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How Will the Mountain West Transfer to the AFC North?

When it comes to college football, some like the BCS and others hate it. The people who like it, enjoy the many bowl games and the pressure added to every BCS eligible school to win every game in the pursuit of being the national champions. Those that don't like it believe that it leaves certain schools and conferences out of the running for a national championship. Schools like Boise State, BYU, Utah, Houston and the Bengals new quarterback's Alma Mater, TCU, can go undefeated throughout the regular season and get passed over for a bid in the national championship game by a team in one of the six BCS conferences (PAC-10, Big 12, Big 10, ACC, Big East and SEC) even if that team has a loss.

TCU and Boise State have become known now as "BCS Busters." Just last year, Dalton led his team to an undefeated regular season. Luckily for the BCS, the two teams that were favorites to play in the national championship game, Auburn and Oregon, finished with undefeated seasons as well. Because they had tougher schedules, they got the championship bid, leaving TCU to play the favored Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl.

As I'm sure you're aware, Dalton led the Horned Frogs to a 21-19 victory over the Badgers, winning the offensive MVP award. It was a great finish to a great college career at TCU for Dalton. He is the second winningest college quarterback (42 wins) behind Cleveland's Colt McCoy (45 wins) passing NFL hall of famer Sammy Baugh as TCU's winningest quarterback.

Yet, with all of his accomplishments, one has to wonder how a quarterback from the Mountain West, a non-BCS school, will fair in the AFC North, arguably one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.

In 2007, TCU finished with an 8-5 record. They beat Houston, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Stanford (one of only three BCS teams they played), Colorado State, SMU and Baylor (another BCS team). They lost to BYU, Utah, Wyoming, Air Force and the other BCS team they played that year, Texas. They went 2-1 against BCS Schools.

In 2008, TCU finished with an 11-2 record. They defeated Boise State, Air Force, UNLV, Wyoming, BYU, Colorado State, San Diego State, SMU, Stanford, Stephen F. Austin and New Mexico. They were beaten by Utah and Oklahoma. Again they went 1-1 against BCS Schools.

In 2009, TCU finished with a 12-1 record. They went undefeated in the regular season, defeating two BCS teams along the way, Viginia and Clemson. They were beaten by Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Then in 2010, TCU finished with a perfect 13-0 record, again going undefeated in their conference and defeated three BCS teams: Oregon State, Baylor and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Throughout his career at TCU, Dalton led the Horned Frogs to a 7-2 record against BCS teams from the Big 12, PAC-10, ACC and Big 10. He never played against the SEC, which is regarded by many as the toughest conference in the BCS, or the Big East, which is regarded by many as the weakest.

It will be interesting to see how playing in a non-BCS conference against less than stellar competition week in and week out will affect a quarterback's ability to play in the NFL, especially in a division as tough as the AFC North.

Regardless of what you think about the BCS, it is true that a BCS school will, week in and week out, play tougher teams. That means bigger, stronger and faster defenses for a college quarterback to learn to beat. Small school quarterbacks have struggled in the NFL. Sure, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger are exceptions to the rule, but Alex Smith and David Carr weren't. Smith played for Utah and Carr played at Fresno State and they each put up Dalton-like numbers in college. Look where they are now.

Schools like Tennessee, Florida, USC, Florida State, Michigan and Texas have been quarterback factories throughout the years. Not teams like TCU, Boise State, Wyoming and Nevada. The bigger schools will always play bigger games against tougher competition than the smaller schools. That means that Dalton will go from playing lower quality defenses in the Mountain West to playing the toughest of the tough defenses in the AFC North. How will he cope?

It's completely unclear how Dalton will adjust to the pro game. He could just as easily become an exception to the rule, like Flacco and Roethlisberger have, as he could be another example, like Carr and Smith. We won't know until he steps foot onto the field and shows us what he can do. I hope that, even though he didn't play against the toughest competition, he proves he has what it takes to compete in the NFL.

Thanks to ScottJWinfield for getting my wheels turning on the subject.