As the USFL began its inaugural season last week, the North Division was swept by the South (0-4). Now two of the North teams look to right the ship by getting their first victory of the season. It'll be a battle of the Pennsylvania-based teams down in Birmingham, Alabama, as the Philadelphia Stars take on the Pittsburgh Maulers.
The Stars were held scoreless in both the first and fourth quarters in last week's 23-17 loss to New Orleans, while the Maulers scored the fewest points out of all eight teams in Week 1 as they were handled by Tampa Bay 17-3 in their opener, which was moved from Sunday to Monday due to inclement weather in the Birmingham area.
Pittsburgh (0-1) at Philadelphia (0-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, May 23 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Protective Stadium (Birmingham, Ala.)
Spread: Stars -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Defenses need to make a stop
Both teams struggled on this side of the ball last week. The Maulers gave up 249 total yards to Tampa Bay, surrendering 10 plays of 10 or more yards in the process. All 17 of the Bandits' points came during the first half. Pittsburgh, however, showed defensive improvement in the second half, holding Tampa Bay scoreless and forcing two turnovers.
The Stars also had their struggles with points prevention, yielding 23 to New Orleans, the third-highest total allowed in Week 1, along with 321 total yards. Two positives, however, are that Philadelphia's defense registered two takeaways and forced three-and-outs on nearly half (five) of the Breakers' 11 possessions. Whichever team is able to make more stops and come up with some timely turnovers could be the one that comes out victorious on Saturday.
2. Wanted: offense improvement
The 17 points the Stars put up last week was a good start, but all of that production came in the second and third quarters. They moved the ball plenty (275 total yards), but they need to maintain this production throughout the game. And while the Maulers were one of just four teams to actually make a field goal last week, they'll need more than just one good kick to win games moving forward. They accumulated 218 yards but it produced just those three points.
Bryan Scott should start at quarterback for Philadephia again after throwing for 202 yards, the most in Week 1, on 25-of-36 passing with a touchdown. Chris Rowland, Matt Colburn, and Diondre Overton combined for 151 receiving yards on a combined 13 receptions with Darnell Holland leading the way on the ground with 52 yards and a score on nine carries.
Pittsburgh used both of its quarterbacks against Tampa Bay, with Josh Love and Kyle Lauletta basically splitting the snaps. Combined the duo completed just 11 of 26 attempts (42.3 percent) for 129 yards. If either stands out in a major way against the Stars, then the coaching staff may decide to ditch the rotation under center.
But it's not just the quarterbacks. The Maulers generated a total of 89 rushing yards on 32 carries in Week 1, which translates to less than three yards per carry.
3. Interesting coaching matchup
Pittsburgh's Kirby Wilson will again have to match wits with another offensive mind. Philadelphia's Bart Andrus has more than 40 years of experience as a head coach, play-caller, and offensive assistant at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels, including the NFL, NFL Europe, and CFL. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Tennessee Titans in 1999, the season the team made it to the Super Bowl.
Despite last week's loss, the Stars' offense has shown it can put points on the board. Wilson needs a game plan that will keep Philadelphia's offense at bay, as well as to get his own unit moving.
Both teams may have lost last week, but Philadelphia held its own, while Pittsburgh couldn't get much of anything going. If the Stars can maintain that offensive production, they'll pick up their first win of the season.
Prediction: Stars 14, Maulers 10
— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.