By Andrew Payne

If there’s any Emmy race this year that was over as soon as the nominees were announced it’s Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

This is a race where the winner is so abundantly clear that the other nominees shouldn’t even bother showing up. Somebody who’s so firmly clinched the award, that you can already see impressions on her hand before she even takes the stage. Somebody who’s is completely justified in pre-writing her acceptance speech – as arrogant at that may seem.

But how his that queen of the Emmy lock? Read on to find out…

Connie Britton as Tami Taylor in ‘Friday Night Lights’

Why She Should Win:
Why not? In one of the more challenging roles on television (no dramatic crutch on which to lean like a unique profession, situation, or era) Britton is fully exposed as an ordinary woman in an ordinary world. She is, however, extraordinary in every seen – allowing us to run the gamut alongside her character.

Why She Shouldn’t Win:
The only real reason is that this is actually a supporting role. ‘Lights’ casts such a wide net over its ensemble cast that Britton is rarely in more than half of each episode. But that’s nitpicky at best.

Why She Will Win:
Unlike everybody else on this list, her network has absolutely nothing else for which to campaign – and DirecTV would love to swipe an Emmy with its only show.

Why She Won’t Win:
It’s not a flash role, and one that is hard to grasp onto in just a couple of screeners. Plus, she’s not Juilianna Margulies.

Glenn Close as Patty Hewes in ‘Damages’

Why She Should Win:
In her craziest role this side of Cruella De Ville, Close proves she does over-the-top with the best of them.

Why She Shouldn’t Win:
A little too over-the-top perhaps? Scenery is best nibbled on, not bitten off in huge hunks.

Why She Will Win:
She’s one two years straight and Emmy loves to reward past winners. She’s also a legitimate big screen star, and the Emmys have been loving their movie stars the past few years.

Why She Won’t Win:
She’s got the best shot with her pedigree, but, at the end of the day, she’s not Juilianna Margulies.

Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson in ‘Law & Order: SVU’

Why She Should Win:
She continues to out-act her material and her genre with a more complex character than you’ll normally find on most procedurals.

Why She Shouldn’t Win:
Yes, but this is still a procedural. While she’s given a back story that gives her a connection to the characters, week-in-week-out she pretty much does the same thing.

Why She Will Win:
Hard to think of a reason. Maybe because people will think she’s on the original “Law & Order” and want to reward the show’s final season?

Why She Won’t Win:
It’s very tough to win for a procedural. Plus, she’s not Juilianna Margulies.

January Jones as Betty Draper in ‘Mad Men’

Why She Should Win:
Given much more to do in season three as the plotline shifted to the disintegration of the Drapers’ marriage, Jones handled the split with her trademark ice queen restraint.

Why She Shouldn’t Win:
Has anybody’s Emmy chances ever been more torpedoed by a show she’s not even on? That ‘SNL’ hosting gig has everybody questioning her acting chops.

Why She Will Win:
“Mad Men” has yet to win an acting Emmy so voters may be looking to right that wrong for a show they love so much.

Why She Won’t Win:
Again, the ‘SNL’ stint has radically altered perception of her talent leading many to question if this is a great performance or rather just a reactionary piece to greatness around her. Plus, she’s not Juilianna Margulies.

Julianna Margulies, as Alicia Florrick in ‘The Good Wife’

Why She Should Win:
A steady, muted performance that carries this season with grace. One of the few true leading female characters in a drama, and the most complex.

Why She Shouldn’t Win:
Her character wasn’t given much of a journey this season. We pretty much understood her plight, and where it was going a few episodes in, and the show was content to let her sit there for the rest of the season. Good work, but somewhat repetitive.

Why She Will Win:
Let’s see. She’s already won the Golden Globe, SAG and Television Film Critics’ Awards for this performance. The latter in a category that had her up against all drama actors (Bryan Cranston, John Lithgow, Aaron Paul, and Katey Sagal). After that impressive triple, the Emmy seems a formality right now.

Why She Won’t Win:
Emmy is amazing at not catching up with everybody else and can even ignore this much momentum.  Plus, she’s got a two-time defending champ (Close) to contend with.

Kyra Sedgwick, as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson in ‘The Closer’

Why She Should Win:
In her 5th season on this show, Sedwick is still a lot of fun to watch sucking lollipops and busting punks.

Why She Shouldn’t Win:
How many times can we see the same thing? We get it already.

Why She Will Win:
This is her fifth nomination in a row. Could Emmy finally warm to her?

Why She Won’t Win:
Not likely. If they go with a cop, they’ll flock to past winner Hargitay – but they’re not even going to go with a cop. And, once again, she’s not Juilianna Margulies.

So Who’s Going To Win?

In case you haven’t noticed, Margulies is essentially a lock in this category. The Academy is just going to eat this show up with a spoon (as they’ve been dying for an old-school network drama behind which to rally) and Margulies is the most logical recipient of that love. A four-time nominee for ‘ER’, she’s also got the pedigree to make voters feel comfortable.

Margulies in a walk.

Road to the Emmys Series

July 5: Nomination Preview Podcast – Lilit Marcus, Andrew Payne, Rebecca Rose, and Phil Wallace

July 8: Nomination Analysis Podcast – Rebecca Rose, Dantzler Smith, Phil Wallace, and Bryce Van Kooten

July 12: Outstanding Host: Reality Show or Reality Competition – Adam Spunberg

July 14: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie – Adam Spunberg

July 15: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie – Phil Wallace

July 19: Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Movie – Phil Wallace

July 21: Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or Movie – Gene Williams

July 26: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special – Savanna New

July 28: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series – Dantzler Smith

August 2: Outstanding Reality Program – Gene Williams

August 4: Outstanding Reality Competition Program – Savanna New

August 7: Outstanding Made for TV Movie – Savanna New

August 8: Outstanding Miniseries – Adam Spunberg

August 9: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – Rebecca Rose

August 10: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series – Kit Bowen

August 11: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series – Rebecca Rose

August 12: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series – Andrew Payne

August 15: Awards Race Podcast – Lilit Marcus, Andrew Payne, Adam Spunberg, Phil Wallace

August 16: Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series – Phil Wallace

August 17: Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series – Steve Neumann

August 18: Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series – Andrew Payne

August 19: Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series – Bryce Van Kooten

August 23: Outstanding Comedy Series – Kit Bowen

August 25: Outstanding Drama Series – Rebecca Rose

August 29: 62nd Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards