IOWA CITY, Iowa – Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, running back Nic Grigsby and a defense that hasn't given up a touchdown will be challenging enough for Iowa.
Throw in a long flight, a late kickoff and the dry desert heat, and the Hawkeyes are faced with what could be their toughest road test of the season.
No. 9 Iowa (2-0) has to fly roughly 1,500 miles for Saturday's night's game against the 24th-ranked Wildcats (2-0). Kickoff is just after 10:30 p.m. Eastern and the forecast for Tucson calls for temperatures in the low to mid 90s at kickoff.
That's a warm night for a smashmouth Hawkeyes, who are more used to cool Midwest afternoons.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz did his best to downplay the logistical challenges, saying the Hawkeyes will treat it like last year's night game at Penn State they won 21-10.
"I know we're going in a different direction, but I did take geography in the fifth grade and got an A in it. Proud of that," Ferentz said. "College kids tend to thrive at that, at 9:00 (p.m.). Whereas the older people, like me, we're probably going to be at our worst."
Of course, nearly every team in the country has to deal with difficult road trips. Arizona opened up at Toledo on a Friday night and didn't seem the least bit bothered in dismissing the Rockets 41-2.
But it's become quite the source of concern among Iowa fans because of what happened the last time the Hawkeyes traveled to the desert.
In 2004 — also on Sept. 18, no less — the Hawkeyes were run out of Tempe by Arizona State, 44-7. It was one of the worst losses Iowa has had since Ferentz turned the program around.
Ferentz said the Hawkeyes held some late practices during camp to prepare for this week's late start and discussed the reasons for that loss to Arizona State, which he said had more to do with his team's mindset than anything else.
"We were all full of ourselves going down there. We thought we were pretty good," Ferentz said. "I think we probably underestimated what the game was going to be. Boy, that's a bad thing to do in sports."
A year ago, Iowa held Arizona to just 253 yards and one, late offensive touchdown in a 27-17 win over the Wildcats in Iowa City.
Iowa will be without defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who was hospitalized last week and will miss his second straight game because of complications from diabetes. Iowa's defensive coaches split duties in last week's win over Iowa State.
"Everybody picks up the slack. We certainly miss him. We all feel better when he's with us on a daily basis. But if he can't be, everybody works together and gets it done," Ferentz said.
Iowa must play at No. 20 Michigan next month. But most of Iowa's toughest opponents this season — Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State — have to come to Kinnick Stadium, making Saturday night's game in Arizona one of the trickiest of the year for the Hawkeyes.
The team will catch a movie on Friday night, hold meetings late Saturday morning and try to block out the challenges of playing so far from home.
"If we start to worry about weather and distance and travel and the time of the ballgame, we might not be happy with our performance," Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi said.