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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

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  1. State in a snap: Shula Bowl, Richt back to Georgia and more

    College

    Shula Bowl

    Thanks to LB Azeez Al-Shaair (Hillsborough High) and DE Haiden Nagel (Sickles High), Florida Atlantic's defense should be the best unit on the field against Florida International on Saturday. The Panthers will need something beyond RB Alex Gardner (two 100-yard games) to win for the fifth time in 15 meetings against FAU. The game will also have a Plant City reunion between DE John Broome (FIU) and LB Cory Cotnoir (FAU). ...

    FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2016, file photo, Miami head coach Mark Richt, right, talks with quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Appalachian State in Boone, N.C. Richt was 8-0 when his Georgia teams visited Georgia Tech, and No. 14 Miami hopes to keep his record as a head coach there unbeaten on Saturday.  (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File) NY161
  2. 'GameDay' breakdown: No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 5 Clemson

    College

    While both No. 3 Louisville and No. 5 Clemson have deep rosters and strong defenses, the pivotal ACC Atlantic showdown should be a duel between two of the nation's top quarterbacks:

    Louisville sophomore Lamar Jackson

    6-3, 205 pounds

    Passing: 74-126; 1,330 yards; 13 TDs; 3 INTs; 176.7 rating

    Rushing: 61 attempts; 526 yards; 12 TDs

    Clemson junior Deshaun Watson...

    FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2016, file photo, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) breaks into the open field as offensive lineman Jay Guillermo (57) blocks Georgia Tech defensive lineman Kyle Cerge-Henderson (54) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Atlanta. Another Atlantic Division showdown, this time between No. 3 Louisville and No. 5 Clemson, plus a matchup of Wake Forest???‚??„?s defense and NC State???‚??„?s efficient offense and Syracuse???‚??„?s chance to upset Notre Dame headline Week 5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) NY150
  3. Interim coaches offer no quick fixes

    College

    LSU (Ed Orgeron) and Florida International (former USF assistant Ron Cooper) will lead their teams as interim coaches after the schools fired Les Miles and Ron Turner, respectively. Interim coaches' records last year suggest expectations shouldn't be too high, beginning Saturday against Missouri and Florida Atlantic:

    Miami: 4-3 before firing Al Golden, 4-2 after

    Maryland: 2-4 before firing Randy Edsall, 1-5 after...

    MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Ron Turner of the Florida International Golden Panthers walks along the sideline during second quarter action against the Central Florida Knights on September 24, 2016 at FIU Stadium in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) 660904379
  4. Sleepy starts not new phenomena for Florida

    College

    Coach Jim McElwain said No. 23 Florida better get used to playing noon games after the loss at Tennessee. Early kickoffs have not been kind recently to Gators, heading into Saturday's game at Vanderbilt:

    2014 at Tennessee: Needed late field goal for 10-9 comeback win

    2014 vs. South Carolina: 23-20 overtime loss got Will Muschamp fired

    2014 vs. East Carolina: Late interception in the end zone sealed 28-20 win in Birmingham Bowl...

    Vanderbilt University running back Ralph Webb (7) is tackled by multiple Western Kentucky University players in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr.) KYMN105
  5. College football viewing guide: East lunch, then settle in for the long haul

    College

    Lamest time window: 12-3:30. Good but not great games, so you might want to enjoy some time outside instead.

    Noon: No. 22 Texas-Oklahoma State will have a ton of points, but we'll see if No. 14 Miami is legit when it plays at Georgia Tech.

    3:30: Take your pick between No. 8 Wisconsin at No. 4 Michigan or No. 11 Tennessee at No. 25 Georgia. We'll find out if the Badgers and Vols fall back to earth....

    Michigan tight end Devin Asiasi (2) celebrates his touchdown reception with offensive lineman Mason Cole (52) in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Ding) MITD103
  6. Week 5 Heisman and record watches

    College

    Heisman watch

    5. Washington QB Jake Browning: Enters tonight's huge game against Stanford ranked in the top five nationally in passer rating and touchdowns.

    4. Michigan LB/DB Jabrill Peppers: Last week's five tackles aren't gaudy, but a 53-yard punt return showed off his versatility.

    3. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: Should slice through Rutgers this week to pad a 184.38 passer rating that ranks fifth nationally....

    Jake Fruhmorgen poses for a portrait during football practice at Plant High School in Tampa on Thursday, May 8, 2014.
  7. Title town bound? Predicting the CFP teams, Week 5

    College

    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.

    Matt Baker

    1. Alabama. Got a feeling the Crimson Tide will be in my final four next week, too, with lowly Kentucky up this week.

    2. Louisville. If the Cardinals top Clemson this week, they'll leapfrog the Tide for No. 1....

  8. ACC football championship game officially coming to Orlando

    Blog

    The worst kept secret in college football is officially official.

    The ACC title game is moving from Charlotte to Orlando, the league announced Wednesday morning.

    The game will be on Saturday, Dec. 3 at either 7:45 or 8 p.m., on ESPN or ABC at Camping World Stadium - the same stadium where Florida State opened its season. FSU remains in the mix to challenge for another trip to Orlando, while Miami looks like the frontrunner in the Coastal Division....

    Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, is congratulated by head coach Dabo Swinney after the Tigers defeated North Carolina in last season's Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
  9. Video: Previewing FSU-UNC, USF-Cincinnati, Florida-Vanderbilt and more

    Blog

    We have the greatest college football video previews. Everyone agrees that our videos are the greatest -- just the greatest. Even with the input of Joey Knight, who continues to struggle with his predictions. Sad!

    You can see where this is going...so check out our weekly Spanning the State video. Joey and I preview two key ACC showdowns (Florida State-UNC, Miami-Georgia Tech), talk about USF's conference opener and whether Florida can bounce back against Vanderbilt, despite an early kickoff. ...

    Matt Baker, left, and Joey Knight, right, debate this weekend's college football games.
  10. Florida Gators sort through the lessons of Knoxville

    College

    GAINESVILLE — The sting of Florida's collapse last week at Tennessee was obvious immediately. Coach Jim McElwain said the pain he saw in his team afterward was stronger than what he observed during last season's four losses.

    The disappointment of ending an 11-game winning streak against the Volunteers carried into this week.

    "I think the big thing moving forward is, what can we learn from it? And how long are we going to let it affect us?" McElwain said....

    Florida coach Jim McElwain pointed out that true freshman Lamical Perine tried to force a big play by returning a kickoff five yards deep into the end zone instead of taking a touchback. [Getty Images]
  11. Jimbo Fisher says he plans to be at FSU a long time

    College

    Audibles

    "I love this university. I plan on being here for a long time. I love Florida State. That's all I'm saying."

    FSU coach Jimbo Fisher on speculation that he could replace the recently fired Les Miles at LSU, where Fisher was an assistant

    "This week we play I would say the most talented overall team in our conference with athletes. It's typical from a Florida school."...

    Florida State Seminoles defensive end Josh Sweat (9) during Florida State Seminoles football practice at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016.
  12. Florida Gators' Luke Del Rio could practice today, Brandon Powell not suspended

    Blog

    Two quick Florida Gators updates from coach Jim McElwain's portion of the SEC teleconference:

    1. UF held quarterback Luke Del Rio out of practice again yesterday as he recovers from a left knee injury. McElwain said Monday that Del Rio would likely return to practice Tuesday, but obviously that didn't happen. Del Rio should be a limited participant today, McElwain said, throwing some routes on air and participating in one or two periods of team drills. Austin Appleby is still expected to start Saturday against Vanderbilt....

  13. Jimbo Fisher: I plan on being at FSU for a long time

    Blog

    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't say much about LSU rumors during Monday's news conference. He came out much stronger Wednesday when he was asked about speculation that he could replace the recently fired Les Miles.

    "I love this university," Fisher said on the ACC coaches' teleconference. "I plan on being here for a long time. I love Florida State. That's all I'm saying." 

    Fisher's self-imposed policy is to decline to talk about other jobs. A few other coaches have been asked about the LSU opening this week and made similar strong denials, including Louisville's Bobby Petrino and Stanford's David Shaw. ...

    "I plan on being here for a long time,'' Jimbo Fisher said. "I love Florida State. That's all I'm saying."
  14. Jimbo Fisher, Willie Taggart among betting favorites for LSU job

    Blog

    I'm not expecting any news on the LSU coaching search anytime soon...which only means there will be more speculation about who will replace Les Miles.

    Like this bit of information from Bovada.

    The online sports betting site posted odds for the next LSU coach, and you'll see some familiar names. I'm posting this for entertainment purposes only - if you want to actually bet on college football coaching searches, you might have a problem....

    Bovada set the odds of Willie Taggart getting the LSU job at 6-to-1.
  15. Florida hires Scott Stricklin as athletic director

    College

    GAINESVILLE — As Florida searched for its next athletic director, other candidates may have been turned off by the giant shadow cast by the soon-to-be-retired Jeremy Foley.

    Not Scott Stricklin.

    "Going through this process, the thing that kind of just kept pushing me forward was, this is the University of Florida," Stricklin said Tuesday after being introduced as the Gators' new AD. "There's not very many opportunities in my profession to have the platform we have here, to have the voice on a national level we have here in the SEC and just be a part of a great challenge: How do you take something that's really good and try to keep it moving forward?"...

    Scott Stricklin oversaw $140 million in facilities upgrades in six years as athletic director at his alma mater.