Dr. Saturday’s Too Early Top 10: No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners

The 2014 season might be eight months away, but it's never too early to start thinking about the teams that could challenge for the new College Football Playoff. This week, we'll count down Dr. Saturday's Top 10 teams for 2014. Past entries: No. 10: LSU, No. 9 Stanford

Oklahoma Sooners
2013 record:
11-2, 7-2 Big 12
Final AP ranking: 6

Bowl result: def. Alabama 45-31 Sugar Bowl

Top returners: QB Trevor Knight, QB Blake Bell, WR Sterling Shepard, DE Geneo Grissom, DE Charles Tapper, LB Frank Shannon

Top losses: RB Brennan Clay, RB Roy Finch, C Gabe Ikard, OG Bronson Irwin, WR Lacoltan Bester, WR Jalen Saunders, CB Aaron Colvin

Overview: Oklahoma’s performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl piqued the country’s interest. Say what you want about the Tide’s motivation to play that game, but one thing was clear: Oklahoma came into the contest prepared and motivated and dominated the once-No. 1 team in the country.

Quarterback Trevor Knight, who had been up and down all season, finally became the quarterback coach Bob Stoops had raved about in the preseason. But can Knight take that great game and turn it into a great year? Knight has the Sooners top quarterbacking spot for now, but backup Blake Bell, who played a lot in 2013, is going to keep challenging him.

Oklahoma needs a steady presence in that spot. If it wants to compete for a Big 12 title, it needs a go-to guy and it needs a solid passer now that star running back Brennan Clay is moving on.

For Oklahoma to become a consistent passing threat, it’s going to have to identify more receiving targets. Sterling Shepard returns, but with Jalen Saunders, Lacoltan Bester and Jaz Reynolds gone, the Sooners only have one other receiver with more than 100 yards last season.

Defensively, Oklahoma should be good. We saw flashes of what defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is trying to develop and that should be even stronger in 2014 with nine starters potentially returning. Oklahoma fans have to be encouraged by the play of defensive end Geneo Grissom, who had two sacks and two fumble recoveries against Alabama. Linebacker Frank Shannon battled injuries much of the second half of the season, but still led the team in tackles. Imagine what he could do while healthy.

This is an Oklahoma team that probably played a little bit above its head in 2013, especially with all of its quarterbacking uncertainty, but should be a formidable top 10 competitor in 2014.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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