LSU football fans have earned an unparalleled reputation for their intensity, both good and not so good. I remember a Tiger player named Thomas Dunson, who played defensive coordinator Lou Tepper’s infamous “drop linebacker” position in the late 1990s, describing that it was like to play in Tiger Stadium.

“It’s like playing inside a volcano,” Dunson said. “You never know if it’s going to erupt on you or the other team.”

The eruptions will be muted this season, that’s for sure. At least to start, Death Valley will be more like Death Hollow, with just over 25,000 fans (including the LSU band) allowed to scatter themselves thinly across Tiger Stadium’s 102,321 seats.

This season will be a test of LSU fandom like nothing else we’ve seen, even those once-in-a-blue-moon games when it rains. I know, I know, it never rains in Tiger Stadium. But I also know I’m still trying to dry out from the nearly horizontal rain that soaked me up to my waist at the 1980 Tulane game.

For most fans, the experience will be a remote one, like the one Elise and Charles Kaufman are planning at their Baton Rouge home.

“Our group of eight is tailgating at home,” Elise Kaufman wrote. “Same food, same plans, just watching it on TV!” Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

For more than 12 years now, the Kaufmans and their LSU football friends also have hosted a big prediction party in August. Whoever gets the closest to the Tigers’ final record has to host the party the next year.

The Kaufman’s son, Mark, predicted in March 2019 that LSU would go 15-0 and win the national championship, and even that Joe Burrow would win the Heisman Trophy.

“We should have known the apocalypse was inevitable!” Elise Kaufman wrote. This year, the prediction was not on what LSU’s record would be in the reconfigured, 10-game coronavirus-altered schedule, but simply “Will there be a football season?”

The vast majority of LSU fans will have to watch, and hope, from home or restaurants or wherever. The folks at Pelican Point Golf and Country Club are planning a big watch party outdoors beneath the gazebo near the clubhouse. Surely sounds of cheers and groans will be coming from camps and backyards and thousands of other places Saturday afternoon.

Of course, there are those few thousand lucky folks who are going, and even making an extra effort to get in the game. The website said the average price earlier this week for tickets on the secondary market for Saturday’s contest was $243, 247% higher than last year’s average, with the cheapest “get-in price” of $90.

New Orleans attorney Johnny Denenea didn’t have to go searching for tickets. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that the set of four tickets he shares with his friends Rick Millet and Kirk Barrell were still theirs for the taking, though not in exactly the same spot in the south end zone. So they will be there on Saturday, cheering for the Tigers after a very low-key start at what this year will pass for a tailgate, shall we say, gathering.

“Normally we’d have a massive tailgate party with tons of friends,” Denenea said. “This time I don’t think we’ll even do the ‘tame tailgate’ or whatever they call it.”

Despite the unusual circumstances and the masks they’ll have to wear at the game and the quarter pounder-sized atmosphere of Tiger Stadium compared to the typical full meal, Denenea said he wants to go for what is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime LSU opener.

“Some people say they were there when Billy Cannon ran back the kick,” he said. “We were there for the Earthquake Game (LSU-Auburn in 1988). This will be the same sort of spectacle.”

A surprising number of Tiger fans who can’t be there in person will make sure at least an image of them is. LSU has taken orders for hundreds of cardboard cutouts of fans that will be scattered throughout the stands Saturday, mixed in with the actual crowd.

The cost is $50, with proceeds going to the newly established LSU Victory Fund to support its student-athletes during the pandemic.

The school expected to have orders for between 400-600 cutouts. But by Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, LSU had requests for nearly 1,500.

“It’s been an amazing response,” said Dave Haskin, LSU assistant athletic director for marketing. “There’s nothing like the LSU fan base. We were blown away.”

Haskin said it’s not too late to put in orders for the rest of the season. The Tigers are scheduled to have four more home games after this one, starting with Missouri on Oct. 10.

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