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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

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Florida Gators jump to No. 11 in AP poll, FSU drops to 12th


    Florida's 38-10 win over Ole Miss bumped the Gators up 14 spots in the AP Top 25 — and leapfrogged them over the still unbeaten Seminoles.

    UF (5-0, 3-0 SEC) is No. 11 in the latest AP poll, released Sunday. The Seminoles (4-0, 2-0) fell one spot, to 12th, after holding on for 24-16 win at Wake Forest....

    Florida Gators wide receiver Brandon Powell completes a 77-yard reception for a touchdown against Ole Miss.
  2. No. 25 Florida rolls past No 3 Ole Miss


    GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain spent all week talking up No. 3 Ole Miss and what a tough challenge the conference's top team would pose for his rebuilding Gators.

    What McElwain and the rest of the SEC learned Saturday night was that UF's dormant days seem over.

    In the first top-25 showdown at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since October 2012, No. 25 UF dominated early and rolled late to a 38-10 victory....

    Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain regroups with players during a timeout in the fourth quarter of a game between the Florida Gators and Ole Miss Rebels at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
  3. Florida vs. Ole Miss: Five things you might have missed


    GAINESVILLE — While the first top-25 showdown at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in three years had much on the line, it also featured several side stories that made an impact on the final score — and could become important later in the season. Here are five things you might have missed:

    1. Tight end Jake McGee finally broke through. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound graduate transfer had 71 catches in three seasons at Virginia before transferring to Florida, where he added a big, pass-catching target. But he broke his leg in last year's season opener and was sidelined for the rest of 2014. He had 10 catches over UF's first four games but had his biggest Saturday, when he leapt for a 2-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. It was McGee's first touchdown since he scored at Maryland on Oct. 12, 2013, in his final season at Virginia....

    Florida Gators tight end Jake McGee (83) catches a touchdown to lengthen the lead to 13-0 in the first quarter of a game between the Florida Gators and Ole Miss Rebels at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
  4. Will Grier announced as Florida Gators' starting quarterback


    GAINESVILLE - It doesn't appear as if the flu will keep Will Grier out of tonight's game against No. 3 Ole Miss.

    Florida announced Grier as the starting quarterback tonight. The redshirt freshman was reportedly one of more than 20 players who battled the flu this week. The illness was so widespread that the team put bottles of hand sanitizer in the locker room to prevent it from spreading....

  5. Baker's Dozen: Matt Baker previews college football weekend (w/video)


    Strike the pose, September style

    The nonstop hype of college football can be summed up in two words: "September Heisman," the mythical award for the clear frontrunner as the country's best player through the first month of the season. Previous honorees include Michigan's Denard Robinson, West Virginia's Geno Smith and Missouri's Chase Daniel — none of whom won the real award in December....

    Getty Images
  6. 2013 recruiting class powers Ole Miss rise (w/video)


    GAINESVILLE — Florida defensive back Vernon Har­greaves and Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell both remember the last time they faced each other — at Tropicana Field during the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game.

    "He made a couple plays on me," Treadwell said. "I made a couple plays on him."

    As the two stars prepare to battle again, the most important part of their meeting in St. Petersburg isn't Treadwell's game-high six receptions or the would-be catch Hargreaves dislodged in the end zone. It's the fact that Mississippi had future players competing in the loaded high school all-star game at all....

    In this Sept. 26, 2015 file photo, Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (1) is tackled by Vanderbilt cornerback Torren McGaster (5) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss.  The premier matchup in Saturday, Oct. 3 game  between No. 3 Mississippi and No. 25 Florida match up Treadwell against Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) NY158
  7. Throwback Thursday: Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top recruit


    In honor of Throwback Thursday, here's a timely #TBT.

    No. 3 Ole Miss heads to Gainesville to play No. 25 Florida on Saturday. The Rebels are led by Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 overall recruit from the class of 2013.

    Nkemdiche played in the Under Armour All-America Game that year at the Trop. Here's a story I wrote on his interesting cultural background heading into that game....

    Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche rests during practice before the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game.
  8. Video: Tim Tebow-inspired promise, plus our college football preview


    The last time Florida played Ole Miss, the Gators lost 31-30. That defeat inspired Tim Tebow's famed promise speech, which sparked UF's national championship run.

    With the Rebels and UF meeting again this week, Times staff writer Joey Knight makes his own emotional promise in this week's Spanning the State video...after breakdowns of the Rebels and Gators, Miami-Cincinnati, Florida State-Wake Forest and USF-Memphis. ...

    Times staff writers Matt Baker, left, and Joey Knight, right.
  9. Gators to start Grier against Mississippi


    Redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier will make his fourth consecutive start for Florida against No. 3 Ole Miss on Saturday, coach Jim McElwain told reporters Wednesday evening.

    Sophomore Treon Harris will be available as a change-of-pace option after serving a one-game suspension last week for violating team rules.

    Grier has completed 62 of 99 pass attempts for 725 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. He led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to earn a 28-27 win over Tennessee....

  10. Will Grier gets fourth consecutive start for Florida Gators


    Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier will start Saturday for the fourth consecutive game, Gators coach Jim McElwain told reporters Wednesday evening.

    Sophomore Treon Harris will also be available as a change-of-pace option against No. 3 Ole Miss. He started the season opener but didn't play against Kentucky and was suspended last week against Tennessee for violating team rules....

  11. Increased targeting calls pose new wrinkles for college teams


    The lingering effects of the NCAA's hot-button targeting rule will be on display tonight when Miami plays at Cincinnati. • UM safeties Deon Bush and Jamal Carter will miss the first half after they were ejected for separate targeting penalties against Nebraska. Cincinnati will be without quarterback Gunner Kiel, who was hospitalized last week after taking a hit to the head/neck on a play that ended with a penalty being reversed. • The different outcomes and lasting consequences show the challenges for players, coaches and referees on an issue that has become one of the season's early talking points. • "They want to make sure they get it right," said Dennis Hennigan, the ACC's coordinator of football officiating. "The penalty is severe for someone who commits a targeting foul. On the other hand, you don't want to miss one."...

    Wyoming cornerback Robert Priester, who graduated from Robinson High, was ejected for targeting after this hit on Washington State’s River Cracraft on Sept. 19.
  12. Orlando bar's solution to UCF football woes? Free beer


    At some point during UCF's 31-14 loss to South Carolina last week, Brandon Geers looked around the dive bar he co-owns in Orlando and counted about 30 people - down from the 200 fans who used to frequent The Basement during Knights games.

    "It was kind of just depressing..." said Geers, 29. "It was very real that the Blake Bortles days are over, and we've got to do something to spark these Knight fans up again."...

    UCF head coach George O'Leary watches his winless team warm up before last weekend's 31-14 loss to South Carolina.
  13. Warrick Dunn, Clinton Portis to be honored as ACC legends


    Two of the state's former star running backs will be honored as ACC legends at the conference's championship game, the league announced Tuesday.

    Florida State great Warrick Dunn and Miami standout Clinton Portis are the teams' honorees.

    Dunn helped the Seminoles win the 1993 national championship and became the program's first two-time 1,000-yard rusher. He later starred for the Bucs and was named to three Pro Bowls....

  14. 2016 NFL draft: Jalen Ramsey, Vernon Hargreaves III among ESPN's top 10 prospects


    With the 2016 NFL draft a mere seven months away, why not start the hype for who will be next year's top picks?

    Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey is No. 5 on ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board. The state's other star defensive back, Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III (Wharton High) is No. 8.

    Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche is No. 1 overall, and another Rebel, OT Laremy Tunsil, is fourth. Ohio State DE Joey Bosa is second, and Kiper's top quarterback is Cal's Jared Goff (No. 3 overall)....

  15. Fred Taylor to be honored as SEC football legend


    Former Gators star RB Fred Taylor will be honored as one of the SEC's football legends at the conference championship game in December, the league announced Tuesday.

    Taylor starred at UF from 1994-97 before becoming a Pro Bowler with the Jaguars. As a senior, he rushed for 1,292 yards - fourth-most in Gators history - and 13 touchdowns. Taylor ranks third in UF history with 80.9 yards per game and is fifth all time with 31 rushing touchdowns....