Football

Alabama coach Nick Saban has relationships with the Harbaugh family dating back three decades.

Their relationship, it turns out, is more than a three-year old Twitter spat. It goes back to Jim’s father, Jack, and Saban’s early days as a head coach.

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“It’s going to come down to who can execute more,” McGrone said, echoing another talking point, one in which Michigan has found truth time and again when it runs into an opponent it cannot simply out-talent. On Wednesday, it’ll certainly apply. Here’s where:

Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis came to Michigan from Alabama.

Wednesday afternoon, two of college football’s most storied programs will meet in the Citrus Bowl— each displaying its version of a modern college football offense. Fullbacks will be few and far between. Quarterbacks will take nearly every snap from the shotgun. There will be RPOs and read options. Las Vegas has set the over/under at 58.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban paused, then looked at each other. Slowly, each cracked a smile.

Michigan's defense is familiar with Alabama's offense.

Both Gattis and co-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley left Alabama in the offseason, leaving the offense in the hands of former Atlanta Falcons’ offense coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has brought some NFL influences with him. The personnel is different too, even if quarterback Mac Jones doesn’t have the same dynamic playmaking ability that Gattis became familiar with under the injured Tua Tagovailoa.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Joe Milton stood on a deck at the Fun Spot America amusement park. It was 75 degrees and the Florida humidity was in full force. For Milton, a native of Pahokee, Fla., it was kind of like a homecoming.

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said that Michigan's defense will be a challenge to face.

The Wolverines are now a month removed from that afternoon. In the lead up to Wednesday’s Citrus Bowl against Alabama, their trademark confidence is back, with a proclaimed certainty that the Ohio State game is behind them.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Josh Gattis can laugh about it now.

Senior quarterback Shea Patterson faced Alabama with Ole Miss two seasons ago.

ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s funny, now, to consider the last time Shea Patterson played Alabama.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — To hear Don Brown talk about Alabama’s offense is to hear a laundry list of accolades and praise.