Every college football game has its game changers and its matchup nightmares.
Some of these players are marquee skill-position players who handle the ball on a regular basis and get all the attention in the world from the media. Others are under-the-radar guys who make a few big plays but not enough to garner big attention from the outside world.
And there are those who fit somewhere in between.
For Notre Dame, one of those in-between players is tight end Tyler Eifert.
Eifert's stat line does not indicate that he is a big-time player, as he has just four touchdowns on 44 receptions for 624 yards. He is nearly 200 yards and 20 catches under his production from last season.
However, ask any Notre Dame fan and they will say that Eifert is one of the most valuable players on their team this season. Time after time he has made big plays for the Fighting Irish by both catching passes and blocking for the running backs.
So what will his role be for Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama?
Creator of problems.
Because Notre Dame does not have a premier wide receiver that will command constant attention from the Alabama defense, Eifert assumes that role. At 6'6'' and 251 pounds, he is not only the biggest target for Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson to throw to, but also one of the biggest guys on the field for both teams.
If last year's title game is any indication, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will have a great defensive game plan for how to stop the Fighting Irish offensive attack. And it will likely center on keeping Everett Golson from finding Eifert open down the field.
The problem is that Alabama does not have anyone that can legitimately stay with Eifert one-on-one.
Alabama tends to play a cover-1 defense where one deep safety is free to patrol the middle of the field, forcing teams to throw to the middle of the field instead of the perimeter where there are more defenders. Their corners typically play man-to-man defense on every down and force the wide receivers to the perimeter in an effort to make the quarterback's job more difficult.
Eifert creates problems for Alabama in the middle of the field and on the perimeter, both places he has caught passes this season.
Because of his size, Eifert stands five inches taller than Alabama's biggest cornerback, Dee Milliner, and four inches taller than their biggest safety, Robert Lester. That gives him a decisive advantage both on the outside and in the middle of the field.
If Nick Saban and Kirby Smart decide that the best course of action for stopping Eifert is to put a bunch of guys on him, it opens windows for other players to get open.
Players like T.J. Jones, John Goodman, Theo Riddick, DaVarius Daniels and Robby Toma have all shown the ability to catch the ball at times this season. With Eifert likely being locked up in coverage at times throughout the National Championship Game, these five players will find themselves with opportunities to make plays for the Fighting Irish in the passing game.
It's a classic pick-your-poison dilemma for Alabama. Give Eifert favorable coverage or shut him down and leave other guys open to beat you in the passing game.
One player creating numerous problems for the Alabama defense.
For Notre Dame fans, hopefully history repeats itself.
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