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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. Florida, FSU try to ignore death threats, angry fans

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Frustration over uncharacteristically down seasons at Florida and Florida State has started to spill over from message boards and start crossing real-world lines.

    Gators coach Jim McElwain said there have been death threats directed toward his program after UF's 3-3 start.

    "The hard part is obviously when the threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that's brought upon out there," McElwain said Monday. "And yet I think it's really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what's going on out there nationally. A lot of angry people. In in this business we're the ones they take the shots at, and that's the way it is."...

    Fans watch the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.
  2. Jim McElwain: Florida Gators have received death threats after 3-3 start

    Blog

    GAINESVILLE - The Florida Gators' 3-3 start is causing some fans to become irrational - even by college football standards.

    UF coach Jim McElwain said there have been death threats made against people related to his program.

    "There's a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger and yet it's freedom to show it," McElwain said Monday during his weekly news conference. "The hard part is obviously when the threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that's brought upon out there, and yet I think it's really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what's going on out there nationally. A lot of angry people. In in this business we're the ones they take the shots at, and that's the way it is."...

    UF coach Jim McElwain said there have been death threats made against people related to his program.
  3. AP Top 25: USF stays ahead of UCF, but just barely

    Blog

    USF remains ahead of UCF in the latest AP Top 25 poll - but just barely.

    The Bulls dropped one spot to No. 17 in the latest rankings, released Sunday. USF improved to 7-0 after beating Tulane on the road Saturday. UCF rose two spots to No. 18 after a 31-21 win over Navy.

    Miami remains at No. 8, between Clemson and Notre Dame....

    Quinton Flowers and USF dropped one spot to No. 17 in the latest rankings.
  4. My AP Top 25 ballot: UCF moves into the top 15, Michigan falls out

    Blog

    No major changes in my latest AP Top 25 ballot.

    Last week, I struggled with 5-9. This week, it was 5-10 (Hi, Notre Dame!). You could justify ranking Miami, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Wisconsin and the Irish in almost any order, and I wouldn't argue much. I decided not to change 5-9 from last week, because Clemson and the Buckeyes were both off, and I don't think I learned enough from the solid wins Miami, OU and Wisconsin put together to warrant a change....

  5. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-Louisville

    College

    1. One of the many hard-to-believe stats about FSU's underperforming defense: DE Brian Burns led all freshmen nationally with 9 ½ sacks last year; his first one this season came midway through the second quarter Saturday.

    2. If any NFL teams have doubts about whether Louisville's Lamar Jackson can be a great quarterback at the next level, they should rewatch his 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Dawkins. FSU DB Kyle Meyers had great coverage, but Jackson threw it perfectly where only Dawkins could get it. ...

    TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 21: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs the ball into the endzone for a touchdown during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) 775042617
  6. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    The Seminoles (2-4, 2-3 ACC) had driven 48 yards in the final five minutes with the score tied at 28. Quarterback James Blackman's 21-yard rush had FSU in field goal range, with a chance to avenge last year's humiliation to the Cardinals (5-3, 2-3). ...

    Louisville's Seth Dawkins pulls in a pass for a touchdown as Florida State's Kyle Meyers defends in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC104
  7. College football game-day guide, Week 8

    College

    Derwin vs. Lamar

    Louisville QB Lamar Jackson ran wild (362 total yards, five touchdowns) over FSU last season, but the Seminoles were without do-it-all S Derwin James. James should be the antidote for a dual-threat talent like Jackson, and now he's healthy and, presumably, motivated from the 63-20 game he had to watch last year. "(James) might put a little bit of fear in Lamar Jackson's heart just seeing him back there," FSU DB Levonta Taylor told 247Sports this week....

    Florida State Seminoles defensive back Derwin James (3) breaks up the pass intended for Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Ahmmon Richards (82) in the third quarter of the game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. The Miami Hurricanes beat the Florida State Seminoles 24-20.
  8. College football viewing guide, Week 8

    College

    Must-see and meh time frames Saturday for college football:

    Lamest time window: Noon, although No. 10 Oklahoma State is on upset watch at Texas.

    Noon: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson against a talented Florida State defense? Yes, please.

    3:30: Syracuse will try to upset a second straight top-10 team (No. 8 Miami), and Navy hosts No. 20 UCF in one of the best Group of Five matchups of the season....

    Miami quarterback Malik Rosier (12) hands off to running back Travis Homer (24) during the first half of an NCAA College football game against Georgia Tech, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
  9. Little separates McElwain and Muschamp eras of futility at Florida

    College

    "His track record on the offensive side of the ball is special. You can look it up, see the records." — Florida then-athletic director Jeremy Foley, December 2014

    GAINESVILLE — After Will Muschamp led some of the ugliest seasons in modern Florida history, Jeremy Foley knew the Gators' next head coach would have to revive one of the worst offenses in the SEC....

     Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain watches the second quarter of the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville.
  10. History rewrite: What if Dalvin Cook, Lamar Jackson had landed at Florida?

    College

    Two days before suiting up in the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field, Dalvin Cook announced a change of heart.

    After almost nine months as a Gators commitment, the five-star running back from Miami flipped to rival Florida State.

    "I felt at heart that it was the school for me, and I can get everything I want to get done there," Cook told Fox Sports at the time.

    He did, of course. Cook needed only three seasons to become FSU's all-time leading rusher. He was one of the NFL's top rookies for the Vikings before tearing his ACL....

    Lousville's quarterback Lamar Jackson leaps over Florida State's Matthew Thomas but was short of the goal line during their game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Pat McDonogh/The Courier-Journal
  11. FSU doesn't feel need for ongoing reminder of last year's beatdown at Louisville

    Sports

    Of course Florida State remembers what happened against Louisville last year. The 63-20 loss was one of the worst defeats in Seminoles history.

    "You remember what they're capable of, that this can happen," Jimbo Fisher said.

    But the FSU coach doesn't feel the need to keep reminding his players about it this week as they prepare to face the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, QB Lamar Jackson (above), again. Fisher said this is a new team, so things are different. ...

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson looks back at the action from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
  12. Florida Gators' Jordan Sherit out for the year after hip surgery

    Blog

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Jordan Sherit will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery earlier this week, coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday morning.

    "It's a bad deal, man," McElwain said.

    The former Hillsborough High standout has had an injury-plagued career. He tore his ACL during his senior season of high school. He missed time late in 2014 because of injury and only played in 10 games last season because of multiple injuries....

  13. Florida Gators, Kevin Knox get preseason SEC basketball honors

    Blog

    After last year's run to the Elite Eight, the Florida Gators are one of the favorites in the SEC.

    UF is picked to finish second in the league, according to a panel of college basketball media members.

    Kentucky, of course, is projected to win the conference.

    Guard KeVaughn Allen is UF's lone individual honoree; he's first-team pick to the all-SEC team.

    Wildcats freshman Kevin Knox - a former star forward at Tampa Catholic - is a second-team choice....

  14. A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American

    Blog

    Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

    The AP released its midseason All-America team on Tuesday, and the only first-team selection from Florida was ... Gators punter Johnny Townsend.

    Two other players from the state were second-team selections: USF kicker Emilion Nadelman and Florida State safety Derwin James.

    For comparison, the state had four players on the preseason team, including two first teamers (James and FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden)....

  15. Exposé 'Champions Way' uses FSU to illustrate bad behavior in college programs

    College

    While the entire college football universe was focused on a sexual assault allegation against quarterback Jameis Winston during Florida State's 2013 national title run, another off-field scandal was playing out quietly.

    Champions Way: Football, Florida, and the Lost Soul of College Sports explores allegations of academic impropriety (involving former Plant High star James Wilder Jr., among others) raised by whistleblower Christina Suggs during that perfect season. ...

    "Champions Way: Football, Florida, and the Lost Soul of College Sports" explores allegations of academic impropriety raised by whistleblower Christina Suggs during Florida State's championship season in 2013. The book, by New York Times investigative reporter Mike McIntire, also includes some new information on Jameis Winston, who was at the center of sexual assault allegations while at FSU.