The delightfully mean-spirited "Idol" judge, appearing on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," declared that Hicks — a 29-year-old salt-and-pepper haired singer from Alabama — is "the favorite."
"I would say [Hicks' chances to win are] pretty good, pretty good. I'm going to say he's the favorite — but what do I know?" Cowell said in a rare self-effacing moment.
But seconds later, Cowell took all the credit for predicting that 21-year-old Valley Girl McPhee would join Hicks in the "Idol" showdown.
"Based on last week, absolutely she should have gone. But you know she's got a fighting chance. I think she'll make the final — and I'll tell you why, because I'm choosing one of her songs this week," Cowell said.
Hicks, McPhee and Elliott Yamin face off Tuesday night with the two survivors meeting up in next week's final.