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June 14, 2013

Countdown to Labor Day: 80

The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 80 days away from its Labor Day opener against Florida State at Heinz Field. Panther-Lair.com is counting down the days until the biggest season opener in recent memory.

Today's number is 80, so we're looking at the greatest non-championship team in the history of Pitt football.

With all due respect to the undefeated and un-scored-upon Panthers of 1910, as well as the almost-if-not-for-48-14 team of 1981, no Pitt team that fell short of a national championship was more talented, more loaded with pro prospects, and more successful than the 1980 Panthers.

Just look at the roster for the 1980 Pitt team.

Four of those Panthers - Jimbo Covert, Dan Marino, Hugh Green, and Mark May - are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Three of the players - Marino, Rickey Jackson, and Russ Grimm - are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All six of them are regarded as some of the best to ever put on a Pitt uniform.

Marino is one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history. May was an All-American in 1980 and the Outland Trophy winner. Green was a three-time All-American and amassed more hardware than we can list. Julius Dawkins, Sal Sunseri, Bill Maas and Covert would all earn All-America honors in their careers.

May, Green and Randy McMillan were all first-round draft picks in 1981, and Marino, Covert and Tim Lewis were selected in the first round two years later. And Maas was a first-round selection in 1984. In total, Pitt had 30 NFL draft picks from 1981-84; all of them were on the roster of that 1980 team.

Simply put, those Panthers were dominant. They opened the season 4-0 and allowed a grand total of 20 points in the first four games. The lone stumble of the season came against Florida State, a 36-22 loss, but Pitt never looked back after that, rattling off seven consecutive wins and only allowing two of those opponents to reach double-digit scoring.

After closing the season with a 37-9 thumping of South Carolina in the Gator Bowl, Pitt finished No. 2 in the AP poll. The most talented team in Pitt history fell short of the ultimate goal, but that only takes a small bit of the shine off an incredible roster and a dominating season.

Countdown: 81 - A crushing end to a great season
Countdown: 82 - The dawn of the Foge Era
Countdown: 83 - The most accurate kicker in Pitt history
Countdown: 84 - Pitt in the Pro Bowl
Countdown: 85 - A play that will never be matched
Countdown: 86 - A long but unfulfilled play
Countdown: 87 - The final year of Ironhead
Countdown: 88 - Pitt's All-American tradition
Countdown: 89 - Iron Mike
Countdown: 90 - The four 9-0's
Countdown: 91 - The two longest plays in Pitt history
Countdown: 92 - The senior year of the most productive QB in Pitt history
Countdown: 93 - The only 9-3 season in Pitt history
Countdown: 94 - The statistical oddity of 1994
Countdown: 95 - A relentless player and his dominant season
Countdown: 96 - The biggest win in Pitt history
Countdown: 97 - A dominant current Panther
Countdown: 98 - A transition year
Countdown: 99 - Hugh Green
Countdown: 100 - A look at Pitt in 1913

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