Brian Howell
Brian Howell (Brian Howell)

For weeks, the Colorado football team has kept the dream alive of going to a bowl game.

With that dream now dead, the Buffaloes enter Saturday's season finale at Utah with a new goal: Get a win.

"We're just thinking about going out there and competing and winning the game," senior safety Parker Orms said this week.

Nationally, the Colorado vs. Utah game means nothing.

The Rose Bowl is a distant thought for both teams at this point. Neither one is going to a bowl game.

Saturday's slate includes Alabama vs. Auburn, Ohio State vs. Michigan, Clemson vs. South Carolina and UCLA vs. USC.

Colorado vs. Utah won't be on a lot of televisions outside of Colorado and Utah.

While this is a meaningless game for many, it is far from meaningless for the Buffaloes, who have the opportunity to do something that has become rare in recent years.

Since beating Boston College on Dec. 31, 1999, in the Bowl, CU has sent just two of the last 13 senior classes out with a win.

In 2004, CU went down to Texas and beat UTEP in the Houston Bowl. And, two years ago, the Buffs went to Salt Lake City and upset the Utes. Aside from that, however, most seniors in the last decade-plus have moved on from college football with a loss in their final game.

As a complete body of work, we will look back on the 2013 season as a step or two in the right direction.

Some of the lopsided scores in Pac-12 play were as ugly as they had been in 2011 and 2012, but CU certainly showed progress in a lot of areas. Simply coming up with four wins to this point is an improvement for a team that was 4-21 in two years under the previous coaching staff.

Considering the generally positive attitude that has blanketed the program this season, it would be a big deal for this team to take another step forward by winning this game.

For the seniors, it would put a nice end to what has been a trying four or five years on campus. There was disappointment among the seniors this week, knowing they officially will never experience a bowl game. But, that disappointment was offset, at least a little bit, with the determination to play well in their final game.

"When (the younger players) see you still enjoying practice, still going hard, still staying committed to it to the end, they'll kind of catch on and say, 'Let's finish this up,'" linebacker Derrick Webb said. "We got the older guys still competing, still playing hard, still working hard for the coaches."

This year's seniors remember quite well what the locker room was like two years ago at Rice-Eccles Stadium after the Buffs, led by 28 seniors, knocked off Utah 17-14 in the finale. That was win No. 3 that season for CU, but it felt like a championship.

For the coaching staff and the younger players that will be back next year, winning at Utah would be reinforcement that they are on the right path.

"It's not a do or die type of thing," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "But, I think it does give us a lot of momentum going into recruiting and going into the offseason."

No, this isn't a program-changing type of game. But, it is an opportunity to take something positive into the offseason.

That doesn't happen around here often.

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