USFL Week 8: What to know about each game
For coach Bart Andrus and the Stars (4-3), it’s simple: win Sunday and they’re in the playoffs. On the other side, their North Division opponent, the Michigan Panthers (1-6), must beat the Stars to keep their postseason hopes alive.
The playoff scenario is more complicated for coach Larry Fedora and the Breakers (5-2). A Breakers win on Saturday against the Stallions, combined with a Tampa Bay Bandits (3-4) loss against the Houston Gamblers (1-6) on Sunday, will clinch a playoff berth for New Orleans.
Here is a primer for Week 8:
Friday, 8 p.m. ET on USA
Last week: The Maulers gave the undefeated Stallions a fight through most of their contest before ultimately falling 26-16. They were undone by a couple of huge plays, including surrendering a 52-yard touchdown on a fake punt.
Players to watch: The Maulers have tried four different quarterbacks in the last four weeks, without much success. Vad Lee helped guide the team to their only win of the season, but he was pulled last week in favor of Roland Rivers. Who will take the reins this week?
Safety Dravon Askew-Henry had two interceptions in one quarter to help the Generals secure a victory. He also had eight tackles (seven solo) and three passes defended. What will he do for an encore?
Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app
Last week: The Breakers were challenged by the Panthers, needing a field goal as time expired to tie the score and force overtime. That's when QB Kyle Sloter went to work, hitting Anthony Jones for one score in the shootout format, then dashing in himself for a second score to give New Orleans a 31-27 victory.
The Stallions had some dramatics of their own, riding the power running of Bo Scarbrough — and a 52-yard sprint on a fake punt by Bobby Holly — to hold off the Maulers.
Players to watch: The Breakers signed Jones in May and the move has already paid off. The 25-year-old out of Florida International already has 157 rushing yards and a touchdown across three games, none of which he started.
The Stallions have been beset by injuries, with star wideout Victor Bolden the latest to go down. With teams likely to place increased focus on stopping Scarbrough, quarterback J'Mar Smith might have to pick up the slack.
Sunday, 12 p.m. ET on FOX and streaming in the FOX Sports app
Last week: The Panthers did just about everything right against the Breakers except finish the game. Perhaps pinning New Orleans deep with a punt late in the game, as opposed to attempting a long field goal — which was missed — would have made the difference.
The Stars took advantage of an epic meltdown by Houston, scoring 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to turn a 24-13 deficit into a 35-24 victory. A stunning, scrambling missile from Case Cookus to Jordan Suell was the key play that got everything started.
Players to watch: Josh Love didn't get the victory in his first start for Michigan, but he did show he could stand tall in the pocket and deliver passes while taking a hit. He only completed 18 of his 37 pass attempts and didn't toss a touchdown, but he also didn't throw any interceptions.
Channing Stribling continues to be a force for Philadelphia, notching his league-best fifth interception in the win over Houston. He's only played in five of the Stars' seven games.
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET on Peacock
Last week: The Gamblers truly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Philly. Their fourth-quarter drives included a missed field goal, an interception, a fumble and a safety. They're going to have to learn to finish games if they want to earn their first victory since Week 1.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, managed to stay within a touchdown in their 20-13 loss to New Jersey despite doing 0-for-3 in the red zone and committing three turnovers. They'll look to clean things up against Houston.
Players to watch: The man to watch on the Gamblers is clearly Donald Payne. The linebacker is a tackling machine — not only does he lead the league with 85 tackles, but that total is 29 more than the 56 of New Orleans' Vontae Diggs, who ranks second.
Anthony Butler, a linebacker out of Liberty, was all over the field for the Bandits last week, notching 14 tackles (eight solo), two of which were for a loss.