LAS VEGAS — Don't ask yourself, "What if?"
Don't do it, for your own happiness and sanity. Enjoy Saturday's game by popping open your favorite beverage and kicking back in your favorite chair. Or if you're among the thousands of Bulldogs fans with tickets for Sam Boyd Stadium, smile while that $9 beer is being poured.
Relish watching Fresno State play USC in the Las Vegas Bowl -- without wondering what could've been. Don't sit there pining for something that got away. The letters "B," "C" and "S" should never enter your mind.
It's self-destructive. But most of all it's pointless.
Yes, the most successful season of Bulldogs football in more than two decades fell one victory short of the ultimate prize.
If Fresno State hadn't lost to San Jose State the day after Thanksgiving, the Bulldogs would be 12-0 and probably preparing for the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor.
But, really, it's not that simple. Because you can't ask the universe to pull back one thread without unraveling the entire sweater.
Sure, it would've been nice if Spartans quarterback David Fales didn't carve up Fresno State's defense like leftover turkey. Or if the Bulldogs could've recovered that onside kick that began the second half.
Then you also have to ask what if Rutgers kicker Kyle Federico didn't shank that 43-yard field goal at the end of regulation. If Federico makes it -- and he made a 48-yarder earlier -- the Bulldogs don't win their season opener in overtime.
You have to ask what if linebacker Ejiro Ederaine didn't have the presence of mind to scoop up a loose football that night in San Diego. And what if the referees had whistled the ball dead while the Aztecs stood there and watched Ederaine score a 78-yard touchdown?
You have to ask what if Jonathan Norton, an unknown defensive back, didn't knock away that fourth-down pass intended for Boise State tight end Kirby Moore. And what if Hawaii's last-gasp Hail Mary got answered by the goddess Pele?
See where this is headed? Instead of Sin City for a bowl game against a glamorous Pac-12 Conference opponent, you wind up in Albuquerque.
Fate has a lot of intertwining parts. Touch one pick-up stick, and you risk shifting them all.
I'm not implying the Bulldogs are lucky to be here. Not at all. They earned each of those 11 victories, including the ones that came down to one play or a fortunate bounce.
What I'm saying is Fresno State ended up exactly where it deserves to be. And fans should be happy -- and satisfied -- with that result.
These last 16 weeks really have been remarkable, packed full of offensive fireworks and game-saving plays on defense. It really has been a show.
If any Red Wavers staying here at the team hotel need a reminder, they just have to flip on the TV.
There's a channel at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino showing nothing but Bulldogs highlights. Over and over, on a continuous loop.
You get to see the pivotal plays that were mentioned earlier, and many more that I didn't. You get to hear Derek Carr's fiery speech before the Mountain West Conference championship. You get to relive all the on-field celebrations.
"That's the only channel that comes in in my room," coach Tim DeRuyter joked as we rode up in the elevator. (He's staying on the penthouse floor. I'm not.)
Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl against USC, the most talented opponent Fresno State has faced, will say a lot about whether these Bulldogs were underrated all season -- or overrated. My email inbox got flooded with arguments from both sides.
Thanks to a weak nonconference schedule and Boise State's down year, the Bulldogs never got the chance to prove themselves against a big-name, big-time opponent.
Saturday they do. In college football's beauty pageant, the Trojans still are Miss California. Even in years when she has a few pimples.
Really, though, whether Fresno State gets its 12th win or finishes 11-2 doesn't change much. Except for some begrudging national respect that mostly will vanish when these teams open the 2014 season, there really isn't anything at stake.
Win or lose, it's been memorable. But if the Bulldogs happen to prevail, don't start asking yourself, "What if?"
Friday morning, returning to my room with a 24-ounce coffee and two cinnamon and raisin bagels, a maid cart was parked outside the open door.
I asked the maid her name and she told me it was Beverly. She asked where I was from, and I told her, "Fresno." I asked where she was from, and she said, "Guyana."
My face must not have registered recognition, because Beverly felt the need to add, "In South America."
"I know where it is," I said.
"That's where we have gold and diamonds," was her reply.
Gold and diamonds? Just lying around everywhere? I've seen pictures of Guyana, and it looks like nothing but dense jungle.
Those riches may exist, but don't believe the illusion. Don't get caught up in what might've been. Because if you do, and start taking apart all the possibilities, you could end up somewhere you never intended.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.