Dr. Saturday’s Way Too Early Top 10: No. 2 Oregon

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, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 7 UCLA, No. 6 Michigan State, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 4 Auburn, No. 3 Alabama

Oregon Ducks
2013 record:
11-2, 7-2 Pac-12
Final AP ranking: 9

Bowl result: def. 30-7 Texas, Alamo Bowl

Top returners: QB Marcus Mariota, C Hroniss Grasu, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Top losses: RB De'Anthony Thomas, CB Terrance Mitchell

Overview: If quarterback Marcus Mariota had not injured his knee against UCLA on Oct. 26, things might have been different for the Ducks. They might not have gone 3-2 down the stretch of their season, lost games to Stanford and Arizona, and ruined their chances of playing for a national title.

It seems like in each of the past few years someone or something has derailed the Ducks season and each following year the hopes are high that they will eventually get over the hump.

Will it be 2014?

Well, the team certainly has the pieces for it. Mariota’s knee injury might have derailed 2013, but it sets Oregon up nicely for 2014. He is the main cog in an offense that returns nine players with starting experience. Yes, tailback De’Anthony Thomas is leaving early for the NFL, but the Ducks should be able to weather that with the help of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, who combined for 1,749 yards and 23 touchdowns last year.

Defensively, there are questions. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu returns, but overall, the unit loses the rest of its secondary, a linebacker and three members of the defensive line. And this is a defense that started strong and faded down the stretch.

It allowed 164.3 rushing yards per game, which is the most any Ducks defense has allowed in six seasons.

And with defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti gone, the Ducks will have just a few short months -- and a warmup game in the season opener against South Dakota -- before hosting Michigan State and seeing exactly where this team stacks up against of the rest of the country. If Oregon can get past the Spartans, its chances of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff will undoubtedly hinge on the Nov. 1 matchup against Stanford.

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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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