By RJ Young
FOX Sports Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Two teams have locked up spots in the inaugural United States Football League’s postseason, which kicks off in Canton, Ohio, on June 25. While there are only two places remaining, there’s still seeding to work through and rosters to manage.
No one can afford to be complacent, not even the only undefeated team left in the league. June could see one team get hot and carry a winning streak into the playoffs.
USFL Power Rankings after Week 7
RJ Young is back to discuss the top teams in the USFL. The still-undefeated Birmingham Stallions hold the top spot in the rankings. See how the rest of the rankings shake out.
Now, let’s get to our power rankings through Week 7.
The still undefeated Stallions were the second team this past weekend to punch a ticket to Canton, Ohio, for the four-team playoff.
Starting slowly — and so depleted at wide receiver that Birmingham quarterback and No. 1 pick Alex McGough was ushered into action to play slot receiver — put the Stallions’ backs against the wall in the second half.
With the passing attack anemic, Stallions coach Skip Holtz made the decision to “put a saddle on Bo’s back” and ride him to a comeback win. Bo Scarbrough, the former Alabama tailback, rushed for 100 yards for the second time in as many games, affording the Stallions the luxury of a month to get healthy before the playoffs begin.
On Saturday, Mike Riley’s Generals became the first team to reach the USFL playoffs with a win against Tampa Bay.
Like the Stallions, the Generals now have an opportunity to assess their roster, get healthy and make a charge toward winning the USFL title while the remaining three teams simply vie for the second and final playoff spot in the North Division.
How Generals QB Luis Perez learned to play the position
RJ Young sits down with New Jersey Generals QB Luis Perez, who shares a great story about how he learned how to play quarterback by watching YouTube videos.
Quarterback Kyle Sloter and the Breakers did what they do best — go get in Winning Time. In the USFL’s first-ever overtime, featuring its unique shootout format, the Breakers managed to beat a Michigan Panthers team that looked the best it has all season.
The May signing of former Florida International running back Anthony Jones paid dividends as he and Sloter were the only two players to score in the overtime.
The Breakers’ defense, particularly its defensive line, played one of its worst games to date. Yet Larry Fedora’s team has inched that much closer to securing the second and final playoff spot in the South Division after both the Tampa Bay Bandits and Houston Gamblers took losses in Week 7.
The Stars scored 22 unanswered points — and 22 different Star players recorded a tackle — in the Stars’ comeback win against the Gamblers.
Linebacker Jordan Moore continued to showcase his ability to chase down ball carriers. He led the Stars in tackles (eight) while cornerback Channing Stribling picked off his league-leading fifth interception.
Bart Andrus’ team was my dark horse contender to win the USFL championship this season, and they’ve begun to round into form defensively. Expect the return of quarterback Bryan Scott later this season to be a determining factor for their chances to win as they look to lock up the second and final playoff spot in the North Division.
5. Tampa Bay Bandits (3-4)
As much as head coaches tend to dislike having too much focus on their quarterbacks — particularly when they struggle — it’s hard to ignore how influential Jordan Ta’amu’s play is for the Bandits. When he plays well, so do they.
His three interceptions against New Jersey, coupled with fumbles on a kick return and a snap, didn’t help the Bandits in a game they could’ve won had they simply played clean football.
If Ta’amu comes into form and takes care of the football, Todd Haley’s squad has a chance to turn heads in the final three weeks of the season.
6. Michigan Panthers (1-6)
Perhaps no team has been unluckier in close-game situations than Jeff Fisher’s Panthers.
After releasing No. 1 overall pick Shea Patterson — who roamed the Breakers sideline after he was picked up by New Orleans ahead of their contest with Michigan — offensive coordinator Eric Marty tapped former Pittsburgh Maulers starting quarterback Josh Love to be his man behind center.
The Panthers scored a two-point conversion in regulation and saw kicker Cole Murphy hit four of five field-goal attempts — including a USFL record 60-yarder — and still came up just short of their second win in overtime.
7. Pittsburgh Maulers (1-6)
Kirby Wilson must still be kicking himself. His team possessed its largest lead in any game all season — against the undefeated Stallions — and looked to have the game well under control heading into halftime, only to lose after the Stallions mounted a second-half surge.
The upshot is that the Maulers’ defense demonstrated it could more than frustrate the best team in the league. But the quarterback position still plagues them.
The Maulers have played four different quarterbacks in four weeks, including 2019 Harlon Hill Trophy winner Roland Rivers in the final minutes of the game against Birmingham. Wilson’s decision to bench quarterback Vad Lee was curious, especially knowing what he’s capable of in the final minutes of a game.
He’s also the only quarterback to lead the Maulers to a victory.
8. Houston Gamblers (1-6)
Kevin Sumlin’s team still hasn’t learned how to close out a game, and that’s got to change for the Gamblers to enter the win column for the first time since the season kicked off on April 17.
Houston led Philly by 11 at the start of the fourth quarter. A missed field goal, an interception, a fumble and a safety — all in the fourth — gave the Stars the opening they needed to win a game that felt like it was playing right into the Gamblers’ hands.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.
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