What Is the Big Data Bowl 2020?

Every football fan loves to sit down and watch the biggest event of the year, the NFL Super Bowl. Whether their favorite team is playing or not, this is one of the highlights of the sporting year.

Now, anyone who enjoys using the latest technology to analyze games has a new event to look forward to. What does the Big Data Bowl 2020 involve?  

The Basics

This is a competition that lets people show their best ideas for using data tracking in football. It is led by Michael Lopez, who is the director of data and analytics at the NFL.  

They release a set of their tracking data for a limited period. Members of the public then have to show how best to use this information. The people who do this in the most impressive way share a prize pool of $75,000.

The competition is open to students, analytics professionals, and anyone else who thinks that there are capable of showing how to use the NFL’s data in an advanced way. Hundreds of entrants have already entered the event this year.

The data covered is often impossible to appreciate with the naked eye. If you are watching on TV or betting on the NFL trends online on websites such as BetAmerica, you can’t hope to see the subtle trends that are picked up in this way.

How Is the Winner Decided?

The best entrants will be presented at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February 2020, where candidates can show off their analytics skills and potentially get hired by an NFL team.

A huge variety of real-time data is released by the NFL. Anyone who wants to take part in the Big Data Bowl can use that data to find new ways to understand trends and player performance numbers. 

The information that is released includes both traditional and next gen statistics. It is entirely up to the contestants how they use them. The competition runs on the data science website Kaggle. It goes on until the end of the regular 2019 season, with a leaderboard that is updated each week as the season progresses.

How Did the 2019 Event Go?

11 of the analysts who took part in the Big Data Bowl 2019 were hired by either NFL teams or affiliate vendors linked to them.

The winning college entry was a team effort from a group hailing from Simon Fraser University. Called The Routes to Success, they looked at the success rate of different passing route combinations by using model-based clustering. Among their conclusions, they summed up that effective pass route combinations help to control about 70% of the field.

The top entrant in the open entry category was Nathan Sterken, with RouteNet. He used a neural network to categorize receiver routes. After that, he grouped them into patterns to see the win probability of each. The best three-receiver route combination was listed as the flat-in-post route.

Another finalist was Kyle Burris from Duke University. He used a variety of player metrics to better understand the space occupied by each of the players on the field. This use of data revealed fascinating information about a 64-yard touchdown pass that Derek Carr sent to Johnny Houlton.

How Important Is This Competition?

With big data becoming ever more important in football, this competition allows NFL teams to find the best analysts in the industry who can help them to get an advantage over their rivals.

Naturally, it also gives data experts the chance to show off their skills and get a job in the NFL. Overall, it is the kind of opportunity that will help to make the game more interesting in the years to come. 

Marcelo Villa

About Marcelo Villa

Marcelo is an associate editor at The Sports Daily, and has covered the San Diego Chargers for Bleacher Report. He also writes for Sportsdirect Inc.