NEW YORK – This season's "American Idol" finale will be all about the guys - recalling Ruben Studdard's battle against Clay Aiken three years ago.
At least that's the assessment of "Idol" judge Simon Cowell as the competition heads into the homestretch, with only four contestants (three of them guys) remaining as pop-star wannabes.
"If I had to put money on it, I think it will be between Chris [Daughtry] and Taylor [Hicks]," Cowell said on yesterday's "Good Morning America."
His words carry a lot of weight, since it's believed that many "Idol" fans vote on who to eliminate from the show each week based on Cowell's comments on the Tuesday-night sing-off show.
If Cowell turns out to be prophetic, and Daughtry and Hicks are the two left standing on the May 24 "Idol" finale, it will mirror the epic finale from three seasons back.
In May 2003, the beefy, jersey-wearing Studdard - dubbed "The Velvet Teddy Bear" - was up against Aiken, the red-headed country boy from North Carolina. Going into the finale, it was anyone's guess who'd pull off the victory.
When the dust cleared, Studdard emerged victorious - although, since then, Aiken has had the more successful recording career (and even has his own rabid following, the "Claymates").
Still, during his appearance on yesterday's "GMA," Cowell didn't rule out a surprising victory by the one remaining female "Idol" contestant: Katharine McPhee.
Many have considered McPhee the odds-on favorite to win since the new season kicked off last winter.
"You can't rule out Katharine because she's just getting better and better," Cowell said.
Speaking after Wednesday night's show, in which Paris Bennett was eliminated, Cowell also said next week's "Elvis Presley" theme will help Daughtry and Hicks, who both hail from the South (as did Presley).
(Daughtry's from North Carolina, Hicks is from Alabama.)
"It's going to be good for Chris, it's going to be good for Taylor," he told the local Fox affiliate.
"Elliot [Yamin] or Katharine - the two of them are vulnerable next week."