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Auburn QB Nick Marshall
While much of the focus during bowl preparation revolves around the idea of finishing the year strong, it can also reveal the early trajectory of the 2014 season.
Of course, no one would have guessed that Auburn, a team that won three games in 2012, would bounce back to make it to the national championship, but preparing and playing well in a bowl game can often provide momentum in recruiting and build buzz for the next year.
Take a look at teams such as Oregon and Michigan State, who will square off next September in Autzen Stadium. Should the Ducks take care of business against Texas and the Spartans come away victorious in the Rose Bowl, we'll be looking at a big-time non-conference matchup in nine months.
How about Florida State? The Seminoles are one win away from a national championship, but with quarterback Jameis Winston returning alongside a talented young defense, a win over Auburn could vault the program into elite territory where fans might expect a repeat. With a loss, however, the narrative will change a bit.
Then there's the middle-tier games, where teams such as UCLA, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and LSU reside. Big wins in their respective bowls could jump-start the offseason and give us a glimpse of programs ready to compete for a national title in the near future.
No matter what happens during this bowl season, we're given a conclusion to a 2013 campaign that was as wild as any in recent memory. With so many games on the schedule between quality opponents, though, this time of year often writes the first chapter of the following season.