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AI 10: Top 12 guys preseason rankings

(Clockwise, from top left)

(Clockwise, from top left) "American Idol" 2011 contestants Paul McDonald, James Durbin, Jovany Barreto, Timothy Halperin, Scotty McCreery, Jacob Lusk, Jordan Dorsey, Robbie Rosen, Stefano Langone, Clint Gamboa and Brett Loewenstern arrive at Idol Prom: The "American Idol" season 10 Top 24 Debut event at the Roosevelt Hotel on February 24, 2011 in Hollywood, Calif. Photo Credit: Getty Images

As the “American Idol” preseason winds down this week, Merrick's Robbie Rosen and the rest of the Top 24 are bracing for the most brutal vote in the show's history.

Due to one of this season's many changes in the rules, only the top five vote-getting guys and the top five vote-getting gals will move on to the finals, along with one wild-card pick by each of the judges, meaning 11 semifinalists will be eliminated on Thursday.

More than ever, breaking into the finals this season will require a performance that's both outstanding and unique.

Here's our pre-season power rankings for the guys:

1. Jacob Lusk: Randy Jackson called Jacob's version of “God Bless the Child” the best “Idol” audition ever and The Dawg might not be wrong. If Jacob can go all out and leave it all on the stage every week the way he did for that audition, he is going to be hard to beat.

2. Casey Abrams: Randy called Casey the best musician ever on “Idol” and again he might not be wrong. Apparently, Casey has been having some health issues, but his sweet voice and good guy personality should get him pretty far.

3. Paul McDonald: Is he this year's surprise? McDonald came from near-obscurity to the front of the pack last week with strong performances in Las Vegas and in his final audition. His indie-rock-meets-R&B vocals are distinctive and possibly winning.

4. Robbie Rosen: The Merrick teen has a great voice and a compelling life story. In past years (last year, for example) that would have been enough for a win, but this year the talent pool is pretty deep. Robbie is going to have to act his age to win over the tweens, but also nail every performance in order to come out on top.

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5. James Durbin: Ooh, that vocal range is pretty electric and he's pretty much the only hard rocker in the bunch, which gives him a built-in audience all to himself.

6. Brett Loewenstern: He has a unique voice and a sweet personality that should win him a following. How big that following will be will depend on how well he uses his musical choices to connect with the audience.

7. Scotty McCreery: His deep, deep voice and country-to-the-core roots will make him a red-state darling, but will he be able to cross over?

8. Clint Jun Gamboa: Man, I bet he would like to take his Group Night actions back. He has a great voice, but his coldhearted treatment of Jacee will sink his chances with a huge swath of the voters.

9. Tim Halperin: Everything about him has pointed to middle-of-the-pack, except his attempt to flirt with J.Lo, which won't win him any tween votes.

10 and 11. Stefano Langone and Jovany Barreto: The fact that I kept mixing them up in the early rounds doesn't bode well for either one of them carving out enough of a performance to distinguish themselves in this field.

12. Jordan Dorsey: He also didn't make a very good impression on Group Night and hasn't shown even a fraction of the talent that Clint has shown.

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