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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. Worst to first: Ranking all 79 Division I-A state football games


    With college football about to transition from offseason to preseason, I've ranked all 79 Division I-A games in the state. My extremely subjective, scientific criteria: How important should this game be, and how excited does this matchup get me?

    79. Alcorn State at FIU, Sept. 9: If the Panthers have trouble against a Braves team that went 5-6 last year, Butch Davis' coaching reboot could be in some serious early trouble....

    Bama vs. Florida State. Saban vs. Fisher. Our No. 1 game wasn't much of a surprise, was it? (AP Photo/File)
  2. Pot case resolved for Florida Gators' Antonio Callaway


    Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia Monday morning. His misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession was dropped, which is typical for cases like this. He will also pay a $301 fine. 

    Monday's court proceedings resolve a case dating back to May, when UF's top offensive playmaker admitted to having marijuana in an early-morning traffic stop....

    Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia Monday morning.
  3. The one way Jimbo Fisher, Dabo Swinney want the ACC to copy SEC


    Somewhere in all the chatter and clichés that come with last week's ACC Kickoff, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Clemson's Dabo Swinney proposed an interesting idea.

    The ACC should keep their rivalry games on the same weekend every year.

    "That's what makes them a rivalry," Fisher said.

    Fisher and Swinney both spent time in the SEC, where fans know the big weekends before the schedules come out. Florida plays Georgia around Halloween. The Iron Bowl is on Thanksgiving weekend. Alabama-Tennessee is the third Saturday in October....

  4. Finally a conference contender? Miami thinks so (w/video)


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The questions have become as stale to Miami as jokes about its home attendance.

    Why haven't the Hurricanes won the ACC? And in a Coastal Division as mediocre and mundane as any division in the Power Five, how has the former powerhouse never even won it? ...

    Miami running back Mark Walton (1) reacts after running the ball inside the 5-yardline in the first half against Pittsburgh at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Miami won, 51-28. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS) 1192730
  5. Dabo Swinney: Tampa Bay product Deon Cain 'one of the best receivers in the country'


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The obvious questions surrounding Clemson focus on the players who are no longer with the defending national champions.

    QB Deshaun Watson, who led the winning drive against Alabama in last season's title game at Raymond James Stadium, is gone. LB Ben Boulware, WR Mike Williams and RB Wayne Gallman have left, too. ...

    Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain celebrates a touchdown against Louisville during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
  6. Miami Hurricanes still searching for Brad Kaaya's replacement


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Miami is still searching for its replacement for the school's all-time leading passer, and it doesn't sound like the Hurricanes will make a decision on who will replace Brad Kaaya anytime soon.

    "I want to find the guy," coach Mark Richt said Friday during the ACC Kickoff. "I'm not ready to do that yet."

    Richt pointed to four players in the mix (Jesuit High alum Vincent Testaverde wasn't among them). Veterans Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs have had a year and a half to impress Richt, and he said he's comfortable with both of them....

    Jefferson High product Cade Weldon is still in the mix to start for the Miami Hurricanes this fall.
  7. Jimbo Fisher: I scheduled Alabama, so I'd better be ready


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With kickoff still almost two full months away, the buzz is continuing to build for the mammoth Florida State-Alabama game in Atlanta.

    "I scheduled it, so I'd better be ready for it," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said Thursday during the ACC Kickoff.

    Fisher said many of the expected things about the Crimson Tide. He praised their physicality, size and strength. He called his former boss, Nick Saban, "one of the great football coaches in this country and one of the greatest of all time." ...

    Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher, shown here after the game the Seminoles beat the USF 55-35 in Tampa, likes the prospects of starting the season against Alabama.
  8. Alabama picked to win the SEC, Florida Gators second in East


    Alabama remains the favorite to win the SEC, and the Florida Gators are picked to finish second in the East.

    Those are two highlights from the SEC media predictions, which came out Friday morning. Georgia was narrowly picked to win the East, followed by the Gators, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri.

    The Crimson Tide is favored in the West, ahead of Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Ole Miss....

    Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) makes a 22 yard run during the second quarter of the SEC championship against the Florida Gators at the Georgia Dome on Saturday Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta.
  9. Why I'm picking FSU over Miami for the ACC championship


    I posted my SEC predictions yesterday, so now it's the ACC's turn. Without further ado...

    Atlantic Division
    1. Florida State. Clemson should be great again, too, but I'm giving the edge to the team with the experienced quarterback (Deondre Francois), as I touched on in today's Tampa Bay Times....

  10. Dabo Swinney: Tampa's Deon Cain is 'one of the best receivers in the country'


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - When Clemson took its turn at the ACC Kickoff on Thursday, the topic of conversation focused on the players who helped win the national title in January at Raymond James Stadium - not necessarily the ones who will be around this fall.

    Tigers coach Dabo Swinney didn't appreciate that.

    "Nobody is asking me about Deon Cain yet," Swinney said of the former Tampa Bay Tech quarterback. "This is one of the best receivers in the country. He's had unbelievable moments. Not one word. We're talking about a guy that's gone, and I'm focused on the guys that are here."...

  11. More milestones, fewer licks on Deondre Francois' Year 2 wish list (w/ video)


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As much as Florida State redshirt sophomore Deondre Francois loved Saturdays last fall, he hated what the next day brought.

    The ice tub. The pounding at Miami that left him feeling like he got hit by a bus. The lumps that came from playing quarterback on an offense that allowed 36 sacks — tied for 17th-most in the country.

    "I didn't like Sundays, man," Francois said during Thursday's ACC kickoff....

    Florida State's Deondre Francois speaks to the media during the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college football media day in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) NCCB119
  12. Heisman jinx? Louisville's Lamar Jackson isn't fazed (w/ video)


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Louisville QB Lamar Jackson didn't start last year aiming to win the Heisman Trophy.

    "I didn't think I would win the Heisman Trophy," Jackson said during Thursday's ACC kickoff. "It just happened."

    Maybe that's why Jackson isn't worried about it happening again. Ohio State running back Archie Griffin remains the only two-time Heisman winner — a point Griffin has already made to Jackson — and previous Heisman winners (including Florida State's Jameis Winston) regressed the next season. ...

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson speaks to the media during the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college football media day in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) NCCB105
  13. Derwin James: 'I do think I'm the best player in the country'


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Florida State safety Derwin James said it was kind of awkward and surprising when he heard the offseason announcement that Sports Illustrated called him the No. 1 player in the country.

    "I was kind of shocked, because I didn't even play last year," James said Thursday during the ACC Kickoff....

    Florida State's Derwin James speaks to the media during the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college football media day in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 13, 2017.
  14. ACC enjoying its stay as college football's best conference


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The best football conference in the country is having its media days this week.

    And so is the SEC.

    That's the feeling, at least, around The Charlotte Westin, site of the (slightly biased) ACC defenders at its kickoff event. We'll get into the details of the debate another day, but for now...

    "I think it's pretty obvious the past year certainly was one of the league's most successful years and possibly the most successful year that our league has ever had," commissioner John Swofford said....

  15. What's next for Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson?


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson put up 51 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards of offense during last year's Heisman Trophy campaign.
    So now what?

    One of the next steps, Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino said, is to get him more under center rather than in the shotgun.

    "I think it'll help us be a harder team to defend. I really believe that," Petrino said Thursday during the ACC Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte. ...