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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: [email protected]

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. Nine Florida football players, 62 felony complaints in fraud scandal

    College

    GAINESVILLE — The fraud scandal that has engulfed the University of Florida's nationally ranked football team for weeks exploded Monday with the first detailed accounts of criminal accusations that threaten to derail the Gators' season.

    Nine players face a combined 62 felony complaints on suspicion of using stolen credit cards to rack up more than $17,000 in fraudulent charges, according to documents released Monday....

    Rick 
Wells (WR)
  2. Nine Gators, including Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett, face felony fraud accusations

    Blog

    Nine Florida Gators face at least 62 potential felony charges on accusations of credit card fraud. 

    Star receiver Antonio Callaway, starting running back Jordan Scarlett are the two biggest names facing potential felonies. The other seven: receiver Rick Wells, defensive lineman Jordan Smith, linebacker Ventrell Miller, linebacker James Houston, defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort. ...

    Star receiver Antonio Callaway is among at least four Florida Gators who face potential felony charges on accusations of fraud.
  3. Luke Del Rio to start against Vanderbilt for Florida Gators

    Blog

    GAINESVILLE - The Florida Gators have made another quarterback change.

    A week after leading a second-half comeback at Kentucky, Luke Del Rio will start Saturday against Vanderbilt.

    Del Rio replaced redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks against the Wildcats. Franks has been benched in two of his first three college starts; UF also pulled him in the opener against Michigan. ...

  4. East Lake alum George Campbell starting to click at Florida State

    Blog

    When receiver Auden Tate (Wharton High) went down with a shoulder injury for Florida State on Saturday, the Seminoles' offense took a major hit. Quarterback James Blackman was 16-of-22 for 190 yards before Tate's injury and 6-of-16 for 88 after it.

    The only bright spot: It allowed another Tampa Bay product to have the biggest game of his career.

    East Lake High alumnus George Campbell flashed his five-star potential with one second-half grab - a 60-yarder down the right sideline....

  5. Florida State out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2011

    Blog

    Florida State's first 0-2 start since 1989 has led to another low.

    The Seminoles are out of the AP Top 25 after Saturday's 27-21 home loss to North Carolina State. The last time they were unranked? November 2011, before beating Florida in the regular season finale....

  6. Matt Baker's AP Top 25 college football ballot

    College

    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher still thinks he can have a good team. Maybe he's right.

    Right now? He doesn't, at least not on my eyes.

    I dropped FSU off my Associated Press Top 25 ballot after its 27-21 loss to North Carolina State gave the Seminoles their first 0-2 start since 1989. I was higher on FSU than most other voters after their season-opening loss because Alabama is really, really good and because I wanted to see how freshman QB James Blackman fared before dropping the 'Noles too far. Well, I saw it. Mostly, I saw a defense that isn't performing up to expectations and an offense that struggled in the red zone. ...

  7. My AP Top 25 ballot: FSU out, USF, Florida Gators back in

    Blog

    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher still thinks he can have a good team, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Maybe he's right.

    But right now? He doesn't have a top-25 team - at least not on my eyes.

    I dropped the Seminoles off my AP Top 25 ballot after a 27-21 home loss to North Carolina State gave FSU its first 0-2 start since 1989. I was higher on FSU than most of the other voters after the opener, because Alabama is really, really good and because I wanted to see how James Blackman fared before dropping the ‘Noles too far. Well, I saw it. Mostly, I saw a defense that isn't performing up to expectations and an offense that struggled in the red zone....

  8. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-N.C. State

    College

    RB Cam Akers still looks like a former high school quarterback at times. His first two touches (30 yards) were special, but the freshman juked instead of powering ahead on his third (an unsuccessful third-and-1 rush). That's why the Seminoles are easing him in, as they did with Dalvin Cook three years ago.

    S Derwin James is unbelievably talented, but he absolutely whiffed on an open-field tackle on Jakobi Meyers' 71-yard touchdown catch. It might be time for me to tone down the "best player in the country" talk. ...

    Running back Cam Akers carries for a first down during the third quarter as FSU eases the freshman into the college game.
  9. FSU players rally around freshman QB James Blackman

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — For the first few minutes Saturday, Florida State's James Blackman looked like a true freshman making his first start at quarterback for a big-time program.

    Eventually he settled in for a solid first start (22-of-38 passing, 278 yards) that was overshadowed by a 27-21 loss to North Carolina State.

    "For the most part, I thought the guy did a heck of a job," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He got the ball down the field and made great plays at times."...

    Florida State Seminoles quarterback James Blackman (1) gets sacked during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  Final score, North Carolina State Wolfpack 27, Florida State Seminoles 21.
  10. No. 12 FSU, defense struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — It's easy to blame No. 12 Florida State's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State on the injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois or the three-week layoff because of Hurricane Irma.

    It would also be wrong.

    The problems that doomed the Seminoles on Saturday went beyond the 20 days between games and the true freshman quarterback (James Blackman) making his first career start at Doak Campbell Stadium. There's plenty of blame to go around for the program's first 0-2 start since 1989. ...

    Florida State Seminoles quarterback James Blackman (1) fumbled during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  11. Quick snaps: Florida's streak, FSU's true freshman QB and UCF's prolific offense

    College

    Streaking

    How Florida's win streak over Kentucky ranks all time among annual series:

    Notre Dame over Navy: 43 (1964-2006)

    Nebraska over Kansas: 36 (1969-2004)

    Oklahoma over Kansas State: 32 (1937-68)

    Florida over Kentucky: 30 (1987-present)...

    Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) lifts up Florida Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain after Swain's touchdown reception in the fourth quarter during the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7.
  12. Week 4 Heisman watch, local of the week and more

    College

    Heisman watch

    5. San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny: The Aztecs replaced the NCAA's all-time leading rusher with Penny, who leads the nation with 588 yards through three weeks.

    4. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson: Finished with 400 total yards and three scores against Clemson, but it's hard to see him getting back in the race after last week....

    Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) passes over Pittsburgh linebacker Elijah Zeise (25) in the first quarter of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Pittsburgh. Oklahoma State won 59-21.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) PAKS113
  13. College football viewing guide for Week 4

    College

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

    Lamest time window: Late. The 8 p.m. games aren't great, so don't feel bad about calling it an early night.

    Noon: How will the No. 12 'Noles look after two open weekends, against sneaky N.C. State?...

    COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 16: Defensive back Derrick Baity #8 of the Kentucky Wildcats is congratulated after intercepting a pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages) 775018963
  14. Why a true freshman quarterback doesn't kill FSU's title hopes

    College

    Florida State's James Blackman will make history Saturday when the No. 12 Seminoles host North Carolina State in their first game after Hurricane Irma.

    By filling in for the injured Deondre Francois, Blackman will be the first true freshman quarterback to start for FSU since Chip Ferguson in 1985. He'll also be the first to start for Jimbo Fisher since former Rays outfielder Gabe Gross did so at Auburn when Fisher was an assistant there 19 years ago. ...

    Because of Hurricane Irma, Florida State quarterback James Blackman got two extra weeks of competition against his talented teammates to prepare for his first start. (Photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire)
  15. Cue the Scott Frost to Nebraska speculation

    Blog

    Nebraska shook up the college sports world Thursday afternoon when it fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

    And that should scare UCF fans.

    It's no secret that the Cornhuskers' present doesn't match its blue-blood pedigree. That starts with Eichorst, who hired coach Mike Riley....