Although he's never been one to keep his opinions to himself, Simon Cowell is apparently planning to forgo a prediction of American Idol's next champion.

"I'm not going to [make a prediction] this year, only because I don't know for sure," Cowell said during an appearance on Wednesday's Live with Regis and Kelly broadcast.  "But I can see the three, four, five or six who are the obvious ones.  I think when we get to that stage of the show, it's going to be a good show."

However just because the sharp-tongued judge won't predict the season's winner, that doesn't mean he's keeping quiet about who he thinks the strongest singers are.

Cowell heaped praise on David Archuleta following the 17-year-old's performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" during Tuesday night's performance episode broadcast.

"I've got to tell you, you're the one to beat," Cowell told Archuleta.  "Right now, there are 19 very miserable contestants sitting here tonight.  Trust me."

Cowell has also made little attempt to hide his fondness for Carly Smithson.  While he still doesn't think she's made the correct song choice yet to showcase her powerful vocals, Cowell feels Smithson is Archuleta's chief rival for Idol's seventh-season title.

"I think you are -- I'll put it on record -- an incredible singer.  I don't think any of these girls can touch you vocally," he told Smithson following her Wednesday night performance of Heart's "Crazy on You."  "I think you're the girl they've all got to beat.  I generally do."

In addition, Cowell said semifinalist Kristy Lee Cook has "potential;" called Ramiele Malubay "one of the Top 3 best singers in the competition;" and labeled 16-year-old Alaina Whitaker as "one of the dark horses in this competition."

Cowell has made a regular habit of issuing Idol predictions over the last few seasons.  Last year, he forecast a Jordin Sparks/Melinda Doolittle finale when there were still six finalists left in the competition.  In 2006, he predicted Chris Daughtry, Taylor Hicks, or Kellie Pickler would walk away with the fifth-season title immediately after the season's 12 finalists were revealed.  And in 2005, he openly claimed that Carrie Underwood would eventually walk away with Idol's fourth-season title.

Even before Idol 7 premiered last month, Cowell made it known he had a hunch which singers would be the ones to beat.

"I'm not going to name any names because I always get into trouble for doing that.  I might do it in a couple of week's time though.  There are luckily three or four very strong guys and three or four very strong girls this year," he told reporters during a January conference call.  "It's probably going to be one of the most open competitions we've ever had.  I can't call out a winner at this stage.  In my mind I think I have an idea who could make the finals, but I'm not going to give anything away at the moment."

Despite being one of the people -- along with fellow judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul -- to gush about the season's Top 24 talent level, Cowell now thinks it was actually overblown.

"There's this kind of feeling at the moment that we found 24 Madonnas or something.  But we didn't," he said on Live with Regis and Kelly.  "We found three or four -- maybe five -- good people.  The rest are a complete waste of time."
About The Author: Christopher Rocchio
Christopher Rocchio is an entertainment reporter for Reality TV World and has covered the reality TV genre for several years.