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Odds taken from DraftKings
|Team||Point Spread||Points Total||Money Line|
|Pittsburgh Maulers||+6.5 (-110)
|Philadelphia Stars||-6.5 (-110)
Until the Maulers iron out their run game, take the Stars to cover the spread.
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USFL Player Bailey Gaither as a wide receiver on the San Jose State Spartans
After the USFL’s long anticipated Week 1 of spring football has played out, the South Division has had the stronger start with all four teams winning against their North Division opponents, though all eight franchises played well despite only having three weeks to get prepared.
The Pittsburgh Maulers played on Monday night after their Sunday night game with the Tampa Bay Bandits was delayed due to lightning strikes, but the Maulers run game based offense never got fired up in that 3-17 loss, the offensive front line unable to consistently create holes.
After Philadelphia QB Bryan Scott threw a pick-six in the first quarter, his Stars had to battle a 0-7 deficit, but it was the two missed field goals that ended up making the difference in their 17-23 loss to the New Orleans Breakers, something that ST coach Martin Bayless should clean up.
The Pittsburgh Maulers’ head coach Kirby Wilson told the media that they would clearly understand his offensive game plan during his first series of play, and no doubt it was ‘run game first’ as the first seven plays that were called were on the ground and straight at the Bandits.
The Maulers’ two running backs are Garrett Groshek, who played 41 games with the Wisconsin Badgers, and Madre London, who signed with the Alphas of The Spring League in 2020, two dual-threats out of the backfield that struggled to get started against Tampa Bay’s tough front.
In Week 1, Groshek carried the ball 16 times for 55 yards and no touchdowns (3.4 yards per carry) and London carried the ball 14 times for 23 yards (1.6 yards per carry), production that will have to greatly improve if Wilson’s dream of fielding a rush-first offense is to be realized.
To win in Week 2 and chalk up their first USFL victory, the Philadelphia Stars will have to be good at stopping the run since that is what the Maulers seem set on doing most of the time, and that could be trouble after watching the Stars defense get worn down by the Breakers last week.
Philly’s defense allowed New Orleans to run for 171 yards and two rushing touchdowns, so they appear to be susceptible to a rushing attack, something that defensive coordinator Brad Miller and defensive line coach Brandon Maguire will have to address during this week of practice.
The Stars’ leading tacklers so far are linebacker Josh Banderas, a Nebraska alum, who had 16 total tackles in week one, and safety Ahmad Dixon who had 10 total tackles, two defensive leaders who will have to take down the Maulers’ Groshek and London all day.
Diehard Green Bay Packers fans might remember wide receiver Bailey Gaither, the San Jose State alum who became an undrafted NFL free agent in 2021 and was signed by the Packers until he ‘retired’ in August and was placed on the reserve / retired list for the rest of the season.
Once Gaither came out of retirement, he was selected in the USFL Draft (14th round) by the Pittsburgh Maulers, a run-first team that needed a receiver who could form a quick connection with QB Josh Love, who just happened to be Gaither’s QB when they played at SJS together.
Now it looks like Gaither will give Love a reliable target whose routes he is familiar with, and in Week 1 the two connected three times off seven targets for 42 yards but no touchdowns and their connection breathed a little life in a team that seemed dead set on running no matter what.
A bright spot on the Philadelphia Stars’ passing offense is wide receiver Chris Rowland, a Tennessee State alum and Deacon Jones Trophy winner (2019) who has spent some time in a couple of NFL camps (Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans) so he brings big league experience.
In week one against the New Orleans Breakers, Rowland was targeted nine times and caught 7 of those passes for 74 yards, his longest a 22-yard hookup with QB Bryan Scott that was proof that this connection can produce big plays, as expected from the OVC Offensive POY (2019).
Also showing up big time in week one was tight end Bug Howard, who caught a touchdown pass off a crossing route that gave his team their first score of the game with less than a minute left in the second quarter, a fun player to watch with tons of NFL camp experience to rely on.
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|Maulers vs Stars Information|
|What||Pittsburgh Maulers vs Philadelphia Stars|
|Where||Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama|
|When||Saturday, April 23, 2022; 12:00 PM ET|
|How to watch||FOX|
Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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