‘Dancing with the Stars’ rewind: We goofed, picking Nastia Liukin, Michael Sam as early frontrunners

You can win $100 predicting who will get the high score, who will get the low score, and how the remaining three contestants will place in next week’s final round of “Dancing With the Stars.” It all comes down to actress Rumer Willis, musician Riker Lynch and military vet Noah Galloway for the mirror ball trophy, but what a difference 10 weeks makes.

At the start of the season, we asked you to predict who would win the competition before any of the contestants even set foot on the dance floor. So how did those early predictions pan out?

‘DWTS’ shocker: Former frontrunner Nastia Liukin eliminated before finals

Not too well, as it turns out. We ranked Willis fourth with 14/1 odds, but she’s now our users’ favorite to win the competition. Galloway was fifth with 25/1 odds, and Lynch was way down in ninth place with 33/1 odds. Click here to look back at our complete week-one predictions, then use our drop-down menu on that page to see how our picks changed throughout the season.

But not all of our picks were so far off target. 51% of users thought gymnast Nastia Liukin would win and for good reason: her athleticism, flexibility, and partnership with “DWTS” fan-favorite Derek Hough seemed to give her a leg up on the competition, and though she ended up finishing fourth for the season, she was consistently one of the top performers, leading the judges’ scores four times and finishing with the second highest average of the season (36.6, behind only Lynch with 36.7).

However, we missed the mark by a wide margin with our number-two choice. We had football player Michael Sam in second place with support from 16% of users and 11/2 odds. He ended up finishing 10th, but we weren’t flying completely blind by predicting he’d do well; three football players have won the mirror ball trophy: Emmitt Smith (season 3), Hines Ward (season 12) and Donald Driver (season 14).

In third place was “Hunger Games” star Willow Shields with support from 14% of users and 6/1 odds. That was a huge leap of faith on the part of our predictors. At 14-years-old, Shields was the youngest contestant in “DWTS” history; no one could have known just how well she would handle the pressure of the competition. She finished in 7th place, but that’s only because fickle viewers didn’t vote for her; she left the show with the fourth highest judges’ average, better than Galloway, who is on his way to the finals.

So what lessons can we take away from our early predictions?

First, an athletic or dance background certainly helps, but it doesn’t guarantee success. Liukin earned some of the season’s best scores, but couldn’t connect with voters; she was eliminated despite a perfect score during semifinals. Now we have a frontrunner (Willis) who has no prior training as an athlete or dancer.

Second, don’t judge a book by its cover. We ranked “Shark Tank” businessman Robert Herjavec dead last in week one. We thought the 51-year-old entrepreneur would surely have two left feet, but he made it all the way to week-eight. And though he fequently found himself at the bottom of the judges’ scores towards the end of his run, he had the sixth highest judges’ average of the season.

Third, don’t bet against the American hero. Galloway, a double-amputee, made it to the finals despite getting markedly lower scores than his rivals over the course of the season. Can he now pull off a surprise victory? It’s certainly possible. We know that he has abundant support from viewers; he had the lowest scores during the semifinals, but nevertheless made it to finals ahead of top-scorer Liukin.

There’s also precedent for a Galloway win: U.S. Army soldier J.R. Martinez won the mirror ball trophy in season 13.

So where does the competition stand now? As of this writing, 62% of users are predicting a win for Willis. 54% think Lynch will finish second. And 69% say Galloway will place third.

Do you agree with our odds? Make or update your predictions below by dragging your winner choice from left to right. You can continue to update and change your predictions throughout the week until 5 p.m. PT on Monday. Just click “Save Predictions” when you’ve settled on your choice. And after Monday night’s performance show, our predictions will re-open for you to continue to make or edit your picks for first, second, and third place.

To enter your predictions, make sure you are logged into your Gold Derby account or register for a free account via Facebook, Twitter or Google.

After logging in, click on the “Predictions” button found at the top-right of every page. That will bring you to a list of every event currently being predicted at Gold Derby.

We are forecasting everything from the results on reality TV shows like “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor” to the winners of Tony Awards and both Daytime and Primetime Emmys. 

Click on any box to bring up that event, then scroll down to start making your predictions.

For each TV show, cast your votes on several different questions relating to the upcoming episode. And remember to place your 500 and 200-point bets wisely.

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