Every year, there is a special feeling to the final game of the football season.

For Colorado (1-10, 1-7 Pac-12), Friday's season finale against Utah (4-7, 2-6) may not have the luster of previous years, but it'll be the last chance for 11 players to suit up for the Buffaloes.

"I want them to play like I ask them every week: Play for each other," head coach Jon Embree said. "It's about them. Play for each other and make sure that when they watch the tape, it's something they can say they're proud of."

Last year's move to the Pac-12 put an end to a tradition of CU and Nebraska closing the season. Every year from 1996-2010, the Buffs and Cornhuskers met on the final weekend of the regular season. In each of those matchups with Nebraska, at least one of the teams was headed to a bowl game or playing for bowl eligibility. In a lot of years, both were bowl bound.

Last year, the Buffs were 2-10 when they went into Salt Lake City and upset the Utes, who still went to the Sun Bowl.

Friday's game will actually be the first time since 1984, when CU played at Kansas State, that neither team will have bowl plans or hopes going into the finale.

The game still has special meaning to the Buffs, however.

"Everyone wants to win their last game," Embree said.

CU will say goodbye to a class of just eight seniors: offensive linemen Ryan Dannewitz and Eric Richter, receiver Dustin Ebner, tight end Nick Kasa, linebackers Jon Major and Doug Rippy, defensive lineman Will Pericak and safety Ray Polk.

Three fourth-year juniors will also end their careers Friday: kicker Zach Grossnickle, tight end DaVaughn Thornton and receiver Jarrod Darden.

Having been a part of senior day as a player and many times as a coach, Embree said he'll talk to the team and prepare his players for their final chance to suit up.

"The cruelty of sports, that's what it is," Embree said. "When it's done, you miss the locker room, you miss being around the guys, you're going to miss the grind some. You'll find out how special it was to be a part of the team. All those different emotions, they'll go through it."

Embree said that while emotion is sure to be a part of the game, he's not banking on that to be what carries the Buffs through the afternoon.

"You come out and you play with emotion and all of that, but at some point you have to settle down and keep playing," he said.

Having a small senior class has helped to contribute to CU's tough season. Without many veterans, the Buffs have been forced to play a lot of young players. Embree said the group of seniors will be missed, however.

"It's not a vocal group, by any stretch of the imagination, which is OK," he said. "They're more lead by example players. How they worked and how they prepared week in and week out, a lot of them playing not quite being 100 percent, all those things were good for the younger kids to see."

The younger players will also see bigger senior classes in the future. From the time Embree was hired in December of 2010, he talked about balancing his classes, in an effort to avoid huge classes such as last year's group of 28 seniors and small classes like this one.

Next year's senior class should be about 18 and future classes are even bigger than that.

"As time goes on, we'll be able to redshirt more of our incoming players," Embree said. "As we continue to move forward, our classes will get more balanced in our numbers, so that we're consistently around 20 every year. When you get to that point, everything gets better. As you continue to build the program, as it continues to grow, that's what you want to get to."

For this week, however, the focus will be on the 11 who take the field for the final time.

Academic honors

Several Buffs earned Pac-12 All-Academic honors on Tuesday. Defensive linemen Nate Bonsu and Will Pericak, special teamer Justin Gorman and quarterback Connor Wood earned first-team honors. Defensive back Issac Archuleta, offensive linemen Brad Cotner and Stephane Nembot, receivers Dustin Ebner and Nelson Spruce, kicker Will Oliver and special teamer Richard Yates earned second-team honors. Receiving honorable mention was running back D.D. Goodson, receiver Tyler McCulloch, offensive linemen Daniel Munyer and Marc Mustoe and punter Darragh O'Neill.

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