Tony Vanetti: All right, letâ€™s start with Kentucky football – the first time youâ€™ve got a little pressure on the line this Saturday. Itâ€™s been a couple of years since a football game kind of mattered for you all. Your thoughts on Vandy?
Matt Jones: Thatâ€™s a very good point. It is the first time they go in favored, which is really sort of crazy. They havenâ€™t had a game that mattered that they were favored in since 2011. Itâ€™s all set up to have a huge game in two weeks against South Carolina, a chance to get that marquee win. But first they have to beat Vanderbilt this weekend. And in the history of Kentucky football, when thereâ€™s a â€œbut firstâ€¦,â€ it often doesnâ€™t happen. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m slightly nervous.
Vanetti: This is why people and fans are scared of coaching changes. Vandyâ€™s out-scored you guys, triple digits to whatever?
Jones: 78-6 in the past two years.
Vanetti: OK, 78-6 the last two years, one coaching change, and now you guys are double-digit favorites. I mean, itâ€™s unbelievable, college football today – coaching is so important, getting the good players – but do you think they cover the double-digits? Can that offense and defense put together four quarters?
Jones: I think they win, but itâ€™s going to be close. Iâ€™m not as convinced. I know the spread went from 2.5 to 16.5. That strikes me as kind of crazy. I think itâ€™s going to be close. I think Vandy is better, although they just suspended their running back indefinitely, and he was probably their best player. So now I donâ€™t think theyâ€™re in quite as good a position, but I think this Kentucky team is not as great as a lot of us hope. I think they can get there. I just think itâ€™s going to be a tougher game than maybe people think.
Vanetti: I think UK and UofL had good football games this past weekend, but the story thatâ€™s really stuck with people is the cover of the sports page of the Courier-Journal with John Calipari, and that thing has now resulted in an apology letter from the Courier-Journal.
Jones: You didnâ€™t like that, did you, Tony?
Vanetti: I thought the picture was funny. I didnâ€™t like the apology. I didnâ€™t think it was needed.
Jones: Yeah, I mean, I did. Not because it offended me, but just from a business perspective. I think it was an unbelievably stupid thing to do. Itâ€™s a tough spot for that newspaper to be in with half on one side and half on the other. But you almost are just intentionally making it worse with that. And I firmly believe that media in this town will not do a similar thing about Louisville. They wonâ€™t. Now, how it happened – who knows? I think the apology shows one thing: it shows how different todayâ€™s media market is. Fans matter. Twenty years ago, Tony, I think youâ€™d agree, thereâ€™s no way a newspaper would apologize to a coach for something like that.
Vanetti: No, they donâ€™t apologize. But do you think this is the direction that newspapers need to go in to save their industry?
Jones: Need is irrelevant. If youâ€™re going to be an unbiased entity, then be an unbiased entity. Iâ€™m a firm believer that the Louisville media is not an unbiased entity. So, if youâ€™re going to be biased, then say that. If youâ€™re going to be biased, Iâ€™m OK with that too. If you want to say â€œLook, weâ€™re the newspaper in the city of Louisville, we tend to favor the city of Louisville,â€ then thatâ€™s fine. At least I know where youâ€™re coming from. But I think about what happened a couple of years ago when Nerlens Noel got hurt, tore his ACL. They did a cartoon that had Nerlens Noel, had his doctors with his X-ray, and he said â€œWhat does that say doc?â€ and they said â€œNIT.â€ And then Kevin Ware got hurt and the cartoon was him on crutches, and a Louisville bird throwing up the â€œLâ€ heroically. It was the same thing, a season-ending injury, treated completely differently. What made this cartoon bad wasnâ€™t that it was bad; it confirmed it to UK fans if they didnâ€™t think that newspaper was unbiased.
Vanetti: At this point, at where we are as a society and where we get our news, whoâ€™s unbiased? Does that exist?
Jones: Itâ€™s almost nobody. I donâ€™t think anybody has ever been unbiased. I think people like to think they are unbiased, but they canâ€™t help it. So what you end up having is biased news sources like myself come about as a response to the fact that I donâ€™t think people have ever been totally unbiased. Is it good or is it bad? I donâ€™t know. But I do think the worst situation is to have an entity that says itâ€™s unbiased, and then itâ€™s not. That to me is the worst.
Vanetti: Well, it went down party lines, thatâ€™s for sure. UK fans hated it, UofL fans loved it, and Calipari got a jab back in the Herald-Leader.
Jones: I think the lasting legacy of this is that they apologized. I canâ€™t believe they apologized. I mean, I really canâ€™t. I understand why they did and it was probably smart business to,Â but I canâ€™t believe it. Itâ€™s never happened, even five years ago.
Vanetti: Well, itâ€™s one more time than youâ€™ve apologized.
Jones: Listen, the only think I apologize for is only being right 90 percent of the time. I wish it was 100 percent. Before we stop, let me ask you a real quick question on the football side of things. For you guys, youâ€™re not going to get a real game again – well, I guess you could lose to Syracuse – but youâ€™re probably not going to get a real game until your sort of murderous road stretch. What do you think of this team? Is it what you thought it would be, or behind?
Vanetti: No, I think this team is behind where we thought it would be. The offense is struggling. Itâ€™s not even efficient. It was efficient through the first two games. Now theyâ€™ve fallen off after the last two games. So the defense is playing lights-out awesome. But the offense has got problems. And when you donâ€™t have a good quarterback, when you donâ€™t have good quarterback play, youâ€™ve got problems. And you know that as a Kentucky fans, the last couple of years? Letâ€™s put Teddy Bridgewater on the UK team with Joker Phillips and see how different the results wouldâ€™ve been.
Jones: If you donâ€™t have a quarterback, you donâ€™t have nothinâ€™. Especially in college football.
Vanetti: Hereâ€™s the thing: Louisville is not guaranteed that the offense is going to get better. Itâ€™s not guaranteed. I think if it does, theyâ€™re going to have a fine season. But letâ€™s the say the offense stays the same. That really could be a 6-6 season.
Jones: Could be. Iâ€™ve been impressed with how good their defense is, but their offense is bad. And you know, Bobby Petrino has got to have a quarterback. Everything he does is predicated on him having good quarterback play. If he doesnâ€™t, then theyâ€™re in trouble. The hard part is, I donâ€™t know who the quarterback is coming up. I think Reggie Bonnafon can be OK, but I donâ€™t think heâ€™s a top-level quarterback. I know theyâ€™ve got a commitment from a kid down in Florida and maybe heâ€™s Teddy 2, but I kind of like. I like where the UK football program sits, vis-a-vis UofL games in the future. Maybe not the game this year, but in the future, I might rather be Kentucky.
Vanetti: You know, I swear, I think both of them are going in a good direction. And I hope that both of them get back to where we were in 2007, even though Louisville lost that year, where both schools are beating good teams and theyâ€™re winning ballgames. Thatâ€™s where I hope the programs go.
Jones: I think weâ€™re headed in that direction.