It should be no surprise the BCS National Championship game features several top-rated players for the 2013 NFL Draft. In fact, five players at the top of their position are playing in this game – Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert for Notre Dame and Chance Warmack, Dee Milliner and Barrett Jones for Alabama. A national championship may be on the line, but so is draft position.
BCS National Championship Game
Notre Dame vs. Alabama, 8 p.m. (ET), ESPN
When Alabama has the football:
When Alabama is on offense, take your eyes off the ball when possible and focus on left guard Chance Warmack. The powerhouse left guard is currently rated as our third-best prospect in the nation and is the top player in the game. Warmack dominated SEC defensive linemen because he's quick off the snap, agile and strong.
Next to Warmack is storied center Barrett Jones. An all-everything player for the Tide, Jones isn't overly powerful at the point of attack but he's a technician. Jones makes the calls on the line and is great at picking up the inside blitz. As an NFL prospect, he's a versatile player that will get looked at at guard or center. Junior right tackle D.J. Fluker hasn't announced whether or not he'll go pro but is a top 75 pick.
Notre Dame's vaunted front seven hasn't seen an offensive line as good as Alabama's, but they'll offer quite a test. Kapron Lewis-Moore will get taken on the third day of this year's draft because of his versatility playing end and size to play tackle. Nose tackle Louis Nix and end Stephon Tuitt are both top prospects for 2014. The main job for the line trio is to keep inside linebacker Manti Te'o clean. Te'o has shown that when he's not held up by blocks he knows proper angles to ball carrier and is a powerful tackler.
The main job for Te'o may be stopping the Alabama running game. Alabama's offense features two 1,000-yard rushers in junior Eddie Lacy and fresman T.J. Yeldon. Many expect Lacy to jump to the NFL after the game. He's got impressive size at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. Lacy's signature spin move this season helped him rush for 1,182 yards and 18 touchdowns. If he enters the draft, he'll like be one of the first five running backs selected. Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta will also be asked to come into the box to try and stop Lacy and Yeldon. Motta is much better at stopping the run than dropping back into coverage.
Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron has already said he'll be back for his senior season.
When Notre Dame has the football:
After playing conservatively on offense most of the season, it may be wise for Notre Dame is open up the field in the passing game. To do that, they'll have to get tight end Tyler Eifert involved with the game plan early and often. Eifert may not have a game of 100 yards receiving this season, but he's the top draft-eligible tight end in this year's draft. He's a good athlete who can high-point the ball in tough situations.
For NFL teams looking for a versatile weapon on offense, Notre Dame has one in Theo Riddick. A running back/wide receiver combo player, Riddick can line up in several areas on the field and can exploit matchup advantages. In the NFL he may be used more as a runner, but Riddick has the speed and hands to line up in the slot.
Look for Notre Dame's passing offense to concentrate on the wider side of the field. Alabama plays cornerback Dee Milliner exclusively in the boundary, regardless of where and opponent's top receiver is lined up. Milliner is a true shut down corner who has the size and speed to line up against any receiver.
As good as Notre Dame's front seven is, Alabama's may be better. Nose tackle Jesse Williams is an ascending prospect even though he's not much of a pass rusher. Williams is a true nose tackle who is difficult to push off the line. Williams will be a hot target for teams looking to bolster their run defense. End Damion Square doesn't get a lot of attention, but he's the kind of solid defensive lineman who will latch onto a roster as a dependable rotation piece.
Since this is Alabama, they're loaded at linebacker. CJ Mosley already announced he'd be back for his senior year despite being a possible first-round pick this year. Nico Johnson may have only started five games this season, but he's still third on the team in tackles. He projects out as a 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL because he's best between the tackles when he doesn't have to move around a lot. Junior outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard could be the key disruptive player for the Tide. He came on toward the end of the season and has ample upside. There hasn't been any indication he's going pro, but he'll be a player to monitor going forward.