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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. SEC hopes to mend fences between Florida, LSU


    ATLANTA — Two months after Hurricane Matthew led to the postponement and relocation of the Florida-LSU game, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the league will try to repair any strained relationships caused by UF's resistance to moving the game and LSU's insistence on playing it in Tiger Stadium.

    "Part of the job is to deal with those hard issues. That was a particularly hard issue," Sankey said Friday. "We'll work on those relationships, and we'll make sure that we make the most effective decisions together moving forward."...

  2. Tim Tebow isn't picking the Florida Gators to beat Alabama


    ATLANTA -- Former Florida Gators star Tim Tebow isn't picking his former team to beat mighty Alabama in Saturday's SEC Championship. 

    "I think a lot has to go right, to be honest with you," Tebow said Friday afternoon. "I think they have to get a few turnovers. I don't think they can turn the ball over. I think they'll have to get a defense or a special teams touchdown and find a way to get, you know, 13 to 17 points offensively. I think that would be really hard, so I think it's going to be tough, but, shoot, that's why they play the game."...

  3. Florida Gators' Doug Nussmeier has done outstanding 'based on the hands we were dealt'


    ATLANTA -- Fans looking for a scapegoat for the Florida Gators' offense won't find one in offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

    At least not according to head coach Jim McElwain.

    "He's done an outstanding job based on the hands we were dealt when we got here..." McElwain said Friday in his final news conference before Friday's SEC Championship.

    I touched on some of those hands in today's Tampa Bay Times - the seven healthy offensive linemen he had on scholarship in the first spring practice, no holdover quarterbacks and only three offensive starters from that regime....

    The Florida Gators' locker room is ready at the Georgia Dome for Saturday's SEC Championship.
  4. Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis expected to play in SEC Championship


    ATLANTA - Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain said he expects linebacker Jarrad Davis to return from an ankle injury and play in Saturday's SEC Championship.

    Davis, one of the nation's top linebackers, has missed all of the last three games due to injury. Even with that time off, his 56 tackles are the second-most on the team.

    Davis paarticipated in some of the pregame warmups last week at Florida State but watched the game in street clothes. ...

  5. How to beat Alabama? List is short, not sweet


    ATLANTA — Jim McElwain hasn't sugarcoated the challenge his No. 15 Gators face in today's SEC championship.

    No. 1 Alabama might be Nick Saban's best team, even better than the national championship squad that beat Florida 29-15 last year. A Gators offense that totaled three touchdowns last month faces a defense that didn't allow a single play past its 10-yard line in November. Not even former UF star Tim Tebow is picking the Gators to win at the Georgia Dome....

    Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) during team practice at the Georgia Dome on Friday December 2, 2016, in Atlanta Georgia. Alabama will take on Florida in the SEC Championship on Saturday. Kickoff is 4pm.
  6. Florida State's Tarvarus McFadden named nation's top defensive back


    Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden has been named the Jack Tatum Award winner as the country's top defensive back.

    McFadden had eight interceptions - tied for the most in the nation and the most by any FSU player since Terrell Buckley (12 in 1991).

    The award will be presented by the Touchdown Club of Columbus in February. 

  7. State in a snap: Clemson at home in Florida


    Sunshine Tigers

    No. 3 Clemson is quite at home in Florida. The Tigers have 14 players from the state on their roster (including locals Artavis Scott, Jake Fruhmorgen, Ray Ray McCloud, Deon Cain and T.J. Chase). They also have done well on Florida's fields, winning their last five games heading into Saturday's ACC championship in Orlando against No. 19 Virginia Tech. Those five wins — at Florida State and Miami, two bowl games against Oklahoma and an Orange Bowl against Ohio State — came by a combined score of 212-92. ...

    Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White (14) throws a pass against Marshall during Western Kentucky's 60-6 win in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in Huntington, W.Va. (Austin Anthony/Daily News via AP) KYBOW111
  8. College football by the numbers: Week 14


    3,673 Career rushing yards by Georgia Southern RB Matt Breida (Nature Coast Tech), who will play his final college game Saturday against Troy. Only three Division I-A players in Georgia college history have more

    2 Punts by No. 20 Navy in November

    25 Rushing touchdowns by Navy QB Will Worth (Newsome High). That leads the country heading into Saturday's AAC title game against Temple...

    Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant (1) catches a touchdown pass against Tulane in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (Michael DeMocker/ The Times-Picayune via AP) LAORS102
  9. Nation in a snap: Big Ten and Bedlam


    Penn State push

    The improvement of QB Trace McSorley is one reason the No. 8 Nittany Lions find themselves in the Big Ten title game against No. 6 Wisconsin, with a potential path to the College Football Playoff:

    First four games

    74-of-117 passing (63.2 percent)

    8.1 yards per attempt

    5 TDs, 3 INTs

    32 rushing yards, 1 TD

    Team record: 2-2

    Last eight games...

    Washington linebacker Keishawn Bierria scores a touchdown on a 45-yard kickoff return against Arizona State in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Seattle. Washington beat Arizona State 44-18. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) WATW115
  10. Title town bound? Predicting the CFP teams, Week 14


    Each week Times staff writers Matt Baker and Joey Knight will handicap what the field might look like for the national championship game on Jan. 9. Don't like their picks? Give us yours.

    Joey Knight

    1. Alabama: Can't see anyone on the landscape keeping the Tide from rolling in to Tampa.

    2. Ohio State: Buckeyes won't play for Big Ten title, but no one will whine about them being here (except maybe Harbaugh)....

    In this Oct. 22, 2016, file photo, Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) sacks Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight during the first half of an NCAA college football game,in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Southeastern Conference's two stingiest defenses will take the field in the league championship game.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File) NY166
  11. Win or lose the SEC, count this a good year for Gators


    GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain has a reminder for frustrated fans.

    "I believe we're in the SEC championship (game) again for the second straight year," he said. "Maybe not the way people want it, but ultimately the idea is to figure out how to win a ball game and how to win the East (Division). Now the next step is how to win the whole SEC."

    The vocal fans hoping McElwain jets to Oregon want to skip straight to that last part, where orange and blue confetti rains in the Georgia Dome again....

    Florida Gators quarterback Austin Appleby (12) and  offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) pose for pictures with fans after the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday November 12, 2016 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. The Gators defeated the Gamecocks, 20-7. (Monica Herndon, Times)
  12. On the relationship between Jim McElwain and Nick Saban


    As the Florida Gators prepare to face No. 1 Alabama in Saturday's SEC title game, you might be wondering about the relationship between Jim McElwain and Nick Saban. 

    Saban hired McElwain at 'Bama. McElwain did well enough there to become a head coach at Colorado State, and now at UF. 

    I wrote a piece about their relationship last year, as McElwain was preparing to face Saban for the first time in the Georgia Dome. Here it is again, because what I wrote then is still relevant today:...

  13. Jim McElwain says he hasn't heard from the Oregon Ducks, and he isn't interested


    Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain said he has not heard from the Oregon Ducks, and he's not interested in joining them.

    "Look, I've got a heck of a job," McElwain said. "In case anybody checked, this is the University of Florida. We're playing in what they call the SEC championship game. It really hasn't crossed my mind." 

    McElwain said he suspects that the rumor emerged for recruiting reasons, and he spent a lot of time on the phone Tuesday night talking with prospects about it....

    Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain walks back to the locker room after the game between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field in Jacksonville on Oct. 29. Florida beat Georgia 24-10.
  14. Florida State's DeMarcus Walker named ACC defensive player of the year


    Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker has been named the ACC's defensive player of the year, as voted on by the media and announced Wednesday.

    Walker's 15 sacks are tied for the most in the country....

  15. What this weekend's title games mean to the College Football Playoff


    The penultimate round of the College Football Playoff selection committee's rankings gave us some insight into just how meaningful this weekend's conference title games will be.

    Here's a guide for the weekend, in chronological order, with an eye toward the Jan. 9 national championship at Raymond James Stadium:...

    In this Oct. 22, 2016, file photo, Penn State's Tyrell Chavis (56) celebrates with fans as they rush the field after Penn State upset Ohio State in an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa. No. 2 Ohio State and No. 8 Penn State are at the epicenter of the value of head-to-head victories, along with division and conference titles, this week. Voters, like the selection committee, are not swayed by the Nittany Lions 24-21 home victory over the Buckeyes in October. (AP Photo/Chris Knight, File)