4:45 p.m., WRC-TV-4, Michigan (10-1) vs. Washington (7-4)

On New Year's Eve, Los Angeles was talking about the Hillside Strangler, the recent flooding of the Sanata Ana Freeway and the wired-together jaw of UCLA basketball player Raymond Townsend.

Local sophisticates have detoured their gossip around the revered old Rose Bowl, which for the first time in 13 years does not include a team from California.

Eves though the Washington Huskies beat USC, captured the pacific-Eight championship with a 6-1 mark and won six of their last seven games after Cliff Bethea was inserted at nose guard, the West Coast has managed nothing more than a collective blush at the mention of its entry in this year's Rose Bowl.

Michigan hasn't scored more than 12 points in Rose Bowl competition since 1965, yet the Wolverines are 13-point favorites in Monday's game.

A big 10 team hasn't won here since 1974, when Ohio State demolished USC, 52-21. Keeping that streak alive will be a task for the Huskies, which did not even have the best overall record (7-4) in the Pac-Eight (Stanford was 8-3).

But this has been a year of surprise for the Huskies. And while some critics are predicting that Washington may not ever score against Michigan's brick-wall defense, others whisper that the Wolverines may be in for trouble.

"If I were making the odds, I'd make it a tossup," said Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. "On defense, Washington reminds me of us - quick. Offensively, they have the potential to score a lot of points."

Offensively, it has been an up-and-down year for Washington. Starting quarterback Warren Moon was booed by the hometown fans, despite directing brilliant games, like the 45-21 win over Stanford, the 54-0 victory over Oregon and the 28-10 win over USC.

Moon, a 6-foot-2 senior from Los Angeles, had never been thought of as a favorite son, and when the Huskies lost three of their first four games - to Mississippi State, Syracuse and Minnesota - the assault was on.

But Washington insiders kept in mind the fact that two field goals and 28 seconds of playing time had determined two losing verdicts. Syracuse won, 22-20, on a field goal with 23 seconds remaining, and the next week Minnesota pulled a similar trick, winning, 19-17, on its fourth field goal, with five seconds left.

It was then that Berthea, originally from Harrisburg, Pa., came on to play nose guard and plugged Washington's most vulnerable defensive area, the middle.

Elevated to a starting position when Stan Walderhaug was injured. Bertha had shed 60 pounds since playing at Imperial Valley Junior College and cut his time in the 40 from 5.1 to 4.7. Bertha, who majors in art and paints portraits of himself and his teammates, made 84 tackles for the Huskies.

Washington won three straight games - over Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State - but ran into familiar problems against UCLA, losing, 20-12.

Washington had great field position throughout the game but couldn't score a touchdown. Moon completed 11 of 25 passes in the game for 146 yards but the rushing game netted only 141 yards.

"I have a habit of blaming myself when things go wrong," said Moon. "I can count three plays which would have beaten UCLA, and I was at fault. I am harder on myself than the fans ever were."

The Huskies won the rest of their games but needed a late field goal from USC over UCLA to put them in the bowl.

By season's end, the boos had disappeared and Moon had become Washington's third-leading career passer. Moon was voted Pac-Eight coplayer of the year, completing 113 of 199 passes for 1,584 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also ran for 437 yards and scored six times. Moon is quick, strong (he can bench-press 350 pounds), can throw long and can also take abuse.

Washington's Rose Bowl berth is a personal triumph for Moon. But it was shared by a team that in many ways reflects Moon - overlooked, criticized but always cool.

"The guy persevered. He was an inspiration to this team," said Welderhaug. "I admire him for that like nobody else I know."

Moon's primary target is split end Spider Gaines, a long-legged, world-class sprinter who caught 30 passes for 660 yards, averaging 22 yards a reception. Gaines hauled in scoring passes of 54 and 51 yards and also scored on a 53-yard kickoff return. Tight end Scott Greenwood and running back Joe Steele are both surehanded receivers and are thrown to more often than flanker Gary Briggs.

Steele led the Huskies in rushing with 865 yards on 198 carries, pacing a ground attack that netted 2,428 yards.The Huskies balanced the show with 1,637 yards passing.

Great things are expected from Steele, a sophomore.

"Only last year I was listed as the fifth or sixth tailback on the team," he said.

"I'm a little bowlegged. I see a hole and I run like crazy for it. The thrill is avoiding people and making them look like fools."

The Washington line is anchored by center Blair Bush, who was named second-team AP All-America. Bush, a native of Palos Verdes in Southern California, was overlooked by USC and UCLA. Asked in a questionnarie why he chose Washington, Blair wrote, "Ignorance."