UFL Week 2 power rankings: Stallions, Brahmas remain on top; Showboats slide

This is a second-half league — a conclusion drawn from the first two weeks of the UFL season where seven of the first eight games have featured comeback wins, predominantly in the fourth quarter.

The UFL’s unique point-after attempt system where the offense can opt to go for one, two or three points from the 2-, 5- and 10-yard line after a touchdown — which makes a nine-point margin a one-possession game — means that no team feels truly out of a game.

If teams can string together a few dynamic plays — as we saw with the St. Louis Battlehawks‘ thrilling victory over the Arlington Renegades and the San Antonio Brahmas‘ dramatic road win against the Memphis Showboats — then they’re right back in it, even if they trailed by double digits to start the fourth quarter.

Let’s get to our second edition of the 2024 UFL power rankings.

1. Birmingham Stallions (2-0)

Amid the exciting start to the season, Skip Holtz’s Stallions continue to show themselves to be the class of this new era of professional spring football. With a 20-13 win against the Panthers, Birmingham improved to 2-0 on the season — with both wins coming on the road — and extended their winning streak to nine-straight dating back to the 2023 USFL season.

“Everything we try to do is built around our offense and defense trying to compliment each other,” Holtz said. “It’s winning football, and it’s a winning formula.”

What’s more, Holtz is making his two-QB system work yet again. In each of his previous two USFL championship seasons, Holtz steadily played his former QB at Louisiana Tech, J’Mar Smith, alongside eventual starter and 2023 MVP Alex McGough until one player separated from the other.

Heading into this season and into Week 2, Holtz kept his word that Ole Miss product Matt Corral and Nebraska standout Adrian Martinez would both play. Each made plays that led to the Birmingham win.

The return of former Chicago Bears linebacker DeMarquis Gates and the emergence of former Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton allowed the Stallions to seal a win that looked like it might be slipping away late into the fourth quarter until John Chavis’ unit came up with a crucial fourth-down stop.

“I thought our defense was stout,” Holtz said. “They gave up one big play that resulted in points. I thought defensively we played an excellent football game.”

UFL Week 2 power rankings highlight the Birmingham Stallions

UFL Week 2 power rankings highlight the Birmingham Stallions

2. San Antonio Brahmas (2-0)

No team has proven to be more capable of winning in non-conventional ways than the Brahmas so far this season. In Week 1, punter Brad Wing and center Alex Mollette combined on a trick pass-play to defeat the DC Defenders.

In Week 2, QB Chase Garbers led San Antonio to its 20-19 comeback win over the Memphis Showboats by scoring 12 points in the game’s final 48 seconds by taking advantage of the league rule that allows a losing team to elect to go for a fourth-and-12 from their own 28-yard line to retain possession of the ball while down a score instead of kicking off. It’s an alternative to the onside kick that exists only in the UFL.

After the conversion, the Brahmas marched downfield and ended the drive with Garbers linking up with Super Bowl champion Cody Latimer to complete the comeback. Garbers finished the game with a league-high 287 passing yards and three touchdowns.

A San Antonio squad that yielded twice as many penalty yards in the first half (42) as total yards (17) came alive to become the only other team besides Birmingham to begin the UFL season 2-0.

3. St. Louis Battlehawks (1-1)

In Week 1, former Alabama QB AJ McCarron rued head coach Anthony Becht’s decision not to give him the ball with the game in the balance. In Week 2, McCarron got exactly what he wanted — and he responded in a big way.

With the game tied at 24-all in front of a professional spring football record crowd of more than 40,000 fans at The Dome at America’s Center, aka “The BattleDome,” McCarron marched his offense into field-goal range for former Lou Groza Award winner Andre Szmyt. The Syracuse product nailed a 23-yard field goal to give St. Louis the walk-off win against the defending XFL champion Arlington Renegades.

McCarron ended the game with 248 passing yards, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to former Oklahoma State receiver Marcell Ateman.

Arlington Renegades vs. St. Louis Battlehawks Highlights

Arlington Renegades vs. St. Louis Battlehawks Highlights

4. DC Defenders (1-1)

After a loss to the Brahmas in Week 1 in which the Defenders failed to score a touchdown, Reggie Barlow’s offense scored twice in the first half against the Houston Roughnecks in front of their home crowd at Audi Field.

Behind the arm of Jordan Ta’amu, the Defenders scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to secure their first win of the season. Despite giving the ball back to Houston with just under two minutes remaining and in plus-territory, the Defenders defense held strong. It allowed just three total third-down conversions in 13 attempts in Week 2, and Ta’amu put together another 200-yard passing performance, averaging 12.7 yards per completion in the win.

5. Michigan Panthers (1-1)

Panthers signal-callers E.J. Perry and Danny Etling spent most of the afternoon running for their lives and got little help from their rushing game. The Panthers rushed for just 47 yards, gave up seven sacks, scored a mere three points in the second half and turned the ball over twice.

“I have to credit their players,” head coach Mike Nolan said of the Stallions. “They won the majority of 1-on-1s.” 

That was evident with Stallions nose tackle Carlos Davis notching two sacks and Charlton getting three. However, the Panthers have the best special teams player in the league in kicker Jake Bates.

With a 62-yarder made just before halftime, Bates became the first professional kicker to make field goals of 60 yards or more in two consecutive weeks since former Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher made two in Weeks 6 and 7 of the 2019 season. “He (Bates) will be at an NFL training camp this summer,” an NFL scout told me. “That’s a given.”

Former Stallions kicker Brandon Aubrey earned an invitation to the Cowboys’ training camp in 2023 and ended the season as a first-team All-Pro selection and set the NFL record for the most consecutive field goals made as a rookie (19).

Bates never attempted a field goal in college and was selected to the Panthers roster for his ability as an All-SEC selection as a kickoff specialist at Arkansas. Bates has makes of 64, 62 and 53 yards so far this season, and both of his 60-plus yarders went through the uprights into the net behind the posts.

Michigan Panthers Week 2 postgame press conference

Michigan Panthers Week 2 postgame press conference

6. Memphis Showboats (1-1)

The Showboats experienced an utter collapse, while the Brahmas made an improbable comeback in Week 2. Not only did Memphis lead San Antonio by 19 points at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Showboats defense shut out the Brahmas offense. Three Memphis defenders notched seven tackles, Maximilian Roberts added two sacks and a forced fumble and star QB Case Cookus totaled 252 yards.

None of that was enough to seal a win at home for Showboats head coach John DeFilippo’s squad, whose team scored just once in six trips to the red zone. “You’re not gonna win a lot of games when you’re 1-for-6 in the red zone,” he said. “We’ve got to get that fixed. … Probably one of the most disappointing losses I’ve ever been a part of.”

7. Arlington Renegades (0-2)

For the second consecutive week, the Renegade defense has allowed at least 24 points. The defending XFL champions have lost four of their last six and are just 6-8 under former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops since the start of the 2023 season. “Some of the things that hurt us a week ago hurt us again,” Stoops said.

Despite playing a clean game — picking up twice as many third downs (six) and more first downs (21) than the Battlehawks, a perfect 3-3 in the red zone and matching St. Louis’ third-quarter scoring (13 points) — the Renegades allowed two fourth-down conversions and the UFL’s first 100-yard rusher in Mataeo Durant.

8. Houston Roughnecks (0-2)

Former FCS Walter Payton Player of the Year Reid Sinnett came off the bench in relief of starter Jarrett Guarantano to complete 19 of 30 passes for 221 yards with a touchdown.

Roughnecks inside linebacker Reuben Foster put together another stellar outing with a team-high six tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups. The Roughnecks and the Renegades are the only remaining winless teams in the UFL.

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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