We take a look at four of the biggest categories of the night, offering our thoughts on who might need to make some more room on the award shelves.
Single Record of the Year [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]
•Cruise – Florida Georgia Line
Producer: Joey Moi
Record Label: Republic Nashville
•Highway Don't Care – Tim McGraw Featuring Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
Producers: Byron Gallimore, Tim McGraw
Record Label: Big Machine Records
•I Drive Your Truck – Lee Brice
Producers: Lee Brice, Kyle Jacobs, Matt McClure
Record Label: Curb Records
•Mama's Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert
Producers: Chuck Ainlay, Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf
Record Label: RCA Nashville
•Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker Featuring Lady Antebellum
Producer: Frank Rogers
Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville
THE 615 OUTLOOK: While all five were huge records, none had the staying power – or crossover appeal -- of "Cruise," the only nominee to crack the Top 5 of the Hot 100 chart. Though, as a dark horse, don't totally rule out an upset from the undeniable star power of McGraw, Swift, and Urban on "Highway Don't Care"!
Female Vocalist of the year
THE 615 OUTLOOK: All five are very talented women with unique claims to this award. Musgraves has had an unforgettable year – especially with the critics. Swift's Red tour was an artistic watershed moment. Underwood continued to top the charts and represented the format with class via her participation in "The Sound Of Music," and Crow's "Feels Like Home" was named by several as one of the top country albums of 2013, proving her commitment to the genre. Alas, at the end of the day, some things are just a little "Automatic"! Look for a fifth consecutive win in this category from Miranda Lambert.
Male Vocalist of the year
THE 615 OUTLOOK: All five men have had stellar years at radio, there's no doubt. Brice has made huge career progress in the past year, Aldean – last year's winner - and Bryan continue to top the chart time in and time out, and Urban – celebrating fifteen years on the charts as a solo artist in 2014 – shows no sign of slowing down. But, it's time for Mr. and Mrs. Blake Shelton to put some reinforcements on their mantle, which must be weighing pretty heavy these days. Look for it to get even more bulkier with a second win in this category from Shelton. He's got momentum and visibility on his side.
Brad Paisley To Debut New Single At ACMs
Entertainer of the Year
THE 615 OUTLOOK: First of all, kudos to the ACM voters for having not one but two women in the running here. It's been highly noted as of late concerning the state of female artists on the charts. Maybe this is a sign of things to come. As far as handicapping the category, one must remember that this – as well as New Artist of the Year (presented by Kohl's) – is voted on by the fans. That kind of changes things just a bit. If you go by numbers, it's hard to argue against a repeat win from Luke Bryan. Sellout after sellout, and the largest opening-week Soundscan tally of 2013, help point to Bryan as an artist whose fans show up in droves to support their guy – and we think they will here, too.