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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

Happy New Years! And also happy Citrus Bowl Day?

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NCAA Football: Alabama A Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a little weird to be posting a Gump Day Jumbo Package on a game day, but such is the plight of mere mortals. I’ll keep this one short, as we’ll be moving quickly into game coverage at noon.

It also was far from Michigan’s shadow, something two victories in his five seasons as the Spartans’ coach could not remove, as Saban later lamented.

“At Michigan State we were never No. 1,” he told reporters. “That was always Michigan. It was always Michigan this or that.”

Mosallam remembered he was surprised by those comments, thinking Saban had inured himself to that reality.

But Strayhorn wasn’t.

“I think that gave him a little sense of frustration while he was in East Lansing,” he said. “Michigan was always there. It was always there. You heard it in the locker room from players and coaches alike. And Nick Saban wasn’t immune from that.”

Rather, he was confronted with it every day until he walked out the door of the Duffy Daugherty building for the final time and headed due south — away from East Lansing and the Michigan monster that loomed in the near distance.

Rainer Sabin may have moved on from to USA Today, but he’s still looking for any angle to make Coach Nick Saban not look great.

“I think the big thing with Dylan was that he wanted to be part of the team,” Saban said. “He wanted to be a leader of the team. He wanted to come back and play well for Alabama. And that was probably the deciding factor for him. Obviously he’s a great player. He’s a good person and a good leader. And he can make a significant impact on making us better next year.”

Obviously, it’s old news at this point, but I just couldn’t help talking about it as well. Having Dylan Moses back next year is huge. The Tide will already be losing Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis, so we were looking at Shane Lee and Christian Harris actually being the most experienced linebackers on the team.

Now, we have three middle linebackers with a full season or more of starting experience returning. If Lee and Harris make great strides over the offseason and wind up just having really great chemistry together, don’t forget or count out the fact that Moses also played a good bit of Jack linebacker in his freshman year and was an explosive pass rusher before moving to inside linebacker full time as a sophomore. It will be just one extra chess piece for the coaches to have to play with while figuring out the best lineups for the 2020 defense.

It is possible Saban had those in mind when he used the word “vindicate” earlier this month to describe what his team can prove while playing Michigan, even though a title is not on the line.

“This is an opportunity for us to sort of show who we are,” Saban said Dec. 8. “Try to get back to playing to the ‘Bama standard.”

Even if there is a limit to how much Alabama can change the minds of those outside the building, Saban wants his players to find motivation in securing their own legacy.

“You got another opportunity to create a memory in your last game for this team,” he said Monday. “Do you want to have a memory that is a really good memory like, ‘We beat Michigan.’ Or do you want to have a regret?

“You’re going to live with this game for the rest of your life.”

More and more, this one shaping up to be the “Alabama on a warpath” and not “Listless Alabama in a Sugar Bowl.” At least, it sure sounds like it. The last time Alabama took the warpath route after a multi-loss regular season and big bowl game snub, they went on to win back-to-back national championships.

I like the sound of that.

Finally, here’s a video for good luck later today:

Roll Tide!