With the nightly debauchery of Bourbon Street literally just around the corner from their New Orleans accommodations, and facing a Sugar Bowl opponent as imposing as Alabama, it seemed only a matter of time — whether through misbehavior in public or unsightly play in the Superdome — before the Oklahoma Sooners would make reproachful headlines.
Dropped in the middle of party central against a team everyone thought would beat their brains in, who could blame the Sooners for getting a little wild, a little distracted in the week leading up to the Sugar Bowl?
But victory over impossible odds doesn't happen by accident.
Coach Bob Stoops knew full well the temptation that lay just outside his troops' door. And he knew forbidding them from it would only bring their discontent and probably sedition.
So he put his captains in charge, Aaron Colvin, Gabe Ikard, Trey Millard and Corey Nelson. They imposed and Stoops agreed a 2 a.m. curfew. Two nights before the game, New Year's Eve, they were allowed to be out at midnight, but then had to retire for the evening. Then on Wednesday night, early to bed, early to rise.
Stoops entrusted his players to be responsible as long as they didn't abuse it. And they rewarded his trust with a singular focus in practice and in meetings, meticulous attention to detail, and passionate football.
The result Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31 was a direct reflection on Stoops' leadership, and on the leadership he instilled within each player to take care of his own business and watch out for his teammates.
"We were loose, we were confident," said OU co-offensive coordinator and former Stoops college teammate Jay Norvell. "And that's the way he was this week: very loose, excited to be here, enjoyed every minute of being here, and we were very confident. And the kids felt that.
"He gave the kids freedom to enjoy the bowl event, but he didn't handcuff 'em. He showed the kids respect and they showed it back by preparing in a fantastic way. I think it's just a great credit to the character of our team and our coaches, and it's all set by coach Stoops."
The 2013 season won't go down as Stoops' best coaching job. There was the debacle against Texas, after all. But it might be second.
The Sooners were underdogs in four of their last five games and ended up winning their last three at Kansas State, at Oklahoma State, against Alabama even though most everyone outside the program thought OU was headed for an 8-4 season and a trip to the Alamo Bowl.
Instead of 8-4, the Sooners finished 11-2. There was no official championship, other than the Sugar Bowl trophy, but beating a program on the magnitude of Alabama is a trophy unto itself.
And they somehow finished strong despite mounting adversity: Nelson's season-ending chest injury, Millard's season-ending knee injury, Jordan Phillips' season-ending back injury, Damien Williams' dismissal, the left side of the offensive line missing the last two games with injury, and an increasingly unsettled quarterback picture.
"It felt more like 2009 when we had all our good players hurt and our quarterback hurt," Stoops said. "... All of a sudden, that's not easy to manage."
Disappointments ever since that '09 season also had piled up. There was a Big 12 title in 2010, but two unexpected losses ruined what might have been so much more. The 2011 team was consensus No. 1, but lost three games. The 2012 team lost twice at home, then laid a rotten egg against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Stoops' program had lost so much momentum that he felt it necessary to fire three assistant coaches to get things back in the right direction. He didn't fire anyone over his first 13 seasons.
On Friday, he declined to discuss the difficulty of that decision, other than to say he loved the men who left, but "I did what we felt we needed to do."
The defeats particularly the performance against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies also brought much indignation from ex-lettermen who still love the program dearly but were concerned about its decline. Spencer Tillman, Tony Casillas and even Jammal Brown, who played for Stoops, were among former Sooners who had spoken their displeasure.
But Stoops said he was neither bothered nor motivated by such complaints, even if it was from former Sooners who only wanted him to thrive.
"I didn't hear what they said, and I don't care what they said," Stoops said. "I don't need their motivation whatsoever. I don't care what they think. Who are they? ... Why would I care about what a few thousand former players have to say? What would that matter to me?
"Only a few decide to say what they wanna say publicly, which is too bad. ... I don't care. No. To them, I could care less. I play nothing to them. Zero."
He did, however, take pride in having so many of his former players stand at his side against the Crimson Tide. Brown, Adrian Peterson, Trent Williams, Phil Loadholt, Clint Ingram, Davin Joseph, Marcus Walker it was like an all-star team coming out to support Stoops.
"Yeah, that was cool," Stoops said. "I always think it's important that our players see these guys around. Not just Adrian, all of them. That they know all these guys have played here and what they're doing now. They're quality guys, too. All those guys are great people."
Stoops' leadership through good times and bad creates intense loyalty, which feeds the next generation of Sooner players.
The cycle continues, and it showed all week in New Orleans.