Dedrick Mills

Running back Dedrick Mills is part of a Nebraska offense that has most of its 2019 production returning. 

A Nebraska football program coming off three-straight losing seasons received more positive press for 2020 from ESPN's primary predictive metric. 

The Football Power Index, which bills itself as an indicator of future performance, ranks NU No. 22 headed into 2020. That's the same Husker program that finished 4-8, 4-8 and 5-7 in the last three years. 

Here's the thing: ESPN's FPI correctly predicted losing records in 2017 and 2018. In those years, Nebraska started Nos. 58 and 50, respectively, in the FPI poll. 

Last year, Nebraska started out higher (33rd) and finished 47th after a 5-7 record. But five of NU's seven losses were to teams ranked in the top 36. 

Why the big jump? The FPI doesn't explain, but we do know returning production on offense is a factor.

Nebraska has all but 13 of its passing yards back, all but 592 receiving yards back, all of its offensive linemen and its top leading rusher. Augment all that with superior recruiting — NU has replenished its skill positions effectively in the 2019 and 2020 classes — and you get where Nebraska is in the rankings. 

There's no record prediction attached to this FPI ranking, but when that comes out, it's possible that NU is still projected to have a middling record. 

That's because Nebraska's 2020 schedule includes road games at No. 2 Ohio State, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 27 Iowa and No. 38 Northwestern. There are home games against No. 5 Penn State, No. 20 Minnesota, No. 36 Purdue and No. 40 Cincinnati. 

Eight games, or two-thirds of the schedule, against the top 40. 

In other words, according to ESPN, if Nebraska wins seven games, it may be doing well.

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