This past weekend of USFL action was rough for most of the league’s North division as its four teams split the four intersectional matchups with New Jersey and Pittsburgh earning victories while Philadelphia and Michigan were not as lucky.
The biggest takeaways were the New Jersey Generals continued as the team to beat in the North, while the Maulers proved the North’s second playoff spot is still wide open. Despite a horrid start marred by a feud over pizza and chicken salad, the Maulers are still alive at only one game behind the second place Stars and tied for third with the Michigan Panthers.
One can easily argue the two last-place teams of the North are not bad teams at all. The Michigan Panthers’ awful close game luck has been much publicized with all of their losses coming by one score. The Maulers have shown flashes of greatness as well, losing one-score games to the first-place New Jersey Generals and Philadelphia Stars. Additionally, the Maulers’ defense had a strong performance in Week One against the 3-2 Tampa Bay Bandits, holding them to 17 points and 249 yards of offense.
All signs point to both teams remaining in the hunt for the North for the rest of the season, especially Pittsburgh. The Maulers took a page out of the Generals’ playbook and went with a two-quarterback system against Houston with former CAA greats Vad Lee (James Madison) and Kyle Lauletta (Richmond) splitting snaps. Lee, a former quarterback in Paul Johnson’s triple option scheme at Georgia Tech, adds a much-need rushing threat to a squad averaging just below 90 yards per game between their running backs Garret Groshek and Madre London.
Meanwhile, Michigan has had the flashes of a playoff team all along needing to shake off the bad close game luck that has haunted them. Each week, #FridayNightShea has increasingly become must-watch TV for hundreds of thousands of Americans coming off of work. On top of this, Reggie Corbin is in the discussion with Mark Thompson for best running back in the USFL.
Both teams could overtake Philadelphia and create a quirky playoff race with the North’s second place team coming into the division championship with a .500 record or worse. Some may think it would be a bad look for the league to find itself in this situation, but this country loves underdogs and what better story than having a 4-6 or 5-5 team play for the league’s championship? Needless to say, because the race for the North may be the USFL’s best story of its inaugural season.