If there ever was a weekend that kept the proverbial football junkie glued to his television set, it had to be last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There were several college conference championship games that determined bowl match-ups, many old-time rivalries and just a bunch of pro football games that were significant to the NFL playoffs that begin next month.

Not only were the football fans treated to important football games, but as a bonus most of those contests were very close and exciting. There were a few surprises in the college games Saturday and some stunning upsets in Sunday’s NFL lineup.

Of the five conference championship games played Friday and Saturday, only the Mid-American Conference Championship game produced an upset as 18-point underdog Miami, O. ambushed Northern Illinois 26-21 Friday night.

In the Conference USA Championship game early Saturday nine-point favorite Central Florida edged past SMU 17-7 making the Vegas oddsmakers appear to know what they were talking about. The Knights (10-3) earned a spot in the Liberty Bowl against Georgia (6-6) while the Mustangs (7-6) will meet Army (6-6) in the Armed Forces Bowl Dec, 30.

Cam Newton solidified his Heisman Trophy candidacy by throwing four touchdown passes and running for two more as Auburn routed South Carolina 56-17 in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

The Tigers (13-0) came into the game atop the Bowl Championship Series standings and set up the Jan. 10 game in Glendale, Ariz. for the national championship against No. 1 Oregon (12-0) which beat Oregon State 37-20.

Virginia Tech upped its record to 11-2 after losing its first two games of the season to Boise State and James Madison by taking down Florida State 44-33 in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

The Hokies (11-2) are headed to the Orange Bowl to play Stanford (11-1) while the Seminoles (9-4) must settle for a meeting against South Carolina (9-4) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31.

Oklahoma (11-2) gave Nebraska a rude farewell to the Big 12 by rallying to edge past the Cornhuskers 23-20 Saturday night at Jerry Jones’ Stadium in Arlington to capture the Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to face Connecticut (8-4). The ‘Huskers (10-3) are headed for the Big Ten next season, will play Washington (6-6) in the Holiday Bowl.

Connecticut sewed up the Big East title and an automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series with a 19-16 victory over South Florida, which was favored by two points. The Huskies started league play 5-2 and then won five straight conference games. Two-point underdog Pittsburgh upset Cincinnati 28-10 in a snowstorm while West Virginia trounced Rutgers 35-14 in other Big East contests.

Texas Tech (7-5) will play Northwestern (7-5) Jan. 1 in the Ticket City Bowl, former No. 1 Alabama (9-3) goes against Michigan State (11-1) in the Capital One Bowl, Florida (7-5) and Penn State (7-5) clash in the Outback Bowl, Michigan (7-5) faces Mississippi State (7-5) in the Gator Bowl and TCU (10-2) opposes Wisconsin (11-1) in the Rose Bowl.
Also Arkansas (10-2) locks horns with Ohio State (11-1) in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 4, Middle Tennessee State (10-3) plays Miami, O. (9-4) in the GoDaddy.com Bowl Jan 6, Texas A&M (9-3) is up against LSU (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl Jan 7, Pittsburgh (7-5) meets Kentucky (6-6) in the BBVA Compass Bowl Jan. 8 and Boston College (7-5) takes on Nevada (12-1) in the Fight Hunger Bowl Jan. 9.

Other Texas schools receiving bowl bids include UTEP (6-6) vs. BYU (6-6) in the New Mexico Bowl Dec. 18 and Baylor (7-5) vs. Illinois (6-6) in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29.
Some of the exciting NFL games of interest include the World Champion New Orleans Saints who saw a 20-12 fourth quarter lead disappear to a 30-27 deficit before quarterback Drew Brees  hit Marques Colston with a three-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left in the game, giving the Saints  a 34-30 win against the Bengals in Cincinnati.

Our Dallas Cowboys also had some late-game heroics as rookie linebacker Sean Lee picked off a Peyton Manning pass in overtime, setting up David Buehler’s game-winning 38-yard field goal to upset the eight-point-favored Indianapolis Colts 38-35 with 7:55 left in the sudden-death period. It was Manning’s fourth interception of the game.

The Cowboys jumped off to a 17-0 lead and controlled the clock due to the Colts’ inability to stop the run or have a ground game of their own. But Manning shredded the Dallas defense for 365 yards through the air and four touchdowns to tie the game at 35-all at the end of regulation play.

Two of Manning’s four interceptions were returned for touchdowns by Orlando Scandrick (40-yard TD) and Lee’s 31-yard touchdown return. The Cowboys’ 38-year-old quarterback Jon Kitna completed 18-of-26 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Little-used Tashard Choice rushed for 100 yards on 19 carries, including a 20-yard touchdown run.
Sunday night’s NFL game featured a battle for first place in the AFC North Division in which three-point favored Baltimore hosted Pittsburgh. The Steelers scored a touchdown with 2:51 left in the game to upset the Ravens 13-10. Another great game between New England and the New York Jets was played Monday night in Foxboro.

KWICKIES…Despite being spurned by the two teams he played for last year—the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees—Lance Berkman has finally found a team that will have him as he signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals for a reported $8 million Saturday. However with Albert Pujols firmly entrenched at the first base position, Berkman will be playing the outfield for the Redbirds. The Cards had an opening in right field after using a combination of younger players there last season. The five-time National League All-Star batted a puny .248 last year with Houston and the Yankees, with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs.

Former West Orange Stark Lady Mustang basketball star Brittney Scott led the University of Houston Lady Cougars to a72-62 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last weekend in Hofheinz Pavilion. Miss Scott poured in 29 points, including seven 3-pointers and was 10-of-18 in field goals and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line for the 5-1 Lady Cougars.

Although he only had one solo tackle Sunday, Orange’s Earl Thomas helped shut down the Carolina Panthers after Seattle fell behind 14-0 early in the game and then came roaring back to score 31 unanswered points and win 31-14. The win evened the Seahawks’ record at 6-6 and kept them in a first-place tie in the NFC West with the St. Louis Rams, who beat Arizona 19-6.

JUST BETWEEN US…It looks like the old magic that Tiger Woods had before his double-life was uncovered last year is long gone. After leading the PGA Tour Chevron World Challenge for three rounds, he watched his four-stroke lead disappear in Sunday’s final round with a two-over 73 while U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell carded a two-under 69, including a crucial 20-foot birdie on the 72nd hole, matching Woods’ three-foot birdie putt and forcing a playoff. McDowell rolled in a 25-foot birdie on No. 18, the first playoff hole and Tiger missed his 15-foot birdie putt, leaving him without a tour victory this year. It marked the first time Woods has lost a tournament when leading by at least three shots going into the final round. It also was the first time Tiger lost and event and felt good about himself. “I’m proud of the way I played, even though I lost,” Woods said after the playoff.