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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. College football playoff rankings: FSU football back in top 10, Florida Gators fall below Ole Miss


    Florida State's 25-point win over rival Florida sent the Seminoles up in the college football playoff committee's rankings.

    The Seminoles jumped four spots to No. 9 in the latest committee rankings, which were released Tuesday evening. That puts FSU as a likely participants in one of the New Year's Six bowl games.

    The Gators fell six spots to No. 18. UF came in five spots behind Ole Miss. That's noteworthy because the highest ranked SEC team (that doesn't make the playoff) will go to the Sugar Bowl. The committee's rankings suggest that the Rebels will head to that bowl, likely sending UF to the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando....

  2. SEC's heavyweights: Ranking Bama vs. Florida title games


    GAINESVILLE — After five years of upheaval, order has been restored in the SEC. Florida and Alabama are facing each other in the conference championship game, again, for the eighth time in the event's 24 years.

    No team from the East division has more title game appearances (11) or victories (seven) than UF. No team from the West has more berths (10) or wins (five) than Bama.

    "It's the way it should be," Gators coach Jim McElwain said. "It's Florida and Alabama, in Atlanta, for the SEC championship."...

    Steve Spurrier talks to Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel during the first half against Alabama in the 1996 SEC title game. (Times file)
  3. Jimbo Fisher: 'I'm staying right here at Florida State'


    Jimbo Fisher is staying at Florida State.

    The Seminoles' head coach ended any speculation (again) Tuesday during an interview on the Open Mike radio show in Orlando.

    "You're exactly right," Fisher said in the interview. "I'm staying right here at Florida State......

    Jimbo Fisher, right, greets Jim McElwain following Florida State's victory over Florida.
  4. Was Scott Frost the right hire at UCF?


    Cross UCF off the list of head coaching searches.

    The Knights announced Tuesday that they hired Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost as their next head football coach.

    I spoke with Frost a little bit at the Rose Bowl last season as his Ducks prepared to face Florida State. He seemed like a sharp guy, and Oregon's offensive success speaks for itself....

    UCF announced Tuesday that it has hired Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost as its next head football coach.
  5. McElwain pleased with first season at Florida



    Five days before the biggest game of his head coaching career, Florida coach Jim McElwain wanted to reflect on what happened 366 days before.

    That's when the Gators first contacted McElwain, then the coach at Colorado State, about coming to Gainesville. McElwain said he had to pinch himself to make sure the interest was real.

    "I just can't tell you how happy I am that the administration chose to go our direction and to trust us to help this program get back to where it belongs," McElwain said. "I'll tell you what: we're going to get there. And we're getting there in a hurry. It's still going to take time. …"...

    Coach Jim McElwain, hugging defensive back Brian Poole, says the Gators still have plenty more to accomplish.
  6. Take a spin on college football's annual coaching carousel


    As you read this, another Division I-A football coach likely has been canned. Or has moved on to a more prominent gig. Or had his contract re-upped. Welcome to the silly season, when pink slips are issued at a preposterous clip. Five coaches have been let go in the past few days, joining six others dismissed during the season and one (Illinois' Tim Beckman) fired in the preseason. Toss in the guys who saw the writing on the wall and bolted (South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, UCF's George O'Leary, Virginia's Mike London), and you have a profession in upheaval....

    LSU coach Les Miles appeared to be on his way out despite going 111-32 in 11 years and winning a national championship. Then, suddenly, he wasn’t.
  7. FSU loss points to Gators' flaws on way to SEC title game (w/video)


    GAINESVILLE — After spending most of the season learning how to deal with success, No. 18 Florida has one week to figure out how to bounce back from failure — a bitter 27-2 home loss to rival Florida State and one of its ugliest performances in years.

    "I think it'll be interesting in the building of this program, this organization, in how we handle disappointment like this," Gators coach Jim McElwain said....

    Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris (3) sits on the field after getting tackled by Florida State Seminoles defensive end Josh Sweat (9) during the first quarter of the football game between the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, November 28, 2015. EVE EDELHEIT   I   Times
  8. FSU football jumps back into top 10, Florida Gators tumble


    Florida State is back in the top 10 after Saturday night's 27-2 win over rival Florida.

    The Seminoles jumped four spots in the AP poll to No. 10. The Gators dropped eight spots, to No. 18, while USF was among the other schools that received votes.

    In the coaches' poll, FSU rose five spots to No. 9. UF fell six spots to 15th....

    Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith (24) celebrates after sacking Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris.
  9. Florida State rolls past Florida at Swamp


    GAINESVILLE — After Florida State's national and ACC championship hopes ended Nov. 7 in a loss to Clemson, coach Jimbo Fisher reminded his team that the Seminoles' previous dynasty wasn't built on national championships.

    It was built on consistent success, even after heartbreaking losses and collapses. It was built on double-digit victories during transition years.

    It was built on seasons like the one No. 14 FSU capped Saturday night with a 27-2 win over No. 10 Florida. FSU beat UF for the third time in a row on the road — a first in school history — and secured a fourth consecutive 10-win season during a year of reconstruction....

    Florida State Seminoles tight end Jeremy Kerr (85) comes down with a touchdown reception in the second quarter of a football game between the Florida State Seminoles and Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015.
  10. Florida State at Florida: 5 things you might have missed


    GAINESVILLE — Some of the most notable stories from Saturday night's rivalry game between No. 10 Florida and No. 14 Florida State started showing up before kickoff. Here are a few things you might have missed:

    1. The Gators were without one of their top offensive weapons, but were aided by a bolstered defensive line. UF announced before the game that WR Demarcus Robinson was suspended for a violation of team rules. The 6-foot-1 junior entered Saturday as the Gators' leader in receptions (47) and yards (505) and has also caught two touchdown passes and earned eight starts. It was unclear whether he will be available in next week's SEC championship game against Alabama. Junior Chris Thompson started in Robinson's place. UF was also without Cam Dillard (leg), who had started every game at center. Trip Thurman took his place. The Gators did, however, get some reinforcements on defense. DL Joey Ivie (Pasco High) returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous three games with injuries and recorded UF's first tackle. DT Jon Bullard also started with his knee in a brace, though coach Jim McElwain called him "probably out" earlier last week....

  11. Florida Gators suspend WR Demarcus Robinson against Florida State


    GAINESVILLE - Florida will take on Florida State's loaded defense without one of its top offensive playmakers.

    The Gators announced that WR Demarcus Robinson won't play because he "made a choice." That's what coach Jim McElwain says when any player violates team rules and earns a suspension. It's unclear whether Robinson will play in next week's SEC championship game.

    Regardless, his absence is a loss for UF. Robinson, a 6-foot-1 junior, leads UF in receptions (47) and yards (505). He has started eight games this season and has also caught two touchdown passes....

  12. Video: Breaking down Florida-Florida State


    Spoiler alert: Today's Florida-Florida State  game might not be pretty. With two great defenses, it might be downright ugly.

    Fortnuately, Joey Knight and I are at least nice to look at. We break down the Gators-Seminoles matchup in our latest Spanning the State preview video. 

  13. 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....

    Jake McGee and Florida (10-1) still have national title hopes.
  14. 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
  15. 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.