LSU Tigers fans remained optimistic — but more than a little nervous — in the runup to Saturday’s homecoming game against Ole Miss, an undefeated team ranked the third-best in the country.
“I’m excited; I’m a little stressed, too,” said Fractyl Mertilus, a 32-year-old LSU graduate student. “If it was last year, I wouldn’t be afraid.”
LSU faces an unusually tough opponent for its homecoming game, which is usually intended to be easy for the home team. While Ole Miss in the past had fit the bill for a homecoming game, the team from Oxford, Mississippi, has had one of its best seasons in decades. It is the first time the school has gone 7-0 in a season since 1962, and it’s also the first time in decades that the two teams have met at Tiger Stadium while both were ranked.
LSU is ranked 24 and has a 6-2 record so far this season.
Many Tiger fans predicted a close game in which LSU would emerge with a win, though they emphasized the first half would all but determine the second.
LSU junior Sean Donovan was cautiously optimistic, despite the odds.
“Even though we’re not as good as we want to be, we still have a shot to mess up their season,” he said.
“If they could stay in it until halftime, we could have a game,” Paul Caplis Jr., 34, said. “But if they get a big lead, then we’re done.”
More than 100 fans gathered behind ESPN’s hosts at the set of “College GameDay.” By late Friday afternoon, a few had set up tents on the campus Parade Grounds, and more than 20 RV units had parked, though few had yet to begin to tailgate in earnest.
Outside one of the vans, Marlene Lively displayed a ticket stub she saved from high school for the LSU matchup against Ole Miss in 1961. The ticket cost her $2.50 at the time, and Lively said she couldn’t remember which team won.
As it turns out, LSU managed a 10-7 upset that year, when Ole Miss was ranked far higher, the Sun Herald reported.
One of those fans at the set of “GameDay” was Valery Sonnier, who seemed to be underscoring fans’ underlying anxiety by holding up and shaking a sign that read “I’m Leaving Early.”
But when asked about the sign, the LSU accountant said she thought LSU would manage an upset victory. “We thought it’d be funny. We stay till the end.”
Fans also described their disgust and confusion at pop star Katy Perry’s taunting of LSU fans on “College GameDay” weeks ago. Perry pulled out a plate of corn dogs and threw one at the camera, a taunting reference to LSU fans smelling like corn dogs. Perry’s producer is an Ole Miss graduate.
Don Lively, 68, who has been a regular attendee at LSU games for the last 47 years, said the remark must be due to out-of-towners who became confused by the smell of Cajun cooking at tailgates and made the mistake of thinking jambalaya smelled like a corn dog.
Fans either brushed off the remark or described it as absurd.
“It’s Katy Perry,” said Joseph Blanchard, 21. “I’m not too worried about it.”
Sonnier, the LSU accountant, said, “We don’t smell like corn dogs. We smell like victory.”
Follow Daniel Bethencourt on Twitter, @_dbethencourt.