The scholarship limitations and ND's failure to manipulate the system as AL does is another factor. Since ND is "stuck" with what they recruit each year from HS, the need to develop that limited talent is extremely important.
ND used to never participate in post season bowls and NCs were determined by season play, not post season play. We have won 1 NC, I believe, since we started participating in bowl games and 0 since the BCS came into existence. If this team had been playing prior to our entry into bowl play, they would have been the NC because they were the only major undefeated team, ranked no. 1 prior to the bowl. The bowl was very revealing, I think.
I'm not saying that ND did not deserve previous NCs, but I am saying that the overall picture of college football isn't what it was 20 yrs ago. ND is closing the gap by taking away some of the problems, like now allowing early enrollment, but there are still some major barriers which cause our team to be at a severe disadvantage vs other teams, and this is one of them.
Another related problem is that it is harder for ND to recruit a top coach because it is easier to win at other places. Why did Meyer not come to ND when he had the chance? "It is easier to win at FL." That is a quote from Meyer, not me.