Sports

USFL Championship Game odds: Best bet for Stars-Stallions title game

By Sam Panayotovich
FOX Sports Betting Analyst

We’re all set for the inaugural USFL Championship Game this Sunday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The title game will air live on FOX at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The matchup features two teams that weren’t exactly favored to make it this far given the preseason championship odds. Heading into Week 1 in mid-April, the Philadelphia Stars (+450) and Birmingham Stallions (+550) had longer title odds at FOX Bet than the perceived favorites: the Michigan Panthers (+333) and Tampa Bay Bandits (+425).

Michigan flubbed its way to a 2-8 record and Tampa Bay finished 4-6.

Whoops.

So here we are for all the marbles. Birmingham comes into this game as a 4.5-point favorite over Philadelphia at FOX Bet, with a total of O/U 45.5. The first thought that crossed my mind was “Under” 45.5 because this isn’t and hasn’t been a league filled with offensive fireworks by any stretch of the imagination. 

Take last week’s semifinal game between Birmingham and New Orleans. It took a 71-yard interception return touchdown and a 90-yard kick return touchdown to eek “Over” 44.5 with a 31-17 final score.

Banking on big mistakes for long touchdowns is a recipe for disaster.

“We’re happy to write ‘Over’ money in the USFL title game,” one Las Vegas bookmaker told FOX Sports. “These offenses don’t scare me one bit, but the public loves betting the ‘Over’ in championship games.

“The true number should probably be closer to 42.5 or 43, but if we opened that low, we would write it up to 44.5 or 45 anyway. So, it’s easier on our end to open it a couple of points higher and see what happens from there.”

I expect Birmingham’s bread and butter — running the ball and playing solid defense — to remain the same with the title on the line. The Stallions will look to establish the run with the league’s second-best attack (135.7 rushing yards per game) to rack up the time of possession and keep Philadelphia off the field.

Also, Birmingham’s defense is a tough nut to crack, and that unit really rounded into form down the stretch. Over the last five games of the season, the Stallions allowed 17 points against New Orleans, 18 against Tampa Bay, 17 against Houston, nine against New Orleans and 16 against Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia has overcome a bottom-three passing attack and bottom-four rushing attack by continuously creating takeaways on the other side of the ball. Philly’s defense led the league with 13 interceptions, but remember, they’re facing a team that has lost only once all season and isn’t careless with the pigskin. 

It helps that the Stars are no slouches with the ball, either. Philadelphia threw just seven interceptions in 10 regular-season contests. The Stars don’t possess the type of offense that makes egregious mistakes, and their conservative nature should help keep this bad boy “Under” the total, too.

I’ll gladly bet against offense — and 70-plus yard return touchdowns — in the inaugural USFL title game and put my money on these two defenses keeping the opposition outside the end zone.

This one has 20-17 written all over it.

Sammy’s Pick: “Under” 45.5 points scored by both teams combined (-120 at FOX Bet)

Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.


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