Guess Who’s #1 On Next Week’s Albums Chart? Hint: Begins With A ‘C’ …

Creed to nab top spot for sixth consecutive week.

Creed continue to be the biggest boon to record stores, as their third album, Weathered, will again top next week’s Billboard 200 albums chart to extend their reign as kings of the musical mountain for six consecutive weeks.

In the last week of 2001, Weathered sold nearly 400,000 copies, less than half of what the group moved the week prior but enough to come in ahead of next week’s #2 album, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, by more than 134,000, according to SoundScan figures released Thursday (January 3). The California quartet’s debut sold more than 263,000 copies to jump from this week’s #7 position to its upcoming second-place slot.

Not surprisingly in the week after Christmas, almost all the albums in next week’s top 200 failed to move as many copies as they did the week before. Nevertheless, a few albums, mostly rap and hip-hop LPs, managed grand leaps in chart position. Ludacris’ Word of Mouf and Ja Rule’s Pain Is Love, each moving ahead 12 notches, will make the largest forays in top 10 territory, coming in at #4 (more than 228,000 copies sold) and #8 (183,000), respectively.

It’s Busta Rhymes’ Genesis, however, that will rise highest among top 40 albums, from #44 to #26, by selling more than 100,000 copies. System of a Down’s Toxicity will enjoy the second-largest inflation, a 17-place vault to #30; while Outkast’s Big Boi & Dre Present … Outkast will follow the two greatest gainers at #21, up 16 places from last week’s #37 slot.

P.O.D.’s Satellite and Puddle of Mudd’s Come Clean will round out the crop of albums on the upswing, with P.O.D. landing at #19 (up from #30) and the Fred Durst protégés coming in at #23 (from #36).

Conversely, Garth Brooks’ Scarecrow will dip deepest next week, past-due holiday albums notwithstanding. The country icon’s latest album will fall to #14, down 11 places. Now That’s What I Call Christmas, meanwhile, will predictably slide farthest in the top 40, from #15 to #35.

Top 10 albums that will shuffle only slightly, as only 81,000 copies separate the #2 and #10 albums, include Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 8, which drops a place to #3 (more than 233,000 copies sold); Nickelback’s Silver Side Up, which steps up to #5 (226,000); Usher’s 8701, which moves forward three places to #6 (212,000); Enya’s A Day Without Rain, which slips two places to #7 (185,000); Nas’ Stillmatic, which concedes a spot to #9 (183,000); and Pink’s Missundaztood, which holds onto its #10 position (181,000).

The only albums to experience a sales surge last week fall near the outer realms of the chart. Now that it actually has a motion picture to accompany it, the “Ali” soundtrack, released five weeks ago, floats and flutters ahead 62 spots to #81 with a more than 3,000-copy increase. And though its visual companion is still awaiting release on January 11, the soundtrack to “Orange County,” propelled by new songs by the Offspring (“Defy You”) and Foo Fighters (“The One”), improves its sales by 4,000 to make its chart debut at #171, though it was released December 18.

Jermaine Dupri’s Instructions also experienced a bump of post-Christmas cheer, rising 71 slots to #128, while bolstering last week’s sales by more than 2,000.

For a full-length Creed feature, check out “Creed: Multiplatinum Underdogs.”