There will be much more than victory at stake when BYU (7-5) and San Diego State (9-3) clash in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday night in Southern California.
Both teams feature some marquee 2013 NFL draft prospects, who will be aiming to provide scouts, coaches and general managers with one last look at what they can offer teams at the next level. From offense to defense, the first round and beyond.
Here we'll highlight a trio of next-level prospects to keep an eye on in Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl.
Ezekiel Ansah, BYU, DE
Brigham Young pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah is getting a lot of love from scouts as the 2013 NFL draft approaches, and many believe the 6'6", 270-plus-pound stud will go sometime in the first round next April.
Arguably one of the top-five edge defenders available this year, Ansah brings tremendous versatility to the table, as well as durability and a frame that offensive tackles dread blocking. He boasts a solid motor and is exceptional at disrupting opposing offenses.
Ansah can improve in run defense, but whichever team takes him next spring will be doing so to acquire a gifted outside rusher.
Look for Ansah (No. 47) to see plenty of attention from San Diego State's offensive line on Thursday. He's recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks, in addition to 57 total tackles in 12 games this season.
Gavin Escobar, San Diego State, TE
Gavin Escobar is San Diego State's leading receiver this season, and he is also one of the top-five tight end prospects available this coming year.
The junior has 41 receptions for 519 yards and six touchdowns this season entering Thursday's bowl matchup.
At 6'5", 255 pounds, Escobar has the frame NFL scouts and coaches dream of in a tight end. He isn't just a big body that can get downfield, though. Escobar has an excellent pair of hands that have turned him into the Aztecs' most reliable pass-catcher.
Expect to see Escobar targeted plenty on Thursday. He may even see a few one-on-one matchups with Ezekiel Ansah.
Braden Hansen, BYU, G
Brigham Young senior Braden Hansen is one of the top-10 guards available in next spring's NFL draft.
Hansen has the necessary size to succeed at the next level at 6'4", 310 pounds. The only question is whether he can improve on his pass protecting and run-blocking skills enough to make him a dependable starter on the line week in and week out in the NFL.
NFL coaches and general managers will at least know that they are getting a player with strong intangibles, great awareness and incredible durability.
Hansen may not be pretty to watch, but he's been getting the job done up front for the Cougars since he was a freshman in 2009.
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