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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. Stakes bigger today for Gators, Seminoles


    GAINESVILLE — Last week's wins by the Gators and Seminoles weren't even finished yet when No. 10 Florida and No. 14 Florida State began thinking about tonight's rivalry game.

    "After we beat Chattanooga, we already knew what was next," FSU defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker said. "I remember sitting on the sideline like, it's time."

    And for the first time in years, the matchup has high stakes befitting both programs' reputations. Tonight's game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium marks only the second time in the past decade that both teams boast top-15 rankings....

    Orlando Sentinel/TNS
  2. Baker's Dozen: Previewing the college football weekend


    Strength vs. strength

    Florida State RB Dalvin Cook faces a Florida run defense today ranked No. 8 nationally in yards per game. Only one of the previous top-25 run defenses has been able to slow Cook:

    Boston College (No. 1): 15 carries, 54 yards, 0 TDs

    Louisville (17): 22 carries, 163 yards, 2 TDs

    Clemson (20): 21 carries, 194 yards, 1 TD...

    Associated Press
  3. FSU's Sean Maguire looks forward to spotlight game (w/video)


    Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire isn't shying away from Saturday's stakes.

    The second road start of his career will come in a rivalry match against No. 10 Florida in one of the most hostile environments in college football.

    "I mean, this is everything you dream of," Maguire said. "Obviously Florida-Florida State, postseason (stakes). This is big. This is everything you dream of. I can't wait."...

    Sean Maguire has shown downfield passing ability, but he faces a Gators defense loaded with talented defensive backs.
  4. VIdeo: Previewing USF-UCF football


    As USF prepares to travel to UCF for the Knights' black-out season finale, I couldn't help but wonder: Where can you buy a black paper bag to put over your head?

    Times staff writer Joey Knight and I discuss that in our weekly college football preview video. This one focuses only on the USF-UCF showdown and why it's hard to see the Bulls falling to their I-4 rival. 

  5. FSU victim advocate: School reports few sexual battery complaints


    The director of Florida State's victim advocate program testified in a deposition that her department saw 113 victims of sexual battery last year and has handled about 20 complaints against football players over her nine years.

    "The sexual battery was the really large number" of cases seen by the department, Melissa Ashton said in the deposition, obtained Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Times through an open-records request....

    The actions of FSU coach Jimbo Fisher are at the core of a lawsuit against the school.
  6. Jimbo Fisher questioned in Jameis Winston's accuser's lawsuit against Florida State


    Four days after beating Boston College in the third game of the season, Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher gave a deposition in a lawsuit involving his former star quarterback.

    Fisher spoke with lawyers on Sept. 22, according to a deposition transcript obtained Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Times through an open-records request.

    The 186 pages reveal little new information about the case involving Jameis Winston. The sections involving Zephyrhills' Erica Kinsman - Winston's accuser who is suing Winston and FSU - were redacted....

  7. Geoff Collins, Charles Kelly and Danny Hope among country's top assistants


    Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins is one of 34 national nominees for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the country's top assistant coach.

    Collins could be a hot commodity in the offseason; UCF is reportedly strongly considering him as the Knights search for a new head coach.

    Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and USF co-offensive coordinator Danny Hope are among the other nominees....

  8. Less than two years after Fiesta Bowl win, UCF football bottoms out



    It's hard to spend much time around UCF without seeing reminders of the football program's peak — the 2014 Fiesta Bowl. A sign commemorating that 52-42 win over Baylor even sits on the scoreboard at Bright House Stadium. • To see how far the Knights have fallen in the 22 months since then, pan across last week's mostly empty stands to the other end zone. Seven UCF fans hid their faces with brown paper bags with messages like "Knight-mare season" and "0-10." • Any updated headgear will have to read "0-11" now, after last week's 37-point loss to East Carolina. That collapse led UCF to drop to No. 164 nationally in USA Today's Sagarin ratings and land below 44 Division I-AA programs like Weber State and Cal Poly. • "It's a nightmare," UCF senior H-back Cedric Thompson said, "that every day I wish I would wake up from."...

    East Carolina linebacker Zeek Bigger hits UCF quarterback Justin Holman after his throw in the first half of Thursday’s game. Holman has been injured for part of the season and the Knights offense ranks last in Division I-A at 274.4 yards a game.
  9. College football playoff rankings: Florida Gators fall four spots, FSU up one


    Florida's overtime win over Florida Atlantic cost the Gators in the college football playoff committee's eyes.

    UF dropped four spots to No. 12 in the latest committee rankings, which were released Tuesday night.

    Florida State rose one spot to No. 13, setting up a top-15 meeting Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

    Alabama - UF's likely opponent in next week's SEC title game - stayed at No. 2....

  10. Florida Gators' Vernon Hargreaves named Jim Thorpe Award finalist


    Florida CB and Wharton High alum Vernon Hargreaves is one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the country's top defensive back.

    Hargreaves is one of the top players on a Gators defense that ranks among the best in the country. The junior has four interceptions and is expected to be a first-round pick if he leaves early for the NFL draft.

    The two other finalists are Duke S Jeremy Cash and Iowa CB Desmond King....

  11. Miami Hurricanes to play at App State in 2016


    Miami will play a home-and-home series against Appalachian State, the Mountaineers announced Tuesday afternoon.

    The Hurricanes will travel to Boone, N.C. next season for a Sept. 17, 2016 game against the Sun Belt Conference team, perhaps best known for its 34-32 upset win over Michigan in 2007....

  12. Jimbo Fisher on USF football: I knew they were fixin' to get really good


    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had some very positive things to say about USF in his weekly news conference Monday.

    Fisher wasn't asked about USF directly, but he brought up the Bulls after being asked about his offense's progression.

    "South Florida, as we're finding out, wasn't a bad football team," Fisher said. "I knew that coming in.

    "I knew South Florida was fixin' to get really good. They may win and go to their conference championship game now. They've beat really good teams..."...

  13. What if Dalvin Cook had chosen UF?


    GAINESVILLE — As No. 10 Florida prepares to face No. 14 Florida State, Gators coach Jim McElwain is gushing about star RB Dalvin Cook.

    "That guy is special now," McElwain said Monday. "Somebody told me he was committed here or something. Wonder how he ended up there."

    The more interesting question heading into Saturday's game in Gainesville is this: What would the rivalry game look like if Cook had signed with the Gators instead of the Seminoles?...

    Dalvin Cook has already set a Florida State single-season record for rushing yards. He initially committed to Florida.
  14. Jimbo Fisher on LSU speculation: 'I have no comment on that'


    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher declined to comment Monday about speculation that he could be LSU's top target if the Tigers dismiss Les Miles.

    "I have no comment on that," Fisher said at his weekly news conference in Tallahassee. "I have a policy, I don't speak about (other) jobs. It's unfair to the players there, the players that are here, the coaches here and there. And there's no job opening, so I have no comment on that." ...

    Jimbo Fisher spent seven years as an assistant with the Tigers and helped LSU win the 2003 national championship.
  15. Injuries mounting for Florida Gators


    No. 10 Florida will likely be shorthanded when it faces rival No. 14 Florida State this week.

    The Gators will be without DE Alex McCalister for the second game in a row and will also probably be without star DL Jon Bullard, coach Jim McElwain said Monday. DE Jordan Sherit (Hillsborough High) is also unlikely to play, while DL Joey Ivie (Pasco High) is questionable.

    UF's depleted defensive line forced OL Antonio Riles to play his old position on the defensive line last week. Riles will likely have to do the same again against the Seminoles, McElwain said....

    Florida defensive end Jordan Sherit (17) is also unlikely to play against Florida State.