At this point, the 2010 season has been unkind to both the Oregon State Beavers and the USC Trojans. While the Beavers started strong against some of the best programs in the nation, they have since fallen off the map against the Pac-10 Conference.
Meanwhile, the Trojans are bowl ineligible regardless of their conference results and will be playing for the right to say they didn't lose to Oregon State in Corvallis.
This season seems like the best opportunity the Trojans have to escape defeat at the hands of a struggling Beavers squad. Oregon State has lost three of its last four Pac-10 contests, and all three have been against unranked teams.
For the Beavers, a win against the Trojans would not be enough to erase thoughts of what could have been, but it would get them one crucial step closer to a bowl berth. Even so, the Beavs would have to come up with something magical to be eligible for any kind of postseason game.
Oregon State's schedule will only get tougher after USC, as they have No. 6 Stanford on the road and No. 1 Oregon at home in the Civil War. How OSU plays against the Trojans will determine what the players have left in terms of confidence in the 2010 season.
The Trojans will be very motivated to win this contest, already "bowl eligible" and competing with Arizona for third in the Pac-10 conference. While they cannot actually go to a bowl game due to the NCAA-levied suspension on the program, there is still plenty to play for against OSU.
In 2009, the Trojans narrowly escaped the Beavers, winning 42-36 at home. Then-freshman QB Matt Barkley experienced Oregon State for the first time and knows just how hard it can be to escape the Beavers. This time around, he will have to play in Reser Stadium, a place Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez know all too well in their nightmares.
Barkley will be facing a secondary that is in the midst of rebuilding. James Dockery provides the majority of leadership for the back side of the defense, but as a whole the team has been ineffective on the other side of the ball.
Barkley's counterpart will be looking to salvage the season. Sophomore Ryan Katz has struggled mightily the last few games after dismantling Arizona's defense in the desert.
The Beavers should be praying for fog similar to the 2004 game, though with a different result since Reggie Bush is long gone. Jacquizz Rodgers has been out of sight in a bad way and will need a strong game to convince critics he is the real deal.
Beavers senior defensive tackle Steven Paea was in the running for several awards at the beginning of the season, but the overall play of OSU's defense has overshadowed his abilities significantly. He will need to apply pressure on Barkley all game long if his team has any chance at saving this season.
In a crazy season where Pac-10 teams seem to be defeating each other at random intervals, a Beavers victory over the Trojans isn't out of the question—but it will certainly not be easy. For head coach Mike Riley, much is at stake. He has taken the Beavers to a bowl game in six of the last seven seasons, with a 5-1 record as head coach.
If Oregon State fails to appear in a bowl game, the season may very well be considered a failure as well.
Oregon State takes on USC this Saturday, Nov. 20 at 5:00 pm PST on ABC.