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Here we are in the first week of a new year, a time it seems many people make resolutions or set new goals for the calendar year.

While I’m not opposed to that idea, I have never really been all that big on resolutions. I do, however, like to set some goals — both personally and professionally.

One goal I will focus on this year is to write a column in this space each week during the school year and as often as possible in the summer — depending on vacation time and relevant topics.

The column will be a combination of opinion, analysis, features and news and notes from around our coverage area as well as the Pac-12 and major national topics.

I tried this a few years back and it seemed to be well received. While I enjoyed it, I also had some feedback from readers via phone calls or emails that sparked some good dialogue back and forth.

I hope there is similar interaction this time around and that the topics I discuss are of interest to many of you.

So without further ado, a few quick thoughts on a the Pac-12 woes in football and men's basketball to get us started along with a prediction.

Washington’s loss to Auburn in the season opener did nothing to change the storyline of the Pac-12 being down once again in football.

The conference was coming off a 1-8 performance in the 2017 bowl season and the Huskies were thought to be a possible College Football Playoff team.

Well, that performance against an Auburn team that ended up underachieving, basically eliminated the conference from the CFP after one weekend.

Then the Pac-12 teams beat each other, ending with those same Huskies handing Washington State a home loss in the Apple Cup that knocked the Cougars out the Pac-12 title game and a likely New Year’s Six bowl.

And to wrap the season up, the Huskies were overmatched for 47 minutes against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl before making it close.

Still, the conference went 3-4 in bowls this season with those three wins by a combined four — yes four — points.

Hey, I get a win is a win but on a national perspective, those one-point wins by Oregon (7-6 over Michigan State) and Stanford (14-13 over Pitt), and the Cougars’ two-point win (28-26 over Iowa State) weren’t close to being impressive.

Throw in the sudden downfall of USC this season and UCLA still not in the picture, as well as the replay review fiasco that took place in the WSU-USC game back in September, the conference has plenty of work to do to become relevant.

While I would say Commissioner Larry Scott needs to take a long, hard look at how to turn things around in football, he has a similar challenge in men’s basketball.

Based on what has transpired before the start of the conference season, the conference will have a hard time getting more than one team in the NCAA tournament.

Arizona State had one of the biggest wins in knocking off then-No. 1 Kansas at home, but Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils followed that up with a home loss to Princeton and opened Pac-12 play with a loss to Utah.

Oregon, with five-star recruit Bol Bol, was expected to be a national player again. But he announced on Thursday his season is over due to injury. The Ducks could still make a run to the tourney but have plenty of work to do.

And how about UCLA firing coach Steve Alford on Monday after a loss to Liberty?

While those two major sports have struggled, the conference can turn to women’s basketball for some semblance of pride. Oregon (5), Stanford (6) and Oregon State (11) are once again ranked in the top 15 and the Ducks and Cardinal have some pretty impressive nonconference wins.

With Maryland (4) and Connecticut (1) both losing this week, the Ducks, who knocked off No. 7 Mississippi State at home, could be in the top four on Monday, barring a letdown against Washington State on Sunday.

Stanford also has a win over No. 8 Baylor, which just knocked off UConn on Thursday night.

And Oregon State led reigning champion Notre Dame, No. 1 at the time, until the fourth quarter back in November of what turned out to be a 91-81 loss.

Arizona State, California, Utah, USC and Arizona have also started strong and could all make a run at the NCAA tournament. And UCLA has battled back to start the conference season 2-0.

It could be a banner season for the women.

The conference will also look to make it four national champions in eight seasons in baseball after Oregon State won the title last season.

While the conference can hang its hat on women’s basketball and baseball, it in no way compares to the attention football and men’s basketball brings.

Still, there is plenty to be excited about from Pac-12 fans this winter and spring.

Title game pick

The 2018 college football season comes to an end Monday and for the third time in four years it will be Alabama against Clemson for the national title.

While many people may not be excited to see the teams meet for the fourth straight year in the CFP — the teams faced off in the semifinals last year — it’s pretty obvious the two best teams are playing for the title.

While Alabama holds a 2-1 edge in the playoffs, the teams split their two previous title game battles.

With a healthy Tua Tagovailoa, my top pick for the Heisman Trophy, at quarterback, Alabama has looked unstoppable.

But something tells me Clemson’s defense will be up to the task and the Tigers win the title, 37-31. Besides, a No. 1 seed has yet to win the title.

I also thought Oklahoma would win last Saturday so what do I know?

Hopefully, it is another instant classic.

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Steve Gress is the sports editor for the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at steve.gress@lee.net and you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/stevegress19.

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times