Big holes for BCS contenders

Casey Matthews will be a difficult player for the Oregon Ducks to replace. Matthew Emmons/US Presswire

Our Eliminator series last season focused on teams, not individual players, as it tracked the performances of conference and national title contenders in key statistical categories.

That doesn't mean, however, that the loss of individual key players on some of last year's best teams won't have a significant impact on those teams' 2011 prospects. With that in mind, we offer this: the toughest statistical players for last year's contenders to replace.

We're attempting to avoid the painfully obvious choices here (Cam Newton, who was among the nation's best in the critical statistical categories of passer efficiency rating, rushing yards per game and Heisman Trophies won, is likely going to be tough for the Auburn Tigers to replace), but will still seek to identify the holes that last year's top teams will have to fill before college football kicks off in September.

Casey Matthews and Kenny Rowe, Oregon Ducks

Categories: turnover margin, tackles for loss

While Oregon's fast-paced and prolific offense played a big role in its run to the BCS title game, this team had plenty of firepower on defense as well. The Ducks were one of the nation's best teams in the critical Eliminator statistical category of turnover margin (tops among BCS conference schools in turnovers gained), in large part due to their ability to force and recover fumbles.