Want a spring football fix, New Jersey online gamblers?
Something that kicks in after Villanova completes its thrill ride through the Final Four?
A new betting endeavor to complement the Phillies starting their home season April 8 against the Athletics at Citizens Bank Park?
Consider it done.
Here comes the USFL, an eight-team league with clubs representing Philadelphia (the Stars) and New Jersey (the Generals), running April 16 through the weekend of June 18. And then there are playoffs, taking the league into July.
It’s quirky, yes. There are no regular-season tilts anywhere outside of Alabama, so forget any home-field advantage for any northeast teams.
But who cares, you can bet on it.
USFL Betting At NJ Sportsbooks
Here are five early takeaways from the new league:
There are 10 regular-season games. The league is split into a North and South division.
Each team will play a 10-game schedule, with teams in the same division playing each other twice, and teams in the other division once.
The top two teams in each division will play against each other in the semifinals, followed a week later by the championship game.
In the North, it’s the Philadelphia Stars, New Jersey Generals, Michigan Panthers, and Pittsburgh Maulers.
In the South, it’s the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers, and Tampa Bay Bandits.
Most of the games will be played at 45,000-seat Protective Stadium, with between eight and 11 games to be played at Legion Field.
Officials cite Birmingham’s lineup of culture, arts, and amenities regarding why all the games will be played in one area. Strange as it is, teams will adjust.
Just don’t pay too much creed to which team is away regarding visiting and home teams. And have some fun saying, “No, we’re home against Pittsburgh. We played there last time.”
It appears as though the league will be funded by television money, in which case venue revenue won’t be a major factor.
2. Multiple viewing options on opening night
The first game will feature the Generals against the Stallions and will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 16. That game will air on both FOX and NBC, making it the first scheduled sporting event to air on competing broadcast networks since Super Bowl I in 1967, which was shown on both CBS and NBC.
FOX and NBC will air all 43 games, thus bettors can monitor their wagers.
Going further down, here is the first slate of games:
- New Jersey Generals vs. Birmingham Stallions, April 16, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Houston Gamblers vs. Michigan Panthers, April 17, 12:00 p.m. ET
- Philadelphia Stars vs. New Orleans Breakers, April 17, 4:00 p.m. ET
- Tampa Bay Bandits vs. Pittsburgh Maulers, April 17, 8:00 p.m. ET
- Birmingham Stallions vs. Houston Gamblers
- Michigan Panthers vs. New Jersey Generals
- New Orleans Breakers vs. Tampa Bay Bandits
- Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Philadelphia Stars
- Tampa Bay Bandits vs. Houston Gamblers
- New Jersey Generals vs. Philadelphia Stars
- Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Michigan Panthers
- Birmingham Stallions vs. New Orleans Breakers
- Houston Gamblers vs. New Orleans Breakers
- New Jersey Generals vs. Pittsburgh Maulers
- Philadelphia Stars vs. Michigan Panthers
- Tampa Bay Bandits vs. Birmingham Stallions
3. USFL futures odds
There will be individual game wagers, of course. But what’s up now is the DraftKings Sportsbook championship futures:
- Michigan Panthers +400
- Tampa Bay Bandits +500
- New Orleans Breakers +500
- Pittsburgh Maulers +600
- Stars +600
- Generals +750
- Houston Gamblers +750
- Birmingham Stallions +750
How good will the quality of play be?
“It’s hard to say, but when you look at the league and what we have put up, the odds are pretty tight with each other,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told NJGS. “You’ve got the favorites at +400 and the longest prices at +750. I am sure we will be watching some early action and adjusting quickly.”
“One thing we do know is that Jeff Fisher is the coach of the Michigan team and with him being a former NFL coach (with the Tennessee Titans), I think that speaks well for that team. You know there will be some discipline there.”
Avello said the level of USFL betting would never approach that of the NFL but “we love to have all types of products out there for our players.”
4. USFL’s unique rules
There are three options to try the extra point after a touchdown.
The standard one-pointer comes via kick from the 15-yard line. The two-pointer is attempted from the two-yard line.
A three-pointer comes from the opposing 10. This makes nine points the new standard of a one-score game. This also appears to reduce the value of a standard extra point and may shift the emphasis to two-pointers.
Teams will have two options to keep the ball after scoring:
An onside kick from the 25-yard line or running a 4th-and-12 play from their own 33-yard line. If a team makes a first down, it keeps the ball, while if it fails, the defense gets the ball.
There is risk and reward.
The reward is a team keeps possession. The risk is a sack deep in its territory. A team gives up the ball to a team already in field-goal range.
There will be two passes allowed behind the line of scrimmage. This can allow a second downfield pass and set up some unique gadget plays.
Overtime will resemble an NHL shootout. Teams get alternating possessions at the two-yard line. If they are still tied after three of them, it keeps going into sudden death.
5. USFL rosters
It may change…a lot. But here is the opening lineup:
The Stars head coach and general manager is Bart Andrus. His head coaching resume features stints in college, NFL Europe, the CFL, and the XFL.
He also spent time as an offensive coach for the Titans and the Rams in the NFL.
Case Cookus and Bryan Scott are the Stars’ quarterbacks.
Cookus was a highly productive QB on the FCS level with more than 12,000 passing yards and 105 touchdowns across five seasons at Northern Arizona. Two of those seasons were cut short due to injury.
He was waived by the Las Vegas Raiders prior to the 2021 season.
Scott threw for more than 9,000 yards and nearly 80 TDs for Occidental College on the Division III level. He was the MVP of The Spring League in 2020 while playing for the Generals, a team coached by Andrus.
The head coach for the Generals will be longtime college and professional coach Mike Riley, who most recently had stints with the San Antonio Commanders of the now-defunct AAF in 2019 and the Seattle Dragons of the XFL in 2020.
The quarterbacks for the team will be Ben Holmes and De’Andre Johnson. Holmes started at Division II Tarleton State for two years in college, throwing for 3,338 yards, 34 touchdowns, and three interceptions as a senior.
Johnson, who starred on the second season of Netflix’s Last Chance U, officially finished his college football career last year.
It won’t take gamblers long to get a feel for personnel, every team’s offensive style, and some intangibles.
If people could not bet this, a league in Alabama would be pointless.
But New Jersey gamblers can bet on it. And they will.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)