I spent most of December taking a look at my favorite stocks in different sectors for the year ahead. My due-diligence road trip led me to unearth my top investing idea in the following industries:

In the spirit of the NFL playoffs, I figured I'd take a closer look at my five postseason picks, in hopes of crowning the ultimate champion.

And the runners-up are …
salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) is my top tech stock. The company is championing the cloud-computing movement with its server-based enterprise software solutions. It even takes its ticker symbol from the acronym for customer relationship management, the client-tracking heart of enterprise software.

Yes, I know the valuation is a bit lofty, but have you seen another publicly-traded tech stock growing faster in this recessionary environment? Analysts see earnings more than doubling this fiscal year (which ends later this month) and climbing by another 65% over the next 12 months. As companies scale back on IT spending, a migration to salesforce.com's economical solutions clearly resonates in Corporate America.

My top leisure pick is Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI). If you're not familiar with the company's video games, ask some teens what they think about Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, or Call of Duty.

Activision Blizzard isn't just a video game company. Between last year's merger of Activision and Blizzard Entertainment, and the disappointing performance of former top dog Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS), it's now the video game company, Smaller game developers and publishers have fallen short lately, but Activision Blizzard has consistently topped Wall Street expectations in recent quarters.

Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) earned top honors from me in the restaurant category. The family-friendly sports bar with a penchant for chicken wings is holding up in one of the more battered industries that I cover. Revenue, earnings, and comps all grew nicely in the chain's third quarter. You can't say that about too many other eateries these days, unless they have dollar menus.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) got the nod as the top Internet search engine stock for 2009. It's the undisputed global leader, yet the stock is trading for less than half of its all-time high. Shrinking advertising budgets are hurting Google's revenue from online display ads, leading Wall Street to whittle down Google's profit-growth prospects in recent months. Still, I never thought that I would see Big G fetching an earnings multiple in the teens.

And the winner is: Sohu.com
I'm upbeat about salesforce.com, Activision Blizzard, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Google's chances to beat the market this year. But it's hard to resist the siren call of Sohu.com (NASDAQ:SOHU).

My choice as the top growth stock in China for 2009 has it all. It's no Google on the paid-search front, though it is a definite online force. It's no NetEase.com (NASDAQ:NTES) in the realm of online gaming, but the company's moves there are kicking growth up to a ridiculous level.

Sohu is like a Chinese buffet, offering investors a taste of all that the country has to offer. It's also as cheap as some Chinese buffets around town, too, trading for less than 11 times forward earnings. That's a steal when you consider that Sohu's bottom line is projected to roughly quadruple in 2008, before taking a 20% step up this year.

China's economy has been showing signs of cracking, but it's still holding up better than the rest of the world, and the government is proactively tackling its problems.

In the end, I think a portfolio with all five of these niche industry players will serve investors well in 2009. I will even track the performance of all five stocks throughout the year. However, if I have high hopes for one star to truly shine in 2009, it would have to be Sohu.

Other items on the menu:

Buffalo Wild Wings is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Sohu.com, NetEase.com, and Google are Rule Breakers recommendations. Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard are Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is always looking for the "one" stock to own. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this article. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.