This race is a little bit of a tighter circle than the supporting actress race in my opinion.
The names have been the same all season long. Christoph Waltz always wins the award, leaving Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), and usually come combination of Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Matt Damon (Invictus), Alfred Molina (An Education), and occasionally Peter Capaldi (In the Loop).
I think the trend would be to predict Waltz, Harrelson, Plummer, Tucci, and Damon.
Although I think I'm very curious to wonder how well Invictus will fair with Academy voters, I question their interest in this film beyond Morgan Freeman's portrayl of Nelson Mandela.
So I feel semi-brave trading out Damon's name for a fifth contender.
I Would Bet the Nominees are...
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Alfred Molina, An Education
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Trade out a name with one of these surprises...
Peter Capaldi, In the Loop
Matt Damon, Invictus
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Christian McKay, Me & Orson Wells
Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia
My Fifth Spot Prediction: You notice my inclusion of Alfred Molina. Molina hasn't been an award season staple, with only limited exposure with a nomination from the British Academy, Broadcast Film Critics, London Critics Circle, and Satellite Awards. These award bodies all recognized Molina previously for his role in Frida, but he didn't receive a nomination in 2003. Maybe this year will be the same, but somehow I have to think his peers might be ready to invite him into their club with his first nomination. Not to mention, his performance in An Education is exceptional. Granted, An Education, is one film that seems to be loosing buzz through award season as it has never really picked up any traction.