Notre Dame Football: Players That Must Step Up to Avoid Upset vs. Wake Forest

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 03:  Members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish run onto the field before a game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Notre Dame Stadium on November 3, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Pittsburgh 29-26 in triple overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame not only needs to defeat Wake Forest this week, but the Fighting Irish need to look good doing it.

At No. 3 in the BCS standings, the team is only one spot away from a chance to play in the national title game. However, a lot can happen between now and then.

While the Irish and their fans will hope that Kansas State, Oregon and any other team surrounding them in the polls will lose, their first concern is winning games.

If Notre Dame does not have a big game against the Demon Deacons, questions will start to arise about whether or not the team is worthy of a title shot. The best way to avoid this debate is to take care of business on Saturday.

In order for that to happen, though, these players will have to step up their efforts.


Everett Golson

It seems that the first-year starting quarterback is finally realizing that he has a great ability to make things happen with his legs.

After finishing with minus-11 rushing yards in his first four games, Golson is averaging 53.8 in his last five. He also has a rushing touchdown in three straight games.

However, he still needs to be a more efficient passer from beginning to end. Last week's win over Boston College was one of the best games of his career, as he finished with a 164.2 efficiency rating.

Wake Forest is a good team to help improve his numbers, considering the squad is No. 98 in the nation in passing yards allowed. Golson needs to take advantage of that and put a big number on the scoreboard. 


Davonte' Neal

When the No. 108 scoring offense in the country faces the No. 1 scoring defense, chances are there will be a lot of punts.

The return game has been a weak point for Notre Dame this season. Davonte' Neal has been the starter all year, but he is only averaging 2.2 yards per return. He hasn't had a return of over 10 yards since Week 3 against Michigan State. 

A big punt return will not only give good field position, but also energize the offense when it comes onto the field. Considering how much that unit has struggled, it could use all the help it can get.


Theo Riddick

For only the third time all season, Theo Riddick was able to top 100 rushing yards in a game. He finished with 104 rushing yards and 56 receiving yards in the win over Boston College.

The running back has received the majority of carries in the Notre Dame backfield this season, although he has not always been the most efficient. Both Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III have shown to be more explosive, while Riddick only has four of 19 rushing touchdowns for the team.

Still, he needs to show he can build off his recent performance and help the offense score some points against this weaker opponent. 

Playing on Senior Day, Riddick should be able to harness his emotions and have a big day when his team needs him the most. 


Zeke Motta

The senior safety has been a tackling machine for Notre Dame this season. He is currently tied for second on the team behind Manti Te'o with 52 total tackles.

With that being said, he could still be better if he became more involved in the passing game. Motta only has two passes defended and has not forced a single turnover all year.

Like Riddick, Motta will be playing with a lot of emotion in his final home game. He needs to use this to become a playmaker on this outstanding defense.