COLUMBUS - From Dexter Larimore's hometown, you can't still be in Indiana and find a place much farther from Ohio State. On a windy day, he can almost smell the hot dog carts in downtown Chicago from his front porch.
But the folks back in Merrillville, which is tucked in the extreme northwest corner of Hoosier land, are aware of why Larimore will be wearing scarlet and gray tonight in Bloomington, when No. 9 Ohio State takes on Indiana.
"They understand that it was a better opportunity here for me," said Larimore, a 6-2, 300-pound defensive tackle for the Buckeyes.
"In my hometown, we were really good at football, so it was more of a football town. They understand why."
Larimore said he thinks this year's Hoosiers are advancing the cause of trying to make Indiana more than just a haven for
basketball. Indiana put up 467 yards in a 36-33 loss at Michigan last week.
"They've got a lot of offensive weapons, and how well they moved the ball against Michigan was very impressive to me," Larimore said. "They come out with everything. They've got it all, the trick plays and all."
The Buckeyes up front are charged with putting pressure on junior quarterback Ben Chappell, and OSU senior captain and defensive end Doug Worthington said Larimore is really the linchpin in making that approach work.
"Dex is the force in the middle, and he's so strong that a lot of times they've got to put two guys on him, and that frees up us guys on the outside to just go after the quarterback," Worthington said. "He might not get the sack, but he's responsible for a lot of them by just controlling the middle."
Larimore, the top-ranked heavyweight wrestler in the nation after winning a state championship as a senior at Merrillville High, sees his role as a simple gladiator battle, man-on-man.
"I'd just rather them come at me," he said. "If they just come at me and they beat me up, then I commend them. And if I beat them up, then I know I had a good game."
While playing a vital role for the Buckeyes, who have recorded two straight shutouts for the first time since the 1996 season, Larimore has 47 tackles, four sacks, and nine stops behind the line of scrimmage. He plays what is essentially a nose tackle position, lining up just off the opposing center, and daring them to run in one of his lanes.
"With me being a bigger guy, it's just better for the team that I play the middle and take on those double-teams," Larimore said. "One of the biggest reasons we're being so successful is that our team really understands that we're putting our best players in the best situations."
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