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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. WATCH: Stetson University's crazy, walk-off kick-six overtime finish


    The craziest college football finish of the weekend involved one of Florida's teams and a game-winning play that will be hard to top.

    Stetson University was on the road and tied with Campbell University in overtime when Campbell lined up for a field goal. Check out what happened next.


  2. Florida State football: No update on star Derwin James for Clemson game


    Florida State star safety Derwin James is continuing to progress from a left knee injury, but there is still no timetable for his return.

    Coach Jimbo Fisher said James' torn meniscus can't be evaluated with an MRI, so it's hard to gauge his status. During his weekly Monday news conference, Fisher didn't sound optimistic that James would return for Saturday's big, primetime game against No. 3 Clemson....

  3. Jim McElwain: Georgia's Jacob Eason is the 'future of the SEC'


    The Florida Gators tried to poach five-star quarterback Jacob Eason at the end of the last recruiting cycle, so it's no surprise that they're very high on the Georgia starter.

    "He's the future of the SEC," UF coach Jim McElwain said Monday during his weekly news conference. "He's that good."

    Eason is seventh in the league in passing yards (1,366) with nine touchdowns and five interceptions as a true freshman. ...

  4. Jeff Tedford, Doug Nussmeier potential coaching candidates at Fresno State


    Another college football coaching carousel move could lead to some local action.

    Fresno State fired Tim DeRuyter on Sunday after a 1-7 start to this year and a 4-16 rut.

    The top name to replace him seems to be former Bucs assistant Jeff Tedford. I use the term "former Bucs assistant" loosely. Tedford was hired to be Lovie Smith's offensive coordinator before the 2014 season but had health problems and never got to call plays for the team. His departure opened the way for the Bucs to hire Dirk Koetter as their offensive coordinator the next season....

  5. Florida Gators' bye week included recruiting time in Tampa


    The Florida Gators' bye week is over, but before we dive into Georgia week, let's look back at one of the most important bye-week duties: recruiting.

    UF missed a key recruiting opportunity when its Oct. 8 home game against LSU was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew (and eventually moved to Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge).

    The Gators' recruiting stops included some time in the Tampa Bay area. Coach Jim McElwain stopped by Hillsborough High (home of four-star defensive end and UF commit Zachary Carter)....

  6. FSU's Josh Sweat having 5-star impact after recovering from knee surgery


    TALLAHASSEE — For two agonizing hours two years ago, the nation's top recruit couldn't think about football.

    Not a future that seemed destined for the NFL. Not the 60 scholarship offers he was weighing. Not prime-time stages, like Saturday's top-15 matchup between Florida State and Clemson.

    As doctors ran test after test and the seconds seemed to stretch endlessly in that Virginia hospital bed, Josh Sweat lay awake consumed by the only thing on his mind. ...

     Florida State Seminoles defensive end Josh Sweat (9) watches the Camping World Kickoff against the Mississippi Rebels on Monday September 5, 2016 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Final Score FSU 45, Ole Miss 34.
  7. UF, FSU, UM look ahead to brand-name matchups


    Saturday was a quiet day for college football in Florida. The Gators and Seminoles were off, and Miami played Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

    That just sets the stage for next weekend: three nationally televised matchups for those teams against brand-name programs.

    No. 13 Florida State hosts No. 4 Clemson in what has recently become the biggest ACC game of the year. The winner of this game has won the past five ACC championships. FSU has lost at home to Clemson only once since joining the ACC in 1991. ...

  8. Jim McElwain and the Texas Longhorns? USA Today raises the possibility


    USA Today's Dan Wolken has an interesting thought on this season's college football coaching carousel (in the second item here). ...

  9. Miami Hurricanes in a post-Florida State letdown (again)


    In a span of three weeks, the Miami Hurricanes have fallen from No. 10 in the country to 4-3 and likely out of the ACC Coastal Division race. That's what three consecutive losses will do to you. It's also what happens after the ‘Canes play Florida State.

    I touched on it last week in the Baker's Dozen, but let's look deeper:...

  10. Florida Gators' Dontay Bassett out 4-6 months with foot surgery


    Florida Gators power forward and Oldsmar Christian product Dontay Bassett will need surgery to fix a stress fracture in his right foot.

    Bassett will likely need 4-6 months to recover and will redshirt this season.

    The 6-foot-9, 222-pound freshman was a three-star recruit and is originally from California.

  11. Nation in a snap: Locals, by the numbers


    Harbaugh vs. Lovie

    Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines probably won't get a big test when Michigan hosts Illinois. It could be similar to the last time Harbaugh faced off against Lovie Smith, the former Bucs coach. Harbaugh's 49ers allowed only 143 yards against Smith's Bears in San Francisco's 32-7 win in 2012.


    "Global warming is good for Michigan. It's good for recruiting." — Harbaugh on his radio show. Michigan, for what it's worth, has the nation's No. 11 recruiting class in 247Sports' composite rankings. ...

    Wide receiver Ryan Davis #83 of the Auburn Tigers catches a pass for a touchdown against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half of an NCAA college football game on October 8, 2016 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
  12. State in a snap: Civil ConFLiCT


    Civil ConFLiCT

    If a manufactured rivalry (a term used loosely here) between UConn and UCF actually heats up Saturday, that could be bad news for the Knights. UCF is already one of the most penalized teams in the country; its 8.5 per game rank No. 119 nationally. But only Navy and Georgia Tech have committed fewer penalties than the Huskies.

    Tom Allen effect

    Former USF assistant Tom Allen has helped revitalize Indiana's defense heading into Saturday's game at Northwestern. In his first year as defensive coordinator, the Hoosiers are allowing six fewer points and 120 fewer passing yards per game than this point last year. Third-down conversions and explosive plays are down, too. ...

    Navy quarterback Will Worth, right, gets a hug from a midshipmen after an NCAA football game against Houston, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Annapolis, Md. Navy won 46-40. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
  13. Big 12 fallout: Status of current, former teams


    With Big 12 expansion finally over (for now), here's how the league's former members and recent acquisitions stack up this season:

    1. Texas A&M: The state's top team since joining the SEC, with a Heisman Trophy and a current 6-0 record.

    2. West Virginia: The Mountaineers are the Big 12 favorites — and maybe the only team in the league that can play defense. ...

    In this Oct. 1, 2016, file photo, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen  waits to take the field before an NCAA college football game against Kansas State, in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia has this week off before playing at Texas Tech on Oct. 15.  (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson, File) NY193
  14. Maybe it's time to revise year of the running back


    Analysts expected this season to be one of the best ever for running backs. So far, four of the biggest names have been disappointments.

    Leonard Fournette (LSU)

    Last year: 1,953 yards and 22 TDs

    This year: 386 yards and two scores but should be back Saturday from an ankle injury

    Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)

    Last year: Heisman runnerup with an NCAA-record 3,864 all-purpose yards ...

    Stanford 's Christian McCaffrey (5) is stopped by a group of Washington State defenders during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) PAL111
  15. Week 8 Heisman and record watches


    Heisman watch

    5. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson: It's telling that his 20 touchdown passes somehow seems like a disappointment.

    4. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: Accounted for three touchdowns last week in prime time and has another big stage at Penn State.

    3. Michigan LB/DB Jabrill Peppers: Wonder what former Bucs coach Lovie Smith will think while watching Peppers dominate his Illini. ...

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson, right, passes the ball under pressure from Syracuse's Kayton Samuels, left, in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Syracuse, N.Y., Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi) NYNL108