Still, this coaching staff has plugged young, inexperienced replacements in for the injured players and seen impressive development from many of them, like true freshman linebackers Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans, and freshman defensive tackle Jordan Wade.
“Everybody just kept grinding, kept fighting, kept believing,” Stoops said. “We've had a great attitude and a tough, hardworking group of players all along.
“I am proud of our assistant coaches, the way they've continued to put pieces together when we have lost guys … no one ever flinched.”
With the Bedlam win and Sugar Bowl berth, Stoops has now won at least 10 games in 12 of his seasons as Oklahoma's head coach. He's led the Sooners to nine BCS bowl appearances.
And on Jan. 2 in New Orleans, Oklahoma has an opportunity to send a clear message that it is still a force to be reckoned with.
“When you get to go to a BCS bowl game, there's only 10 teams that do that,” Saban said. “It's a great tribute to the coaching staff and players and the perseverance they've shown to overcome a lot of adversity this year.”