Sports Today: How ‘pumpin bubs’ could save Ohio State’s season

Will Ohio State’s season come down to pumpin bubs?

Quite possibly yes.

In which case I guess we should explain just what pumpin bubs means.

The phrase set to sweep the nation came from J.T. Barrett on Tuesday night at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center when asked about some new wrinkles the Buckeyes unveiled in a win over Army last weekend.

Bub is short for “bubble”, as in “bubble screen.”

That’s a play Ohio State used extensively against the Black Knights, a staple of the earlier versions of the spread offense but not something the Buckeyes have made a habit of including in game plans recently until Saturday.

And what does it mean to pump a bub?

Well, that’s when Barrett fakes a screen pass then goes deep hoping to punish defensive backs for cheating up toward the line of scrimmage.

It’s the spread game’s answer to a play-action pass off an iso run, and it might just be a game-changer for these Buckeyes.

In Barrett’s words:

So with that, throwin' bubs off that we could have where we pump a bub and go down field, still throw bubs — there's a lot of things that come off of that being that we attack horizontally the field. So I think it does help us being that they have to account for that now. 

As far as dropping back and throwing the ball downfield, the college game is getting away from that I think. Even with us, people know we have playmakers on our side with a lot of speed so people are sagging off, so now that definitely will help us down the line.

This is all part of the run-pass options (RPOs) that were sprinkled liberally into the game plan last weekend, plays that are a combination of two in one — a run and a pass to be executed however the quarterback sees fit.

These are not revolutionary ideas, and Barrett even said they were not actually new to the playbook. They just hadn’t been rolled out much previously.


Maybe that will be in Urban Meyer’s next book, but it’s not important now.

This is the way the Buckeyes are going to have to live if they want to reach their potential with Barrett at the controls of the offense.

(Full disclosure: I am still partial to the power run/deep ball offense from Ohio State’s 2014 postseason run, but at least for now that stays on the shelf as long as Meyer believes Barrett is his man, something that doesn’t figure to change before the end of the season barring injury or something very drastic happening.) 

At any rate,  offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson noted it helps them keep balance and takes advantage of Barrett, who is “adequate” as a thrower and a runner even if he is not elite at either of them.

RPOs have been part of the evolution of the spread offense, and making the option a bigger part of the offense is a matter of going back to the future for Barrett, who excelled at the read option during his stellar freshman season.

Now it will be interesting to see how defenses respond.

In theory, there should be more room for J.K. Dobbins to run between the tackles and more opportunities for the receivers to make plays against single coverage, something that has been rare this season (not to mention the last two).

More importantly: Will the term pumpin bubs become the next hot catchphrase in the Buckeye State if the Ohio State offense does take off now?

We can only hope…

Meanwhile, early returns are in, and Cincinnati fans are more optimistic about their baseball team than their pro football squad.

That makes sense because almost all available evidence points to the Reds, but, hey, you never know.

At last check, even a majority of users of our Bengals Facebook page voted for the Reds.

Got a counter argument? Let me know!

For now, I’ve gotta run. Heading to Cincinnati for Bengals interviews.

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