Notebook: Tides biggest gains made by the usual suspects

TUSCALOOSA _ When it comes to statistics, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban knows as well as anyone that they can be misleading, but there are two in particular he pays close attention to: turnovers and explosive plays.
It's a simple philosophy that most coaches adhere to, the team with fewer turnovers and the most explosive plays is going to win the majority of games.
All this week, BamaOnline is examining statistics you won't see anywhere else in an effort to put the first eight games of the 2010 season into a little perspective.
With turnovers, the Crimson Tide leads the Southeastern Conference in interceptions (15), turnovers created (17) and turnover ratio (plus-nine), and is tied for the lead with fewest turnovers lost (eight, with Georgia).
The area that could use some improvement is fumbles recovered (two).
"We're still working at it," junior defensive end Marcell Dareus said. "I'm surprised we really aren't getting after the ball like we're supposed to."
Explosive plays, though, have also been a challenge, especially in term of consistency.
As a reminder, Saban defines a big gain as a run of 16 yards or more or a pass of 21 yards or more, and an explosive play a run of 13 yards or more or a pass of 17 yards or more.
By our count, Alabama has made 66 explosive plays and 41 big plays through its first eight games.
Explosive plays, game-by-game
San Jose State 14 (8 passing, 6 running)
Penn State 7 (5 and 2)
Duke 15 (8 and 7)
Arkansas 7 (4 and 3)
Florida 4 (1 and 3)
South Carolina 7 (6 and 1)
Ole Miss 4 (4 and 0)
Tennessee 8 (5 and 3)
Big plays, game-by-game
San Jose State 7 (5 pass and 2 running).
Penn State 6 (4 and 2)
Duke 12 (5 and 7)
Arkansas 3 (0 and 3)
Florida 2 (0 and 2)
South Carolina 3, (3 and 0)
Ole Miss 2 (2 and 0)
Tennessee 6 (4 and 2)
As for which players have made the most explosive plays, the leaders shouldn't surprise anyone:
Individual leaders
Name, explosive plays (big plays)
Julio Jones 16 (9)
Trent Richardson 13 (9)
Mark Ingram 9 (7)
Marquis Maze 6 (3)
Darius Hanks 5 (5)
Eddie Lacy 4 (2)
Earl Alexander 2 (2)
Michael Williams 2 (1)
Preston Dial 2 (0)
Jalston Fowler 1 (1)
Kevin Norwood 1 (1)
Chris Underwood 1 (1)
Greg McElroy 1 (0)
Brandon Gibson 1 (0)
Demetrius Goode 1 (0)
Kenny Bell 1 (0)
Tough schedule
For the second time this season Alabama is facing at a stretch of playing three ranked opponents, but at least this time won't have to do so on consecutive Saturdays.
Three of the Crimson Tide's remaining four regular-season games are against division rivals: at No. 12 LSU, No. 21 Mississippi State and No. 1 (BCS) Auburn.
"It's going to be tough, especially going to Baton Rouge," junior center William Vlachos said. "Everybody has seen how good Auburn is and Mississippi State's a great team as well. It's going to be tough and I think the timing of the off-week works well for us."
Of course, Alabama already went through the gauntlet of at No. 10 Arkansas, No. 7 Florida and at No. 19 South Carolina, losing the third game to the Gamecocks, 35-21.
In November, it'll play Georgia State the Thursday before facing Auburn on the day after Thanksgiving - the last Friday meeting as the series will return to Saturdays next year.
"I watched them, they're a good team," junior wide receiver Julio Jones said about the state rival. "They have great athletes. We really haven't watched film on them because they're the last game of the season."
But the Tide has started doing some advance work, and players are looking forward to checking out the Tigers on Saturday while sitting on their couches at home.
"Last year playing Chattanooga on Saturday and then Auburn on Friday, that was tough," Vlachos said. "They had the off week they were coming off of and had some things up their sleeves we didn't have a whole lot of time to prepare for."
Practice report
There was no change in the status of the injured players as Alabama put the pads back on.
Redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker (groin) continued to take reps, but junior Alfred McCullough was with the top grouping at right tackle. John Michael Boswell was the backup left tackle, with the third unit had Tyler Love at left tackle Arie Kouandijo at right tackle.
Defensive backs DeQuan Menzie (groin) and Wes Neighbors (foot sprain) rode exercise bikes again as coaches hope that keeping them off the field for a few days will help with their nagging injuries.
"We had a really good up-tempo day (Tuesday)," senior tight end Preston Dial said. "I was fearful that it might fall off a little bit, people tend to get satisfied sometimes after a really good day, but we came out and had another really good day today. There are some things that we still need to get corrected tomorrow on film, but I was really proud of our tempo and our effort out there. We had a really good day and I think we got better."
The Tide will practice Thursday and players will work out on their own Friday before getting the weekend off.
Alabama facing so many teams coming off byes has affected the Tide's running game. "Once teams are able to game plan for you like that they're going to get it right sometimes," senior reserve offensive lineman David Ross. "I think the biggest thing for us is we're able to make adjustments during the game, at halftime or on the sideline. We've been getting a lot of different looks that I've never seen before, especially out of the wildcat."
Dareus wasn't a big fan of Mike the Tiger during his last trip to LSU. "Where the D-linemen were warming up they put the tiger right by us. I wasn't paying attention but it got up in the cage and starting moving. I looked up and jumped. They tried to intimidate us but I was like, 'That still aint going to help you win.' That thing scared the life out of me for a minute." When asked if he could win a one-on-one contest with a tiger Dareus said, "I'm pretty sure that I would be running for my life."
The NCAA announced the annual Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for student-athletes who entered college in 2003, with football up to 69 percent, a three percent increase since the release of last year's report. Alabama scored 81 across the board, with football ranked third in the SEC, one point behind Georgia, at 68, and men's basketball second to only Vanderbilt in the league at 75.
Senior quarterback Greg McElroy will find out Thursday if he's one of the 16 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy (formerly known as the Draddy Trophy), which includes a National Scholar-Athlete Award and $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.