Teams try to salvage their season

It's going to be tough for Oregon State and USC to become bowl eligible this season, but that is what the coaches are trying to sell the players to keep them going.

I can't imagine anything more difficult than what Oregon State has gone through: finding yourself on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the beginning of the season, thinking about a national championship, and then all of a sudden you find yourself going into the latter half of the season 3-4.

It's the same thing for USC. With new coach Pete Carroll and Carson Palmer returning, there was a lot of hope. But the wheels fell off and they find themselves in a similar situation.

The coaches are pleading with the seniors that they still have a chance to go to a bowl, and that is what is driving these two teams right now.

When Oregon State has the ball

Oregon State is very dangerous and showing signs of life. They could sneak into a bowl, and they believe that.

Quarterback Jonathan Smith and running back Ken Simonton drive the train. If the Beavers are going to meet their goals and reach a bowl game, they have to come up big.

Smith had a great season last year and is still the trigger guy that makes this engine run. The same thing is true with Simonton. Everyone knows his talents. He has 4,617 career rushing yards and needs just 193 yards to pass Marcus Allen as the Pac-10's all-time leading rusher. He has an opportunity to break it this week. USC is aggressive and tries to go after you from angles and blitzes. Simonton is going to have some lanes, especially in the cutback lanes, and he may have a big game.

Oregon State's biggest highlight this season has been the play of wide receiver James Newson. He has had 16 catches in the last two games.

When USC has the ball

Coming out of high school, everyone said that Carson Palmer should go directly to the pros. And then when he got to USC, they said how many times is he going to win the Heisman -- one, two or three? He now finds himself just trying to get with the elite of the nation. He has all the talent, size, speed and a live arm. He just needs to be more consistent.

He has problems finding the consistency. He gets on hot streaks, but he hasn't found the consistency that would put him up with the elite. He's not a progression guy, or at least he hasn't gotten to that stage yet. He locks on to an early receiver, rather than going through one receiver if he is covered, go to a second receiver, then a third. He has a tough time going through that progression. So far, that has hurt him. If he ever finds that, he can have a breakout season. He has all the tools.

The Trojans are trying to be a ball-control offense, but they haven't had it work on a consistent basis. They scored 41 against Arizona last week and put up 48 on Arizona State three weeks ago, but they haven't broken out. They are a three-step drop, quick-throwing team.

They like to run the ball, and occasionally, open it up with a big play. Wide receiver Kareem Kelly is averaging 17.3 yards per reception, and he has to have a good game. He has the speed to get deep and they have had success going to him.

Tim Brant will do the analysis of Saturday's Oregon State-USC game on ABC with Keith Jackson and Todd Harris. He is a regular contributor to ABC Sports Online.