Former Notre Dame RB Allen Pinkett said before the start of the season you need a couple of “bad citizens” in order to win. There was also a misguided perception that institutions with high academic standards weren’t able to compete or keep up with schools that had a more relaxed academic reputation. I think we can put that idea to rest now.
Notre Dame 12-0
Stanford 10-2 (and just 5 losses over the last 3 seasons and on the verge of their 3rd BCS bowl in that time span)
Heck, even Duke managed to go bowling this season at 6-6.
US News  had all of these schools ranked in the top 17 of all universities in America. For BCS schools alone, they rank 1 through 5!
Yes, schools like USC, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, and Florida have a broader recruiting base, and that can be an advantage. I wouldn’t debate that for a second. The idea that you can’t win given some limitations in recruiting is poppycock however.
Notre Dame and Stanford each had consensus top 12 recruiting classes last year. The Irish had a top ten class the year previous while the Cardinal had a top 25 class in 2011.
Meanwhile Auburn had a top 5 class in 2011 and a top 20 class last year, but part of Gene Chizik’s demise was that only 43% of those two classes even qualified to play!
So while others may have access to dumber kids and more bad apples, it doesn’t necessarily translate to an advantage if they can’t get on the field.