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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. Which state school has the most specialty license plates in Tampa Bay?

    Blog

    Because I'm still interested in which state schools have the largest following, I wanted to find out which program has the most specialty license plates in the Tampa Bay area.

    The answer was surprisingly easy to find: Florida.

    Our four local counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando) had 36,722 specialty plates in January for either UF, Florida State, USF, Miami and UCF. Here's the breakdown, thanks to the state's really easy-to-use database:

    UF: 14,416 plates (39 percent)
    USF: 9,935 plates (27 percent)
    FSU: 9,718 plates (26 percent)
    Miami: 1,403 plates (4 percent)
    UCF: 1,250 plates (3 percent)...

  2. Florida Gators battling injury bug entering pivotal SEC basketball week

    Blog

    It's weird to say, given Florida's eight-game winning streak, but this pivotal week of men's basketball comes at an unfortunate time for the Gators.

    No. 15 UF enters Tuesday's home game against No. 21 South Carolina and Saturday's game at No. 13 Kentucky still reeling from the season-ending knee injury to center John Egbunu. The injury list also includes leading scorer Canyon Barry, who will be a game-time decision Tuesday with a rolled ankle....

    Leading scorer Canyon Barry will be a game-time decision Tuesday with a rolled ankle.
  3. Week 11 Heisman and record watches

    College

    Heisman Watch

    5. Texas RB D'Onta Foreman: Rushing for 591 yards and five touchdowns in the past two games warrants a spot in the top five.

    4. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson: Accounted for as many touchdowns last week (three) as he had incompletions. Will be banged-up when he faces Pitt this week.

    3. Washington QB Jake Browning: Six TD passes last week and has College GameDay in town Saturday for a showdown with much-improved USC. ...

    LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 05: D'Onta Foreman #33 of the Texas Longhorns breaks the tackle of Paul Banks III #28 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the game on November 5, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas defeated Texas Tech 45-37. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) 678468059
  4. Wondering about freshman quarterbacks under Jim McElwain? Meet Rob Compson

    Blog

    If history is the best indication of the future, then one of the most important characters for the Florida Gators' game Saturday against South Carolina involves a stiff quarterback you've never heard of from Montana State.

    Hang with me.

    UF coach Jim McElwain has no problem burning a quarterback's redshirt with three games left in the regular season. That means Kyle Trask or Feleipe Franks could start this week against the Gamecocks, with starter Luke Del Rio (shoulder) out....

  5. Del Rio has company on Gators' injury list

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Quarterback Luke Del Rio isn't the only injured starter that No. 22 Florida will be without Saturday against South Carolina.

    Linebacker Alex Anzalone will be sidelined after undergoing surgery to repair a broken arm, coach Jim McElwain said. UF's other top linebacker, Jarrad Davis, will likely be out, too, after apparently aggravating an ankle injury he sustained against Missouri on Oct, 15....

  6. Luke Del Rio injured; quarterback picture fuzzy at Florida

    College

    GAINESVILLE

    After watching Luke Del Rio struggle Saturday — and the two games before that — Florida coach Jim McElwain had a potentially tough decision to make at quarterback this week.

    Then the choice was made for him.

    Del Rio will be out for "a while" after injuring his right (throwing) shoulder during the second quarter of last week's 31-10 loss at Arkansas. An MRI will show how long Del Rio will be sidelined, but McElwain didn't sound optimistic. Del Rio had his shoulder iced after the game, and McElwain said the redshirt sophomore couldn't even lift his duffel bag. ...

    FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 5:  Luke Del Rio #14 of the Florida Gators complains to an official during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Gators 31-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) 678467971
  7. Florida State's Jesus Wilson has foot surgery, Derwin James' return still unclear

    Blog

    Florida State will continue to be without receiver Jesus Wilson, who had surgery to repair a foot injury, coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday.

    Wilson is the Seminoles' second-leading receiver in catches (30) and yards (390). Nyqwan Murray and Wharton High product Auden Tate and will continue to receive extra reps without Wilson.

    Wilson has missed the last two games with the injury.

    There's still no timetable for the return of star safety Derwin James (knee), but Fisher said he is "dying to go."...

    Jesus Wilson had surgery to repair a foot injury.
  8. Florida-LSU game gets 1 p.m. kickoff

    Blog

    The rescheduled game between the Florida Gators and LSU will have a 1 p.m. (Eastern) kickoff next week on the SEC Network, the conference announced Monday. 

    The game was originally scheduled to be played Oct. 8 in Gainesville but was moved to Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge because of Hurricane Matthew. UF said at the time that the game would kick off no later than 3:30 p.m.

     

  9. Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio out this week against South Carolina

    Blog

    GAINESVILLE - Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio will be out "a while" with an injured shoulder, coach Jim McElwain said Monday.

    McElwain said Del Rio hurt the shoulder in the second quarter of Saturday's 31-10 loss at Arkansas. UF didn't know the severity of the injury until after the game. Del Rio had his shoulder iced during his postgame interview.

    Del Rio has an MRI scheduled today, and UF does not yet know the extent of the injury or how long he will be out....

    Luke Del Rio injured a shoulder in the second quarter of Saturday's 31-10 loss at Arkansas.
  10. Will Muschamp has no animosity toward Florida Gators as he returns to The Swamp

    Blog

    South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp insists there are no hard feelings between him and the Florida Gators. He said that in the spring, and he said that Sunday night in a teleconference with reporters, as his Gamecocks prepare to come to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday....

  11. Florida Gators drop big, fall below FSU in latest AP poll

    Blog

    The Florida Gators dropped 12 spots to No. 22 in the latest AP poll, which was released Sunday.

    UF entered Saturday ranked No. 10 before suffering a 31-10 loss at Arkansas. UF hosts South Carolina this weekend at noon....

  12. What you may have missed from Florida-Arkansas

    College

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — As if No. 10 Florida's 31-10 loss to Arkansas wasn't painful enough, the aftermath could be just as harmful. The Gators left Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a handful of injuries. The details are among the things you might have missed Saturday:

    1. Injuries mounted. C Cam Dillard left the game in the first half and needed help hobbling off the field, directly to the locker room. The redshirt junior has started 19 games (all at center), and he was on crutches with a heavily wrapped left knee afterward. He will likely be out, coach Jim McElwain said. LB Alex Anzalone left the game with an apparent wrist injury, and KR/WR Chris Thompson went to the locker room after being leveled on a kickoff return. Both will probably be out. LB Jarrad Davis (ankle) might, too, along with WR Tyrie Cleveland, who was carted off the field with a leg injury. ...

    FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 5:  Antonio Callaway #81 of the Florida Gators kicks the ball out of bounds after fumbling a punt return in front of De'Jon Harris #8 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Gators 31-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) 678467971
  13. Anemic offense No. 10 Florida's undoing in 31-10 loss to Arkansas

    College

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Given all No. 10 Florida faced Saturday — a chance to pad its lead in the SEC East, a tough road environment, an opponent coming off a bye — coach Jim McElwain expected the trip to Arkansas to define his team.

    What he learned wasn't pretty or unexpected, when his Gators were finally undone by an anemic offense in a 31-10 loss that dented their championship dreams....

    Florida’s Luke Del Rio, pressured by Arkansas during the second half, takes the blame for having his first pass of the game deflected, intercepted and returned 24 yards for a touchdown.
  14. Arkansas-Florida matchup to watch: Keon Hatcher vs Florida Gators secondary

    Blog

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Greetings from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, where Arkansas hosts the No. 10 Florida Gators at 3:30.

    One final thought as kickoff nears: The big key today will be how UF handles Arkansas' passing attack. Austin Allen is the best quarterback the Gators have faced all season, and he'll be the best they face until the regular-season finale at Florida State.

    One matchup I'm especially interested in is how Razorbacks receiver Keon Hatcher handles a UF secondary that might be as talented as any in the country. I covered Hatcher at Owasso High, just north of Tulsa, Okla. He had a message written on the bottom of his pads, which stuck out from underneath his jersey: CUL8R....

  15. Big Ten football: How Florida talent is fueling conference's rise

    College

    Bret Bielema came up with a radical idea when he was a young assistant at Iowa: He wanted to start recruiting Florida.

    It took a comparative statistical analysis for Bielema to convince coach Hayden Fry that Florida's prospects were worth the 1,400-mile trip.

    "Coming from a small town in Illinois, I'll never forget the first week of recruiting down there," Bielema said.

    Bielema, now in his fourth season as coach at Arkansas, clearly hasn't. The Razorbacks have 10 Floridians on the roster for today's game against the No. 10 Gators....

    Offensive lineman Mason Cole (East Lake High) has started every game since joining Michigan in 2014. [DIRK SHADD | Times]