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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. College football viewing guide, Week 8


    Must-see and meh time frames Saturday for college football:

    Lamest time window: Noon, although No. 10 Oklahoma State is on upset watch at Texas.

    Noon: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson against a talented Florida State defense? Yes, please.

    3:30: Syracuse will try to upset a second straight top-10 team (No. 8 Miami), and Navy hosts No. 20 UCF in one of the best Group of Five matchups of the season....

    Miami quarterback Malik Rosier (12) hands off to running back Travis Homer (24) during the first half of an NCAA College football game against Georgia Tech, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
  2. Little separates McElwain and Muschamp eras of futility at Florida


    "His track record on the offensive side of the ball is special. You can look it up, see the records." — Florida then-athletic director Jeremy Foley, December 2014

    GAINESVILLE — After Will Muschamp led four of the ugliest seasons in modern Florida history, Jeremy Foley knew the Gators' next head coach would have to revive one of the worst offenses in the SEC....

     Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain watches the second quarter of the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville.
  3. History rewrite: What if Dalvin Cook, Lamar Jackson had landed at Florida?


    Two days before suiting up in the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field, Dalvin Cook announced a change of heart.

    After almost nine months as a Gators commitment, the five-star running back from Miami flipped to rival Florida State.

    "I felt at heart that it was the school for me, and I can get everything I want to get done there," Cook told Fox Sports at the time.

    He did, of course. Cook needed only three seasons to become FSU's all-time leading rusher. He was one of the NFL's top rookies for the Vikings before tearing his ACL....

     Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) on a run in the first quarter of the game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Florida Gators at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.
  4. FSU doesn't feel need for ongoing reminder of last year's beatdown at Louisville


    Of course Florida State remembers what happened against Louisville last year. The 63-20 loss was one of the worst defeats in Seminoles history.

    "You remember what they're capable of, that this can happen," Jimbo Fisher said.

    But the FSU coach doesn't feel the need to keep reminding his players about it this week as they prepare to face the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, QB Lamar Jackson (above), again. Fisher said this is a new team, so things are different. ...

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson looks back at the action from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
  5. Florida Gators' Jordan Sherit out for the year after hip surgery


    Florida Gators defensive lineman Jordan Sherit will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery earlier this week, coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday morning.

    "It's a bad deal, man," McElwain said.

    The former Hillsborough High standout has had an injury-plagued career. He tore his ACL during his senior season of high school. He missed time late in 2014 because of injury and only played in 10 games last season because of multiple injuries....

  6. Florida Gators, Kevin Knox get preseason SEC basketball honors


    After last year's run to the Elite Eight, the Florida Gators are one of the favorites in the SEC.

    UF is picked to finish second in the league, according to a panel of college basketball media members.

    Kentucky, of course, is projected to win the conference.

    Guard KeVaughn Allen is UF's lone individual honoree; he's first-team pick to the all-SEC team.

    Wildcats freshman Kevin Knox - a former star forward at Tampa Catholic - is a second-team choice....

  7. A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American


    Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

    The AP released its midseason All-America team on Tuesday, and the only first-team selection from Florida was ... Gators punter Johnny Townsend.

    Two other players from the state were second-team selections: USF kicker Emilion Nadelman and Florida State safety Derwin James.

    For comparison, the state had four players on the preseason team, including two first teamers (James and FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden)....

  8. Exposé 'Champions Way' uses FSU to illustrate bad behavior in college programs


    While the entire college football universe was focused on a sexual assault allegation against quarterback Jameis Winston during Florida State's 2013 national title run, another off-field scandal was playing out quietly.

    Champions Way: Football, Florida, and the Lost Soul of College Sports explores allegations of academic impropriety (involving former Plant High star James Wilder Jr., among others) raised by whistleblower Christina Suggs during that perfect season. ...

     Jameis Winston (5) warms up before the game between Florida State Seminoles and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
  9. Charlie Strong, Gulf High and the best (old) Jon Gruden-Tennessee rumor


    As Butch Jones keeps losing, Tennessee Vols fans are turning to one of the media's favorite pastimes.

    Jon Gruden coaching rumors....

  10. Could the Florida Gators really fail to make a bowl game?


    The Florida Gators are 3-3 for the third time since 1986, and things could be getting worse.

    They might not make a bowl.

    That's the conclusion of SBNation, at least, which doesn't have UF in its latest bowl projections....

  11. AP Top 25: Miami Hurricanes back in the top 10, USF and USF jump


    Thanks to a 5-0 start, the Miami Hurricanes are back in the top 10 of the latest AP Top 25 poll.

    Miami is No. 8 - its highest ranking since midway through the 2013 season. I had the ‘Canes at No. 5 ion my ballot (which you can see here).

    USF continued its rise. The Bulls jumped two spots to No. 16 after beating Cincinnati on Saturday evening. That's USF's highest raanking since 2011. ...

  12. My AP Top 25 ballot: Miami Hurricanes in the top five, USF, UCF up


    After a predictably unpredictable weekend of college football, filling out my AP Top 25 ballot took a lot longer than usual.

    I'll let a fellow AP Voter, also awesomely named Matt B., explain:

    So yeah, my ballot doesn't make perfect sense. It can't, because this weekend was ridiculous. Fun, but ridiculous....

  13. Pressure's on Jim McElwain after Florida's latest loss


    GAINESVILLE — It took a month, but Jim McElwain's house of cards has started to fall.

    The crumbling continued Saturday with Florida's 19-17 home loss to Texas A&M.

    UF (3-3, 3-2 SEC) surrendered a fourth-quarter lead by giving up three late field goals to East Lake High alumnus Daniel LaCamera. His final one — a 32-yarder with 58 seconds left — temporarily cooled the hot seat of Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin....

    Florida Gators running back Malik Davis (20) gets stopped during the first quarter of the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.
  14. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder (or recruit)


    GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain didn't need to see his team's swamp green alternate uniforms in action Saturday night to know that they served their purpose.

    No, they were not universally beloved; McElwain said his hate mail tripled before Saturday's game against Texas A&M.

    But the demographic McElwain wanted to hit — recruits — liked them.

    "Man, the excitement has been unbelievable," McElwain told reporters Wednesday. ...

    Florida Gators running back Malik Davis (20) warms up before the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla.
  15. Lacoochee's Mudcat Grant on his 1960s anthem moment: 'Those were trying times'

    The Heater

    More than 50 years before Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the national anthem, Jim "Mudcat" Grant stood in a Cleveland bullpen with something on his mind.

    The Lacoochee native was a right-handed pitcher for the Indians, and he wasn't happy about how African-Americans like himself were being treated. He couldn't eat at restaurants with his white teammates. He couldn't stay in the same hotels, either, in certain cities. His former roommate, Larry Doby, received death threats after becoming the first black player in the American League....

    Former Cleveland Indians pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant waves to the crowd before throwing out a ceremonial pitch before the Indians hosted the Boston Red Sox in a baseball game Monday, April 14, 2008, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)