The American Idol producers rode the Jacee Badeaux story line as long as possible. But after the chubby 15-year-old was eliminated at the end of Thursday night's episode, it meant that this season's ridiculously drawn out audition process was finally over and the American Idol viewers will now have the power to do what this season's judges could not - make good decisions.

So as some of this year's best singers - including Chris Medina, Paris Tassin, and Rob Bolin - are still licking their wounds following their baffling early eliminations and some of the weakest performers - like Clint Jun Gamboa, Haley Reinheart and Ta-Tynisa Wilson - are still celebrating making it to next week's semifinals, I will give you my "pre-season" predictions.

In order to arrive at these conclusions, I undergo an intense regimen of sitting on my butt, watching television and occasionally getting up for a tasty snack or beverage.

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But my predictions are also the product of me taking into consideration results from past seasons, voting trends, overall musical ability, appearance, stage presence, the all-important back stories, and, of course, my personal tastes.

So without further adieu, here are my 2011 American Idol predictions:

- Jacob Lusk and Gamboa will be two of the first male contestants to get eliminated next week. For some reason the Idol judges loved how Lusk screamed during all of his over-the-top performances. But I think the general viewing public was tired of his shtick before he even finished his first audition, like I was. And not only is Gamboa a below-average singer and performer, the Idol voters will never forgive him for kicking the huggable Badeaux out of his group during "Group Week."

- Deep-voiced Scotty McCreery will not stray from the country music genre at all, if he can help it, and will have one of the most successful post-Idol careers as a result. If there is an R&B week this season, McCreery will make Luther Vandross sound like Brad Paisley, because that's really all he has going for him. American Idol winners are traditionally from the south or Midwest, where country music is king. I don't think McCreery can win this competition because he is so one-dimensional. But post-Idol, his deep voice and southern drawl will be enough to sell millions of records to Waffle House enthusiasts.

-I am setting the over-under on how many creepy comments 62-year-old Steven Tyler makes to young female contestants at an even dozen. The rules are simple, if he talks about them looking sexy or flirts with them in any way, it counts. And comments made during the auditions do not qualify - otherwise, he'd be well over. (For the record: In 1975, a 27-year-old Tyler reportedly convinced the parents of 14-year-old groupie he was dating to sign over guardianship to him so that he could live with her in Boston.) I'm taking over.

-J. Lo is wasting no time plugging her own album, which is why I think she agreed to be a judge in the first place. She is expected to debut the video for her latest single on next Thursday's show. But I think she will soon take over the same role that past celebrity judges Paula Abdul and Ellen DeGeneres played, meaning she will have a difficult time giving constructive criticism or saying anything bad about even the worst performances. (Bonus prediction: She will also not last longer than two seasons on the show, and Steven could be gone before that.)

- Talented singers James Durbin and Casey Abrams will have to differ from their styles if they want to make it into the Top 5, but only one of them will. Durbin, who has forms of autism and tourette's, has vocals and a persona very similar to Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert, but doesn't appear to be as talented. And, much like last-season's Siobhan Magnus, he falls back on hitting his ear-piercing high notes in every song he sings. On Thursday night, Randy told Abrams that he was the most talented all-around musician ever to be on Idol. Which surprisingly might not have been an overstatement from Randy "King of Overstatements" Jackson. But this Seth Rogan look-alike is so talented, that his abilities might get lost on the general voting public. Out of the two, Abrams will make it farther. But he will not be the top male finisher...

- That honor will go to Tim Halperin. This 26 year old from Texas stood out during all phases of the audition process. And the dueling-piano duet of The Beatles' "Something" that he performed with fellow semifinalist Julie Zorrilla was one of the only bright spots from the Vegas auditions. He might not be as versatile of a musician as Abrams, but he is a much better performer. And now that Medina is gone, there is not another guy in the competition that will be able to touch him. But he will not win...

- This year's winner will be female. There are two reasons I think this: 1. The best singers left are females, and 2. The Idol producers will want to break up the monotony of males winning. The last three - and four of the last five - winners were white males. And in two of the last three seasons it has been an all-male finale.

I think it will come down to the wire between Zorrilla, Karen Rodriguez, Ashthon Jones, and Pia Toscano. Jones is probably the best singer, but she has a very R&B-heavy sound that hasn't fared well with voters since Fantasia Barrino outlasted Jennifer Hudson in Season 3. And I think the winner will have to be someone Jennifer Lopez can relate to vocally, which leaves Zorrilla, Rodriguez and Toscano. J. Lo predicted earlier this season that Zorrilla will win, but I don't think she is as polished as the other two who went to the same performing arts high school in New York together. Rodriguez has tried to woo Lopez twice, first by singing one of her songs and then by singing a song she sang in the movie "Selena." Toscano on the other hand, is a better all-around singer, more contemporary, and has supermodel looks.

The northeast has never had a winner - Rodriguez and Toscano are both from New York. Neither has California - Zorrilla is from Los Angeles. Jones is from the south, where most of the winners have hailed from. But somewhere in the Top 10, Rodriguez, Toscano and Zorrilla will start competing with each other for votes, while Jones will have the benefit of a ready-made fan base. 

So my Top 3, in order:

3. Halperin

2. Jones

And your next American Idol, in my not-so-humble opinion. will be...

Pia Toscano

(Disclaimer: If I'm wrong, it's the voters' fault.)

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