UFL Week 1 power rankings: Stallions lead the field, Brahmas close behind

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by RJ Young | FOXSports.com

UFL Week 1 power rankings: Stallions lead the field, Brahmas close behind

The UFL is in full swing!

The Birmingham Stallions kicked off the league's inaugural season by taking down the Arlington Renegades on Saturday, followed by the Michigan Panthers narrowly defeating the St. Louis Battlehawks in a thriller that came down to the wire.

To close out the week on Sunday, the DC Defenders were overpowered by the San Antonio Brahmas, while the Memphis Showboats outlasted the Houston Roughnecks in a defensive battle.

That said, let's get to our first edition of the 2024 UFL power rankings.


1. Birmingham Stallions (1-0)

Skip Holtz’s Stallions carried the USFL banner into the house of the defending XFL champion Renegades and came out with a double-digit victory, 27-14. With former Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral behind center, the Stallions extended their record under Holtz to 22-3 since Birmingham rejoined the spring pro football stage in April 2022.

While Corral enjoyed a pleasant debut — punctuated by a 39-yard touchdown pass to WR Deon Cain to finish the first half — the Stallions did the majority of their damage offensively on the ground with 183 rushing yards (5.1 yards per carry).

The Stallions currently look like the best team in the UFL and are seeking a third consecutive championship, having won the previous two USFL title games. Winning two in a row? You're good. Winning three in a row? You've created a dynasty.

With the win, the Stallions have made a credible step toward becoming spring football’s first dynastic franchise south of the Canadian border.

2. San Antonio Brahmas (1-0)

The surprise of the weekend was Wade Phillips’ Brahmas, who took control of their game against the Defenders by scoring 20 of their 27 points in the first half. Former Cal quarterback Chase Garbers played clean football, completing 19 of 25 passes for 158 yards with two passing touchdowns and a rushing score.

Brahmas offensive coordinator A.J. Smith did a great job of creating matchups for his playmakers against a Gregg Williams-led defense that was prepared to pin its ears back and come after Garbers. Former LSU wideout Jontre Kirklin caught eight passes for 61 yards with a touchdown. And though three players accounted for at least 40 yards rushing or receiving, none enjoyed a bigger play than center Alex Mollete’s touchdown catch on a trick play pass from punter Brad Wing — one catch, 40 yards and a score for offensive linemen everywhere.

3. Memphis Showboats (1-0)

The Showboats joined the Stallions as one of just two teams to earn wins on the road in Week 1. Behind the arm of Case Cookus, the Showboats sailed to a 15-0 lead in the first half and carried a double-digit lead all the way into the fourth quarter before the Roughnecks finally found their way into the end zone.

The strength of their offense is their passing attack, but an imbalance in their run game might hurt them later this season. Cookus led all rushers with just 16 rushing yards on four carries.


4. Michigan Panthers (1-0)

Mike Nolan’s Panthers didn’t manage to win a game at Ford Field until the end of the 2023 season last year. This year? The Panthers came out of the gate with a win for the Detroit faithful — and with drama.

With mere seconds left on the clock in regulation, Nolan sent kicker Josh Bates out to attempt a 64-yard field goal, which was his first field goal attempt since high school. After making the first kick, despite a timeout called to try to ice him, Bates nailed his second attempt to give the Panthers their 18-16 win against a team that is a favorite to make the playoffs.

Michigan quarterback E.J. Perry threw two interceptions, and the offense was held scoreless in the first half. Still, running back Wes Hills rushed for 85 yards on just 11 carries while the defense managed to hold St. Louis to a mere three points through three quarters. Hills led the USFL in rushing last season with 679 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to earning All-USFL honors, and he is once again one of the top offensive players to watch this season.

5. St. Louis Battlehawks (0-1)

The Battlehawks looked like they were controlling the game against the Panthers even though they led just 3-0 at the start of the fourth quarter. St. Louis’ defense created two turnovers — both interceptions, including one from former Iowa State standout and All-American Mike Rose — and held the Panthers to just 2 of 9 on third-down conversion attempts.

QB AJ McCarron, a top UFL MVP candidate this season, completed 24 of 37 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with eight different receivers, led by former Oklahoma State wide out Marcell Ateman, who caught six passes for 60 yards and a score.

However, it was increasingly clear that the Battlehawks couldn’t run the ball with regularity against the Panther defense. Former Clemson running back Wayne Gallman managed just 40 rushing yards on 13 carries in the loss.

6. DC Defenders (0-1)

The Defenders lost just one game during the regular season last year, but they've already equaled that tally through Week 1. A trick play by the Brahmas for a touchdown certainly strained the Defenders in the first half, but a series of mistakes and a loss of composure by right tackle Jean Delance not only took six points off the board in the second half, but it also led to a sequence that saw star quarterback Jordan Ta’amu knocked off out of the game for a play.

Ta’amu finished the game, completing 25 of 45 passes for 235 yards with an interception. The Defenders defense allowed just one third-down conversion, but the offense could not find its way into the end zone, settling for four field goals while their opponent scored four touchdowns.


7. Arlington Renegades (0-1)

The Renegades' regular-season woes returned after sneaking into the XFL playoffs last year and then riding a tide of outstanding play to the XFL crown. Despite taking an early 3-0 lead and entering halftime tied at 11-all, Arlington was outscored 16-3 in the second half at home.

QB Luis Perez proved to be one of the better signal-callers in the UFL, completing 19 of 28 for 214 yards with one touchdown and an interception. But the Renegades had trouble running the ball against the Stallions defense, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.


8. Houston Roughnecks (0-1)

CJ Johnson’s Roughnecks certainly missed their star tailback and 2023 USFL Offensive Player of the Year Mark Thompson. The run game yielded just 43 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Despite an efficient outing from former Tennessee QB Jarrett Guarantano (16 of 21 for 157 yards), the Roughnecks couldn’t find their way into the end zone until the fourth quarter.

However, the Roughneck defense is formidable. With four players on the defensive line who each caused havoc — Olive Sagapolu, Carlo Kemp, Adam Rodriguez and Toby Johnson — former first-round NFL draft selection and All-American Reuben Foster was free to make plays. And he did. Foster ended the game with six tackles, a pass breakup and an interception.

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 at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube.

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