss. By my count, he also had 3 QB hurries and was in on 3 run stops.

#55 DT Garrett Marino

Marino contributes 2 solo tackles and an assisted tackle. All 3 of his tackles were run stops last week. He also had a QB hurry and batted down a pass in the 2nd quarter.

#3 CB Nate Brooks

Nate Brooks played a solid game last week against a solid passing offense. He made 6 total tackles 4 of which were solo. He also had a tackle for a loss. He made a great tackle in the 3rd quarter against a passing play to keep Shephard to 2 yards on the play. In the 4th quarter, he made a great run stop for a loss of 2.

#6 CB Keith Gipson

Gipson made 3 solo tackles, an assisted tackle, and a tackle for a loss. He provided good coverage on Marcel Ateman in the 2nd quarter resulting in an incompletion and did a good job contesting a pass in the 3rd quarter resulting in an incompletion.

#21 S Kai Nacua

Nacua is the current UFL tackle leader after making 8 solo tackles and 3 assisted tackles last week. He also made a sack and 2 tackles for a loss. One of his TFLs was a great run stop in the 4th quarter causing a 2 yard loss.

Stallions to Watch

#2 QB Matt Corral

Matt Corral passed the eye test last week completing 12 of his 21 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown with 1 interception. He also rushed 4 times for 25 yards. The optics on his play were very good in his first start.

#8 WR Deon Cain

Deon Cain caught 3 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown which was a 39-yard strike down the left sideline.

#73 RT Alex Taylor

Taylor did a great job in week one only allowing 1 QB hurry on 28 passing reps per Pro Football Focus. I did not have a negative note on him last week and noticed a couple of plays in which he did a good job run blocking. 

#50 DE Jonathan Garvin

Garvin had 4 QB hurries in week 1 by my count as well as involved on a sack.

#96 DT Carlos Davis

Davis had 3 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, and a sack in which he stripped the quarterback. He was involved in 2 run stops as well.

#51 LB Damon Lloyd

Lloyd had 3 solo tackles and an assisted tackle in week 1. He made a stop against the run and the pass last week.

#22 CB Lorenzo Burns

Burns had 2 solo tackles and 2 breakups in week 1. He also provided good coverage on multiple incompletions his way. According to PFF 4 targets came his way and he only allowed 5 yards on 1 completion.

Depth Charts, Injuries, Inactives

Score Prediction:

With this game, I have a hunch the Panthers are going to put up a good fight but ultimately lose a close game to the Stallions. I predict the Stallions to take this game 28-22.

@JonathanClink on Twitter

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Jonathan Clink
Jonathan Clink will work as UFL News Hub's primary correspondent covering the Michigan Panthers for the 2024. He has written over 250 articles covering the Canadian Football League prior to joining UFL News Hub. Clink is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba and currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has a background in several other sports as well having played soccer, basketball, and hockey competitively.

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