While running back LaMichael James sitting out Oregon's season-opener inside friendly Autzen Stadium against woeful New Mexico most likely won't slow the Ducks down, it's fair to assume them losing a potential Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback is a bigger issue.
Game two is at Tennessee, after all. Big loud -- orange -- stadium.
Costa? It's possible Masoli would be an obscure backup today if both of Costa's knees hadn't crumpled. Recall that Costa was once the hot-shot prospect to run Chip Kelly's spread-option offense after Dennis Dixon headed to the NFL after the 2007 season.
Now a senior, Costa has suffered major injuries on both knees, but he knows the offense and he's got a veteran's savvy. He stayed healthy last year and even led the Ducks to a win over UCLA, filling in for an injured Masoli, and his maturity might be meaningful for an offense that is seemingly rudderless after losing a two-year starter.
Then there's Thomas, who burst onto the scene with an impressive performance off the bench as a true freshman against Boise State in 2008, throwing for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas redshirted in 2009, but the 6-foot-3, 205 pounder has tremendous upside as a dual-threat quarterback.
The issue is this: Even without Masoli, the Ducks are a top Pac-10 contender, see 18 returning starters. So who gives them their best chance to maximize their potential in 2010?
That's a big question that will hang over spring practices.
And, just to throw it out there, Kelly left the option open for a Masoli return in 2011, if he opts to redshirt and fulfill requirements to regain his good standing.
Just imagine if Thomas wins the job and leads the Ducks to a second-consecutive Pac-10 championship and a Rose Bowl berth.
Then Oregon will go into 2011 with two quarterbacks who have conference championships to their credit.
That could be interesting.