Yes, the college football season is over.
Yes, the NFL season is over.
But the XFL is just getting started with four games this weekend.
We’ve already seen the WFL, the USFL and the AAF try to challenge the NFL and this is yet another attempt to fill the gap between the Super Bowl and the start of the 2020 season.
What is it?
It’s a brand-new professional football league, founded by WWE boss Vince McMahon – who is expected to lose $300 million on the startup – and comes along 19 years after McMahon tried to launch another league, also called the XFL.
This version has eight teams playing a 12-week schedule from February to April.
Some differences from the NFL and college:
*Two forward passes. As long as the first pass is thrown and caught behind the line of scrimmage, there can be a second forward pass.
*Radical new kickoffs. Kicker is on own 25 but his teammates and their opponents are lined up on the opposite 30 and 25 yard line, and cannot move until the ball is caught.
*No kicked extra points. But you can go for 1 point (from the 2-yard line), 2 points (from the 5-yard line) or 3 points (from the 10 yard line).
*”The Comeback Period.” In the last two minutes of each half, the clock will stop after every play. That will eliminate the ‘kneel down’ play where a team can kill the clock with two minutes left.
*Overtime similar to soccer penalty kicks. Each team gets five chances to score from the 5-yard line.
Head coach: Bob Stoops, longtime head coach at Oklahoma (won a national title in 2000) in his first pro head coaching gig.
Quarterback: Landry Jones, former Oklahoma State star and Pittsburgh Steelers backup, but he may not be ready for Week 1. If not, Philip Nelson, ex-Minnesota and East Carolina QB could start.
Case for: Stoops and his assistant coaches who include Hal Mumme, architect of famous ‘air raid’ offenses in college.
Case against: If Jones isn’t 100%, can the backups get it done? Dallas has had more press than any other XFL team, so could feel some pressure.
Odds of winning championship: $4.50
Head coach: June Jones, offensive minded coaching lifer who’s coached in high school, college, the CFL, the old USFL and was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 1994 to 1996.
Quarterback: Former Temple QB P.J. Walker will start, with ex-Michigan State starter Connor Cook ready to come in if needed.
Case for: Jones and offensive coordinator Chris Miller know the high-scoring ‘run and shoot’ offense inside out.
Case against: The run and shoot has traditionally not worked well at the professional level.
Odds of winning championship: $9.50
Los Angeles Wildcats
Head coach: Winston Moss, former NFL player who has been an assistant since 1998, most recently spending 11 years as assistant head coach/linebackers coach with the Green Bay Packers.
Quarterback: 33-year old Josh Johnson, 11-year NFL veteran who once started for the Buccaneers.
Case for: The roster is solid, and Moss brings a solid defensive mentality to what looks like an offense heavy league.
Case against: How will they be on offense? The offensive coordinator is 73-year old Norm Chow who has strong credentials but hasn’t coached at the pro or college level in five years.
Odds of winning championship: $6.50
Head coach: Jim Zorn, former star Seahawks quarterback who has coached NFL QB’s since 1997 and was head coach of the Washington Redskins for two seasons (2008, 2009).
Quarterback: Two guys who played in the short-lived AAF, Brandon Silvers (from Troy) and BJ Daniels (from South Florida) who the Seahawks tried to turn into a wide receiver.
Plus side: Zorn is a hometown hero who should get the fans excited.
Minus side: Small crowds could get lost in cavernous Century Link Field, home of the Seahawks and Sounders. By all accounts, they are the weakest team in the XFL at the quarterback position and will rely on a strong running game.
Odds of winning championship: $12.00
Head coach: Pep Hamilton, a respected college (Stanford) and NFL (Jets, Bears, Colts) offensive coach who most recently ran the offense at Michigan.
Quarterback: Former Ohio State star Cardale Jones who never caught on in the NFL.
Plus side: Hamilton is a respected offensive mind, Jones was super-effective at Ohio State and they have a stack of good running backs.
Minus side: Offense shouldn’t be a problem, but questions remain around the defense.
Odds of winning championship: $6.00
New York Guardians
Head coach: Kevin Gilbride, longtime NFL coach who won two Super Bowl rings as offensive coordinator of the New York Giants and was head coach of the Chargers for two seasons (1997, 1998).
Quarterback: Matt McGloin, Penn State starter, six seasons in the NFL including four with Raiders.
Plus side: No doubt Gilbride is the real deal and knows how to win.
Minus side: It’s New York. If you don’t look good early, the fans and media could turn on you.
Odds of winning championship: $4.50
St. Louis BattleHawks
Head coach: Jonathan Hayes, ex-NFL player who began his coaching career at Oklahoma, then spent 15 years as Marvin Lewis’ tight ends coach with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Quarterbacks: Jordan Ta’amu, former starter at Ole Miss.
Plus side: Two running backs, Christine Michael and Matt Jones, have 500 NFL carries between them.
Minus side: Is Ta’amu the answer at QB? Roster rated among the XFL’s weakest.
Odds of winning championship: $10.00
Tampa Bay Vipers
Head coach: Marc Trestman, offensive mastermind who was an NFL assistant for years before becoming head coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL (2008-2012) and the Chicago Bears (2013-2014).
Quarterback: Aaron Murray, star at Georgia, four years as NFL backup.
Plus side: Trestman’s offensive mind, Murray and a number of talented playmakers. Also, former NFL head coach (and certified character) Jerry Glanville will run the defense.
Minus side: How will Trestman and Glanville get along? Like Dallas, there has been a lot of hype around the Vipers – will that add pressure?
Odds of winning championship: $5.00