Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer 451d

Big 12 expansion candidate tracker: Week 3

Because any of them could receive an invite from the conference at any moment, we’re tracking the Big 12 expansion candidates on a weekly basis this season. Here’s what you need to know about how they fared during Week 3.

Team of the week: Houston

I promise we’re not going to give this honor to the Cougars every single week. But the way they responded in the fourth quarter of a tight road game at Cincinnati, with a 28-point run for a 40-16 win, was certainly impressive. Greg Ward Jr. showed off his toughness and his defense had his back with back-to-back pick-sixes to finish the job. Great hard-earned win that further bolstered the respect UH is earning nationally.

Players of the week: Houston CB Howard Wilson and LB Steven Taylor

These guys stole the show to finish off Cincinnati on Thursday. Wilson grabbed two interceptions against the Bearcats and almost had three. He pick-sixed his second one from 28 yards out to close out the night. Taylor deserves props, too, rumbling 74 yards on his interception return for a TD as well as chipping in a team-high nine stops and two sacks.

Fun fact: USF is becoming one of the better rushing teams in college football under coach Willie Taggart. The Bulls are averaging 247 rushing yards per game since the start of the 2015 season, good for 11th-best in FBS, and have surpassed 200 yards on the ground in 11 of their last 12 games. Marlon Mack has rushed for more than 1,500 yards on a healthy 6.8 yards per carry during this span.

Not-fun fact: Rice’s offense produced 31 passing yards on 9-of-27 passing in a 38-10 loss to Baylor. Yep, 1.15 yards per attempt. That kind of a passing night is a rare feat for an offense that doesn’t run the option. This was the Owls’ fewest passing yards in a game since a 5-yard outing against Houston in 2004.

Game to watch: We’ve got two more meetings between current Big 12 teams and aspiring Big 12 teams this week: TCU at SMU on Friday and BYU-West Virginia at FedEx Field in Maryland on Saturday. Last chance for these expansion candidates to pull off a head-to-head win and make a statement this season. USF also has a big home game this week against a reeling Florida State team.

Big 12 Expansion weekly standings

1. No. 6 Houston (3-0): 40-16 win at Cincinnati

2. USF (3-0): 45-20 win at Syracuse

3. Air Force (2-0): bye week

4. Cincinnati (2-1): 40-16 loss to Houston

5. UConn (2-1): 13-10 win against Virginia

6. SMU (2-1): 29-4 win against Liberty

7. BYU (1-2): 17-14 loss to UCLA

8. Colorado State (2-1): 47-21 win against Northern Colorado

9. UCF (1-2): 30-24 (2OT) loss to Maryland

10. Tulane (1-2): 21-14 loss to Navy

11. Rice (0-3): 38-10 loss to No. 16 Baylor

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