Now that viewers have whittled down American Idol 2's dirty dozen wannabe pop stars to six fab finalists, the time is nigh to predict a winner. But before you place a wager in your office pool, be sure to consider the helpful handicapping that your friends at TV Guide Online have done on your behalf. It just might save you a bundle, which you can then share with, well...
Joshua Gracin: Provided that producers don't have a second disco night on tap, the all-American Marine could easily sail away with the coveted recording contract. He's got the look (regardless of what flabby judge Simon Cowell says) and the voice, and thank God, he's a country boy. Sure, his aw-shucks appeal probably doesn't have Garth Brooks shakin' in his Stetson. But you know Bryan White's starting to sweat.
Trenyce: The artist formerly known as Lashundra blew us away in the semis, and has nearly blown her shot every other week since. What's the problem? Maybe it's that she wants so badly to be this season's diva that even we can taste it. (Mmm... minty!) Unfortunately, the poor man's Tamyra Gray vacillates too wildly between breathtaking and groan-inducing performances to be a safe bet. Translation: She's outta there.
Carmen Rasmusen: We don't hold it against this countrified kewpie doll that Cowell made her his wild-card pick instead of ubervamp Janine Falsone. (Okay, maybe we do.) Nor do we hold it against her that, more weeks than not, the king of sting has done backward somersaults to avoid criticizing her. (Okay, you got us — we do.) But the fact that she's passable one episode and laughable the next? That, we most certainly do hold against her. Hmmph!
Kimberley Locke: Frenchie Davis's old duet partner sent us into the stratosphere with her rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but by now, homegirl damn well ought to have her head out of the clouds! Where's the passion that made the gals' polished version of "Band of Gold" so dazzling? Considering that Locke has spent more time in the bottom three than Brian Dunkleman did dragging down Ryan Seacrest, we suspect the answer is... sitting out of the contest because of some backassward morality clause.
Clay Aiken: After going from geek to chic, the unlikely Generation XY heartthrob emerged as a frontrunner. However, as crazy as we are about him — don't tell the others, but he's our fave — we aren't banking on him to go the distance. Nope, by the time we get to the last sing-off, the novelty of his blue-eyed soulfulness is likely to have worn off, leaving music lovers to abandon the mod Rick Astley for a performer with greater, um, heft.
Ruben Studdard: Initially, when Cowell and Co. went on and on about this heavyweight talent's sparkling personality, we didn't get it. Then, as he relaxed (and even risked alienating fans by ditching the 205 area code jerseys), we finally glimpsed the charmer within. So, given the power of his pipes, if he and his brother can just keep Fox from forcing them to make another Ruben sandwich of Seacrest, he should have this contest in the bag.