FOX Sports College Football Analyst
During six weeks of the USFL season, the Southern Division dominates the landscape.
All teams in the division are .500 or better, with three of the four, including defending champion Birmingham, sitting at 4-2.
That means the South also rules our latest power rankings, with four teams sitting in the top four spots. It also sets up a big weekend ahead that includes two matchups with massive playoff implications.
Let’s take a look at the league with our latest edition of the 2023 USFL Power Rankings.
1. Houston players (4-2, 2-1 South)
Last week: beat New Jersey, 16-10.
Curtis Johnson’s players are the hottest team in the USFL with four weeks left in the regular season. With running back Mark Thompson in the lineup, the Gamblers are undefeated.
But Thompson’s presence isn’t the only reason the players have played outstanding football over the past month. Quarterback Kenji Bahar is one of the most improved players in the league from last year. His relationship with former Ball State player Justin Hall has given Houston’s offense credibility. Along with defensive coordinator Chris Wilson’s defense, the players have become formidable.
Houston has already surpassed last year’s win total and can become the first team to win five straight this season with a win Sunday.
Week 7 Game: vs. Memphis, Sunday at 2:30 PM ET he USA.
2. Memphis Showboats (3-3, 1-2 South)
Last week: beat Pittsburgh, 22-0.
The Showboats are almost as hot as Houston, extending their winning streak to three last weekend with the franchise’s first win since June 1985.
Memphis did it in part behind a defense that played its best game of 2023. The unit has turned 180 since the start of this season. After allowing a league-worst 99 points in their first three games, the Showboats have now given up just 20 in their last three (6.7 ppg).
Still, Memphis’ defense was overshadowed last weekend by LSU’s former national champion wide receiver Derrick Dillon. Dillon kicked a missed field goal attempt 59 yards, kept his heels just over the end line to avoid a touchback, then raced 109 yards to the end zone — the longest scoring play of the USFL history and tied for the longest career play. football history
Week 7 game: vs. Houston, Sunday at 2:30 pm ET.
3. Birmingham Stallions (4-2, 1-2 South)
Last week: Beat Michigan, 27-13.
The Stallions got back into the win column against a Panthers team still looking for the form it showed through the first two weeks of the season.
What is clear from Birmingham is that quarterback Alex McGough is in complete control of the offense and has earned the trust of head coach and playmaker Skip Holtz. McGough completed 19 of 24 passes for 133 yards and ran for 82 more, while Stallions running back CJ Marable rushed for 100 yards on 18 carries in the win.
The Stallions have shown excellent form in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns on 79% of their trips inside the 20. The rest of the league is scoring TDs on just 46% of their trips into the red zone.
Birmingham carry some momentum with a win in a rematch with the Breakers that has massive playoff implications in the top South division.
Week 7 Game: vs. New Orleans, Saturday at 4pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App.
4. New Orleans Breakers (4-2, 2-1 South)
Last week: Lost to Philadelphia, 16-10.
New Orleans’ loss to Philadelphia was far from pretty, as the teams combined to commit 24 penalties for 238 yards.
The Breakers are showing signs of cracking in the fourth quarter of games after earning a reputation as good finishers. Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 22 of 38 passes for 190 yards with two interceptions and a TD.
On the bright side, running back Wes Hills continues to be productive, rewarding a coaching staff that has worked to get the ball in their hands in any way possible. In fact, over the past four weeks, Hills leads the league in both rushing attempts (92) and catches (22).
Week 7 Match: v Birmingham, Saturday at 4pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App.
5. Philadelphia Stars (3-3, 1-2 North)
Last week: beat New Orleans, 16-10.
Philly’s win against New Orleans, along with the losses of every other team in the North, pushed the Stars to the top of their division. The victory came despite committing 13 penalties for 144 yards.
All-Star cornerback Amani Dennis enjoyed a terrific game against the Breakers with four tackles and a touchdown after a game-changing interception return.
Quarterback Case Cookus completed 17 of 27 passes for 238 yards with two INTs in the win. Former first-round NFL Draft pick and 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman caught six passes for 76 yards.
Philadelphia has won its last two games despite not scoring an offensive touchdown in either contest. Since the USFL resumed play in 2022, the rest of the league is 1-9 when not scoring an offensive TD.
Week 7: vs. pittsburgh, Saturday at 9pm ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports App.
6. New Jersey Generals (2-4, 2-1 North)
Last week: Lost to Houston, 16-10.
While the quarterback switch from De’Andre Johnson to Kyle Lauletta eventually paid off, the Generals didn’t score until the fourth quarter and the offense didn’t find the end zone until 3:09 remained in the game .
While New Jersey scored on every possession of the second half, the Generals had just two as both teams put together long clock runs.
The Generals were hurt by a pair of costly penalties – a center caught downfield twice on a passing play – and a failed fourth-down attempt in the first half.
Week 7: vs. Michigan, Sunday at 5:30 pm ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
7. Pittsburgh Maulers (2-4, 2-1 North)
Last week: Lost to Memphis, 22-0.
The Maulers fell into a tie for last place in the North with their loss at Memphis.
Quarterback Troy Williams was unable to repeat the type of offensive performance he put together in the Maulers’ win last week. Pittsburgh coach Ray Horton pulled him in the second half in favor of former fourth-round NFL Draft pick James Morgan.
Morgan’s first pass attempt was picked off, which was indicative of the Maulers’ offensive performance in Memphis.
Offensive struggles are nothing new for the Maulers. Saturday’s loss was the third time this season they have failed to score an offensive touchdown in a game, and they have only one game this season with more than one offensive TD.
On the plus side, Maulers linebacker Kyahva Tezino had 16 tackles, including two for a loss en route to earning Defensive Player of the Week honors. He leads the league in hits with 62 this season.
Week 7: vs. Philadelphia, Saturday at 9pm ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports App.
8. Michigan Panthers (2-4, 1-2 North)
Last week: Lost to Birmingham, 27-13.
Panthers wide receiver Trey Quinn was Michigan’s top offensive player with seven catches for 108 yards.
On defense, linebacker Frank Ginda tied the modern USFL record with 18 tackles. He also added a forced fumble and half a sack before leaving the game with an injury in the final moments.
But while Ginda’s defensive play and Breeland Speaks’ upside has been terrific, the Panthers are looking for an offensive playmaker who can get them back in the win column.
Week 7: vs. New Jersey, Sunday at 5:30 pm ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
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 i subscribe to “The Number One College Football Show” on YouTube.
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