No. 17: 1979
Our series ranking the 20 best UNC football teams of all time continues today. Once this series concludes, we will rank the best UNC basketball teams of all time:
No. 17: 1979
Record: 8-3-1 (3-3)
Bowl: Gator Bowl, beat Michigan 17-15
Coach: Dick Crum
All-Americans: Ricky Barden (DB); Ron Wooten (G)
First-Team All-ACC: Ricky Barden, DB, Mike Chatham, TE, Buddy Curry, LB, Steve Junkmann, OT
What's To Know: Rarely does a team that finishes .500 in league play go down in history, but that's exactly the case with the '79 Heels. This was actually quite a talented group with Amos Lawrence and Doug Paschal carrying the load, a terrific offensive line, and Lawrence Taylor, Buddy Curry, Ricky Barden, Darrell Nicholson, Calvin Daniels and the unforgettable Steve Streater (also its punter) on defense. But a tough mid-season stretch that followed an impressive 4-0 start appeared to doom the team's potential for a banner season.
Carolina opened with convincing wins over South Carolina (28-0), No. 13 Pittsburgh (17-7), at Army (41-3) and 35-14 over Cincinnati. The win over Pitt raised expectations, as the Panthers had national title aspirations and eventually finished 11-1 and ranked No. 7 in the nation. Thirty years after that game, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was written about the loss, and one player was quoted as saying UNC was like "a fly on the shoulder" Pitt should have swatted, and another said if they played the game 100 times Pitt would "win 99 times."
Well, after a mid-season slump that included losses to Wake Forest, Maryland and Clemson and a tie versus East Carolina (though the Heels did manage a win at No. 15 N.C. State), UNC closed strong and eventually beat an overconfident Michigan team in the Gator Bowl. The Tar Heels notched three wins over ranked teams, with the win over the Wolverines backing up the earlier victory over Pitt and raising awareness of the burgeoning UNC program.
1980 NFL Draft
2nd Rnd: Buddy Curry, LB, Falcons
5th Rnd: Doug Paschal, RB, Vikings
11th Rnd: Phil Farris, WR, Broncos