I think that, in limited circumstances, you might be able to find SOME sites that have "authority" and SOME site that have quality links by the following methods:
Authority: If you find sites that rank well in google but DON'T have a lot of inbound links, then maybe we can assume there is some level of "authority" to the site that is helping it rank.
(Of course, authority and inbound links are NOT exclusive - there are probably lots of sites with lots of "authority" that probably have lots of links as well.)
Strong Links: Aside from just looking at Page Rank, possibly looking at sites that rank well but DON'T have keyword matches in the title element or URL.
Again, I am sure there are numerous sites with strong links AND have keywords in title / URL.
But the idea is that maybe we can help "isolate" different ranking factors to get a better idea of what each one means.