The 2012 college football bowl season has only just begun, but these postseason contests ultimately set up for the subsequent season, where realities can be remade despite the past season's efforts.
The Texas Longhorns struggled through an up-and-down 2012 campaign, finishing 8-4 in a regular season highlighted by an explosive offense and lowlighted by defensive shortcomings.
But in fielding one of the youngest teams in the FBS, Texas will return a wealth of experience for the 2013 season, with the most notable players coming back on offense.
In what will be Major Applewhite's first season as the offensive coordinator for the Longhorns, in the wake of Bryan Harsin's move to become Arkansas State's head coach, Texas has an opportunity to be very competitive moving the football next year.
The offense will receive ample attention leading up to and during Texas' upcoming matchup with No. 13 Oregon State, and plenty of next year's contributors will be on display.
In a breakdown by position, let's take a snapshot of what the 2013 offensive depth chart may look like for the Longhorns.
Quarterback: David Ash, Case McCoy
Texas has made few attempts to hide its commitment to Ash as its starting quarterback, but McCoy will linger for one more year.
Ash will be a junior in 2013 and looks poised to begin his second season as the sure-fired option at signal caller. But how short his leash will be is heavily dependent on how he performs in the Alamo Bowl and during the spring.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Major Applewhite's approach may be circumstantially different than Bryan Harsin's, which keeps the McCoy piece somewhat in play as we head into the spring.
Ash flashed a wide spectrum of his potential, and it looks to get better as an entire offense matures together. But it is hard to discount McCoy, who has showcased his ability to fling the rock when it counts, although somewhat recklessly.
Two names to keep in mind are Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet.
Running Back: Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown
If there is one position where the Longhorns field little concern, from a production standpoint at least, running back is a true strength.
Gray burst onto the scene while Brown nursed an injury midway through the season. Bergeron is still back capable of carrying a serious load, but it seems apparent that he is more suited as a bruising back to complement the others. Brown has battled injuries in each of his two seasons in Austin, but still offers the best skill set at the position. His contributions cannot be ignored in the slightest.
We should learn more about the direction of this three-headed monster during the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, but for the meantime, it looks like Gray and Brown will share the load while Bergeron plays clean-up as defenses try to gather themselves.
Wide Receiver: Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, Cayleb Jones, Bryant Jackson, Kendall Sanders, Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson
The Longhorns passing game has been a struggle since Colt McCoy left after the 2009 season, and it has only just begun recovering.
Mike Davis took big strides in 2012, which has helped support the offense throughout its struggle, but without a true gunslinger capable of delivering a consistent ball all over the field, Texas is still behind the eight-ball through the air.
Jaxon Shipley returns as the second-most experienced pass-catcher, but bigger question marks surround Bryant Jackson, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson.
Daje Johnson flashed his electric speed, but in suffering from the D.J. Monroe syndrome of never seeing enough touches, Johnson's contributions are questionable heading into the 2013 season, but there is no denying his talent.
Tight End: Greg Daniels, Barrett Matthews, M.J. McFarland
Texas recently lost perhaps one of its best tight end prospects in some time when Durham Smythe decommitted from the Longhorns.
And for a position that has ached for some production, Greg Daniels, Barrett Matthews and M.J. McFarland hardly provide the resumé that can soothe those wanting something more.
The tight ends were supposed to be a critical component to the system that Bryan Harsin implemented, but after two seasons, there were few results to highlight and the concerns still linger.
There is no single option that stands out, at least for now. That means the position is very much up for grabs in the spring.
Offensive Line (L to R): Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Dom Espinosa, Mason Walters, Josh Cochran; Kennedy Estelle, Sedrick Flowers, Garrett Porter, Thomas Ashcraft.
In the trenches is where Texas will have to solidify its depth.
The Longhorns could return all five starters on the offensive line, but the concerns about their depth will have to be addressed in the spring.
Outside of the starting five, not many backups have proven to be serviceable or ready to take in the college game, but the good news is that the position is littered with youth.
The group looked solid at times, and the expectation for the unit, should all five starters return, is to turn in the sort of season that can put the Longhorns into the BCS mix.
Place-kicker: Nick Jordan, Anthony Fera
There may not have been a position more head-scratching and complicated than at place-kicker.
After Justin Tucker took his talents into the NFL, the Longhorns were suddenly removed of a legitimate kicker capable of handling the pressure.
Freshman Nick Jordan started the season while junior transfer Anthony Fera nursed a pre-existing groin injury he brought with him from Penn State.
Following Jordan's struggles, Fera took the reins after his alleged recovery, but the expected savior hardly delivered the goods, as he too failed to match the standard left behind by a string of exalted kickers.
The names stay the same in 2013, but the execution has to be better.