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Countdown to the National Championship: How Oregon and Ohio State’s linebackers stack up



In the days leading up to the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, the Emerald will take a unit-by-unit look at Oregon and Ohio State, determining which team has the edge going into the showdown on Jan. 12 in Dallas. Today, we’ll look at each team’s linebackers.

Oregon

Heading into the National Championship game against Ohio State, the Ducks won’t be needing to worry about their linebackers, one of their most consistent defensive units this season. Led by redshirt seniors Tony Washington and Derrick Malone, the Ducks have had the rare luxury of depth and veteran leadership at the position, setting up an advantage in nearly every matchup they face.

The top three sack leaders for the Ducks are all linebackers: Christian French (6.5), Washington (6.0) and Terrodney Prevot (5.0). And with this depth, the Ducks have been able to fully implement different looks based on their opponents. Whether it be Joe Walker or Malone out behind the defensive line, the Ducks are always throwing different looks at the opposing offense.

In addition, these linebackers have also showcased an ability to force turnovers this season. Against Florida State, the Ducks forced five crucial turnovers, the first coming from Malone. As they get ready for a hot Buckeyes team, this position group will once again be vital, especially in slowing down a Cradle Jones led offense.

Ohio State

There is no denying the Buckeyes talent level at the linebacker position. With Darron Lee (sophomore) and Joshua Perry (junior) running the show, the Buckeyes can also say they rely on this position group game in and game out. Lee currently ranks second in sacks on the team with 7.5, while Perry leads in the team in tackles by a long shot with 118.

On a defense that allowed just 22.1 points per game (26th best in the nation), Lee and Perry have been invaluable. If the Buckeyes defense is going to have any shot at slowing down the Ducks offense, it’s going to have to start with the their talented linebackers. Judging by the games played leading up to this final matchup, Lee and Perry will be ready for the challenge.

One thing to look out for however, will be how Lee responds to high intensity environment at Jerry’s World. While the Ducks can feel comfortable heading into the title game with seasoned linebackers, Lee, who has just two years under his belt, will have to carry his share of the load.

Having said that, Lee recorded two sacks against Alabama in the 42-35 Sugar Bowl win.

Advantage: Oregon

It was hard to determine a winner between these two linebacker units, but it ultimately comes down to Oregon’s experience and knack for forcing turnovers. In game that will have as much to do with having the most possessions than anything, the big time playmaking abilities of Malone, Washington and Walker will be paramount. When it’s all said and done, this trio plus Prevot, may likely go down as one of the best in Oregon history, something that will be invaluable heading into this year’s biggest game.

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim

 

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