Plan early to find free parking when the Tigers take on the Crimson Tide _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- LSU cheerleaders celebrate with fans on the field after the Tigers beat Ole Miss 10-7 Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

A massive wave of football fans will roll into Baton Rouge this weekend, flooding the streets around LSU’s campus with purple, gold and crimson, bringing with it the possibility of this season’s thickest traffic jam.

Come early, LSU officials said, or risk arriving without the benefit of free public parking for what has become an annual marquee game between the Fighting Tigers and Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

See the LSU game day parking map here.

The plans to handle the swollen crowd aren’t much different than they were two weeks ago when LSU squared off against Ole Miss in a game topped with a sweet last-second finish for LSU fans and a bitter-ending nail-biter for their foes. Because of the thrilling finale, the better part of more than 100,000 attendees left Tiger Stadium about the same time, allowing LSU’s postgame traffic system its thorniest test yet.

“We thought it went pretty well in most areas,” said Adam Smith, the parking operations director for LSU’s athletic department.

Officials expect about 160,000 people to swarm LSU’s campus on Saturday. But some of those people will leave campus to watch the football game, meaning there likely cannot be much more postgame traffic than there was following the Tigers’ last home game, even if the game wraps up in a similarly exciting fashion.

Police will set up shop at various intersections around campus a few hours earlier than usual this weekend. Expect to see officers directing traffic by about 11 a.m. for a game with a 7 p.m. kickoff, Smith said.

Normally, police begin directing traffic about four hours before kickoff, although they started a little early for the Ole Miss game, too, Smith said.

When LSU last played at home against Alabama in 2012, free public parking filled up about five hours before kickoff. That created an unusually problematic, but relatively brief, traffic snarl. But it also meant traffic wasn’t as bad by the time kickoff arrived, Smith said.

Fewer, but only by about 100, parking spots are available around campus compared with two years ago. Many spots have been eliminated, but a nearly equal number of spots have been created since then, Smith said.

If the free parking spots fill up again, Smith advised drivers to find safe, legal parking. To be clear, that does not include street parking on Nicholson or Burbank drives near campus. Smith encouraged attendees to search for other commercial parking options if free parking is no longer an option.

Capt. Cory Lalonde, an LSU police spokesman, encouraged visitors to carpool if possible. When leaving, be sure to find the correct lane, especially anyone who is trying to turn, Lalonde said.

“Plan ahead for delays and other issues that may come up with traffic,” Lalonde said.

Finally, Lalonde asked that fans not start contraflow without the direction of police officers. The issue has come up in past games, he said.

Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter, @_BenWallace.