My thought is this... We SHOULD put up 50+ against a teams like Temple, Air Force, Tulsa, Pitt, Navy, Purdue, etc. We don't. We SHOULD be able to comfortably maintain a 20+ point margin of victory. We don't. If we're using the "elite" teams as a benchmark of where we should be, then we should expect to put up 50+ points against unranked teams. We should make scoring 40 points look effortless.
For whatever reason, and I think we've all noticed this over the last 10 years or so, we play down to the level of our opponent. We do just enough to win a game, and that's really the only thing we do consistently. I don't know if that's coaching or playcalling or game management or individual players, but the coaches and sportswriters see this, and in their eyes, we aren't deserving of the same consideration that 'Bama, Oregon, Baylor, etc. are.
"A win is a win" will get you a fairly good amount, but without style, without swagger, without that elite level of gameplay, it's just not enough. We can debate whether or not that's fair, but they gave us a chance last year and we blew it. Until we can prove that we can comfortably win by 3 or more TDs on a consistent basis, I just don't see us getting back to the 'Ship. Such is the state of modern college football.