Behind the scenes at the Rose Bowl

Kim Montuoro - The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Emily Van Buskirk and Kim Montuoro take you behind the scenes of Rose Bowl week in Southern California.

PASADENA, Calif. — Day 3 Rose Bowl Week vibes were low as Alabama’s Beef Bowl came and went with little fanfare. An incredible event put on by Lawry’s, but the business trip mentality Bama rolled in with kept things mellow – only one cut of Prime Rib for Alabama players and coaches versus Michigan’s multiple cuts.  

On to Day 4… 

By now, you’ve all seen the 2024 Rose Bowl Media Day headlines – Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh saying that Jesus would have been a five-star player, Alabama’s bling ring and Michigan offensive lineman Trevor Keegan’s magic card trick that impressed everyone, particularly the unflappable UM quarterback J.J. McCarthy. 

Maybe you saw snippets of table games or student-athletes acting like reporters or even a snapshot of Harbaugh’s chair-gate. 

But what the internet didn’t tell you was that there was a very special, extremely limited-edition board game that migrated to the U.S. around the time Washington shut out Iowa 28-0 in 1982 in this very bowl game – the first Rose Bowl shut-out in 29 years. The run-game similarities between that game and this year’s bout are fun, shout out Jacque Robinson. But I digress. 

The custom “Who Am I?” board games circulated Rose Bowl Media Day, both challenging and delighting players while testing their teammate bonds and determining exactly how well they know their brothers. Because at the end of the day, playbook and precedence be damned – when the fourth quarter of Monday’s Rose Bowl begins, it all comes down to how well these guys know and trust each other. And what better way to test that trust than with a good, old-fashioned, knockoff game of Guess Who? 

Michigan started off strong with local hero Zack Marshall leading the charge. The freshman tight end went undefeated in three games, utilizing some Jedi mind tricks coupled with keen observational skills. 

“Threepeat,” exclaimed Marshall. “For the first time in history. Thank you so much, it was a blast. That was great, very enjoyable.” 

Wolverine running back Blake Corum was unable to play alongside his teammates, so we brought the game to him and asked what his strategy would be.  

“I would start with ‘Does he wear earrings,”’ that would knock down a few guys,” the Comeback Player of the Year shared. “Then I would go with ‘Does he have short or long hair?’ And I would finish them with ‘Is he smiling?’” 

Observant questions like that showcase why Corum has seen great success on the field – his diligence and meticulousness a substantial part of Big Blue’s success.  

Alabama embraced the game as a group activity, with more than 16 players crowded around a table, divided into two teams behind their boards.  

After a spirited debate about rules and regulations, both sides traded queries like SEC championship contenders swapped scores. A certain defensive back did go rouge and was penalized for signaling but otherwise it was clean, Crimson family fun. 

Kicker Will Reichard, who was featured on the board, vocally championed a team made up of punter James Burnip, the designated card picker, punter Nick Serpa and kicker Reid Schuback. Special teams did in fact do it better as they defeated tight end Peyton Fox, long snapper Kade Wehby and several others. 

Both Alabama and Michigan agreed the custom version was infinitely more fun than the original. 

It’s safe to say that Day 4 vibes were high, the best of the week in fact thanks to a little bit of curation and a lot of enthusiastic competition.