Three days ago the great political trends-and-numbers analyzer Nate Silver , the author-creator of FiveThirtyEight (now a N.Y. Times column) who was way, way in front of most of the political statistician crowd during the 2008 presidential election, began analyzing the Best Picture Oscar race for Melena Ryzik‘s Carpetbagger column.

This was a day before the Oscar nominations, of course, but Silver’s view is basically that The Social Network will most likely win. The core of his reasoning is (a) that the Academy has been closely following the preferences of the BFCA/Critics Choice awards in recent years and…uuhhh, hold on…uhmm…oh, yeah…and that (b) the Academy’s instant-runoff voting system, “which is no more convoluted than, say, the voting process for Dancing With The Stars,” he says, favors David Fincher‘s film.

“Instant-runoff voting can make a difference when there is a choice between an ‘agreeable’ candidate and one that some people love,” Silver writes, “but other people can’t stand, perhaps tipping the balance toward the former choice. This may have been the situation last year, when we had a somewhat weaker field overall.

The Social Network is much more than ‘agreeable’, though: yes, nearly everyone likes the movie, but also, some people think it’s absolutely epic . In our experiment, it got to both have its cake and eat it too, picking up a lot of first-place votes at the outset, but also serving as a failsafe for many voters once other films fell by the wayside. If its critical reviews are any guide, it needs to be considered the favorite to win Best Picture, and perhaps a prohibitive one.”