Amber Riley and Derek Hough
Considering he already has four Mirror Ball trophies, it’s always safe to bet on Derek and whoever he’s partnered with. Heck, he may have even made the finals with Kate Gosselin. But this season he has the amazing Amber, which helps him even more since Glee fans are loyal and passionate and will probably support her to go far. She also has more than 1 million Twitter followers, which never hurts.
Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff
Corbin has name recognition from the High School Musical series, and he’s just a naturally likeable, charismatic young guy. (He’s not hard to look at either!) We know he can move — and he does have a little bit of previous dance experience — and with Karina’s fun choreography, they should have a blast. Expect more Jazz suspenders. Oh, and he also has a Twitter fan base above 1 million.
Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus
Anyone who gets diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and then signs up for DWTS just to live up to the very last minute immediately gets our vote to soldier on! Valerie is an inspiration, and she’s paired with everyone’s beloved Tristan. They probably aren’t going to hit the dance floor hard with show-stopping routines, but that’s not a point they need to make. We’re just rooting for her to do as well as she can — and hold out for as long as she can, for herself but also for Tristan since he had to leave at the start of last season due to Dorothy Hamill’s injury.
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Sasha Farber
Speaking of Twitter followers, Snooki has more than 6.3 million. She’s a little fireball and her rehearsals with Sasha should be fun to watch. They could be the season’s powerhouses on the dance floor, but Snooki (like The Situation before her) isn’t exactly a perfect match for the DWTS demographic. She may have reality star name recognition, but it’s not necessarily in a good way. She could use this experience to win over a whole new fan base, ala Jack Osbourne’s sister Kelly on Season 9; if so, Snooks could certainly find herself in the Finals.
THESE PEOPLE COULD WIN TOO, OF COURSE!
Pretty much everyone is a wild card until we see them dance, but we’re so curious about Bill Nye and Tyne Stecklein. They are both giant question marks at this point. Tyne is a brand new pro to DWTS; last season, the new pros didn’t last too long, but it’s possible Tyne could be the new Julianne Hough. We’ll see. Bill Nye The Science Guy (his official title, which was trending on Twitter after the cast announcement!) is such a pleasant surprise. He’s not the typical DWTS contestant. He’s 57 so if he won he’d be the oldest contestant to win. It’s not likely, to be honest, since the past 50-year-old winners were performers Donny Osmond and Jennifer Grey. It’s possible this beloved lanky science guy has secretly strong moves, but we’re going to have to see them to believe them. He’ll probably do well for a while, regardless, but at some point every season, the cream rises to the top, and if he doesn’t have the dancing chops, he’ll sink. It’s basic science!
Jack Osbourne could do well, if he has his sister’s natural ability and that kind of chemistry with partner Cheryl Burke. Plus, Cheryl is Cheryl, and she even helped D.L. Hughley make it to Week 5 on Season 16. They’re a good bet to go far, it’s just a matter of how far.
We’ve been wondering how DWTS would try to steal ratings from The Voice, and maybe part of the plan was stealing someone from The Voice. Christina Milian was the NBC show’s social media correspondent, but now she’s dancing with Mark Ballas. They should be fun, cool and high-energy, since that’s the Mark Ballas way! She also has more than 1 million Twitter followers — there’s a lot of that going around this season — so that could help.
Texan Bill Engvall is part of the Blue Collar Comedy group and he is right in this show’s demographic. He’ll probably be funny and self-deprecating and he’s paired with new pro Emma Slater (girlfriend of Sasha Farber), who will probably charm everyone too. If Bill has any talent, he could go far. Then again, comedians don’t tend to be good dancers, and they often end up early season boots. Hey, someone has to go early on!
Keyshawn Johnson is a retired football player and you always have to include football players on any list of potential winners. But he doesn’t even have Twitter at this point, which could slow him down in terms of rallying fans to vote. Still, he’ll catch up. We always want the best for pro Sharna Burgess, who earned our undying loyalty after transforming Season 16’s Andy Dick from a troubled caterpillar into a dancing butterfly.
Brant Daugherty is cuuuuuuuute, and he’s had recurring roles on Pretty Little Liars and Days of Our Lives, but he’s one of the lesser-known stars in the cast. If the 28-year-old actor is charismatic and a good dancer he’ll win fans and survive on the strength of his earnings, but this is still at least partly a popularity contest. Stars who show up with giant fan bases tend to already have people standing by the phone or online to vote for them. Hopefully he’ll have good chemistry with his pro partner, Peta Murgatroyd, since they could be one steamy couple on that dance floor.
Leah Remini is known from The King of Queens and The Talk — and Elizabeth Berkley’s old show Saved By the Bell! — but she’s been in the news lately for her split from Scientology. That’s kind of a sensitive issue and it may not come up on the show at all, but she does have a lot of support out there, and many fans from her years in television. We live for Tony “The Teeth” Dovolani’s amazing smile (how is he not doing teeth whitening commercials?!), so hopefully they can stick around for a long time.
For some of us, Elizabeth Berkley will always be Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell. She also found fame/notoriety in Showgirls, but that was back in 1995. She's reportedly 5'10" tall so Val Chmerkovskiy is probably going to show off her amazing legs. Hopefully she'll be comfortable out there and not stiff like some tall contestants can get, letting their long limbs get in the way. She does have a lot of previous dance training, so that should help. And considering Val was third with Kelly Monaco two seasons ago and second with Zendaya last season, he’s on track to go all the way this season. Could it happen?
What do you think? Who is your pre-season guess to win it all? Who do you WANT to win it all? Is it the same couple for you, in both cases?