Ohio State and Clemson will be at the New Orleans Superdome in the Sugar Bowl game tonight to play for a chance to advance to the College Football Playoff championship game, but not a lot of other people will be there.
Only 3,000 tickets were issued for the game because of COVID-19 restrictions. Each participating school in tonight’s College Football Playoff semifinal received 728 tickets for parents and families of players and coaches and 1,544 tickets were given to sponsors.
The usual allotment of tickets per school for the Sugar Bowl is 17,500.
While the stakes are high on the field and the intensity level will be high, possibly as high as with a full stadium, the size of the crowd is not the only way this might feel like Sugar Bowl Lite instead of a normal Sugar Bowl.
The whole New Orleans experience will be different this year.
New Orleans is a city famous for its nightlife, its restaurants and its music among other things. But COVID-19 has affected all of those things.
On Wednesday, NOLA.com, the website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the New Orleans Advocate, listed 50 restaurants, many of which had been fixtures in the city for decades, that have been forced to close their doors permanently during 2020.
Restaurants which are open are required to limit the number of customers to half of capacity and to socially distance them.
And if you want to get a drink at a bar or restaurant, be prepared to get it early and sip it outside.
In normal times, bars in New Orleans are allowed to stay open 24 hours a day, which some do. And others are open until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.
Bars and restaurants have not been permitted to sell alcohol after 11 p.m. for several months because of COVID-19 regulations.
And since Wednesday customers at bars and restaurants have not been allowed to buy alcoholic beverages indoors. They can only drink outside or get to go cups.
Those restrictions went into effect when more than 5 percent of tests in New Orleans for COVID-19 were positive for two consecutive weeks. There are also regulations that forbid singing and playing wind blown instruments indoors.
The crowd of around 3,000 fans at the game will be the smallest ever for the Sugar Bowl. The previous low was the first Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1935, which was attended by 22,026 people. The biggest Sugar Bowl crowd of 85,161 watched No. 3 Notre Dame beat No. 1 Alabama 24-23 in 1973.
The players will also get a bowl experience much smaller than usual.
Ohio State’s travel plans were to fly to New Orleans on New Year’s Eve. Last year when it played Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28, it arrived in Phoenix on Dec. 22.
“It’s a shame because any time we go to bowl sites as a team, it’s just so much fun,” Ohio State center Josh Myers said earlier this week. “It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year.”
Avenging a controversial 29-23 loss to Clemson last season would make this one of OSU’s favorite weeks of this year.
This is the sixth time Ohio State has played in the Sugar Bowl. It is 3-2 in its five previous Sugar Bowls, including a 42-35 win over Alabama in a playoff semifinal on its way to the 2014 national championship.
Ohio State is 0-4 all time against Clemson, with losses in the 1978 Gator Bowl, the 2014 Orange Bowl, a playoff semifinal in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl and last year’s playoff semifinal loss in the Fiesta Bowl.
Clemson has an 0-4 streak of its own. It has lost every postseason game it has played in Louisiana — the 1959 Sugar Bowl, the 1985 Independence Bowl, the 2018 Sugar Bowl and the 2020 national championship game against LSU last year.
Kickoff for tonight’s game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Ohio State is the visitor and will wear white jerseys with some added gray stripes identical to the jerseys the Buckeyes wore when they beat Alabama during their 2014 national championship run.