Big nonconference games vanishing

For two seasons now, Alabama has been the savior of Labor Day weekend college football. While the vast majority of FBS schools seek out season-opening chumps, the Crimson Tide have dared to play somebody.
Last year Bama played a neutral-field game in Atlanta against Clemson to start the season. This year it will face Virginia Tech, also in Atlanta.
Taking on ranked nonconference teams right away? That qualifies as a profile in courage these days. But compare it to 30 years ago, and Alabama looks positively soft by its own standards.