MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the start of a new season for the Minnesota Gopher football team.

On Thursday they’ll take on South Dakota State at TCF Bank Stadium at 8 p.m. It’s appearing close to a sellout, with over 46,000 tickets already sold to the game.

And as WCCO’s Bill Hudson shows us, that brings a bit of a challenge to find parking and tailgating space.

It’s seven hours to kickoff and Gopher faithful are forming up.

“I think it’s getting off to a good start tonight, a good solid win today,” Jane Dunn said.

For fans like Jane and Gary Dunn, putting a winning team on the field is job one.

“I think we’re gonna have a good year, I think we’ll be 8-5, 9 and 4,” Gary Dunn said. “I’d like to be 13 and 0 but that’s not gonna happen.”

But filling the bank with fans will follow.

“I think the student vibe is pretty good here but to get some of the older fans they’re going to need to keep winning and doing what they’re doing,” Lauren Carlson said.

It all starts this evening as the Gophers open their season against the Jack Rabbits. Where fans will find full lots, crowded streets and good-natured fun.

“You’ll see a lot of Jack Rabbits in here and we’ll talk about what we’re grilling in front of them and say ‘oh this is good rabbit meat here this is great tasting,'” William ‘Roscoe’ Roth said.

Tailgaters arrived early, including on East River Flats, where the Park Board rescinded an earlier decision to make it off-limits.

“I want to keep the axe in Minnesota,” Tom Carlson said.

On this first game of the season, Tom Carlson’s already looking forward to the last.

“I think the axe last year made me smile a little more, but more especially the way we did it. They ran the ball down their throats.” Carlson added.

If all goes to plan, it starts with tonight’s full house.