College football schedules don't get much tougher than Iowa's 2000 slate.\nThe Hawkeyes begin the season Aug. 26 playing No. 8 Kansas St. in the Eddie Robinson Classic. Two weeks later they host Western Michigan, who lost to Marshall, 34-30, in last year's Mid-American Conference championship game. One week after facing Western Michigan, the Hawkeyes play rival Iowa State. Finally, the difficult quartet of nonconference games concludes Sept. 23, in Lincoln, Neb. against No. 1 Nebraska. \nAfter the Nebraska game, lurks eight demanding Big Ten contests. \n"Our schedule isn't intimidating, but it's certainly challenging," second-year coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But that's part of playing in the Big Ten. The nonconference schedule is probably good training for the Big Ten."\nThe difficult schedule might slow Ferentz's attempt at rebuilding Iowa's program.\nAfter making six bowl appearances from 1991-97, the Hawkeyes won a total of four games the past two seasons. During Ferentz's honeymoon season in 1999, the Hawkeyes went 1-10 and failed to win a conference game for the first time since 1973.\nFerentz said he realizes critics are tossing verbal jabs at the Hawkeyes heading into the 2000 season, but he isn't listening to them.\n"If you go 1-10, you better expect some negativity," Ferentz said. "I haven't tuned into it, but I'm pretty sure it's out there."\nFerentz added that the pressure for the Hawkeyes to improve this season is self-inflicted. \n"The pressure is internal," he said. "You can't worry about what fans and people say because it will drive you crazy." \nA number of skill players returning on offense give the Hawkeyes a chance of being competitive this season. \nDirecting the offense will be senior quarterback Scott Mullen. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Mullen started Iowa's final five games in 1999, completing 126-of-226 passes. Mullen heads into the season as Iowa's No. 1 quarterback.\n"Scott's throwing better than ever," senior wide receiver Kevin Kasper said. "He's bigger and stronger. Mentally he's also a better player."\nMullen will be throwing to two proven targets—Kasper and junior Kahlil Hill. Kasper was an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection in 1999, catching 46 passes in the final five games. Hill, who was suspended in 1999 for violating a team rule, caught 35 passes as a freshman in 1998.\nJunior running back Ladell Betts returns after piecing together a solid sophomore season. Betts carried the ball 189 times for 857 yards, earning co-team MVP and second-team All-Big Ten honors. Betts attributed for 83 percent of Iowa's 1,028 rushing yards.\n"I think Ladell is a big-time Big Ten back," Ferentz said. "He has been a team guy all the way and that's what impresses me."\nOn defense, Iowa returns five starters from a unit that allowed conference-worst 463.4 yards per game. Junior defensive end Aaron Kampman is Iowa's leading returning tackler, tallying 103 last season. \nThe Hawkeyes must also find a replacement for kicker Tim Douglas, who led the team last season with 36 points. Senior Greg McLaughlin, redshirt freshman John Gockman and freshman Nate Kaeding will compete for the place-kicking job.