Is it too early to call Chris Daughtry the next American Idol? Not according to the online gamblers at, who’ve made the shorn, North Carolina rocker a solid 7-2 favorite to take home the season 5 crown. While Daughtry opened at 8-1 in the wagering back when Idol‘s final 24 were announced on Feb. 15, the money started pouring in on him after his performances of ”Wanted Dead or Alive,” ”Hemorrhage (In My Hands),” and ”Broken” won the praises of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, and landed him in the final 12. Also taking heavy action in the last few weeks is Mandisa, the uni-monikered Tennessee diva who opened in the wagering at 47-1, but is now the second choice among bettors at 11-2. (Her ”I’m Every Woman” was pretty legendary, no?) Rounding out the top-five are Ace Young and Katharine McPhee, both at 6-1, and gray-haired Taylor Hicks, at 15-2.

Now while I wouldn’t disagree Chris and Mandisa are the logical frontrunners, let’s be honest: The idea of disco night has got to fill the former with nameless dread, while the latter’s rendition of ”Cry” showed she’s not above the occasional wonky note. Which makes the current 9-1 odds on Elliott Yamin look like a tempting proposition. As for rank outsiders like Kevin Covais (40-1), Bucky Covington (50-1) and Melissa McGhee (60-1), might I suggest they prepare for tonight’s Stevie Wonder-themed episode by taking notes on former Idol Fantasia Barrino’s scorching ”Superstitious”? Randy, can you handle it? Paula, can you handle it? Simon, can you handle it? I don’t think they can handle it!