Emmys heavyweight smackdown: Bryan Cranston (‘Breaking Bad’) vs. Matthew McConaughey (‘True Detective’)

Ladies and gentlemen, pull out the popcorn and get ready for a cutthroat battle for the ages this Emmy season as two acting heavyweights are set to duke it out to determine who’s the undisputed awards champion of 2014.

First up, fighting out of the blue [meth] corner, representing AMC and the final season of “Breaking Bad” is 2014 Golden Globe/SAG/Tony winner Bryan Cranston.

And fighting out of the yellow [king] corner, representing HBO and the first iteration of “True Detective” is 2014 Golden Globe/SAG/Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey.

Let the Emmy smackdown begin!

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or ‘True Detective’ will be the ultimate Emmy champion

Just like a pay-per-view boxing match, the Cranston vs. McConaughey clash will take place over several rounds before the ultimate Emmy winner is declared. Both men already had strong starts to their years by winning Golden Globes and SAG Awards back in January, albeit McConaughey’s triumphs came for the film “Dallas Buyers Club” as opposed to his TV work on “True Detective,” which won’t be eligible at those kudos until next year.

When Cranston’s recent Tony victory (Best Actor, “All the Way“) and McConaughey’s Oscar triumph (Best Actor, “Dallas Buyers Club”) are factored in, it’s easy to see why the 2014 Emmys are going to be one for the record books for these two awards magnets.

Let’s take a look at the upcoming rounds to see which leading man has the leg up on the competition according to Gold Derby’s exclusive racetrack predictions.

It’s Emmy war: ‘True Detective’ battles for Best Drama Series

Round #1 – Critics’ Choice Television Awards

The Battle: The CCTA will hold their fourth annual kudos on June 19, so that’s when we’ll get our first glimpse of Cranston and McConaughey facing off in the ring. (Although Anna Gunn hinted during our exclusive webchat last week that Cranston may not be able to attend the awards show in person.) Oftentimes these TV critics like to go with out-of-the-box winners — think John Noble (“Fringe“) or Busy Philipps (“Cougar Town“) — but don’t forget that Cranston has won this category the past two years in a row, so this is a race where they’re prone to sticking with Emmy frontrunners.

The Rundown: The Broadcast Television Journalists Association nominated both men for Best Drama Actor, as well as Matthew Rhys (“The Americans“), Hugh Dancy (“Hannibal“), Michael Sheen (“Masters of Sex“) and Freddie Highmore (“Bates Motel“).

The Prediction: Gold Derby’s Experts, Editors and Users currently favor McConaughey to win at Critics’ Choice with 4/11 odds, followed by Cranston in second with 9/2 odds.

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Matthew Morrison, Stockard Channing?

Round #2 – Television Critics Assn. Awards

The Battle: Expect the TV Critics Assn. to give us a clearer look at this brawl when their awards are bestowed July 19. The TCA combines lead, supporting, male and female contenders all into one category, which means it’s truly anyone’s game for Best Drama Performer. Cranston won this award in 2009 and was nominated four additional times, while McConaughey contends for the first season of “True Detective.”

The Rundown: In addition to Cranston and McConaughey, the other nominees in this mashed-up category are Rhys, Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black“) and Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife“).

The Prediction: Gold Derby’s Experts, Editors and Users currently favor Cranston to win at TCA with 1/1 odds, followed by McConaughey in second with 11/8 odds.

Related: Links to exclusive sneak peeks at Emmy campaigns for
FX, HBO, Lifetime, NBC/Universal, Showtime, 20th Century Fox

Round #3 – Emmy Awards

The Battle: While Emmy nominations won’t be announced until July 10, it’s a safe bet that both men will come out swinging with Best Drama Actor bids. Don’t forget, McConaughey has never been nominated by the TV Academy, while Cranston is an Emmy favorite with three acting wins for “Breaking Bad” (just one away from tying record-holder Dennis Franz of “NYPD Blue”) and one additional win as a producer when the show won Best Drama Series.

The Rundown: The four most likely contenders to join them in the six-man Emmy race are Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards“), Woody Harrelson (“True Detective“), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men“) and James Spader (“The Blacklist“).

The Prediction: Gold Derby’s Experts, Editors and Users currently favor Cranston to win the Emmy with 9/4 odds, followed by McConaughey in second with 14/5 odds.

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If those three predictions holds true, it means Cranston will be the awards heavyweight champion of 2014. But a lot can happen between now and then, which is why we need your votes to help influence the Emmy race.

Will it be Cranston or McConaughey for the win? Use our easy drag-and-drop menu below to make your Emmy predictions for Best Drama Actor.

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