The NFL announced the finalists of the fourth annual Big Data Bowl powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). The crowd-sourcing competition is designed to engage and empower the football analytics community to drive innovation, create new insights and make the game more exciting for fans.
The theme of this year's competition centers on special teams. Participants were given access to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, including information on the speed, direction, and location of all 22 players on the field, along with the football, from special teams plays from 2018-20. More than 200 submissions reviewed punt, field goal, and kickoff strategies from both team and player perspectives. Participants also received special teams data from Pro Football Focus (PFF), allowing entrants to blend tracking and scouting metrics together.
Five open entry and three college entry finalists were selected and will share a prize pool of $90,000. An additional $10,000 will be awarded to the winning group of the upcoming Big Data Bowl virtual show, bringing the competition total to $100,000. This year's Big Data Bowl virtual show will showcase each of the eight finalist presentations with a focus on how teams could use each approach to improve performance.
"The Big Data Bowl continues to push the envelope for integrating modern analytical tools with creative football ideas," said Michael Lopez, NFL senior director of football data and analytics. "We are amazed at the growth of our contest and the passion of participants, and we look forward to the upcoming Big Data Bowl virtual show."
In addition to innovation, the competition also helps the league identify and develop future industry leaders. Since the Big Data Bowl launched in 2018, the competition has served as a pipeline for NFL teams and vendors, as well as other leagues. To date, more than 30 Big Data Bowl participants have been hired to work in data and analytics roles in sports, including 22 that were hired in football.
For the second consecutive year, the Big Data Bowl also features a mentorship program where a dozen junior data scientists from diverse backgrounds are paired with experienced NFL analytics experts to help curate a Big Data Bowl submission.
Below are the eight Big Data Bowl finalists for 2022, as well as the 10 honorable mention entrants along with summaries of their submissions.