After weeks of buildup, the BCS National Championship Game is imminent. On Monday evening, Alabama and Notre Dame will square off with the biggest prize in college football on the line.
A chance at a national title is the reason the players have put in hundreds of hours running sprints, lifting weights and watching film.
But for a select few, the game has reach outside of the trophy they may receive. The national title game has equal potential to reward some players and quickly diminish the draft stock of others.
Every NFL team is watching this game closely, looking to see how Notre Dame’s and Alabama’s best prospects perform on the big stage.
A player can increase his draft stock and potential earnings with a huge performance. However, the opposite is true as well. A poor performance can cost a player dearly.
So, let's examine the players with the most to lose during Monday's championship game.
Barrett Jones, Center, Alabama
Alabama's fourth-year center is a two-time All-American, an outstanding student and a force in the middle of the offensive line.
But because of the position he plays and his size, Jones is only projected as a late first-round pick.
That stock could fall further on Monday.
Jones will go one on one against Notre Dame's behemoth of a nose tackle, Louis Nix III, for the majority of the game. And Nix is a force. He's not as good as Georgia's Johnathan Jenkins, but he'll still be a challenge for Jones.
With a good game Jones' stock will hold steady. But he risks dropping out of the first round with a bad performance.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Another really high-character player, Te'o still has a lot on the line in this game.
Many project the Heisman runner-up as top-10 pick. But, a poor showing against Alabama's potent rushing attack could diminish his stock.
Te'o has yet to face an offense with the talent of the Crimson Tide. It will be interesting to see how he matches up with Alabama's pair of 1,000-yard rushers, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
If he performs well, he’s almost ensured to be selected in the top 10. But if he falters, Te'o could start to slide down some draft boards.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The NFL is in love with big, athletic tight ends that stretch the field.
And the 6’5”, 255-pound Eifert fits the bill.
Notre Dame's leading receiver is projected as a late first-round pick. But that could change drastically, one way or the other, with his performance in the championship game.
Eifert will likely matchup with Alabama's top corner Dee Milliner, and how Eifert plays will mean quite a bit. Not only to the game—Notre Dame needs Eifert to be effective for offensive success—but to his NFL future as well.
Eifert should dominate with his size and speed. If he does so against Milliner, a projected first-rounder in his own right, it will be a huge boost to the tight end's draft status.
However, if he flounders, teams won't be nearly as inclined to pluck him up at the back end of the first round.