In 1983, just 29 short years ago, Alabama's nonconference football schedule included Penn State, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Southern Miss.
That same year, OU's nonconference schedule included Ohio State, Texas and Stanford. UCLA's included Georgia, Nebraska and Brigham Young.
In 1983, Southern Cal played Florida, Notre Dame and South Carolina. Washington played Michigan and LSU. Nebraska played Penn State and UCLA.
Fast forward to now, and you need a microscope to find a similar nonconference schedule.
Michigan has one. The Wolverines play Alabama, Notre Dame and Air Force. Miami plays Kansas State and Notre Dame, which wouldn't raise an eyebrow in the '80s but is the stuff of testosterone today. Michigan State plays Boise State and Notre Dame.
But for the most part, college football scheduling has lost its teeth. Few programs play more than one legitimate nonconference games. Some major-college teams don't play any.
Today, The Oklahoman ranks the nonconference schedules of the 68 schools in the six major conferences and compares the collective schedules of each conference.
The Big 12 does not fare well.
Ranking the nonconference schedules of the teams in college football's six major conferences:
1. Michigan: Alabama at Arlington, Texas; Air Force, Massachusetts, at Notre Dame. Now that's a schedule. Hail to the victors. One dud game out of four. Hey, Wolverines, you make 1973 proud.
2. Syracuse: Northwestern, Southern Cal, Stony Brook, at Minnesota, at Missouri. I have to admit, I didn't know that schedules like this existed anymore. The Orange is playing four nonconference games against major-conference foes. Four!
3. Miami: at Kansas State, Bethune-Cookman, Notre Dame at Chicago, South Florida. Super, super schedule. USF is only the third-best nonconference game.
4. Michigan State: Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan. Wow, home games against Boise State and Notre Dame. The Spartans also host Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. That's a season ticket.
5. Clemson: Auburn at Atlanta, Ball State, Furman, South Carolina. Auburn and South Carolina. Good job, Clemson.
6. South Florida: Chattanooga, at Nevada, at Ball State, Florida State, at Miami. Excellent schedule by the Bulls. One automatic win. Two road games at mid-majors. Two games against traditional powers.
7. Oregon State: Nicholls State, Wisconsin, at Brigham Young: The Badgers and BYU. Excellent work, Beavers.
8. Georgia Tech: Presbyterian, Middle Tennessee, BYU, at Georgia. Interesting pair of marquee games, from the traditional in-state rivalry to Brigham Young.
9. Pittsburgh: Youngstown State, Virginia Tech, Gardner-Webb, at Buffalo, at Notre Dame. The Panthers have to feel a little deprived. They keep losing traditional rivals. Penn State won't play anymore. The Backyard Brawl with West Virginia is on hold until conference realignment settles down.
10. Virginia: Richmond, Penn State, at TCU, Louisiana Tech. Who knows what the Nittany Lions will be like in the post-Joe Paterno era, but either way, solid schedule. Kudos to the Cavaliers.
11. Southern Cal: Hawaii; Syracuse at East Rutherford, N.J.; Notre Dame. You can always count on the Trojans for quality entertainment.
12. UCLA: at Rice, Nebraska, Houston. Not many teams from Texas play both LA teams. Not many teams from LA play both Houston teams.
13. Louisville: Kentucky, Missouri State, North Carolina, at Florida International, at Southern Mississippi. Not a bad schedule. No one considers a trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., easy. And FIU is getting better.
14. Missouri: Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona State, at Central Florida, Syracuse. Hey, Missouri. Three decent games? They'll kick you out of the SEC.
15. Washington: San Diego State, at LSU, Portland State. Too bad UW isn't any better. That game in the Bayou would be good.
16. Maryland: William & Mary, at Temple, Connecticut, at West Virginia. Temple waxed Maryland 38-7 last year at College Park; now the Terrapins go to Temple, plus play UConn and West Virginia.
17. Arizona State: Northern Arizona, Illinois, at Missouri. I suppose I should rank higher anyone that's playing a Big Ten school and an SEC school, but I just have little regard for Illinois.
18. California: Nevada, Southern Utah, at Ohio State. I have to confess. I didn't know Southern Utah had a football team.
19. Florida State: Murray State, Savannah State, at South Florida, Florida. What a schedule the Seminoles would have if West Virginia hadn't bolted and been replaced, out of necessity, by Savannah State.
20. Boston College: Maine, at Northwestern, at Army, Notre Dame. This schedule would rank No. 1 in the Big 12.
21. South Carolina: East Carolina, Alabama-Birmingham, Wofford, at Clemson. Playing East Carolina will be dicey for the Gamecocks. No other SEC school has scheduled the Pirates since 1998.
22. Stanford: San Jose State, Duke, at Notre Dame. The quality is starting to thin.
23. Temple: Villanova, Maryland, at Penn State, at Army. Still short a game, but even if the Owls added a cupcake, they wouldn't fall on this list. Maryland and Penn State are decent games.
24. Wake Forest: Liberty, Army, at Notre Dame, Vanderbilt. If anyone had reason to dumb down a schedule, it's Wake. But this is smart and solid.
25. Virginia Tech: Austin Peay, at Pitt, Bowling Green, Cincinnati. Pittsburgh joins the ACC next season, but until then, the Panthers are a solid nonleague foe.
26. North Carolina State: Tennessee at Atlanta, at Connecticut, South Alabama, The Citadel. Decent schedule. Even South Alabama has joined Division I-A.
27. Oklahoma: at UTEP, Florida A&M, Notre Dame. Play a real game, like the Fighting Irish, and you zoom to the top of the Big 12 list.
28. Northwestern: at Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, South Dakota. Not really a marquee game in the bunch. But three solid games out of four. Hard to argue much with that.
29. Iowa State: Tulsa, at Iowa, Western Illinois. Strange, how there's no correlation between program prominence and scheduling prowess. This isn't a bad schedule. Road game against a Big Ten rival, home game against a decent program in Tulsa. The automatic-win game. Kudos to the Cyclones.
30. Nebraska: Southern Mississippi, at UCLA, Arkansas State, Idaho State. Southern Miss lifts the Huskers above all the other let's-play-just-one-real-team Big Ten schedules.
31. Kansas State: Missouri State, Miami, North Texas. What kind of bizarro world are we living in? K-State is among the upper half in scheduling might?
32. Florida: Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State. Classic SEC schedule. Three automatic wins, one good game.
33. Alabama: Michigan at Arlington, Texas; Western Kentucky; Florida Atlantic; Western Carolina. Classic Alabama schedule. Three rumdums and a traditional intersectional matchup.
34. Connecticut: Massachusetts; North Carolina State; at Maryland; at Western Michigan; Buffalo. Props to the Huskies for no Division I-AA games. And the UConn-Maryland will be a bad-blood bowl, with former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall having left UConn after the Fiesta Bowl 17 months ago.
35. Mississippi: Central Arkansas, Texas-El Paso, Texas, Tulane. Longhorns in Oxford will be a culture clash.
36. Arizona: Toledo, Oklahoma State, South Carolina State. The Cowboys save the UofA schedule.
37. Auburn: Clemson at Atlanta, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Alabama A&M. Auburn is following the Alabama model.
38. TCU: Grambling State, Virginia, at SMU. If you want to argue that the Frogs deserve to be ahead of Kansas State, you'd have solid ground. TCU is playing two decent games out of three. That's way ahead of the curve. But I like the marquee value of KSU-Miami.
39. Vanderbilt: at Northwestern, Presbyterian, Massachusetts, at Wake Forest. Two road games at fellow major-conference schools. Vandy is doing its part to make the SEC look good.
40. Washington State: at Brigham Young, Eastern Washington, at Nevada-Las Vegas. Sudden thought. Why hasn't UNLV ever gotten better in football?
41. Rutgers: at Tulane, Howard, at Arkansas, Kent State, Army. Five-game nonconference schedules are interesting if you play more than one decent game. But when you don't, you get this.
42. Penn State: Ohio, at Virginia, Navy, Temple. Not a blockbuster, just a typical Penn State quartet. An in-state foe (Temple), an old Eastern independent brother (Navy), a fellow academic snob (Virginia) and a neighboring state pushover (Ohio).
43. Purdue: Eastern Kentucky, at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Marshall. Notre Dame saves the day.
44. Utah: Northern Colorado, at Utah State, Brigham Young. Hey, Utes. Why not play Southern Utah or Weber State instead of Northern Colorado? Keep it all in-state.
45. Cincinnati: Delaware State; Virginia Tech at East Rutherford, N.J.; Miami-Ohio; Fordham; Toledo. Cincy-VPI is a remake of the Orange Bowl of a few years ago.
46. Ohio State: Miami-Ohio, Central Florida, California, Alabama-Birmingham. A two-hyphen schedule. That's not good. The Buckeyes in conference host Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan. So this is the opposite of Michigan State. A season ticket of eight games, with only three worth watching.
47. Georgia: Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech. Georgia has been playing some decent games besides Georgia Tech. But not this year.
48. North Carolina: Elon, at Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho. Good schedule by Big 12 standards. Bad schedule by ACC standards.
49. Illinois: Western Michigan, at Arizona State, Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech. The Sun Devils are a quality foe. Truth is, it's hard to distinguish between these bottom-half schedules.
50. Duke: Florida International, at Stanford, North Carolina Central, Memphis. The ACC's worst, but still not awful, considering there's a game at Stanford.
51. Texas: Wyoming, New Mexico, at Ole Miss. Not a losable game on the list, which is sort of what we're talking about, isn't it? If you know who's going to win when you go to the ballpark or flip on the Samsung, it hurts the experience. But give the Longhorns credit. No I-AA foes and no directional schools, plus an SEC foe, even if it's a bad one.
52. Oklahoma State: Savannah State, at Arizona, Louisiana-Lafayette. The ‘Zona game is interesting, since it's in the desert. Lafayette isn't as bad as it sounds, but Savannah State is worse.
53. Tennessee: North Carolina State at Atlanta, Georgia State, Akron, Troy. Just because you're playing in Atlanta doesn't make N.C. State a big-time foe.
54. Wisconsin: Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, Texas-El Paso. The trip to Corvallis, Ore., is solid, but the other games aren't much. Three non-losable games, two of which are from the Mountain time Zone, which might not be a Big Ten record but ought to be.
55. LSU: North Texas, Washington, Idaho, Towson. Hey, no Louisiana schools. What gives?
56. West Virginia: Marshall; James Madison at Landover, Md.; Maryland. Stay mad at the Mountaineers for bailing on the Florida State series. That would have been a great gift to the Big 12 for the invitation to join the conference. Give the Big 12 a WVU-FSU series in 2012-13.
57. Kentucky: at Louisville, Kent State, Western Kentucky, Samford. Why Samford? Why not Eastern Kentucky?
58. Arkansas: Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, Tulsa. By Arkansas standards, this is not a bad schedule.
59. Minnesota: at Nevada-Las Vegas, New Hampshire, Western Michigan, Syracuse. The Gophers are the Big Ten's least visible program. Start naming the Big Ten schools, and either Minnesota or Purdue will be the last two you think of. And schedules like this won't help that status.
60. Iowa: Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan. Four home games, only one against a fellow major conference foe, and that's Iowa State, which the Hawkeyes can't easily get away from. Three directional schools, one of which is a I-AA foe. A textbook bad schedule for a program that ought to be big-time.
61. Colorado: Colorado State at Denver, Sacramento State, at Fresno State. Remember when the Buffs played a big-time schedule? Remember when the Buffs were good?
62. Oregon: Arkansas State, Fresno State, Tennessee Tech. The Ducks have gone splat. Embarrassing schedule.
63. Baylor: SMU, Sam Houston State, at Louisiana-Monroe. Baylor-SMU is a decent game. If it's your second-best game, your schedule's not awful. If it's your best game, your schedule stinks.
64. Texas A&M: at Louisiana Tech, at SMU, South Carolina State, Sam Houston State. What a strange schedule. Two home games against I-AA foes. Two road games against mid-majors. The Aggies will be pining for the Thanksgiving game against the ‘Horns.
65. Mississippi State: Jackson State, at Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee. Talk about your tour of Southern mid-majors. Throw in Louisiana-Lafayette, and you've got a smorgasbord.
66. Kansas: South Dakota State, Rice, at Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois actually doesn't stink. NIU won the Mid-American Conference title in 2011, and at least the Jayhawks are going to DeKalb, Ill. Not everyone would do that.
67. Indiana: Indiana State, at Massachusetts, Ball State, at Navy. Good tourist schedule. Go visit Boston during the UMass trip. Tour Annapolis for the Navy game. But the football is awful.
68. Texas Tech: Northwestern State (La.), at Texas State, New Mexico. Sept. 27, 2003, should be a hallowed date in Lubbock. That's the last time the Red Raiders played a nonconference, regular-season game against a foe from a fellow major conference. Since then it's been a long line of pushovers. New Mexico and Florida International and Indiana State and Southeastern Louisiana and Rice and Eastern Washington and UMass, and well, you get the idea. Remember when Texas Tech football had some pride?
Comparing the conferences
Comparing the non-conference football schedules of the six major conference in several criteria: games against lower-division foes, games against traditional national powers, games against teams from fellow major-conference schools and games away from home:
Conference; Lower-division; National powers; Major conference; Away from home
Big 12; 30.0% (9 of 30); 6.7% (two of 30); 23.3% (7 of 30); 26.7% (8 of 30)
Pac-12; 30% (9 of 30); 20% (6 of 30); 36.7% (11 of 30); 40% (12 of 30)
ACC; 27.1% (13 of 48); 16.7% (8 of 48); 45.8% (22 of 48); 31.2% (15 of 48)
Big Ten; 18.8% (9 of 48); 10.4% (5 of 48); 31.2% (15 of 48); 25% (12 of 48)
SEC; 26.8% (15 of 56); 8.9% (5 of 56); 25% (14 of 56); 21.4% (12 of 56)
Big East; 23.1% (9 of 39); 20.5% (8 of 39); 41.0% (16 of 39); 41.0% (16 of 39)