Less than 24 hours after the Red Raiders gave the national championship race a makeover by defeating then-No. 1 Texas, they received more good news when the BCS standings were released Sunday.
Texas Tech was in second place, behind Alabama and just ahead of third-place Penn State.
If the undefeated Red Raiders of the Big 12 and undefeated Crimson Tide of the Southeastern Conference win out, they will likely meet in the BCS national championship game in Miami on Jan. 8.
The unbeaten Nittany Lions still need help in the form of an Alabama or Texas Tech loss to reach the title game.
The computer rankings made the difference for the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech was a close No. 3 behind the Nittany Lions in the USA Today coaches' poll and the Harris Poll. Alabama was a solid No. 1 in each poll.
However, the Red Raiders were tied with Alabama for first in the computer ratings, while Penn State was rated fourth in the compilation of six computer ratings the Bowl Championship Series uses.
Alabama had a BCS average of .9747. Texas Tech was at .9372 and Penn State .9286.
With Texas Tech facing ninth-place Oklahoma State and sixth-place Oklahoma in its next two games, plus a possible Big 12 title game down the road, the Red Raiders should be in position to expand their lead over Penn State if they can keep winning.
Though one of the teams ahead of the Nittany Lions has changed (Texas Tech instead of Texas), their problem remains the same: a so-so schedule.
Penn State from the Big Ten plays at Iowa (5-4) next week, then finishes the season at home against Indiana (3-6) and Michigan State, 18th in the BCS standings. The only team the Nittany Lions have beaten that is currently ranked is Ohio State.
The Nittany Lions also better watch their backs. Fourth-place Texas (.8531), fifth-place Florida (.8268) and sixth-place Oklahoma (.8220), all have one loss but will ultimately face tougher schedules than Penn State.
Southern California (.7551) is seventh, followed by Utah (.6972).
The Utes are in position to earn a bid to the Bowl Championship Series from the Mountain West Conference for the second time since 2004 if they can get through the toughest part of their conference slate. One team from the five conferences without an automatic spot can earn a bid to a BCS game by finishing the season in the top 12 of the standings.
Utah hosts TCU, which is 12th in the BCS standings, on Thursday night. The Utes also play rival BYU to finish the regular season.
Boise State is sandwiched between Utah and TCU in 10th place. The Broncos from the Western Athletic Conference need to root for Utah and hope their unbeaten record keeps them ahead of the Horned Frogs, whose only loss is to Oklahoma.
If two or more teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences finish in the top 12 of the BCS, only the highest rated gets an automatic bid.