Game at a glance
Matchup: No. 21 Utah Utes (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) at No. 9 Colorado Buffaloes (9-2, 7-1)
Kickoff: 5:35 p.m.
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183; Turf: Grass
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM).
Odds: Colorado by 10
Coaches: Colorado - Mike MacIntyre (19-29, 4th season; 35-50 career); Utah - Kyle Whittingham (103-49, 13th season)
Series: Colorado leads 31-28-3, including 16-12-1 in Boulder
On national signing day in February of 2013, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre talked about why he liked a recruiting class that was rated as the worst in the Pac-12.
Just a couple months on the job, MacIntyre had yet to coach a game at CU, but spoke highly of the young men who signed their letters of intent, especially those who stuck with the Buffaloes through a coaching change.
"There's a lot of great athletes, but I really think it boils down to their mind and their heart: how committed they are, how much self esteem (they have) and how hard they keep working," MacIntyre said that day. "I like kids with chips on their shoulders. I don't like kids that are entitled and think they've arrived. I like to have a c hip on your shoulder, you've got something prove and every day you wake up and look in the mirror: 'I'm going to prove it.' Those are the type of kids I want on this football team."
While that 2013 class wasn't highly regarded nationally, it is now the backbone of the Buffs (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12), who are a win away from the Pac-12 South title, ranked ninth nationally and still in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
As promised, MacIntyre built his team with young men who had something to prove.
On Saturday, eight players from that 2013 class, along with 19 others, will take part in their final game at Folsom Field, as they host No. 21 Utah (8-3, 5-3).
"I'll probably be emotional on Saturday, to put so much into this program and play for four years, especially with this group and the journey we've been through," quarterback Sefo Liufau said. "It's going to be pretty upsetting to finally know that it's over, and it's come really fast."
Along with Liufau, 2013 classmates Chidobe Awuzie, Jimmie Gilbert, Diego Gonzalez, Chris Hill, Kenneth Olugbode, Ryan Severson and Tedric Thompson will say goodbye to Folsom.
That class also includes several key fourth-year juniors, such as Bryce Bobo, Tim Coleman, George Frazier, Addison Gillam, Jonathan Huckins, Sam Kronshage, Phillip Lindsay and Devin Ross. That group has a year left, but came in with the same purpose in 2013.
"Really, we came in here as coach Mac's first class; most of us did at least," Olugbode said. "We want to be known as that class that kind of helped turn this program around and really made the rise a thing. That's what we're trying to do and that's what we're almost doing."
Of course, the 2013 class didn't do it alone.
Center Alex Kelley, a 2011 recruit, and 2012 classmates Sean Irwin, Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou will play at Folsom for the final time after making significant contributions during their career.
Several transfers, including Shane Callahan, Jordan Carrell, Sully Wiefels and Ahkello Witherspoon, played significant roles, as well. They, too, will play at Folsom for the final time.
Regardless of when they arrived in Boulder, these seniors will always be remembered as the group that came to CU when times were tough and put in the work to make it better.
"They're truly leaving a legacy," MacIntyre said. "They've changed the culture and it will stay because they're not letting anything slide. They kind of police themselves and set standards and hold guys accountable. I haven't had quite a group like this. It's been really special watching that."
Holding each other accountable has been critical to CU's resurgence. When players are fully invested, as these seniors have been, it makes a world of difference.
"Since the day I got here, we've always worked hard," said Witherspoon, who arrived in 2014. "I wouldn't say we were as disciplined a group as we are now. With that discipline comes leadership. Now the leaders are holding people to a certain standard because they're also holding themselves to the same standard."
Setting a high standard is what MacIntyre hoped his players would do when he arrived. Now, the senior group is intent on making sure the bar remains high in the future.
"I don't want this program to fall apart after I leave, so I'm pretty hard on (freshmen) for missing tutors and missing class," Liufau said, "so we've been up together, them and the captains, at 4:45 in the morning for punishment.
"Just trying to stress to those guys that school is very important. If they're going to hate me for that, it'll be probably for the week and I'll take that. It's important for those guys to learn at a young age."
That's the message MacIntyre had for his team, and especially that 2013 class, when he arrived. To see that they've taken that message to heart and finally turned CU into a winner is satisfying for him as he watches them wrap up their careers.
It's even more satisfying that the final home game is not the end. The Buffs still have a lot more football to play.
"It means everything that this group of guys were able to get it done in their time," MacIntyre said. "If we finish this like we want, it truly is a dream come true."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.