Posted by Adam Jacobi
As mentioned earlier, Auburn DT Nick Fairley will not be suspended for the Alabama game by the SEC after a series of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties marred the Auburn-Georgia game last week. Alabama fans will no doubt be rankled by the conference's decision -- for reasons most certainly including Fairley's prodigious talent, of course -- and Auburn fans are pointing fingers at Georgia for the whole mess and calling no-foul on the decision, but Gene Chizik will get two weeks to punish Fairley in-house and then that'll be that.
Except, here's the thing: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, the target of multiple late hits by Fairley last week, still isn't practicing yet as he recovers from injuries that knocked him out of the end of last week's game. Georgia's on a bye and Mark Richt is calling his quarterback "day-to-day," so Murray's probably unlikely to miss any playing time, but the freshman is certainly injured; even with the bye week coming up, it would be insane for Richt to hold his signal-caller out of practice if Murray's able to go, what with a must-win tilt with Georgia Tech looming. And we really mean "must win;" Richt's job might be on the line if he can't get the Dawgs to .500 and a bowl game, so if Murray's not even practicing with a no-contact jersey on, there's a good reason.
So since Murray is clearly injured at some level, if Georgia were playing a game this week, there is a significant (if not necessarily ironclad -- we don't really know) chance that if Georgia had a game this week, Murray would be too injured to go. And if Nick Fairley had indeed knocked an opposing quarterback out of not only the Auburn game but also the following week and with multiple instances of dirty play, there's absolutely no way the SEC would have left his eligibility up to Auburn's discretion for the following week.
Ah, but Murray and Fairley both have the week off, and neither is likely to miss any time, so this is all largely an academic question. Still, it's worth wondering -- is Nick Fairley's conduct always going to be at least implicitly condoned by the SEC like this, or was his status for the Iron Bowl the result, in part, of some measure of scheduling luck?