The US has been weak in pairs since the days of Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, so the placements at Nationals are always a toss-up in this discipline. However, I'm going to base these predictions on Grand Prix performances so far.
1) Caitlin Yankowskas & John Couglin- They have a very strong free skate and I expect, that with a few more months of practice, they will make a strong showing at the US Nationals and win the title.
2) Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett- They are arguably the most consistent of US pairs, but I find their programs this year to be lackluster, and as performers, they pale in comparison to Yankowskas & Coughlin.
With Johnny Weir & Evan Lysacek out, at least for this season, the shape of the US mens team is changing drastically. However, there is a strong field ready to stand on the Nationals podium.
1) Jeremy Abbott- Reigning National Champion and 2010 Olympian, enough said.
2) Adam Rippon- He is a beautiful skater, and I think he is ready to step into Johnny Weir's shoes as the "artistic" US male. He also gave a brilliant performance at Skate Canada to land on the podium with Patrick Chan and Nobunari Oda, two of the world's finest.
3) Brandon Mroz- He capitalized on the failures of the top men at last week's Cup of China to win a silver medal and I believe he is poised to stand on the National podium this year.
With Belbin & Agosto retired and Samuelson & Bates out for the season due to injury, look for some younger teams to step up into the spotlight this year.
1) Meryl Davis & Charlie White- They are the best team in the world and seem poised to win the world title, so its all but a sure thing that they'll win the National Title. There is not a more sure bet in sports this season.
2) Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein- Sharing the practice ice with Davis/White & Virtue/Moir under the coaching of Zoueva & Shpilband has done wonders for this team. I love their Cabaret free skate and they looked so mature at Skate Canada where they won a bronze medal.
3) Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani- They are also coached by Zoueva & Shpilband and they looked very solid this season at NHK trophy, winning a bronze medal even with a fall in the short program.
With only two spots on the World Team after a poor showing in the 2009 Worlds, the fight will be brutal to be one of the top two ladies at nationals. With no major retirements, I expect the makeup of the last group for the free skate to be fairly similar to last year.
1) Rachael Flatt- I must say that she is not nearly as exciting to watch as some other US ladies, like Mirai Nagasu or Alissa Csizny, but she definitely is consistent, which no other top US lady can say.
2) Agnes Zawadzki- Mark my words, this girl is the next Michelle Kwan. She is the reigning US Junior champion and her short program at Skate Canada had her in medal contention. A fall early in the program broke her concentration, but who can blame her, it was her first Senior International and she was just getting her feet wet. We have over two months until Nationals and I expect her to be on fire by then. She is also the training partner of Rachel Flatt, so if I predict correctly, this would be quite the night for coach Tom Zakrajsek. I am going to say it now...Agnes Zawakzki is the rebirth of US Ladies Figure Skating and she will also be the 2014 Olympic Champion.