OSLO - Teenage Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and a Congolese doctor dedicated to helping rape victims are the two most-hyped figures among pundits ahead of Friday's Nobel Peace Prize announcement.
The peace prize is the high point of the annual Nobel season and sparks frenzied speculation, no matter how frequently off the mark.
But the guessing game is all that commentators have, since the list of nominees is kept secret for 50 years. All that is known is that 259 individuals and organisations were nominated this year, a new record.
In the run-up to the announcement in Oslo on Friday at 11:00 am (0900 GMT), some Nobel experts have suggested the honour will go to Malala, the teenage champion of girls' education who defied the Taliban extremists who shot her in the head by surviving and continuing her campaign on the global stage.
Giving the prize to Malala would "carry some very, very important messages," said the head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Kristian Berg Harpviken, including "the role of education for peace, for democracy, for human rights, and not least for education for girls and women."
But at just 16, she would be the youngest Nobel laureate by a long stretch, and her tender age could work against her, according to some experts.
"It could be a burden. Imposing that on a child might not be ethical," said Tilman Brueck, the head of Stockholm peace research institute SIPRI.
American journalist Scott London, another Nobel expert, echoed that view.
"Malala would be a risky and potentially controversial choice for the committee in the wake of several unfortunate awards, including those to President (Barack) Obama (in 2009) and the European Union," which received the honour last year, he said.
"There's a growing chorus of critics around the world who insist that the prize has become overly politicised, that laureates are chosen less on merit and more on their perceived publicity value, and that the committee has, in some profound way, deviated from the original charter of the prize," he told AFP.
Malala said herself on Wednesday she had not done enough to deserve the distinction.
"There are many people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and I think that I still need to work a lot. In my opinion I have not done that much to win the Nobel Peace Prize," she told Pakistani radio.