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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. UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

    College

    GAINESVILLE — At last, there's some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.

    The Gators sent a group — including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin — to New Hampshire on Sunday to talk with the former Oregon coach about UF's opening. Stricklin didn't tell reporters much after he disembarked from the plane in Ocala.

    "There will probably be some more productive conversations in the days ahead…" Stricklin told SEC Country. "Lot of interest in the job."...

    FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2017, file photo, Florida quarterback Malik Zaire talks with the press during the NCAA college football team's media day in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators have won the East crown in each of coach Jim McElwain?ˆš???€š‚? ̈?€š„??s first two seasons but are aiming higher. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File) FLGAI201
  2. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida-UAB

    College

    1. A milestone Florida probably doesn't want to celebrate: Johnny Townsend became the school's all-time leading punter with his 232rd career punt. But Townsend has legitimately been one of the team's MVPs.

    2. It took far too long, but UF's tight ends finally made a contribution to the passing game. C'yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby both caught their first touchdowns of the season.

    3. Another hard-to-believe stat: DE Jabari Zuniga's first-quarter fumble recovery was UF's first of the season (on defense). Freshman DB Shawn Davis had the Gators' second in the third quarter....

    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 18: C'yontai Lewis #80 of the Florida Gators gestures whilst scoring a touchdown during the first half of the game against the UAB Blazers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) 775059027
  3. Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Florida's next head coach — whether it's odds-on favorite Chip Kelly or someone else — should be encouraged by Saturday's 36-7 win over UAB.

    Not because the Gators (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak by beating up on a 7-4 Blazers team that was disbanded three years ago.

    But because of how UF rebounded — by starting 14 freshmen/sophomores and only one senior in an encouraging display of up-and-coming youth that gives a dash of hope to a program starving for positivity....

    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Eddy Pineiro #15 of the Florida Gators gestures after kicking a field goal during the first half of the game against the UAB Blazers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) 775059027
  4. State college tidbits: Shula Bowl's a must-see

    College

    Shula Bowl coaches

    None of the previous 15 FAU-FIU matchups had this much buzz. Both teams are bowl eligible, and both coaches are national names:

    FAU coach Lane Kiffin

    Record: 7-3

    You knew him as: The arrogant hotshot who talked a big game at Tennessee and USC and failed at both stops (plus the Raiders).

    You should know: His high-scoring offense has the nation's No. 8 rushing attack — one spot ahead of his last school, Alabama — with three 400-yard games. ...

    MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 04: Head coach Butch Davis of the FIU Panthers yells at an official during the first half of the game against the UTSA Roadrunners at Riccardo Silva Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) 775059024
  5. College football viewing guide, Week 11

    College

    Watching college football all day Saturday? Here's the meh and must-see time frames:

    Lamest time window: Late. It's a pretty weak slate, so take a light day.

    Noon: No. 5 Wisconsin finally gets a test, No. 19 Michigan.

    3:30: How will No. 9 Notre Dame respond to the Miami blowout, against rival Navy?

    7: First one to 40 wins when Oregon and Arizona meet....

    FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2017, file photo, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) runs in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana in Bloomington, Ind. No. 5 Wisconsin will face its sternest test yet this season when No. 19 Michigan visits Camp Randall Stadium in the home season finale. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) NY167
  6. Your Florida Gators coaching search weekend guide

    Sports

    While message boards and Twitter were running rampant all week about the possibility of Florida hiring Chip Kelly, an announcement on the Gators' next coach is not imminent.

    It might not come today. Or Monday. Or next week.

    So take a break from staring at the video feed of the Gainesville Airport to see if a high-profile agent will step out. If you actually want to watch football this weekend — and aren't excited about UF's home game against UAB — here are some things to look for with some of the Gators' three most likely targets:...

    Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen reacts to an official's call during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Alabama in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
  7. College Football Playoff: Miami up to No. 3 in rankings, two-loss teams lurk

    College

    Tuesday's latest round of the College Football Playoff committee's weekly rankings shows a clear path to a (relatively) controversy-free final four.

    Win out, and No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Wisconsin are in. So, too, is the winner of No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Miami, assuming both keep rolling before their Dec. 2 meeting in the ACC title game.

    But this is college football. Nothing is that easy, which is why we might be headed for the first two-loss team in the Playoff era....

    Running back Travis Homer and UM move to No. 3 in the CFP after routing Notre Dame.
  8. Is Miami officially back? We let the turnover chains decide

    College

    MIAMI — A question that has been bubbling up all season crescendoed over the weekend after Miami's 33-point thrashing of Notre Dame.

    Is the U back?

    "We are back," former Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted.

    "I don't think anybody can say we're not," receiver Braxton Berrios said.

    Except for the person throwing him touchdown passes.

    "We're not back until I have a ring on my finger," quarterback Malik Rosier said. ...

    Miami fans cheer during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Miami won 41-8. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) FLLS124
  9. Matt Baker's takeaways from Miami--Notre Dame

    College

    1. The crowd at Hard Rock Stadium exploded when Miami DB Jaquan Johnson intercepted a tipped pass in the first quarter. Why? Because it meant the turnover chain was making an appearance. It came out four times Saturday night.

    2. There's no question that Ahmmon Richards is Miami's most-talented receiver. There's also no question that Braxton Berrios is Miami's best receiver. Richards couldn't grab a fade on first and goal; Berrios slid for a 7-yard touchdown reception on the next play to make it 7-0....

    Miami wide receiver Braxton Berrios (8) catches a pass for a touchdown as Notre Dame cornerback Shaun Crawford (20) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) FLLS106
  10. Miami defense makes statement in 41-8 rout of No. 3 Notre Dame

    College

    MIAMI — While No. 7 Miami's viral turnover chain embodies the swag of a once-proud program that sure looked back Saturday night, it doesn't tell the whole story about one of the nation's four remaining undefeated teams.

    Even when it's not taking the ball away, this Hurricanes defense sparkles. That was obvious early and often in Saturday's 41-8 rout of No. 3 Notre Dame, in front of a Hard Rock Stadium crowd that rocked hard in UM's biggest home game in years....

    Miami Hurricanes' Deejay Dallas (13) tackles Notre Dame's Chris Finke (10) in the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS) 1215756
  11. Virginia loss gives Miami first Coastal title

    College

    MIAMI — No. 7 Miami got great news even before Saturday night's top-10 showdown with No. 3 Notre Dame kicked off.

    Virginia's 38-21 loss to Louisville clinched the Hurricanes' first outright ACC Coastal Division title.

    Regardless of what happened against the Fighting Irish — or what happens in the final two games against Virginia and Pitt — Miami will play No. 4 Clemson on Dec. 2 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The Tigers secured their third consecutive Atlantic Division title with Saturday's 31-14 win over Florida State. ...

    Miami football fans Steve Johnston, left, and Joe Vitale, of Miami, right, stand outside of Hard Rock Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Miami and Notre Dame, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
  12. Buzz around the bling: Turnover chain links Miami, fans

    College

    MIAMI — When Miami defensive lineman RJ McIntosh scooped up a fumble last week against Virginia Tech, he rumbled as fast as his 6-foot-4, 293-pound frame would carry him.

    He didn't reach the end zone, so the junior had to settle for the next best thing. McIntosh went over to the sideline, took off his helmet and waited for director of player development, Joel Rodriguez, to place the hottest fashion statement in South Florida around his neck. ...

    Miami Hurricanes defensive back Sheldrick Redwine wears the turnover chain after the win over Virginia Tech on Nov. 4. (Monica Herndon, Times)
  13. State college tidbits: Civil ConFLiCT or bust

    College

    Irish QBs, past and present

    How Notre Dame starter Brandon Wimbush compares to the player he would have been competing against this season — Florida starter Malik Zaire:

    Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush

    103-200 passing; 1,286 yards; 11 TDs, 2 INTs

    101 rushes; 639 yards; 13 TDs

    Florida QB Malik Zaire

    25-42 passing; 300 yards; 0 TDs, 1 INT

    16 rushes; 18 yards; 0 TDs...

    Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush scores a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Wake Forest, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
  14. College football viewing guide, Week 11

    College

    Must-see and meh time frames Saturday:

    Lamest time window: Noon is the only slot without obvious College Football Playoff implications, so plan accordingly.

    Noon: No. 13 Michigan State at No. 11 Ohio State is fine, but No. 12 Oklahoma State at No. 24 Iowa State should be a high-scoring blast.

    3:30: No. 10 Auburn can be a playoff spoiler by beating No. 2 Georgia at home....

    Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman KC McDermott gets fired up before the start of the game vs. Virginia Tech last weekend. (Monica Herndon, Times)
  15. No battery charges against FSU's Josh Ball; police continue to investigate harassment complaint

    College

    Authorities declined to file battery charges against Florida State offensive lineman Josh Ball last month but are still investigating a harassment complaint filed against him by a Lithia woman.

    Incident reports released Wednesday by the Tallahassee Police Department revealed more details on accusations that the Seminoles' starting left tackle struck FSU student Sandra Sellers during their year and a half relationship. Sellers, 20, has filed for an injunction for protection against dating violence, with a hearing scheduled for today in Leon County. ...